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Academix-Car Designer-December 2008-Issue 30

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What it takes

A day in the life of a car designer i X


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Transportation design seems to be the major endeavour for
People have always

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automotive youth nowadays. People see shows on TV designed cars for
depicting people building choppers, cars and other custom aesthetics and attempted to blend

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vehicles with ease. Then these same viewers think they can them into their environment.

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However, cars today are designed
do the same. Contrary to first impressions, it is a
around a person. Personally, I design
tremendous task to build a custom car using existing plans, a vehicle around two things: Is it
not to mention building one from scratch. All they show

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drivable? And equally as important,
on TV is the interesting stuff; people welding a few things, will it win design awards at car shows?
making a few drawings and painting the final product. I decided to push the envelope of the
Have you ever wondered how that product got there? hot rod design world and design a
street rod from scratch. A large
Nobody woke up and said, “Today I think I will build a
majority of the hot rod world uses
hot rod.” There are literally thousands of hours of design pre-existing cars, bodies, frames, etc.,
put into these projects that is never shown to the public. but once you reach a certain point of
redesign on an existing template
there are so many things changed it is
pretty much a from-scratch vehicle.
Academix-Car Designer-December 2008-Issue 30

Sketching from scratch Is it functional? with lots of trigonometry and geome-


The first stage of this intricate process The tedious and tricky process is try involved. Although there are no
was the design itself. It all starts out as getting the different design elements moving parts, this is the most func-
an idea; a mental picture, just a few to harmonise, and to do it well. tional piece, yet it is designed within
shapes and thoughts. Soon those Once again it starts as thoughts. Then the aesthetics of the entire design.
thoughts are transferred onto paper these ideas are thoroughly visualised After about 850 hours of design
as quick, roughly sketchy ink lines. and sketched out on paper. time and about 135 hours of fabrica-
This single sketch is one of what will Thousands of thoughts and hundreds tion, the hot rod starts to come alive.
become a small library of concept- of sketches are brought together to Even though the current project is only

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ualisations and form the base of the form one complete design. Thought a model for the real thing, it involves a
project. To other people, this sketch after thought, sketch after sketch, lot more than can be imagined. A lot of

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would look like a messy idea of a car; draft after draft, the final design will times, there are unforeseen circum-
I see the drawing differently. I see start to come together. The design stances. This is why I build models first.

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definite flowing lines and shapes, all phase is all about finding the perfect It is infinitely better to mess something
small portions of a greater work of balance of unity between form and up on a model than the real thing.

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art. From that first sketch I will toss function. Unfortunately, that final
around ideas and design concepts in design sometimes requires minor Coming to life

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2 my head. A lot of these thoughts just alteration of the original look. If I can’t After nearly five months, there still
come to me at random times – see any other way around a isn’t much to show. Basically, after

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watching TV, doing homework, listen- func-tioning design I will go back to 1000 hours of design and 175 hours

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ing to music and even in the middle of the drawing board and keep of fabrication, all I have is about half a
the night. Often times I have to sketching out ideas. frame built and books full of sketches.
immediately stop what I’m doing and I have spent hours upon hours on

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sketch out and idea. After about 50 or Is it safe? trigonometry and geometry calcula-
so sketches, all detailing one portion At this point, roughly 500 hours of tions – it’s all a part of the game. This
of the vehicle, they are all laid out and design time have been logged. The just illustrates for everyone who
compiled into one design. That one main piece, the frame, is nearing the wants to be a designer/fabricator all
final design will change and grow as end of the design stages. Soon the that design entails. It is not nearly as
the fabrication continues. beginning of the frame fabrication will easy as welding a couple of pieces of
I don’t abide by the dictum of start as design elsewhere continues. metal together and calling it a hot
form following function. My Something to keep in mind through- rod. There is an immeasurable
approach is the opposite; function out the design process is to have an amount of time spent in just the
follows form. What’s the point of the idea of what materials you have design phases of a custom hot rod.
hot rod if it doesn’t look good? Being access to, or what is needed. Each Hopefully this article has conveyed
the top dog in this world is all about material has its own unique use and just how much effort is required to
making the sketches of good designs ability. The frame, the basic platform properly piece together a truly
work – not making something ugly for the entire vehicle, has to be custom car and will prove a good
that works well. We are no longer strong and functional. If it fails, every- starting point for those interested in
bound by function to determine the thing fails. This piece requires much pursuing this art form.
design criteria. This will become more than drawing lines. These Source: Mike, Fifty-Five designs
readily apparent later. sketches are often detailed sketches