Our Legends are leaving us 1 by 1 – AUTO DESIGN WEEK IN REVIEW – 5/14/12

This week our hearts are saddened with the passing of a couple of legends.  We also have news from the other end of the industry we discuss a couple of car design contests.  After that we will have a stopover in Croatia, India, and China to discuss concepts, weight reduction, and flying and hovering cars.

Opel Rekord Schwarze Witwe (Black Widow)

Carroll Shelby 1923-2012

One of the things we try to do with these posts is bring certain stories to you that you won’t find through normal new channels.  Car Design News, Green Car Design and others do a pretty good job communicating the mainstream so we figured it would be better to map out the unusual and hidden gems of design.  Yet, every now and then a story strikes that is so important that we feel we should bring it as well.  And this week that story is the passing of a legend, Carroll Shelby.  I met Carroll once, at a SEMA show.  He was walking around with an entourage, but still made the time to listen to me talk about what his cars meant to me growing up.  Here are a couple of great articles about his legacy;

Anatole Lapine 1930-2012

We lost not one but two legends in the past couple of weeks.  Unlike Carroll Shelby, I never had a chance to meet Anatole Lapine, which is a shame because he had a bigger impact on me as a child than Shelby.  It is funny that though his obituary in Motor Trend I discovered he was responsible for a car that structured my childhood, the Schwarze Witwe (Black Widow).  This Opel Rekord was the forerunner of one of my favorite street cars of all time, the Opel Commodore GS/E.  Growing up partly in Germany and partly in North Carolina, I had an interesting mix of sports cars and NASCAR in my blood from an early age.  Watching the races at Hockenheim I was astonished to see a Opel Sedan giving the Porsches a hard time – it is what turned me into a tin-top fan for life.  If this particular Opel Rekord C is a bit obscure for you, perhaps you will identify better with a few of Lapine’s other creations, the 924, 944 and 928.

Design Contests

From people who made their mark we move on to people who will make their mark in the future.  Pittsburgh Technical Institute recently sponsored a 2012 Concept Car Challenge and North Hills Senior High School swept the top 4 positions.  You can see pictures of all the entries here (better be quick to snap up this talent).  Interestingly the theme was to design a vision of Plymouth, Pontiac, Saturn or Mercury for the 2015 New York Auto Show.  Do they know something we don’t?  In case you are a student and missed the applications for that contest, here is one where they are looking for the next MR2 on the Toyota Nation forum.  Just be sure to make your car look different from the entries already submitted and include pop-up headlamps (because the judge likes them).

Rimac Concept_One

Hot on the heels of the concepts from these contests come a concept from Croatia.  Yes, you heard that right.  Croatia now has an auto industry and they are not starting at the bottom but aiming directly at Bugatti.  The Rimac Concept_One is a supercar concept that features 4 electric motors with a whopping 1,088 horsepower (journalistic note:  any horsepower number over 1,000 must be proceeded by the word “whopping”).  But even more impressive that the 3.2 second 0-100km sprint time is the age of the designer.  Designed by Mate Rimac, who is just 24, the Concept_One is not some concept car mock-up or rendering, it is real, as this picture demonstrates.  Kind of makes me feel a little inferior considering at the age of 24 I was having a hard time just landing a job.

Volkswagen “People’s Car Project”

If your small team of designers is struggling to complete your concept in time for the next autoshow, perhaps crowdsourcing is a suitable solution to getting the ideas and work done.  Volkswagen managed 33 million visitors to it’s website to offer over 100,000 ideas in the past eleven months.  The result is this hovering car, unfortunately the video is not in English.  But you can check out these other reports here and here to learn more.

Lessons from Flying Cars

Since last month’s New York Auto Show was the formal introduction of Terrafugia’s flying car and Volkswagen’s Hover car concept from Beijing’s Auto Show, perhaps it is time for a trip down memory lane and looking at a few of the flying car concepts that didn’t quite get of to the ground (thanks to The Boston Herald).

Lightweight Design

Articles about hovering and flying cars naturally bring up the issue of weight saving as does this article from The Detroit Free Press.  Although on the interior side it seems that space is just as critical as weight, at least according to Michael Arbaugh of Ford.  Bob Boniface from GM indicates that Carbon fiber is loved within the design community for its light weight (I am sure the fact it will allow shapes not currently possible is also a big benefit).

China’s Car Design Preferences

A recurring theme the past few months has been the influence of Chinese preferences on auto design.  Larger rear seats and blue interior lighting are just a few of the Chinese market-specific wants that have changed the face of design.  You can find out more in this Detroit Free Press article.

News from India

The Maruta Suzuki XA Alpha Concept is a Kia Soul-like SUV developed after months of market research in India.  You car read the entire story on its genesis and introduction at the Delhi Auto Expo here.

About Frank Schwartz

Frank Schwartz is the founder of CarFriend.me and Advanced Automotive Consulting Services, partner in The Middlecott Sketchbattle Experiment and serial entrepeneur. A long time automotive enthusiast, Frank started reading car magazines at the age of 8 and has spent 30+ years working inside the automotive industry. In his spare time Frank races with the Sports Car Club of America, spends time working on his numerous project cars and supports many local charities.
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1 Response to Our Legends are leaving us 1 by 1 – AUTO DESIGN WEEK IN REVIEW – 5/14/12

  1. Ben Salvador says:

    Re: Tony Lapine
    Shortly after graduating from design school, I met Tony Lapine at Weissach during a job interview. He spent about 45 mins. with me up front before sending me out on a guided tour of the Weissach facilities (my host/guide was Dick Soderberg – interior designer of the 928 / Wolfgang Mobius was responsible for the exterior). At the end of the day, I met up once again with Tony and we went over my portfolio.

    I knew before going for the interview that he was looking for a designer with at least 2 years of experience. His advice to me after the portfolio review was to accept the job offer from GM, which he said would be the best training ground in the world (where he spent 16 yrs. of his early career) and to come back in a couple of years. He felt that I needed some experience before I would be ready to join his organization.

    During the time I spent with him, I found him to be very kind and mentor-like, sharing his views on design and design conviction which he thought any effective designer ought to have.
    I did end up with a job as an automotive designer, although I never went back to reapply for a job at Porsche. Years later, I bought a 928 S4 which I still have and which I think is one of the classic modern designs that has stood the test of time – a tribute to Tony and his design convictions.

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