By David Wilfong, NDG Contributing Writer
On Aug. 24 the Lincoln Motor Company unveiled its new “Lincoln Experience” at The Star, Dallas Cowboys’ world headquarters in Frisco. The Lincoln Experience is intended to be the ultimate car clubhouse, where visiting patrons can enjoy a cup of coffee and peruse the latest offerings.
The interior of the Lincoln Experience is filled out in style. The walls and floors reflect luxury and surround a beverage station formed in an abstract homage to a vehicle hood. Color swatches are displayed like modern art on the walls, and interactive multimedia stations help visitors familiarize themselves with anything Lincoln. Of course, floor models of the latest Lincoln vehicles also reside in the two-level center.
When it came time to introduce the latest Navigator, a young man stepped forward and began by proclaiming himself, “the biggest Dallas Cowboys fan in this room.” Earl Lucas, chief exterior designer for the Lincoln Navigator, grew up in Dallas – Oak Cliff to be specific – and the opening of the new center was a special day for him.
“Dallas is my home,” Lucas said. “My parent’s only sister and friends still live there. To come home and be part of the opening of the Lincoln Experience Center is a narrative that I could have never written for myself. Growing up in Oak Cliff – if someone would have told me that I would be designing cars for Lincoln, I would have told them, ‘I don’t believe you.’ I grew up a big-time Dallas Cowboys fan and to see the Lincoln Experience Center as part of that campus just outside the Cowboys Ring of Honor … warms my heart and makes me feel a sense of accomplishment. God is good.”
Lucas is a graduate of Dallas ISD’s Booker T. Washington, a high school that once served as the African-American high school in Dallas, but in recent years is known as “Arts Magnet.” Graduates have included many famous musicians who are household names, but Lucas was a part of the visual arts program, whose alumni may not be seen as often on TV, but who make their mark in various industries as well.
“My experience at Booker T. Washington was only filled with creative freedom and a place that allowed my interest in art to blossom into the career I have today,” Lucas said. “Arts (as it was referred to when I attended) allowed me to be surrounded by teachers and students that enjoyed painting, jewelry making, dreaming of ‘what if’ and most of all for me drawing. When I finished and went on to College for Creative Studies (in Detroit, Mich.), my understanding and abilities of artistic fundamentals was more advanced than the incoming students. In essence, Arts gave me an advantage and prepared me for success as a car designer by exposing me to different artistic expressions.”
Following college, Lucas dove into the auto industry with the Ford Motor Company, which also owns the luxury Lincoln brand.
“To work for a premium brand like Lincoln is truly a highlight in my 19-year career at Ford Motor Company,” Lucas said. “After completing a three-year International assignment in the UK (living in London), I was requested to return to the US and assigned to the Lincoln Motor Company. My role as a Chief Designer came by way of working on a number of significant programs for the Blue Oval. I am blessed to have designed and worked on many programs and acquired the skill necessary for the role of Chief Designer.”
With that role came the opportunity for the one-time art student to put his mark on one of the premiere SUVs on the road. The Lincoln Navigator is not only packed with creature comforts on the inside, the exterior of the vehicle is the result of painstaking planning, as Lincoln wants it to stand out at first sight.
“When it comes to the design, the feature I am particularly proud of is the signature face or front end of the Navigator,” Lucas said. “Lincoln products are all about seduction and human surface language, so creating the Navigator’s face was a big challenge … literally. The scale of the grille and size of headlamps by definition can be imposing and intimidating. However, we were able to create a confident face that speaks Lincoln and gives a sense of protection to the passengers on the inside.”
While his career path has followed a wide track from Oak Cliff to London and back, Lucas says Big D is always on his mind, and he makes a point to remind himself of his home turf every single day.
“In my office is a huge photo of downtown Dallas,” Lucas said. “I think of Dallas often and consider the lessons learned on her streets integral to my accomplishments. Know this Dallas – no matter my travels, my design assignments and our final products – I am forever linked and take her everywhere. My growth started from that origin and I hope that she is proud of me.”