General Motors Summer Job

General Motors Summer Job

student-intern program


      One year before graduating from North Carolina State University, Steve Hines participated in the General Motors Student-Intern Summer Program in Warren, Michigan as one of two industrial design students.  The remaining ten students were from car-styling programs.  


The assignment:

      “Design a vehicle to be used by a minimum of six people for long-distance travel.  This should allow for flexible interior use and facilitate moderate passenger activity.”


Innovations proposed by Steve, most of which are now commonplace:

  • Vehicle layout, similar to a station wagon or van.
  • Padded baby crib behind last seat.
  • Rear seat can convert into a bed.  Black-out curtains for those windows.
  • Fold-out table between second and third row seats.
  • Map-based navigational system (see below).  
  • Molded plastic body panels.  To save weight, eliminate the cost of painting, eliminate the possibility of the panel rusting.
  • Removable center console with radio, TV and refrigerated cooler, for picnics or visits to the beach.  When the entertainment cooler is returned to the vehicle, it makes electrical contact to recharge its own internal battery, and connects to the vehicle’s speakers.  Inside the vehicle, the TV faces the rear-seat passengers.  
  • Headphone jacks at the back seats.  Wiring is molded into the self-skinned foamed plastic interior upholstery, with the phone jack to be plugged into the plastic wall panel to connect electrically.
  • Air conditioning ducts molded into the foamed plastic interior walls, with vents placed as necessary for rear-seat passengers.
  • Front passenger seat can be flipped to the rear to attend to the children in the back, or used forward conventionally.
  • No interior handle for the rear hatch, so that children cannot accidentally open it and fall out.
  • Interior closet for clothes and other items to be kept out of sight.

Map-based navigational system:




      Instead of using paper TripTiks from the AAA, in this proposed system AAA provides maps on microfiche, one fiche for the USA, and a separate fiche for each city.  A microfiche, shown partially inserted, is rear projected onto a screen on the console, and is slowly advanced and rotated on the screen as the car is driven.  Using the zoom lens, the driver can enlarge detail in the map to read streets, or can change to a more detailed microfiche.  

      The joystick and rotation controls on the front are for initial setup, to position the map to the car’s current location, and for occasional recalibration.

      This map-based navigation system preceded the current GPS system, used first in the 1995 Oldsmobile, by 27 years.  


The shift and rotation of the microfiche are determined by the number of turns of the speedometer shaft, and the steering angle and/or compass heading.  The driver sets the fiche-positioning mechanism’s reduction ratio to match the scale of the map.  The joystick and rotation knob on the console are used to reposition the map for accumulated drift, if any.

Inside the console, a light projects up through the microfiche, then through a zoom lens, and off a 45° mirror to the back of the rear-projection screen.  An alternate optical technique can be used to rotate the image.



       At the end of ten week program, the twelve summer interns presented their projects to Bill Mitchell, VP of Styling, and the school department heads who were flown in for the presentation.


      Steve points out features of the “Long Distance Traveler” to Bill Mitchell.  The curved shape in the background displays a cylindrical-perspective drawing to show the surrounding view for the driver at night.  Full-size tape drawings of the vehicle are visible in the background.  In the color picture, foreground: Don Masterton, Product Design department head from N.C. State.  Left: student intern Gerald Weigert, later to design and build the Vector sports car.


      An especially fun day was at the end of the summer (too late to be fired) when another student intern, Nancy Dunker, and I paddled a “boat” made of a 4×8-ft. sheet of foamcore out on the G.M. Tech Center reflecting pond.  The boat quickly folded and sank in 2-feet of water.  The potato chips and Coke cans floated away, and we got soaked.  The security guards were not amused, but we became instantly famous and hundreds of employees at the windows of the Styling building loved it.


      No products or concepts shown here are being offered for sale, but are being shown as examples of innovation, developed by Steve Hines, which clients of HinesLab can now expect on a contract basis.


Glendale, California, USA
ph. 818-507-5812