Joseph Andrew Papai, Jr. (1940-2020)

Styling Designer and former IDSA Treasurer has passed away at age 80.

Dec 7 2020 - 12:20pm

IDSA is saddened to learn of the passing of Joseph Andrew Papai, Jr. on November 24, 2020 at the age of 80. Joseph was involved with IDSA as a member and served as Treasurer from 1981 to 1984.

A remembrance of Joseph's life and career is posted in the obituary here and below. Memorial donations in his name are appreciated to Studebaker National Museum, 201 Chapin St., South Bend, IN, 46601. 


Joseph Papai, Jr. was born on April 28, 1940 in South Bend, Indiana to Virginia and Joseph Andrew Papai, Sr. He attended Central High School and graduated in 1958. Joseph was awarded a partial scholarship to study art at the University of Notre Dame, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts in June of 1965. That same year he was presented the prestigious Jacques Gold Medal from the Department of Fine Arts. He later received a full fellowship from the university and obtained a master’s degree in August of 1966.

Joseph’s skillset would go on to serve him well in his career in the specialty supply and automotive industry, having worked for Building Materials Specialty Company in South Bend, Indiana (1960-1965), Moday Incorporated in Libertyville, Illinois (1965-1965), Wheel Horse Products in South Bend, Indiana (1965-1966), Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Michigan (1966-1979), Coachmen Industries in Middlebury, Indiana (1979-1980), American Motors in Detroit, Michigan (1980-2020) and Chrysler Corporation in Highland Park, Michigan (1980-2020).

During the many years of dedication to his profession, Joseph had achieved an extensive list of design credits to his name, that were fully developed for production. These include the Moday modular camper (1965); Wheel Horse tractor graphics (1966); Torino/Montego instrument panel (1972-1975); Continental Mark IV optional interior and Montego “Embassy” vinyl roof option (1974-1975); CL-9000 series truck graphics (1978); Ford F-600 truck graphics, Sports coach instrumental panel and the Henco truck cap for Ford Motor Company (1980); Datson DV170 and Coachmen travel trailer interiors (1981); Jeep interior trim designs (1983-1984); AMC Alliance interior trim designs (1983); and AMC Encore molded “see through” headrest (1985-1986). Most notable of the design credits is the original Grand Cherokee design, the Jeep ZJ exterior theme in 1990. He also held the patents for the design of Chrysler's RAM Truck and Dakota Truck.

After retiring as a Senior Designer Stylist, Joseph taught Automotive Design at College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan and the Cleveland Institute of Art in Cleveland, Ohio as an adjunct professor.

Joseph served the industry in many capacities throughout his career. He was involved in the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA), serving as Treasurer from 1981 to 1984, and was a member of the League of Retired Automotive designers and the Studebaker & Avanti Drivers Clubs for 45 years. Joseph also had a love for music and at one point, played electric bass in The Accents and The Mike Viszari Combo.

Joseph was the loving husband of Beverly for 45 years. He was the dear brother of the late Michael John, Elizabeth Ann Papai and his two baby twin brothers.