Auto designer Jeff Teague, 1957 – 2016
Auto designer Jeff Teague, son of the late Packard and AMC Stylist Richard Teague, died at age 59 at home in Agoura Hills, California on Friday 29 July, 2016. The few articles we have found about his passing have not given the cause of death. One reliable source, a member of The Packard Club, wrote us that Teague had been found in his swimming pool. Thus it is possible that he died of a heart attack.
Jeff Teague elected to follow his father into car styling. He graduated from the famous Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California in 1978. Typical of auto stylists, he worked for a number of automobile firms. His résumé included his posts as Chief Designer for Volkswagen of America and Senior Designer at Mitsubishi Motors of America. Other automakers Teague provided design services to include Ford, Hyundai, Kia, and Subaru. While at Ford, working under Jack Telnack, he was responsible for the first generation Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable wagons and was the principal designer for the 1983 Ford Thunderbird and the 1984 Lincoln Continental.
Below: Jeff Teague’s work for Ford included (top) the ’83 Thunderbird and (lower) the ’84 Lincoln Continental. The first generation Taurus/Sable “jelly bean” cars were his work, too.
In 1998 he started his own design firm, Teague Design, in Agoura Hills, California. Later, working with his high school friend, Mark Jordan, the two formed a new design company JTDNA. Mark Jordan is the son of famous GM designer Chuck Jordan. It was Mark, as much as Jeff’s father, who influenced Jeff to become a designer.
Richard Teague loved old cars and passed that love on to Jeff, who worked with his father on various restoration projects. Thus Jeff had an appreciation for the work pioneer designers had done to advance the automobile business. There is no question that in his own right Jeff Teague was a talented designer.
With the appreciation he gained from his father for older cars, he put his talent to work in a design for a planned Duesenberg revival in the mid-2000s. As seems to be the fate of these planned revivals of long-gone makes, the Duesenberg project died from a lack of financing. Teague’s design is quite handsome. It hits the right balance between paying tribute to the past while being very much in the present.
Above: Teague’s designs for a Duesenberg revival included a coupé and a three wheeler – both very Morgan-like in spirit. The coupe’s lines are similar to the Morgan Aero Coupé (below) which has never been brought to the U.S.
Prior to his Duesenberg project, Jeff was involved with Bill Packard’s abortive project to revive the Packard Motor Car Company. As was the case with the Duesenberg project, the Packard project stalled due to a lack of funding – with the additional complication of a competing effort by Roy Gullickson. (THAT will be a topic of its own in a future post …)
Above: Jeff Teague’s 2002 Packard proposal
Jeff also penned proposed revivals of two of his father’s most famous American Motors designs – the Gremlin and the AMX. The AMX proposal was labeled AMX IV and Jeff took it to the full-size clay model development stage. He had hoped to see it into production.
Below: Carrying his father’s torch – Jeff Teague’s idea for an AMC Gremlin revival (first two images) and his AMX IV proposal (third and fourth images).
At Packard, Jeff’s father shepherded the Richard Arbib Pan American show car into the first production Packard Caribbean. Richard Teague is largely credited for the very successful (from a styling standpoint) revision of the already handsome John Rinehart 1951 Packard body shell into the 1955-1956 Packards, the most famous element of that restyle being the “cathedral” taillights.
Teague design DNA: Jeff’s father, Richard, turned the 1952 Richard Arbib-designed Packard Pan American show car into the 1953 Packard Caribbean:
Below: In it’s fourth season for 1956, the Richard Teague-designed Caribbean could be had as either a convertible or as a hardtop like the Dover White-Danube Blue-Roman Copper example below. Richard Teague himself drove a ’56 Caribbean hardtop in this very color combination. Oddly, it was fitted with aftermarket air conditioning rather than with Packard’s factory-installed air conditioning. Keep in mind that in 1956, air conditioning was still a rarity in cars even though Packard with its 1941 models was the first to offer air conditioning as an option.
Below: The most celebrated design element of Richard Teague’s ’55-’56 Packards are these “cathedral” taillights. In 2012, Jeff Teague said in an address to Packards International “I was pretty impressed by those old Packard Caribbeans,” a tip of the hat to his father.
In 2012, speaking of the design process today using CAD software, Jeff said in part:
“I was just speaking at the Packard International Club and I was pretty impressed by the old Packard Caribbeans,” he says. “I don’t think today we could reproduce those cars. The complexity of all the materials; could you imagine gluing these cars together with a 5,000-pound body, the wheelbase, the width of a big, fat sedan?”
Further speaking of the modern design process he was quoted in Hemmings about his Duesenberg project as saying:
“It’s easy to style and design a modern-day exterior on a Lexus type 2.5 box package, Many cars fit that package type. It’s another issue to pick up where Duesenberg left off. The other day, I had the opportunity to visit the Nethercutt Collection in Sylmar, California. It was like supercharging my brain with design. Those designers of the past didn’t have the computer technology tools to design then. Beautiful and timeless, they did it with love and passion of form development. They all had a sense of proportion and balance that must have come from our higher power. So many cars today are falling into a package that keeps them from exploring new packaging, form development, and losing the expression of “Art on Wheels.” The meaning of design today doesn’t negate that it has to be so strange in form and graphics to make a statement and then try justify that it is good. Today, I feel that new designers need to look at the heritage of automobile design for better results. It’s a blast to look at the past. That’s why we keep going back to those classic car shows every year. Don’t you find it amazing that Hot Rods still continue to be redesigned and refined? I never get tired of looking at them. I’ve taken my sketches and have now put them into alias form. It still needs work and there are still some design issues I don’t like. But it sure was fun to take a blast from the past.”
A memorial service will be held for Jeff Teague on 28 August at Art Center, Pasadena.
A tip of the hat to Stuart B., George H., and Donald T. for helping put this post together! Their contributions will also help shape an upcoming post on the unsuccessful attempts in the last 15 years to revive Packard.