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Dodge Hornet Designer Jeff Gale's Creative Legacy

Gale, chief designer for the new Dodge Hornet, is the son of Viper designer Tom Gale

2023 Dodge Hornet front
  • Jeff Gale, chief designer for Stellantis, led the interior design for the new Dodge Hornet.
  • Tom Gale, Jeff's dad, was the brains behind the muscular, sculpted lines of the Dodge Viper.
  • Once a toy designer for Kenner, Jeff Gale followed in his dad's footsteps to Stellantis.

Dodge unveiled its first electrified vehicle last August — a zippy little number called the Hornet. The Hornet R/T combines a turbocharged 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine with a single electric motor for a total of 288 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque. A doppelgänger gas-only Hornet G/T is also available, but it has a lot less torque and lacks the R/T's thrilling PowerShot power boost feature.

While it may not share the power profile of the late Dodge Viper sports car, which was built with a massive V10, the Hornet does share a design legacy. Like father, like son: Tom Gale penned (among many others) the muscular Viper, while his son Jeff Gale led the exterior design of the Dodge Magnum SRT8 concept and the interior design of the new Hornet crossover.

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2015 Dodge Viper GT action front three-quarter

The big grille and hood scoop highlight the Viper's aggressive face.

Jeff grew up watching his dad work and came by his American automotive history organically. In fact, Jeff’s grandfather was an engineer and his great-grandfather worked on the assembly line worker, both for Buick. The path to auto design wasn’t a straight one, however, and Jeff spent some time trying out other avenues, like sketching out toy ideas for Kenner. One of them was a rocket launcher in the shape of the Penguin character from the 1992 movie Batman Returns, which is amusingly different than dreaming up a car.

During his college career at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning, Jeff took six internships through the school’s co-op program to explore his creative chops. Once he had his degree in hand, he started a job with General Motors and worked on the C5 Corvette Z06 and early C6 Corvette programs, among others. Six years later, he landed at Chrysler and has stayed with the Stellantis family ever since.

2023 Dodge Hornet interior

As a chief designer for Stellantis, Jeff had a hand in the creation of the Hornet, which he says is like a “little brother” to the full-size Durango SUV in terms of the overall design. One secret he revealed was the original look of the climate vents, which were focused more on the aesthetic than actual airflow.

“For whatever reason, designers always design these really fancy slender vents, but if you get in a car and it's hot inside, you want it to cool down pretty quickly [with larger openings],” Jeff says. “We wanted slimmer vents in the beginning, I'll be honest, but we were able to celebrate a slimmer shape with the finishes we used.”

2023 Dodge Hornet front

He also oversaw interior features like the giant paddle shifters mounted to the steering column and the button placement in the center stack.

"The more experience you have in getting into interior design, you can almost expect or predict where [buttons and knobs] might go,” Gale says. “And then, of course, it’s in our nature as designers to challenge those placements and propose new ways of trying to do switches.”

Now that the initial buzz of the Hornet is quieting, Jeff will be onto another project. Wouldn't it be cool if he brought the Viper back? We can dream.

Edmunds says

With that kind of pedigree, we can't wait to see what Jeff Gale creates next.