An Appreciation of Change by Peter Brock

A major milestone occurred last week. A car design I created a few years ago (mentioned in the article below that appeared in Classic Motorsports more than 2 years ago) has sat languishing as the client has had his attention elsewhere. Last week the exclusivity I granted this client expired. I am free once again to design whatever I want. At my “advanced” age, it’s been frustrating to put my heart and soul into a design and not see anything come of it. I plan to make up for lost time!


An Appreciation of Change
By Peter Brock
As seen in Classic Motorsports magazine February 2022

Working as an independent automotive designer in this modern age presents some unique challenges. The opportunities to create something of value in such an already congested environment are rare indeed simply because the word “independent” doesn’t really mesh with an international industry already filled with highly complex corporate design teams. Instead of being left alone to create independently they are normally set up to operate at the direction of a remote marketing division that exists solely to determine and direct what it collectively thinks the public wants. Such specious information, often gathered by randomly collected “focus groups” usually has such conflicting opinions, that it’s essentially valueless. This is easily proven by the morass of tasteless junk that constantly fills our highways.  Still, for me the rare opportunity to design independently occasionally arises. The chance to create something both aesthetically pleasing and ergonomically satisfying while being environmentally efficient is exciting to say the least. That’s occurring now in my life and I’m genuinely excited. The chance to use new materials and the latest technology is incredibly stimulating as each provides the opportunity to work with new people expert in their specialized fields.

Having been originally schooled in the time-honored techniques of pencil work on a drawing board it’s been interesting over the past few years to watch the industry’s almost universal transition to electronics for both artistic and engineering solutions. Computers have allowed the unification of creative thought and precise hardline engineering because of the practical demand that all involved be able to operate on the same screen at the same time whether across the room or in another country.

Since the late ‘20s, when a young Californian named Harley Earle brought the use of styling clay and the element of aesthetic exterior design to General Motors, that carefully hand applied substance has been used almost exclusively to sculpt forms unique to each of America’s automotive design eras. In addition to pencil work I also learned how to design with clay when I attended Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design back in the ‘50s. I have continued to use that unique skill to sculpt new ideas in quarter scale whenever the prospect presented itself. In the past few months I’ve spent hours on a new design that may actually see production within the next year or so.

What has changed in recent years is that my self-trusted clay skills have become almost obsolete in favor of electronic modeling that has become so sophisticated that current computer-delivered renderings appear almost real. However, I still trust my abilities in 3D, as I feel there’s still nothing to equal working subtle surfaces by hand and eye. Understandably this takes hours and modern industry has little appreciation for time lost to what has been accepted as a superior method to achieve the equivalent result.

What has really improved though in the modern design process is the transition from scale to full size. Any designer who has sketched new ideas in clay soon learns that scale models seldom transfer to full size successfully. The eye sees miniatures and full size in an entirely different way, so any new automotive form must be seen outside in full scale to determine its real aesthetic impact. Full size clay models have almost disappeared from modern automotive design studios. Instead, full size prototypes are now rapidly sculpted from huge blocks of hard foam with sophisticated five-axis CNC machines that that deliver almost perfect renditions in hours instead of weeks. In an industry where time is critical the advent of electronics has almost completely obliterated the hand-sculpted art form.

For someone like myself, essentially a dinosaur from a past era, the change has been both exciting and overwhelming. Now an electronic scan of my quarter scale creation can be converted to a full-scale replica in a matter of hours. If approved I may be able to show you the real thing in a few months.

Epilogue – the few months came and went and then it was a few years. I can’t control what someone does, or does not do, with my designs. If all goes to plan, now that we are back in control, look for an unveiling at SEMA and possibly two new cars next year.

7 thoughts on “An Appreciation of Change by Peter Brock

  1. Fantastic, Peter! I look forward to seeing your new creations. My best wishes go out to you, Gayle, and all at BRE.

  2. Happy to see the continuation of your skill sets Peter and I can’t wait to see the designs in “the flesh”. Certainly eye candy.

  3. I am not a “car guy” but found you on a documentary of the Cobra Ferrari Wars years back on DVD and liking documentaries was hooked. Of course the more recent documentaries and films have added to my knowledge and I’ve also read a few books and even purchased one signed by you. As a sort of behind the scenes guy in my industry I really admire your story and continue to follow you. thanks for this very interesting post from one dinosaur to another.

  4. Hey Pete,
    I flew your Dragon Fly and Comet Hang Gliders back in the late 70’s and early 80s. Your attention to detail and quality set an industry standard for flying UP. Thanks for all you did in the advancement of foot launched gliders!
    Britt Wuest

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