The missing piece to the Caterham / Renault joint venture puzzle has been revealed in September’s issue of Top Gear magazine. For Drive it brings a mixture of emotions… excitement seeing it again and frustration that it will probably never go into production.
So where did it start for us at Drive? It goes back 5 years to an initial meeting with Caterham in Hethel, Norwich. The original project became a distant memory as aspirations changed with the introduction of a partner in major manufacturer Renault, a completely new package and advanced aluminium construction. As the engineering package was developed at Caterham and Renault bases, Drive’s design team were seconded to work at the Renault R&D headquarters in Guyancourt, Paris, forming an important conduit for the Anglo-French alliance.
Arriving at Renault, Drive’s close team of designers and digital modellers with Caterham’s studio engineers, were allocated space within the Alpine facet of the complex, an impressively large studio with several clay plates. It was one of the most exciting environments to work in, with the presence of some of the Renault concept greats dotted around the place; the Alpine A110-50, DeZir, and Twingo to name a few.
Sharing the studio space, facing each other were the C120 and AS1 clay models, two cars showing great potential with their two respective design teams working on them. If I could sum up the entire studio atmosphere, including the Alpine team, it would be passion. Passion was what drove these concepts forward.
The Drive design team lived, breathed and dreamt C120, flying out to France in the early hours of Monday morning and returning on a Friday evening for 6 consecutive months. Some weeks were tiring, stressful and occasionally deflating, with our attempts at the French language appreciated, even if laughed at by the canteen staff. Our commitment, comradery and passion pulled us through every time, to be part of history, taking part in something that would bring a British sports car brand into a new era. The sad demise of the joint venture was a bad dream. For a long time we couldn’t believe that with all the effort everyone put into the project and with it so close to being realised, there would be no exciting moment of that first drive.
So enough about our emotions….what of the car itself?
Biased I may be, but I believe there is no doubt that this is a great looking car, with fantastic proportions and pure surfacing. So how is it a Caterham? What defines the character of a Caterham? At Drive we aren’t just a hired arm that draws cars, we extract and develop core brand DNA, establishing a clear aesthetic direction that our clients understand and can incorporate in their brand’s future.
Establishing this new brand aesthetic was no easy task. Caterham was clearly defined by the Seven, a car with a cult following and essentially unchanged from the original design. First of all the C120 was to be a completely new package, and one that a Caterham has never used before – a mid-mounted engine. This already moved the vehicle far away from the instantly recognisable visual cues of a Caterham 7 (long bonnet, front engine), so we knew we would have to evoke that Caterham feeling in other ways. We were also aware that the C120 was to be an everyday car, as well as a weekend toy, aimed at taking on the more premium market of Porsche, Audi and BMW. With this in mind the language the car spoke was critical, this was to be the line in the sand for Caterham; a fresh modern interpretation of a historic brand.
The car is designed as a complete entity from front to back, a holistic approach. Starting with the overall proportion, it is lithe, nimble and carries no excess weight whilst remaining visually planted in stance. The front rakes back from the iconic Caterham nose to a short rear overhang. The arch lines communicate some of the iconic Caterham 7 design gestures, the combination of the long diving front agile arch line and the rear pert, perfectly poised line evokes the similar feeling you get from looking at a 7. It looks alive, on its toes and ready to be driven.
The car also feels like a complete entity, it is not a case of projecting design features on the side rear and front which can often make cars look disjointed, features and graphics encompass the wheels, giving it visual strength and a sense of purity, a holistic approach.
The front displays an approachable face, not too aggressive, but a well-balanced and open eyed character that evokes the same feelings you get from the 7. It’s serious enough not to be taken lightly. Everything works together to deliver maximum performance whist interpreting the Caterham design philosophy for the 21st century. Everything is there for a reason too, from the central grill, splitter and side intakes, designed for function hinting at influences from Caterham motorsport, such as their former Formula 1 division.
Following down the side of the car, the iconic side exhaust and graphics that you commonly see on most 7s is interpreted by a graphic that follows all the way from the central nose through to the side intakes and onto the body side. The surfaces and body side is all about losing as much visual weight as possible, with surfaces sculpted away whilst retaining a sense of beauty and tension. Moving towards the rear the stance of the car is exaggerated to show the power moving through the rear axle, with large arch blisters further enhancing this visual width.
The rear completes the strength of the car, hinting at the DNA of the 7 in a very modern and crisp way. Lamp positions are high as is the integrated spoiler, not only gain better performance but to give the car a sense of agility. Simple, clean lines make up the rear to further emphasise as much visual width as possible. Heat exits at the base of the rear screen and under the rear floating lamps, were all necessary to manage heat for the mid-engine package. Moving lower down, the number plate is located within the diffuser trim allowing the upper surfaces to be as clean as possible and retain some of that Caterham 7 box like rear end feeling.
Working with the Alpine team was a pleasure, we had our moments of course, whilst fighting for certain design features and gestures that related to each of the cars providing much discussion and debate! For a program that relied heavily upon financial necessities of sharing the complete running platform and common parts such as lamps, the result is two concepts that side by side have a totally different attitude, stance and feeling. Quite an achievement.
Sadly what you are seeing here is only a point in time and is not the finished article, I can tell you… it only got better! When you see those fantastic shots of the Alpine darting around the Alps or parked in the Italian sunshine at Villa d’Este in Lake Como….. imagine the Caterham C120 hammering through the roads of Norfolk or poised in the car park at the Linton Travel Tavern!
I could probably carry on talking about this car, the design and just how special we feel it is, for an eternity. It was a landmark project for Caterham, Drive and our team; something none of us will forget and I only wish you could see on the road.
Images courtesy of Caterham Cars
Once again the designers on the RCA Vehicle Design Course have produced high quality design studies, and expressed their ideas through excellent 2d work and 3d models.
Getting a preview to the show allows the opportunity to talk through the projects with the designers and share in their passion for car design. The back ground research that they undertake provides new approaches that in turn leads to new design forms. Below are just some of the projects on display.
The industry is going through a transistion period to automonous and driverless cars that seems to demand larger screens imparting more information as we sit as a captive audience, so it is good to see the interior design studies here are proposing a brighter future with much calmer environments.
A very worthwhile visit and I thoroughly recommend everyone should take the opportunity to get along to the RCA for this show and also see the other courses final work too.
The Royal College of Art Vehicle Design Degree Show – Private view is by invitation only from 6pm on Thursday, June 23rd –
and is open to the public from June 26th. College wide Open Day on Friday June 24th.
I often get reminded, here at Drive, that design is all about opinion, so here’s mine on the dark and scary world of job applications. So you can take some of it on board, all of it on board or none at all and prove me wrong.
It’s the age old and favourite past time of anyone seeking a career in the automotive industry, the application phase. From designers to alias modellers, we are all aware that our industry doesn’t tend to favour the conventional CV and cover letter with a careful placement of buzz words/phrases like ‘I can manage a team of people and take on individual responsibilities’. Although these are areas we all have to consider, at the end of the day, the dreaded ‘P’ word is what we are all thinking right now….your Portfolio. So let’s start with my do’s and don’ts of the most important aspect of an application.
First of all, know who you are applying to, if all you have is speed boats and lawn mowers in your portfolio then I would say it is quite rare that and automotive studio will consider you. Research the studio/brand and try your best to think of what they might look for in a candidate.
“You are only as good as your worst piece of work”. This cannot be said enough, and I wish someone had told me this at university too! As a designer especially, your portfolio will mainly be put under the eyes of other designers, we love looking at them, we want to be excited, we want to see that sketch or render that inspires us and then we will want you! So let‘s throw away lifeless package drawings of translucent, colour filled boxes that say “batteries” or “motors”, and the 97.5 percentile Dutch males that you’ve squashed into your vehicle, we can save all this for when we actually have to face reality, when designing a real car for manufacture (and you won’t really even have to worry about this).
Keep your projects to a minimum, we see 56 page portfolios with about 10 projects in. These are too big to keep/capture our attention for the period of time it would take to digest that amount of information/wade through it. We are designers ourselves and therefore have to design things and unfortunately you can’t spend all day every day looking at portfolios! Now this is the hard bit, discarding older projects as your skills have improved….nearly impossible to do sometimes as you probably hold emotions for each project as if they were your own child. They aren’t your children and they don’t have emotions, cut them out and be brutal. Do it, cut it down, get through it. Even if you are left with 3 projects, this will the make us think that you can do everything of this level.
From my own experience as a Coventry graduate, cut out the following 1. Clay head project 2. Any ergonomics based project with lights that reflect your mood. 3. An alias models or render which is then repeated in different colours to show colour choices up to 5-6 times (to pad out your portfolio).
Variations of design work. The tricky creative taboo topic, difficult to answer without causing a whole world of design debates and potential Ted talks animosity establishing what design is and how we should approach it. Try to mix it up, don’t just have 3 projects of space ships and fantastic speed painting art work, show that side of you by all means it’s great to see, however try and include some good old fashioned automotive design, displaying an understanding of surfacing, brand interpretation and proportion over 4 conventional wheels.
Your portfolio should be an extension of yourself, it should be presented in a way that you want it to be. Your style should be natural rather than something that is forced. Always be honest with the way that you work, whether you are all about hand sketching or a Photoshop wizard, show how you work as we all have different ways we do things.
A great way to stay sharp, get your name out there and they really keep you on your toes. Local motors, the Michelin design challenge and interiormotives to name but a few, the briefs are usually fun, and if it is not fun then you need to twist their brief to do so! No one wants to design something boring in their spare time. These usually have no engineering requirement, package constraints or a need to convince university tutors to what you are doing, go forth and have fun!
Keep it simple, if you don’t have that much experience it’s ok, we have all been in your shoes at some point and we don’t expect to see years of experience from a student. Whatever you do, please don’t write that you have been ‘freelancing’, it’s a term we all know, love and laugh about, and it means you are probably skint after uni, living at home with your parents with a remedial part time job doing your portfolio and design competitions of an evening whilst your parents tell you that you should start thinking about getting into a different career.
My last thought on this topic, which I could probably continue to preach about for another hour whilst I annoy my collegues by seemingly moaning endlessly is this….the self-rating skill charts!
Now I’m not sure what the universities have been preaching to the students of late, but here’s my number one pointless thing to put in your portfolio if you are applying to be a designer or alias modeller. Grading yourself out of 10, maybe out of 5 stars even, stating how good you are at alias, photoshop, design or sketching. It won’t be right, it will probably annoy someone in the studio that you have sent it to. The idea of your portfolio or data you send is that we will be working this out, and to what level we see you as and if we feel you are right for said particular studio position. Whatever you do, please don’t include ‘football’ as a skill set, to which you then score yourself higher on this than any other design skills. Makes me think you should be a professional footballer instead! Hobbies are acceptable to list, but its usually quite boring to do so, we would like to see your character in your work.
I hope this helps you in all your applications
Have an opinion
Get a photo of you applying a tape to a clay model
Drink green tea or a lot of coffee
Be protective over your pen
Talk about sketches with emotions and feelings
Moan about all cars on the road
Try as best possible to never mention Steve Jobs in a automotive studio
Never be truly happy with your work
Keep portfolios to no bigger than 5mb (if possible)
Drive look forward to seeing the results!
It is a historic moment for Drive as the Limited Edition Drive E10R from Zenos takes to the road carrying the Drive logo, on the distinctive new colour and trim package with Charged Graphite colour, black anodised chassis and additional equipment that makes this the fastest Zenos yet.
This is the first time ‘designed by Drive’ has appeared on a car, and it is a great honour. With Zenos recognising the importance of the design in their success, they are keen to celebrate the relationship with Drive who penned their car, by displaying ‘designed by Drive’ on the buttress.
“Zenos Cars has a long standing relationship with the team at Drive and the E10R provided the perfect opportunity for us to celebrate our partnership. Who better to style and detail our range topping product than the brilliant team that designed it from the outset?” enthused Mark Edwards, CEO of Zenos Cars.
Lead designer Mark Przeslawski commented “The Drive edition E10R had to stand out from the rest of the E10 range, being one of the most exciting cars you can drive we had to inject this emotion into its appearance. As designers we are passionate about everything down to the last detail, being able to have the freedom of paint finishes and colour schematics gave us the scope to create the ultimate E10R.”
With the drive team all very keen drivers it is appropriate that it should be the fastest Zenos yet that carries the Drive Logo. The Drive Edition E10R is track-ready, with adjustable suspension, updated brakes and 6-speed transmission, with race harnesses. It’s track-quick, too, with 500 bhp/tonne serving up 60 mph in as little as 3 seconds, and masses of torque available throughout the rev range.
Designer Gareth Culverhouse commented “The visual expression of the car is completely different, and this is all down to the colour and trim we chose in-house, it’s how we always envisioned a Zenos should be. We used a range of dark finishes and deep metallic paint to give the car a sinister but premium feel, whilst the contrast of the yellow graphics adds visual drama.”
This partnership between Drive and Zenos can be seen as the beginning of a long term relationship akin to that of Pininfarina and Ferrari.
THE INTERNET OF THINGS
The Internet of Things – electronic devices communicating to each other via the internet mean that we are able to go seemlessly from one area of our lives to the next. Leave the house and the heating lowers, music system turns off, but the same song is playing on your smart phone. On entering your car the music switches to the car sound system, social accounts are accessed and made available, eradicating the need to refer to mobile devices, the accessibility of these being limited to suitable times for safety reasons, and emergency alerts passed on at an appropriate time.
TECHNOLOGY IN CAR INTERIORS
The advancement of technology in the consumer market is incredibly quick, and rapid product cycles allow for these updates to be incorporated swiftly into new and updated products such as mobile phones. In the automotive industry one of the largest components, and therefore one with the longest lead times, is the dashboard and instrument panel, and this means that the technology is evolving quicker than is always possible to incorporate in the latest car. This combined with the longer life cycle of a car than say a mobile device means that the ability of car manufacturers to keep a pace with developments is difficult.
Therefore automotive companies are obviously looking at ways to incorporate these products, such as tablets, into their interiors in order to use the latest technology releases.
What is clear is devices are designed for their intended environment and use, and when they are substituted into other environments like a car interior, at the very least their effectiveness is reduced, through to being totally impractical or downright dangerous. Also this narrow approach where it seems all that needs to happen is to create a device carrier in the centre console, is missing opportunities to make the technology work to improve the experience of the car driver.
SCALING and FILTERING INTERFACE
The single physical control is to filter information, and increase or decrease the amount information the driver requires. The touch screen buttons enlarge due to frequency of use and move closer to the driver thus tailoring the switch layout to the individual’s needs.
How the relevant information is displayed from display area to heads up display, depends on the relevance of the data to driver or passenger.
We actively look for opportunities for collaboration with other consultancies, and on this occasion we teamed up with The Division, a leading product design company run by David Tonge, to undertake a design research study for a major Japanese company. We combined our particular areas of expertise and David’s in-depth understanding of Japan, to provide a comprehensive analysis.
Our study and outputs proved to be very thought provoking and challenged the client design teams to rethink their approach to the interaction between drivers and passengers, and their vehicle.
This way of working, combining expertise from different disciplines, is a rewarding experience, and getting the chance to work with teams like The Division extremely enjoyable.
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