Ford's first Black woman car designer writes book about blazing a trail in auto industry

"I was about 5, and my father bought me a wonder horse," said Emeline King.

That horse was a mustang - and who would have thought that years later, another Mustang would be Emeline King's claim to fame.

It was King who designed the 1994 Ford Mustang interior.

"It also won car of the year," she said.

Emeline King was Ford's first Black woman designer - hired in 1983. She also worked on the 1989 Thunderbird - the wheel program, the 2000 Thunderbird, and designed cars in Europe.

It was a dream she had had since she was a little girl, when her dad - Earnest King - a fabrication specialist at Ford, took her to the company Christmas party at the Design Center.

"He said in order to get behind those blue doors - first of all, you have to be a transportation designer because there are men who sit behind these doors and they design cars," she said.

Right then, she knew she would join them.

"So I made a promise that day, I must have been about 11 that there were three things I was going to do," she said. "And number one was to become a transportation designer - the second was to work there at the Ford Motor Company - and the third was to work there with my biggest mentor of all - my father."

A Cass Tech graduate, she went to Wayne State University - the College for Creative Studies and then the Art Center College of Design in California.

After graduating - she refused to interview with anyone but Ford.

"My mother thought I just blew it, 'Oh Emeline - your career is over - you're not going to get a chance.' But as it happened, I was able to meet with Mr. Jack Telnack and so I was hired in."

Emeline fulfilled all those dreams - including working with her father - who never had any doubt.

"I didn't have no idea that they would not hire her - because she had the qualifications," he said. "I was so glad that she went."

"Can you imagine that day - on that morning when my father and I were leaving to work together," she said. "We're in the showroom - where my father would take me for the Christmas party."

Talk about coming full circle - or in this case - full oval - and when the re-design of the 1964 Mustang was announced - she knew she wanted in - and she knew - as a woman - she had a lot to offer.

"I'm coming from it from a woman, or a female point of view," she said. "I was thinking about not breaking a fingernail - making sure the knobs were soft. I was making sure that in my design features for the 1994 Mustang that we'd be able to get in and out of the vehicle without splitting a skirt."

Emeline King made her mark - but even she wasn't safe in 2008 when the bottom fell out for the auto industry - one week shy of 25 years at ford - they let her go.

But she says that gave her the opportunity to pursue her art and music - and write her book.

"'What do you mean a Black girl can't design cars - Emeline King - she did it,'" she said.

Indeed, she did - and now the 64-year-old hopes to open a STEM Academy for girls who dare to dream - hoping her story - inspires others.

"A lot of times I tell a lot of young ladies - and little girls - do not let anyone discourage you or tell you what you can't become," Emeline said. "If Emeline King can do it - so can you."

Her book is available at as well as Amazon, Target and Barnes and Noble.