The Exeter Bulletin — Winter 2008
Karl Ludvigsen '52
January 15, 2008
The Long and Winding Road
An automobile industry consultant, designer and author, Karl Ludvigsen '52 is passionate about automobiles. As an Exeter student in the early 1950s,he brought his love of cars to the classroom as well. In addition to doodling cars in class, Ludvigsen used a senior-year English paper to propose an automobile race through the towns of Exeter, Stratham and Newfields .He even mapped out the course on his bicycle.
"Where I could work my car interests in, I did," Ludvigsen says."In art class I drew and modeled a sports-touring car. In history, I wanted to make [automobile pioneer] Preston Tucker the subject of my senior paper, but Mr. Johnson said "no. "
Despite this minor setback, Ludvigsen turned his passion into a lifelong career in automobile design, management, consulting and writing. He has edited and written for many of the industry's top publications, and he has more than 40 books on automobile history to his credit. Based on the archive of information and photos he collected over the years (starting with a two-drawer file cabinet at Exeter), Ludvigsen now directs an extensive photography and research resource, the Ludvigsen Library, providing information and illustration services to publishers and vehicle restorers.
Born in Kalamazoo, MI, Ludvigsen was first exposed to the world of cars by his father, an executive with a manufacturer of truck transmissions. By the time he first visited Exeter as an eighth grader, Ludvigsen had already started collecting automobile magazines. Although he wasn't allowed to drive cars as an Exeter student, during his senior year Ludvigsen had some outings in an MG TC left behind by a friend, James Kinsolving Hill '51,who had already graduated. Although the car was "in terrible shape," says Ludvigsen, Hill remains one of his best friends.
Ludvigsen's artistic talent set him apart at Exeter. As a senior he designed the decorations for the prom based onWalt Kelly's comic strip "Pogo." He also was art editor of the yearbook, designing the 1952 cover and inking many illustrations. "Art was never far behind my other
Interests," he says.
Ludvigsen set his sites on studying mechanical engineering atMIT. Exeter"over-prepared me forMIT," he admits. "I coasted through my first year, but it was a mixed blessing." After two years Ludvigsen left to pursue industrial design studies at Pratt Institute in New York City.
He started his automobile industry career in 1956 as a stylist for General Motors, working on an early prototype of a front-wheel-drive car. He later held public relations, governmental affairs and other executive positions at General Motors, Fiat and Ford.
During his career Ludvigsen found time to pursue another passion— racing vintage cars. "I enjoy fast driving," he admits. "Racing is fine if you can afford to repair the car after you break it!"In 1980 Ludvigsen moved to England to work for Ford of Europe. After running his own motor-industry management consultancy in the 1990s, he moved to Suffolk,where his library occupies a building of its own.
— Debbie Kane