Not Robert Cumberford

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A failed car designer tries to make sense of a flat design world.

A pie in the oven.

Sunbeam 1000 hp Land Speed Record car

You know how cooking shows always seem to have a perfect version of the final cooked dish waiting in the oven? Artists need them sometimes too.

This is my “pie in the oven” for an Autodesk Sketchbook Pro demonstration that I’m giving tomorrow at the Grafisch Lyceum Rotterdam. Even though I’ll be doing a real-time walkthrough of my process for creating a digital illustration in SBP, it always helps to have a version that you know will come out right in the end. This illustration of the 1926 Land Speed Record setting Sunbeam “1000 hp” car took me about 2 hours to complete and uses various techniques that I’ll be able to highlight during my presentation if my “drawing hand” doesn’t show up when I do tomorrow afternoon.

Tricks of the trade aren’t just for celebrity chefs.

The car search begins…

Navigating the European car scene.

To those who might not have heard the news yet, a few weeks ago my wife, 8-month old daughter, and I packed up our things, sold our house, and moved to The Netherlands. That’s a dramatic life change, coming on the heels of our first child last April, but one that we both have been desperately seeking for quite some time. My wife Mary was the one who managed to make it happen, with a lucky web forum post and a skillset that perfectly matched a Dutch company’s needs, but I was not only happy to follow, I was thrilled at the opportunity.

For me, living in Europe isn’t a novelty. I spent a year of High School as an exchange student in Italy and did all of my University studies around Europe (Switzerland, France, Italy), holding a diploma from a school in Paris (whose name shall remain unspoken due to a pathetic and continuous downward spiral since). I didn’t leave the continent willingly either. I was unable to find a job as a car designer and lost my visa, pure and simple. Hadn’t managed to get back (to live) since.

But despite my previous multiple years of residency in Europe, I have never really lived here. As a student, I never had the money or time to enjoy the things that I coveted so much. The food, wine, and cars remained largely objects of desire, and only when I’ve visited have I really had a chance to sample them first hand. For better or worse, that’s all different this time around.

And the first order of business? Buy a car (well, technically it’s “wait for the visa to come through and get a bank account”, but I’m not going to go into that here). My Peugeot short-term lease car goes back in just 2 short weeks (unless I choose to extend it), and it’s becoming apparent that our current apartment just isn’t as public-transport friendly as we’d hoped. We really need a car to get around here, especially in the winter months with a little baby. Bikes are nice and all, but you can’t take a baby on a bike to the airport to pick up your mother-in-law and her three oversized American suitcases.

So what to get? The options here are endless and fascinating. There are entire segments of vehicle in Europe that don’t exist in the US, as well as dozens of brands (or, at least one dozen). As a true gearhead, and a former car designer, my simple goal is to buy a car that is not sold in the US, fulfills all the needs of our little family in our little Dutch town, and is either fun to drive or quirky enough to not be (something French, for example).

But the options are staggering. Under €20,000 is my target price. That’s not bad, but quite limiting actually. First of all, 20K Euro is roughly equal to 27K USD, but add on top of that the painfully high taxes the Dutch government slams on car buyers, and all of the sudden things are tighter than they seem. That said, there are still tons of options, new and used, to look at. A 4-year old Alfa? A brand new Fiat? A year-old Citroen? A Skoda or Dacia or Opel?

So I’m putting the first round out to the readers. Drop me a comment and let me know what you think I should buy. Keep in mind the requirements of a young family with a 9-month old, city living, and only the occasional road trip to southern France or the Nurburgring. Tell me what you’d like to see me test drive, what you’ve read about and never dared consider, or why I’m being a dope for not just buying a German car outright.

Help me make sense of the European family car landscape, and I’ll do my best to document the process.

Peugeot Partner Tepee – First Impressions

Peugeot Partner Tepee in the Snow

Peugeot Partner Tepee rests in Switzerland before the long ride north.

As I stepped out the customs line in Zurich, I immediately heard it over the loudspeaker, “Mr. Andrew Meehan, please come to the information desk”. Regardless of how this car would turn out, it seemed that the drop off would be one of the most seamless and efficient things I’d every experienced. What I would be picking up, however, would need to prove itself. The Peugeot Partner Tepee isn’t just a car with a silly name. It’s a silly car with a silly name.

Based on the “popular with the plumbing crowd” Peugeot Partner panel van, the Tepee is a consumer version marketed as a low-cost, high-versatility minivan for families on a budget. What you’re likely to notice first, however, is just how hideously ugly and awkward this car is – and how, in white, you will likely be mistaken for a local tradesman everywhere you go in Europe. But its utilitarian background has the benefit of ensuring this “car” will be incredibly practical. Taller than it is wide, the Partner Tepee has huge windows and a tailgate that’s closer in size to a barn door than a traditional hatch. The huge cargo area immediately showed its worth as we crammed our little van to the gills with our oversized American suitcases (enough for a permanent move to Europe), with 5 fitting easily in the trunk area under the cargo cover. What I also realized is that the big stroller we’d brought along might not so easily fit back there, and I might need to utilize one of the Partner’s biggest assets – the easy-fold seat. As I had seen on the introduction video online, the rear seat quickly folded up and out of the way (a la Honda Fit) and the stroller easily was on board (unfortunately, the fold-down button broke just as easily when I put the seat back up later). The floor being higher than average, loading was easy and back-injury free.

The high load floor means the driving position is somewhat like sitting on a bar stool with a steering wheel in your lap, but it wasn’t uncomfortable on the hour-long drive. The adjustments seem quite limited, but I haven’t had much chance to further inspect the layout to see if maybe there’s something else hidden deep within the slightly confusing French ergonomics. Once out of the airport (and fueled up with diesel for the long trip to come), the 90bhp diesel engine surprised me with admirable low-end grunt, and although it quickly became a bit rough and noisy at highway speeds, it had no problems keeping up with Swiss highway traffic. So far, I’m pretty indifferent to my Partner Tepee. It’s tall, ugly, and strange, but has enough personality and ”Frenchness” to possibly convert me. There will lots more driving to come, and many more bags to carry in the month I have the car.

Check back soon for more updates from the Tepee.

Ford Fiesta ST. Please Ford, please.

Ford, we’re asking nicely. Please bring this hot version of the Fiesta to the US as soon as possible.

By the way, how about that stance, huh?

Posted via web from The Carchat

Designers merely sleeping, claims Porsche

In a stunning turn of events, Porsche has unveiled a lovely hybrid sportscar at the Geneva Motor Show today.

Dubbed the 918 Spyder, the car claims all sorts of ludicrous fuel-efficiency and CO2 figures, but is most notable for its “917 meets VW Bluesport” styling. For those of us who thought that Porsche had long since sacked its entire design department, this is cause for some degree of cheer.

Let’s just hope they keep this concept far away from the new Cayenne to maintain the illusion.

Posted via web from The Carchat

A Walk in the Snow

A major storm this past weekend dumped upwards of 20 inches of snow on Philadelphia for the second time this winter, causing major disruptions and cancellations for everyone. Despite this, the timing and absolutely gorgeous weather that followed the storm urged my wife and I to take a little walk around the neighborhood to take in the sunshine.

It was such a perfect day that I wanted to record a video of our little adventure as a memory (my wife is 7 months pregnant), but we don’t own a video camera or even a decent point and shoot with video capabilities. Instead, I decided to use my Canon EOS Rebel XSi DSLR to take the video. Only problem? It doesn’t do video. So I decided to do the whole thing as a stop-motion film, taking more than 1200 still photos and arranging them into the little video you see here. I just dropped them into iMovieHD (yes, the OLD version) and then added the titles in Photoshop Extended (yes, Photoshop does video quite well, thank you). The result is the little 4-minute video you see here.

To get the full effect of using an DSLR to shoot video (which many, or most even, are now capable of), jump on over to YouTube and check it out in full 720p HD.

JaguarRSR XKR GT2 isn’t subtle.

JaguarRSR has has announced that they’re bringing the XKR GT2 (that they’ve been campaigning in ALMS) to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year and let’s just say that perhaps nobody informed the American team that Brits are known for their restraint. Although I’m excited to see a Jag back on the starting grid for the company’s 75th anniversary, sitting amongst such glorious cars from the past with that neon-green, mildly tribal tattoo-esque paint job it seems to me that someone might want to revisit the marketing plan.

Posted via web from The Carchat

Stunning miniature car models from Michael Paul Smith

If you think that car models are for kids, think again. These photos are taken by setting up stunningly detailed models of cars and environments in the real world and snapping incredibly realistic moments in time. Check out his flickr page for behind the scenes views and descriptions.

Posted via web from The Carchat

Renault makes a mini Del Sol.

Renault released some pics today of a new concept that will be unveiled at Geneva. Looking something like a mini Honda Del Sol with a Twingo nose, the little targa-topped car looks like it’d be a blast numberswiki.com

to cruise around the French countryside in, but shows how far Renault has fallen in design philosophy since Patrick Le Quément left.

Cute, but not groundbreaking.

Posted via web from The Carchat

Flavio Manzoni officially takes over design at Ferrari.

Flavio Manzoni. Flavio Manzoni.

Ferrari named on Thursday Flavio Manzoni as the new chief of design, who last served as the head of creative design of the Volkswagen Group, an appointment that could signal a dramatic change in how Ferrari designs its cars.

News of Mr. Manzoni’s appointment had been floating around since last September, and Ferrari made it official this week.

According to a news release, Mr. Manzoni, 43, will report directly to Ferrari’s chief executive, Amedeo Felisa, “and will be responsible for creating and defining the styling of Ferrari’s new cars.”

Just a few years ago, the very idea of a Ferrari design chief would have seemed absurd. Pininfarina, the illustrious Italian company, had the responsibility of designing Ferraris. In the 1950s, the name Pininfarina on the body of a Ferrari was as important as the rearing stallion of Ferrari. The design houses — like Pininfarina and Bertone — were as prestigious than manufacturers. That has changed.

But with hard times threatening the very existence of Pininfarina — and the entire coachbuilding and design industry — the appointment of Mr. Manzoni may mark a watershed. With Fiat bosses thinking more about integrating its high-end Ferrari and Maserati marques into a brand system with Fiat and Lancia, Ferrari design has recently meant something new. Frank Stephenson, of Mini design fame, served as Ferrari design chief for a while, and then Donato Coco. The position has been more about managing relations with Pininfarina than drawing specific new designs. Mr. Manzoni ’s appointment raises the possibility that Ferrari may hire other designers or even create designs in-house.

Mr. Manzoni was born in Sardinia, Italy. He was trained as an architect at the University of Florence and entered the automotive world in 1993 with Fiat. Mr. Manzoni worked at Lancia and then Seat, Volkswagen’s Spanish subsidiary. Following Walter de’Silva, the VW and Audi designer, Mr. Manzoni moved to Audi in 2006 and then later to VW, where he worked on the new Scirocco, Golf and Up concepts.

Though it’s been known since the fall, Ferrari has finally officially announced the appointment of Flavio Manzoni as chief of design today.

I worked with Flavio at Lancia (I was an intern) and I can tell you that he is not only one of the most talented designers I have ever worked with, but also possibly the nicest guy as well. It’s great to see someone who is intelligent and talented, rather than an egotistical blowhard, take over a major brand.

Best of luck Flavio, I look forward to seeing what he comes up with in Maranello.

Posted via web from The Carchat