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So, it was that in 1963, Gibson introduced its new Fender-rivalling solidbody, the Firebird. The design had strong links with the failed Explorer, which had already been discontinued.
Nonetheless, Gibson hoped that a new spirit of innovation would win the day. The company hired an outside designer to create the Firebird, someone who would not be limited by traditional approaches to guitar design and who would reconsider the way an electric could look and work.
Ray Dietrich had been a legendary car designer for 50 years. He started in the drawing office of a small company in 1913, and over the next few decades established the idea of the custom car- body designer.
Based in New York City and then Detroit, Dietrich headed a number of firms, including his own, LeBaron Carrossiers, designing and building luxury car bodies and working for brands such as Lincoln, Packard, Duesenberg and Ford. Some of his best work was done in the 30s, when he designed the striking Chrysler Airstream.
He founded Raymond Dietrich Inc in 1949 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Four years later he returned to consulting work, and in 1960, at the age of 66, he retired to Kalamazoo.