Emeline King is believed to be Ford’s first African American female designer. The daughter of a fiberglass-and-clay modeler for Ford, King was said to have fallen in love with the 1968 Ford Mustang as a child.
King’s obsession with the Ford Mustang followed an auto show she attended with her father when she was barely nine. She would then make a vow to be a designer – an undertaking that led her to study transportation design at the Art Center College of Design in California.
Upon graduation, she joined the Ford Motor Company in 1983. “I loved to play with toy cars when I was a child. It was like an insult to give me a doll,” The Chicago Tribune quoted King as saying in a January 30, 1994 publication.
That year, the 1994 Ford Mustang, with its striking two-tone, twin-arched dashboard-console and the doors that grow gracefully out of it like boughs from a tree, is largely the product of King’s designing eye, the outlet reported. She was 35 then.
King who spent nearly 25 years with the car making company also contributed to the design of the 1990 Ford Probe and 2000 Ford Thunderbird, among other vehicles. Also, she patented a 15-inch wheel cover of the 1989 Thunderbird, a biography of her said.
At the time, King etched her name in Ford’s history as its first African American female designer, there were about 1,100 designers worldwide, with possibly 300 in the United States, less than 10 percent of whom are women.
“We’ve got plenty of guys who always wanted to design cars and started drawing as little kids. But most women don’t realize that this is an option, a distinct possibility for them,” said Ron Hill, then chairman of transportation design at the Art Center College for Design in Pasadena, Calif.
King, a Detroit resident, and Wayne State University graduate, retired from Ford in 2008. She now works as a freelance artist and author.