LOS ANGELES - Charles M. "Chuck" Jordan, a former General Motors vice president of design whose early successes as a chief designer included the 1959 Cadillac Eldorado, passed away Dec. 9 from lymphoma at his home in Rancho Santa Fe in San Diego County. He was 83.
The son of a citrus rancher, Jordan was born in Whittier on Oct. 21, 1927. He developed an early interest in drawing cars, and his grandmother is said to have supplied him with paper and a pencil during church services so he could sketch on his hymnal.
When Jordan was a 19-year-old sophomore at MIT, his mother encouraged him to enter the national Fisher Body Craftsman's Guild automobile model design competition sponsored by the Fisher Body Division of GM. He spent 700 hours on his winning project, which earned him $4,000 and a trip to Detroit.
In his 43-year career at General Motors, Jordan was involved in designing vehicles such as the 1958 Chevrolet Corvette and the 1968 Opel GT. In 1986, he became the fourth man in GM history to be named vice president of design, according to his published obituary. Jordan retired as design chief in 1992.
Jordan launched his career in 1949 as a junior engineer in GM's design division after graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In the 1950s, he moved to the advanced design studio, where he designed noteworthy dream cars for GM's "Motorama" concept showcase, including the 1955 Cameo truck and the 1956 Buick Centurian. He also was instrumental in the design of the XP-700 "Phantom" Corvette concept.
In 1957, the 30-year-old Jordan assumed the position of chief designer for Cadillac.
In 1962, the year Jordan was named executive in charge of automotive design, with responsibility for the exteriors of all GM cars and trucks, Life magazine named him one of the 100 most important young men and women in the nation.
Jordan's positions during his rise through the design ranks included a 1967-1970 stint as design director for GM's Opel subsidiary in what was then West Germany. In 1977, he was named director of design for the entire GM design staff.
After retiring from GM, Jordan volunteered to teach an automotive design class at Valhalla High School in El Cajon and later at La Costa Canyon High School, both in the San Diego area.
In addition to his wife of 58 years, Jordan is survived by his children, Debra Bryan, Melissa Hall, and Mark Jordan; his sister, Ruth Keneley; his brothers, John and Stan; and four grandsons.
Read Charles M. Jordan's full obituary.