Meet Emeline King, the woman who developed the interior design of one of America’s most beloved cars.

According to the Ford Performance blog, after 80 years of business, Ford Motor Company hired its first Black female car designer, Emeline King, who would soon help the company develop the concept that led to the interior design of the 1994 Ford Mustang.

Her father, Earnest O. King Sr. — a Ford Motor Company fabrication specialist — introduced Emeline King to the brand at a very young age.

Ultimately, Emeline King “fell in love with the 1968 Ford Mustang” after taking a trip with her father to the auto show; as they say, the rest was history.

“I loved to play with toy cars when I was a child. It was an insult to give me a doll,” said King to Ford.

King was raised in Detroit, MI, the place dubbed the Motor City for its role in the Industrial Revolution and home to many of the automotive industry’s leaders, such as Ford, General Motors, and a host of others. 

Despite her love for cars, it wasn’t until a visit to her father’s job at the Ford Design Center that King discovered her purpose in life was to pursue a career in transportation design, per the Ford blog.

Although her father encouraged her curiosity for the craft, King recalled how others quickly discouraged and belittled her love for cars.

“I received discouragement from some of my male instructors during my earlier childhood years in school, who often told me, ‘Emeline, girls can’t draw cars! It’s best that you use your little hands to become a nurse or librarian or choose a domestic career that is more female-oriented.’ But I didn’t let their comments obstruct my view,” King explained to Ford.

She continued, “Little did they know I had my father directing my path. I was focused even more on my dreams. Having my father guide me, influence me, and expertly mentor me was my bridge, my connection to my dreams. I was very fortunate because my father also introduced me to a group of talented African American male transportation designers, modelers, and engineers who worked at Ford. They took the time to serve as mentors to me throughout my career at the Ford Design Center.”

King earned a bachelor of fine arts in industrial design from Wayne State University in Detroit and a bachelor of science in transportation design at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA.

In 1983, King landed a job as a transportation designer at the Ford Design Center, following in her father’s footsteps. She worked for the company in Dearborn, MI, from October 1983 to July 2008, for nearly 25 years, Ford mentioned.

Ford also notes that King made several design contributions during that period, including the 1989 Thunderbird interior components, the 1989 Corporate Steering Wheel, the 1989 Thunderbird Wheel/Wheel cover design program, the 1990 Thunderbird Super Coupe, the 1993 Mach III, and the 1994 Mustang and 1994 Mustang Official Pace Car Roll Bar/Graphics.

While it is still unclear how King developed the concept for the interior design of the 1994 Mustang and other vehicles, that wasn’t all she accomplished during her tenure with the renowned car company. King also helped with the 2000 Two-Seater Thunderbird and the 2004 Lincoln Aviator Interior Door Scuff Panel and Interior components.

After an unexpected departure from the company, King was inspired to share her story with the world. In 2022, King announced an autobiography titled “What Do You Mean Black Girls Can’t Design Cars?” that details her experiences in the male-dominated space and all she accomplished within that time frame, Fox 2 Detroit reports.

“After an involuntary company separation from Ford — something I never saw coming or expected — it was a total devastating shock to me. Being the only African American female transportation designer, it took me by surprise, and it took some time to get over it. However, I took my lemons and turned them into lemonade,” King recalled to Ford. “I took my sorrows and blended it into sunshine. From the first day I was hired at Ford up until the very last day that I was let go, my dad told me, ‘Emeline, document everything that you accomplished, achieved, and experienced at Ford because one day it just might come in handy.'”

Today, King’s book shares her journey to becoming a historical figure.

“I’m now so proud to have written a book that I hope will inspire young girls and boys to never give up. To influence them so that they can stay focused and alert, and so they never look back,” King said in the blog.