The Dumple Designs: An introduction
For all their function, cars are in another sense just huge toys. Everyone’s idea of play differs, of course; for some of us, it’s the driving that makes cars fun. For others, it’s the wrenching, or the looking. Stefan Lombard happens to like bending images of them to his will, shifting perspectives to make this or that car look like something else. With that in mind, we hereby present the fictionalized account of Randolph T. Dumple, automotive designer-at-large. –Ed.
Everyone loves a good barn find. With each passing year, it gets harder and harder to imagine how new discoveries keep popping up. But there are a lot of barns out there, all over the world, and throughout the last hundred years or so, people have stashed away cars in them for any number of reasons. Each new unveiling helps to keep this hobby and all who enjoy it on our collective toes, wondering what’s next.
Even more abundant than barns, however, are attics. And while no one—to our knowledge, at least—ever stashed a car in one, plenty of automobilia has ended up squirreled away in the dark, cobwebbed recesses of the craftsmans, bungalows, chalets, tudors, villas, castles, and four-squares of the world.
Which brings us to the sketchbooks and diaries of one Randolph T. Dumple. Recently unearthed by a realtor in a downtrodden, overpriced Cape Cod outside of Rock Island, Illinois, and graciously shared with Hagerty, several crumbling cardboard boxes reveal the life’s work of America’s least-known (but perhaps most prolific) automobile designer.
Ambidextrous from a young age, Dumple forged an impressive path during his long career as a stylist, one that began as a teenager and lasted an astonishing 70 years, taking him to some of the world’s most famous coachbuilders in the process: LeBaron in America, Jonckheere in Belgium, Gurney Nutting in England, Figoni & Falaschi in France, Pininfarina in Italy, and dozens more. He also took part in several special projects directly with manufacturers, including Chevrolet, Ford, Mercedes, Porsche, Lamborghini, and Toyota.
Though he had multiple stints at several carrozzerie, records indicate that Dumple was never employed full-time at any of the styling houses or carmakers he represented; instead, it appears he was that rare freelancer, a hired gun who parachuted in to work on a special project, often at the behest of a particular well-to-do patron (and to the consternation of a given firm’s full-timers), and then just as quickly flitted off to the next destination, the next project. His clients included heads of state, actors, musicians, athletes, lottery winners, and socialites, and his designs have been described as “elegant,” “absurd,” and even “elegantly absurd.”
By his own account, Dumple was not an easy man to work with, and his diaries reveal that he left a string of grumbling colleagues in his considerable wake, including, no surprise, Enzo Ferrari. The unique vision of his designs, however, are hard to argue.
It’s not quite clear how the colorful chronicle of Randolph T. Dumple’s professional life ended up in an attic on the banks of the Mississippi (he never lived in the area and in fact died in a mountaineering accident in Patagonia in 2010, aged 99), but one thing is certain: The automotive world is a richer place for the discovery.
Hagerty is pleased to share the works of Randy Dumple with our readers, and we’ll leave you to ponder one of his very first designs, the three-wheeled 1930 Ford Model A “Tringledeptor” shown above, which he penned at the age of 19 for a contest sponsored by Ford called “Ford of Tomorrow.”
Dumple’s notes on the design are sparse, but his intention was clear:
Tomorrow’s cities will be crowded, messy affairs, and parking one’s car will be an exercise in frustration. The highly maneuverable Tringledeptor (with rear steering!) will alleviate that frustration by allowing drivers to fit into the tightest of spaces.
Curiously, this would not be the last three-wheeled design to flow from the practiced pen of Randolph T. Dumple.