Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Hanging Around with Car Designers

I always love it when Doug posts a comment. He always makes such interesting comments. For example, "I like to think I could have designed the Cobra Daytona Coupe too, except I couldn't imagine such a vehicle until I saw it. I couldn't draw either."

That got me to thinking about the time I've spent hanging around with car designers. Actually, some of them are genuine car designers, some are twinkie ass stylists, and a few have been felt tip fairies. You get all levels in any enterprise.

Anyway, I've always wondered if I knew any more about design from spending time with talented and artistic car designers. It is sort of the question of nature or nurture. I suspect the answer is that I've learned a few things over the years and am better off understanding how a designer addresses a car design, but I'm sure God given talent needs to be in there somewhere and, unless I design something on my own, we will never know.

Even though these are low quality photos, I thought I'd share a few of the projects I was a part of. Above is the SRD1, a Subaru show car for the Tokyo Motor Show in the early 90's. Since Subaru was famous for wagons, we did an executive limousine in the form of a wagon. I was able to be involved with the packaging, designed the suspension, and figured out how to make the wiring work. Probably the most interesting thing was the filming of the video of the car for the screens at the auto show. That whole Hollywood process is amazing. In fact, I'll try to figure out how to convert that video to the computer. That would be a laugh.

The Rex Roadster above was primarily my own project, although the design was from an independent designer we hired for the occasion. This thing is tiny. The engine is a 550 cc twin with a supercharger. It started life as a Japan market commuter car. We cut the top off, stiffened the chassis, and made the body you see here. The process of cutting off the top and stiffening the chassis happened at the shops of Richard Straman who is the guy who cut the tops off of Ferrari Daytona's to convert them to convertibles. This little car was pretty outclassed in a shop full of vintage Ferrari restorations, beautiful cars from 1930's France, and other high end exotica.

It was certainly interesting to talk to the artists in the shop about how they had to fabricate each part of an old Ferrari since no two cars were alike. Take the fender from one, try to mount it on another of the same model and year, and you would just laugh at how badly it fit.

The idea of the Rex Roadster was to survey customers with a running car they could drive and understand if Americans would accept a sporty car that was this small. Since you don't see any Subaru's like this running around, you can guess the answer.

The little white van was intended to be a US Postal delivery van, electric powered naturally. The whole thing was a joint venture project with other companies to find useful electric car applications. Since the Post Office only needs about 25 miles range, they were a great potential customer for the batteries that were available at the time. We called it the Toon Town van because of it's goofy cartoon looks. But it worked great and I can only wish that the big bosses would have approved going forward.
I had absolutely nothing to do with this one. It's just that I think the OSCA is such a pretty car and Bob took this lovely picture, so I'll just include it so that you don't think I only post old and awful scanned pictures. Can you believe the paint on this thing?

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