As a senior designer for an extreme sports brand, it's no surprise that you can on occasion find Jon on the mountain bike trails. More often than not though, this petrolhead from across the pond is in the shed, adding to his calluses and cussing vocab while wrenching on one of his many hunks of old German metal. His heavily-modified Mk2 Golf of 14+ years gets most of the attention, but a new Cocker Spaniel comes in at a close second. You can see this garage and range of interests reflected in designs like "Sweet 16V", "Westward Bound", and "GTRadical".
Like a mechanic in a cop procedural, Jon rolled his crawler out to answer a few questions:
How did your interest in cars start?
That’s a tough question! I think cars have always been in the blood for me. It probably started like many other petrolheads, with HotWheels and Matchbox. I’ve got vivid memories as a kid of staring up at toy shop walls full of die-cast cars. The brands, the colours, the endless possibilities; taking ages to make that oh so important decision of which to spend the hard earned pocket money on. Damn, life was simple then!
I used to build a lot of stuff with my grandad: Tamiya model kits, R/C cars, etc. He was a huge influence on me and taught me how things work. Applying the livery was always my favourite part which probably explains why I had my head in a sketchbook drawing any chance I got.
I think the likes of the Playstation game "Gran Turismo" had a lasting effect too - certainly broadened my horizons of all these amazing automotive brands. Certainly lost a few days playing that! It was the British Touring Car Championship that cemented my love of motorsport - being lucky enough to grow up in the supertouring era of the 90’s, I’d spend a Sunday glued to the tv screen. The action was amazing and the fact all of the machines were based on homologation models of cars out on the public streets made it feel closer to home. 20 odd years later... well, I’m pretty much the same!
How does your interest show itself?
Aside from my love of motorsport and if I’m not designing, you’ll most likely find me throwing spanners about in the garage. I am definitely one of those guys whose project car is constantly in pieces - and it’s the older, retro stuff that flicks my switches. I just can’t help taking things apart, restoring and improving. There’s nothing better than learning a new skill. If you muck it up, well you learn something and then figure out how to fix it. Colourful language helps.
I love going to track days and getting involved with the community. I’ve met so many great people over the years through a passion for cars, a lot, friends for life. Mucking in, sharing skills, the banter, helping someone, that’s what it's all about for me. The cars are a nice byproduct.
What is at the top of your automotive bucket list?
With the world in its current Covid state, it really makes you realise life is for living and it’s experiences that are valuable. I love a good roadtrip so would love to drive across Canada. Having spent a small amount of time in BC, it left a lasting impression.
Regarding motorsport, it would be awesome to do Gatebil and Le Mans Classic one day, or anything in a retro touring cars like an E30, RS500 Cosworth, etc.
What's in your driveway, and what makes it special?
My taste in cars is diverse, but it’s German metal that I tend to gravitate towards and as such I’m a VW nut at heart. I’m not really one for the stereotypical VW ‘scene’ (airbags and stretched tyres aren’t my thing) - drivers cars and home mechanics are where it’s at for me.
Currently on the driveway I have a 1991 Mk2 Golf GTI that I’ve had 14 years. It’s been through many guises and as others come and go, this is the keeper. Currently set up for fast road and track use it looks largely stock from the outside...under the skin is a whole different ball game!
It’s got a 2.0 16v ‘ABF' code engine in it on Jenvey independent throttle bodies. TSR four branch manifold, OEM style exhaust rebuilt in stainless. Quaife diff, lightened flywheel, KW coilovers, G60 brakes, Mahoosive radiator, external oil cooler, Yokohama semi slick tyres, Eibach anti roll bars, Renown steering wheel, GTI tartan trimmed bucket seats, it’s been corner weighted and geo’d yada yada the list goes on.
Next up is an 89 VW T25 (or Vanagon I think they are called in the USA). I’ve only had this a few months and it’s a pretty big project. This is a build I’m embarking on with my awesome girlfriend with the goal of some roadtrips and the life experiences I spoke of above. It’s currently got various sections chopped out for welding and there’s a Subaru lump on the workbench ready to find it’s new home...
Lastly there’s the Beemer E46 daily. 3.0 straight 6, rear wheel drive... what’s not to like.
What was your first car?
I had a 72 Beetle as my first car. I cut my teeth spannering on this alongside my grandad - as mentioned above, he taught me all I know about mechanics. As you can imagine there was a lot to learn, and fast. I had heaps of fun with that car as a teenager. A wheel falling off, driving it home bumping on the starter after the clutch cable snapped and it filling with 3 inches of water during a heavy thunderstorm, 4 people up on route to a festival spring to mind. It broke a lot. But was always easily fixable.
A friend actually tracked it down recently at the opposite end of the country to me. Really cool to see it had been fully restored with a decent budget (something lacking to a 17 year old). I’m sure some curse words were said about some of my fixes haha. The new owner proposed to his now wife in it.
What is your dream car?
You can’t ask that haha, what a question! I couldn’t narrow it down to one particular car. Off the shelf, an Audi RS2, E30 M3, or aircooled 911 would certainly be up there.
What do you do besides designing awesome shirts?
I’ve been working as a designer for about 10 years in various branding agencies. I currently work as a senior designer for an extreme sports brand which is a good gig. I get to design a multitude of campaigns, packaging, custom athlete helmets and frame designs across the Mountain Bike and Motorcross industries. It’s a cool feeling seeing a lid you designed being worn by someone shredding a jump or dropping down a ravine at the likes of Redbull Rampage in Utah on TV.
What are some of your non-car hobbies?
I’m a keen downhill mountain biker so if not covered in engine oil and grease, it’s usually mud. I’m outdoors as much a possible, exploring or camping with my girlfriend and our 6 month old Cocker Spaniel. Being a puppy, she’s never far from trouble and loves to run off with tools. If only I could train her to find the 10mm socket...
What have the funds from blipshift helped you accomplish?
It’s really cool working with Blipshift and seeing designs come to fruition. Any funds from sales go straight back into funding the petrol hazed dreams. Design equipment and car parts usually!
What influences you as a designer?
As a designer we tend to get inspiration from all over the place. I like work that evokes an emotion such as nostalgia. It’s really fun putting a modern twist on this.
In terms of designers, Twain Forsythe (Nut and Bolt Design) is smashing it with his work and determination. We’re in similar worlds and seeing him take the plunge into freelance life and following his dreams is damn awesome to see. Keep at it dude!
What's your favorite blipshift shirt?
Loved Mycak Sames' "Rule The Day" GT40 design recently. A real nice balance of old skool cool with a modern twist.
Any advice for fellow artists?
Working with Blipshift is great fun - it’s abundantly clear it’s a team full of petrolheads for who car culture is deep in their blood, not just a business entity. They're always on the ball and feedback is really constructive.
Best advice I can give is just draw what you love! Not all will be winners, something that has cultural influence for you may not have a huge global audience, but that's ok, draw it anyway!
Practical advice would be keep your colour palette tidy and be smart with how you utilise the challenges of screen printing. Refine your skills, follow your gut and tap in to why you’re choosing to design in the first place.
Thanks again Jon for your deep reserves of drop-dead gorgeous art, and automotive passion behind it all. Apex Everything!