New Mexico History Museum

Behind the Locked Doors of General Motors Design with Dennis Little

July 25, 2016


SANTA FE, NM  – July 25, 2016  Join Dennis Little, retired Cadillac Design Studio’s chief designer as he takes you behind locked doors of the General Motors Design Studios. This free talk will be held at the New Mexico History Museum auditorium at 2pm on Sunday, August 28, 2016.  This promises to be a visual treat for anyone interested in seeing and hearing how designers bring to life their vision of the future of transportation. GM design traces its roots back to Hollywood native Harley Earl and California’s rich, diverse and eclectic culture, which has inspired some of our greatest designs over the past century. General Motors Design Centers are in eight countries around the world.  More than 1,500 men and women are responsible for the design development of every GM concept globally.

During a thirty-year career with General Motors, Mr. Little focused on design projects with Buick, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Chevrolet, and Cadillac.  On the international scene he interfaced with General Motors’ counterpart, Opel, as well as working with the team at Pininfarina Design.  As Chief Designer of Cadillac Design Studio he led many innovative projects and felt that those talents could be focused on a national concours d’elegance here in Santa Fe, founding the Santa Fe Concorso currently in its seventh year.

Captured in photographs, audio interviews, hubcaps, hood ornaments, car show banners and, yes, actual cars, Lowriders, Hoppers, and Hot Rods: Car Culture of Northern New Mexico, opened May 1 (through March 5, 2017) at the New Mexico History Museum. Focusing on mobile works of art and their makers—home-grown Nuevomexicanos who customize, detail, paint and upholster these favorite symbols of Hispanic culture.

Photo Curator Daniel Kosharek has pulled together an extensive collection of images by Don Usner, Annie Sahlin, Jack Parsons, Sam Adams, Norman Mauskopf, Dottie Lopez, Gabriela Campos, Meridel Rubinstein and others. Visitors will see a chromed and touchable engine, model-car collection, lowrider hydraulic set up, memorabilia and other ephemera. The museum lobby will host a rotating selection of cherry examples.

“This exhibit is about people who express themselves through pride in their ride” says Kosharek.

After decades of cruising the streets and back roads of northern New Mexico, lowrider cars have come into their own as a symbol of Hispanic cultural identity. They’re as evocative as red and green chile, rural adobe architecture, and the distinctive dialect of New Mexican Spanish. These cars have been celebrated in books and movies, and their creators congregate by the hundreds in car shows throughout the region to show off their works to an admiring public. That phenomenon is only one part of a  broad car culture.

The term “lowrider” refers to either a car whose suspension has been lowered to inches from the ground or the person who drives it. In Spanish, it’s bajito y suavecito, or low and slow. Lowriders, the cars, are built as works of art, expressions of faith, to honor the dead, bring families together, center a marriage, and most important, provide a proud ride. Lowriders, the drivers, require the skill of an engineer, the aesthetic of an artist, and the patience of a monk to create highly personalized, one-of-a-kind, mobile expressions.

Lowriders, Hoppers and Hot Rods seeks to elevate that culture beyond its common stigmas and stereotypes to celebrate skilled craftsmanship and commitment to family and community. Car clubs regularly reach out to local youths, giving them gears-and-wrenches reasons to drive a straight road. We’re opening a door to people of all cultures to mingle, learn and appreciate what it means to engineer a proud ride and hit the road, low, slow and in high style.

Phone number for NMHM: 505-476-5200

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Media contact: Jennifer Padilla, Public Relations, 505-577-1347,; AND Shelley Thompson, Marketing Director, New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs,, 505-476-1145. 

The New Mexico History Museum, 113 Lincoln Avenue, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is part of a campus that includes the Palace of the Governors, a National Treasure and the oldest continuously occupied public building in the United States; the Fray Angélico Chávez History Library; the Palace of the Governors Photo Archives; the Press at the Palace of the Governors; and the Native American Artisans Program. A division of the Department of Cultural Affairs, its exhibitions and programs are supported by the Museum of New Mexico Foundation.

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Behind the Locked Doors of General Motors Design

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