Did You Know?

Vern Schuppan born in Whyalla on March 19, 1943 is a retired Australian motor racing legend who drove in various categories including Formula One, Indianapolis 500, Sports Car racing and the glorious Le Mans 24 hours.



In 1983 Vern was the second Australian in 51 years to win what is arguably one of histories most iconic and certainly most romantic endurance races, the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans. Vern drove for the Rothmans Porsche team and was partnered with US drivers Hurley Haywood and Al Holbert. The team’s mount was the superb Porsche 956.

Not only a great racing talent, Vern also created his very own Porsche based 962CR road car. These cars were built as a tribute to his Le Mans victory. The Porsche 956 and its 962 IMSA-spec have become one of the most successful prototype race cars in history, claiming over 130 victories. Verns's 962CR road going interpretation when new was one of the most expensive cars ever produced and a decade ahead of its time but sadly only 5 were ever built.

Where are they now? If I find out, Ill be sure to let you know.

Reinterpreting the Past : The Art of Chip Foose

Chip Foose & 1932 Ford P-32 - 4.jpg

I find myself scanning the internet, reading books and talking to people about good design and what that is. "Good Design" has as many definitions as there are people to ask but whatever the answer, hi brow or low, from either an artistic or a functional point of view, an object’s design must satisfy the needs of the owner. Garage Mahal designs around the client’s brief. It may be the clients ideas are based on current fashion trends but where fashion is fleeting, style and quality will endure. As a designer, my job is to interpret the client’s wishes and create designs that will fulfill the dream and stand the test of time.

One designer who I admire greatly is a custom rod designer, Chip Foose. It is not my intention to start a debate over the pros and cons of customising cars here. I simply want to point out that here is a designer who has attained the ability to interpret the originality of the subject matter and re-interpret it in a way that leaves you guessing where originality ends and custom begins. 

"Chip Foose is one of the most respected custom car designers in the world. Chip wondered what a returning WWII pilot would like to drive, and set out to answer the question and build the car. He shares with Lance Lambert, host of TV's Vintage Vehicle Show, how he got started designing cars, his years at the Pasadena Art Centre on how and why he came up with the "P-32" design."  Vintage Vehicle Show


Chip Foose & 1932 Ford P-32

"What if a WWII fighter pilot say in 1948 or 49, missed his airplane which would have been a P38 or P40 and turned his roadster into his war bird.  What I've used is a Lincoln Zephyr V12 flat head.  We clay modelled the nose to look like one of the war bird noses, it's got the spinner on it, that's going to get cut out where there would have been blades coming out to let a little more air in for the radiator but I want the car when it's finished to look like we found it in a barn that maybe this car was built back then. ...  I want it to look like we found it in a barn, dragged it out, it's going to be all patina'd.  I can't wait to actually get it out and drive it."

When asked about the methodology of design inspiration Chip stated:

"As far as what I have in my head, I've got tons and tons of ideas about cars that I'd love to build.  I've got sketches in the office and a lot of times a guy will come in and say yeah I wanna build a car another car and I'm not sure what I wanna build...  ...I want him to focus in on a theme and then I want to design his vehicle for him exclusively based on conversations that we've had so we can create a car that is his and not designed for somebody else that he bought, it’s his car and what we're going to do to it in the end. The drawing is just a tool to build the car, all the design criteria or shall we say, final decisions are based in 3 dimensions. 2 dimensional sketches a just a theme to build the car. We may do dimensional drawings and sketches that we can build all the car from but I want all the decisions to be based on the car itself" Chip Foose


As a designer who is passionate about automotive design as well as architectural and interior design, I appreciate Chip's philosophy, and if you read my blog on Ralph Lauren you will see that these two designers, who seem worlds apart, are in fact much closer than you think.


See Chip's interview and P-32 here


Chip Foose & 1932 Ford P-32 - 3.jpg

The Automobile as Art

Whether designing garages, buildings, clothes or even watches; designers will draw inspiration from many sources and in many ways. In the case of Ralph Lauren, he will invent characters and circumstances around which he produces his work. This notion was first brought to my attention many years ago as a student of design but not until reading about Ralph Lauren, did this philosophy come back to me. He will create a world around these characters and through them, create his collections.

What has this to do with Garage Mahal? Reading the following quote may go some way to explaining.

"I have always been inspired by the dream of American-families in the country, weathered trucks and farmhouses; sailing of the coast of Maine; following dirt roads in an old wood-panelled station wagon ; a convertible filled with young college kids sporting crew cuts and sweat shirts and frayed sneakers.  I am constantly drawing inspiration from everything I see - the places I travel, the people I know and the movies I see. Sometimes it takes just one thing to excite a whole sensibility about a world. One photograph of a look, one old jacket, and then I build it." Ralph Lauren

Take for instance the Streamliner, Garage Mahal's first project; my inspiration was drawn from the wonderful rounded shoulders and strong art deco influence of the 1950s Kelvinator refrigerator. A working machine purchased by the owner but, like the garage, sorely in need of attention. And so it is with any commission taken on by Garage Mahal, the inspiration for the design may come about as a result of a few conversations with the client or simply the things I see when walking through their front door.

So why Ralph Lauren?  Other than his design genius and business sense, he owns an assemblage of exotic cars that is considered to be amongst the finest in the world?

For three months in 2011, 17 of Ralph Lauren's collection, representing some of the most prestigious sports car manufacturers in the world were on display to the public. With this collection, Ralph Lauren shows that the automobile is a major art form created by the industry's biggest names: Bugatti, Alfa Romeo, Bentley, Ferrari, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche. With cars possessed of such appeal, even just as static art let alone the sensuality of their sound, smell and motion, where would one begin in designing a fitting space for their display? Perhaps Paris' Musée des Arts Décoratifs, a starting point of the Art Deco movement.

An art show? An industrial design exhibition? Or Pebble Beach Concours indoors? For me, it is all three. To set your one and only classic or your entire collection of cars amidst the clutter of a disorganised space tells a story but to create an environment to house your beloved, to best show its gracefulness or the power of its masculinity, means you are serious and engaged with the whole concept of the automobile as art, it has the potential to tell the whole story.

Watch this video, judge for yourself.


The Wrist Watch

Quantum of Solace - James Bond asks Felix Leiter….
“How long have I got?”
“Thirty seconds.”
“Well, that doesn’t give us a lot of time, does it?”

When the Hamilton Pulsar P1, the world’s first electronic LED digital watch was launched in 1972 it was embraced by the world as the start of a new age. When theHamilton Pulsar P2 was introduced to the world in the 1973 movie Live and Let Die, by arguably histories most charismatic fictional character, James Bond; it seemed that the sun had set on the traditional analogue wrist watch... Or had it?

The digital watch has endured but not to the extent Arthur C. Clarke might have envisaged. So why doesn’t digital hold the dominant slice of the wrist watch market today? To me, a digital watch is assembled but the analogue watch is crafted; it is complicated; it is mechanical and wondrous in its construction. We can imagine the gears working, the spring turning and the various complications acting in mechanical harmony, set in a case so small we can strap one to our arm and be entranced!  For me it is the same reason why I still love steam locomotives, SU carburettors and a kick starter on my vintage American motorcycle. They excite the senses by way of motion, of sound and touch.

The analogue watch, especially the self winders, in my mind typify the beauty and the complexity, and are the pinnacle of watch making. A mechanical watch tells a story that no digital ever can. Look at the Rolex Submariner or the Breitling Cosmonaut and the U-Boat watches.  What they all have in common is a character that is synonymous with adventure; the kind of Boys-Own-Annual adventure that lurks just below the surface of most any man. (Being a man, I cannot speak for women)

And now a new British watch maker, Bremont, has captured the essence of that spirit and created a superior range of wrist watches that excite all these senses and will certainly captivate the boy inside.

I won’t bother trying to explain further, go to the Bremont website and see for yourself.