September 29, 2023


Only Automotive

Frank’s Imaginative and prescient – Supercar Driver

10 min read

Legendary industrial designer Frank Stephenson talks about his historical past with the world’s prime automobile producers and his more moderen ventures in modern design.

Written by: Zheran Chen

Frank Stephenson has his imaginative and prescient. Together with his identify to designs from the long-lasting New MINI to the thrilling McLaren P1, at 62, he’s nonetheless captivated with design and inquisitive about all issues pure. He has risen to turn into one of the crucial influential automotive designers over the previous three many years. 

Frank Stephenson sketches on a regular basis, it’s virtually a convention for him to choose up a ballpoint pen and let his creativity circulation over any floor he can discover. Even throughout this interview, Frank sketches, it didn’t take lengthy for a clear sheet of paper to turn into one thing really exceptional.

Frank lives in a wonderful, quiet nation home in England and can also be the design director of a studio in London that bears his personal identify. Some would say it’s virtually onerous to match Frank’s previous and current persona, from the illustrious design boss who ran Ferrari and formed McLaren’s future, to the frankly talking founding father of Frank Stephenson Design (no pun meant), and even YouTuber. He’s now utilizing his creativity in virtually all the things: futuristic eVTOL plane, modern child safety seats, and even a supercomputer.

However there’s a connection. For many individuals, Frank’s work has been in contact with their lives for a few years, whether or not it was love at first sight for the stunning Fiat 500, the sheer pleasure of driving a MINI by means of the countryside, and even the surreal feeling of seeing a McLaren P1 for the primary time. In the present day, wherever you go, there’s certain to be a product with which Frank has some kind of involvement.

He was born in Casablanca, the identical place the place Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman shone on the large display screen. Camels, fragrances and the colourful but romantic tradition of Morocco influenced Frank’s upbringing in some ways earlier than the household launched into a sequence of strikes, first to Turkey after which to Spain, diversifying his understanding of various cultures.

It was within the yr he completed highschool that his life took its first flip, which, surprisingly, had nothing to do with automobile design. Anybody who has come into shut contact with Frank will discover his muscular construct, which comes from years of motocross racing in his early days. Sure, he was knowledgeable motocross rider. First, he gained the Junior Championship in Spain and started racing within the Nationwide Sequence.

However when he turned 22, his father instructed him to seek out one thing else to do for a dwelling. “It was unhappy to finish it, however my father had a degree. I used to be good however not successful, there’s an enormous distinction between being good and successful. I didn’t need to be executed at 30, I wanted to seek out one thing else I used to be higher at”.

When Frank first heard in regards to the Artwork Heart Faculty of Design (ACCD) in Pasadena, California, he instantly determined it was the place he wished to go. “A college devoted to automotive design; I utilized with out hesitation”, Frank considers his school years to be probably the most memorable regardless of the each day pressures.

“I’ve misplaced observe of what number of nights I’ve stayed up, it’s simply so onerous. You’ll at all times suppose you might be gifted, however there are such a lot of gifted folks there, so I’ve a whole lot of respect for my classmates.
I feel I discovered extra from my classmates than I did from my academics”.

Frank is just not exaggerating, there have been 30 younger college students enrolled with him in 1983, whereas solely six graduated in 1986. Frank was provided a Ford scholarship throughout his sophomore yr at ACCD, which finally turned a job alternative.
He selected to work for Ford Europe in Cologne to be close to his household, and what was his first job at Ford? Designing the wheels of the brand new Sierra!

BMW was his subsequent goal. In July 1991 he took his portfolio to Munich they usually employed him on the spot. It was an amazing transformation time for BMW, which had a lot potential for a younger designer like Frank.

A line-up of solely 3, 5, 7 and eight Sequence was not sufficient for BMW’s ambitions. Since their acquisition of the Rover Group, the German large was contemplating an unprecedented enlargement with new additions corresponding to Land Rover, MINI, Triumph and Wolseley.

Frank’s supervisor on the time requested him to current an off-roader prototype utilizing the know-how of the not too long ago acquired Land Rover in six weeks. From the present viewpoint, it’s virtually inconceivable.

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