Though his previous "hot" career in the world of die cast automobiles has since cooled off, the extreme automotive passion that Rob has carried since he was 1/64 scale never died. Now busy checking races off his bucket list, working on his Cougar project, or creating works of c-art for his freelance business, he still finds time to torso-ize some of these masterpieces with designs like "HPTE", "Leaf Spring Harvest", and "Salut".
Rob shifted into neutral to answer a few questions:
How did your interest in cars start?
When I was very young. A lot of factors contributed to starting me down the "car guy" path. My dad did his own maintenance on his cars and encouraged me to observe, and let me try my hand with tools at about 3 years old. That was on my mom's '66 Mustang convertible, which was the daily driver for years.
I also loved to draw cars, and could name most cars on the street by the time I was 5. My dad took me to the Indy 500 when I was 7, which was amazing. The first movie I can remember seeing in the theatre was Le Mans with Steve McQueen. These early experiences left lasting impressions. My toy box and shelves were loaded with cars. Soon, my interest in cars outpaced my parents' interest, and I haven't looked back!
About the time I started thinking about higher education and a career, I found out about Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, the foremost car design school in the world. While still in high school I attended “Saturday High” classes - a series of classes to help students learn more about the college. And I was hooked! I ended up graduating from Art Center with a Transportation Design degree. While I never worked directly for a car company, I embarked on a career in product design.
How does your interest show itself?
I love to go to car shows. I'm lucky to live in Southern California where it's always car show season. I've always driven something special or unusual, as life's too short to drive a boring car! I'd love to get back into track days soon; it's been too long.
On top of that, I am a huge racing enthusiast, following F1, WEC, NHRA, MotoGP, and several others. I try to hit live events when I can, like The 24 Hours of Le Mans which was a great experience. My friends and I had been talking about going for about 25 years until we finally got together and went this year. The sheer scale of the track and all the classes racing at once are very impressive. You can feel the history everywhere around you. We walked all the way around the track as far as they let you go (pedestrians are prohibited along the Mulsanne straight) and it was so awesome to see the cars at speed through legendary turns like Tetre Rouge, Arnage, and the Dunlop Chicane. We managed to stay up until about 4 am then we had to head out for a couple hours sleep. So our experience was the 21 Hours of Le Mans!
What is at the top of your automotive bucket list?
My wife's been bugging me to swap the muscle car for something small and Italian, or British. I was obsessed with the early Pantera, but now I've been priced out of the market! As far as experiences, I'd also love to hit some more of the great F1 tracks like Spa and Suzuka.
What's in your driveway, and what makes it special?
My daily driver is a 2016 Chevy SS (aka Holden Commodore SSV). Amazing sound, performance and a surprising amount of technology in this car. And it's something you don't see every day. It's essentially stock, but I've converted all the badges to Holden, which confuses onlookers to no end.
I’ve also got a 1968 Mercury Cougar, which is a restomod project. I've replaced the engine added a Tremec 6-speed transmission, wheels, tires and some other goodies. It's pretty cool and unique.
What was your first car? Any sort of brand loyalty?
My first car was a 1965 Chevy Corvair Corsa convertible. It was fun, great looking, and those carburetors kept me busy! I've got absolutely no brand loyalty; I've owned American, Japanese, and German cars. Life is too short to be tied down to a single brand (or continent)! That includes a VW Corrado, a 1966 Olds Toronado, a bug eye WRX wagon, a Honda S2000, and an E36 M3, though the most unusual car I ever drove (but didn’t own) was a Citroen SM. I love it when a car maker like Citroen follows their own path and creates something special and unusual. It’s unfortunately very rare these days.
What is your dream car?
The original Ford GT40 and the Lamborghini Miura are my dream cars. They have such beautiful shapes and their history is so amazing, and the size and scale of these cars are so different compared to modern sports cars.
What do you do besides designing awesome shirts?
I'm a freelance graphic and product designer. I do commissioned pieces and some of my own automotive artwork which I feature on my website, SpeedShiftArt.
I also worked in the toy industry for several years, so now I consult with toy companies on car-related play. That includes history at a certain fiery die-cast toy maker, which was great! The car culture is very strong there. Several of the designers have auto industry experience, and most people have one or more hobby cars in the garage. The interest in cars there is as broad as the toys you see on the shelves, and it wasn’t unusual to see European performance cars, JDM cars, off-road trucks, motorcycles, and even a couple exotics in the parking lot on any given day! The culture there really helped me to focus on my car hobby, and a lot of other hobbies and activities took a real "back seat" to cars! And I finally got to fulfill my dream of being a car designer!
What are some of your non-car hobbies?
I love to tinker with and ride bicycles, and work on my house. I also enjoy taking my dog to the park to play with her doggy friends or on walks to terrorize the neighborhood cats and squirrels. She’s a real "All American" mutt; a Lab with several other breeds mixed in.
What have the funds from blipshift helped you accomplish?
I made a bucket list trip to the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year with some of my closest friends. That was a fantastic experience. Blipshift funds certainly helped out with that. I've also bought several car parts with my blipshift funds.
What influences you as a designer?
For my artwork, it's about a car or driver's story, and trying to tell that story. I love unique quirky race cars and great personalities in motorsports.
What's your favorite blipshift shirt?
I'm not only an artist for blipshift, I'm also a customer! I tend to go for the vintage-racing or retro-oriented designs (which I usually wish I had designed!). “Go Aero” is one of my more recent favorites. And anything by my friends Micheal Castiglione and Emile Bouret. As far as the ones I've designed, it's the next one! My automotive interests are all over the place, so blipshift is like a candy store for me, both as a consumer and an artist.
Any advice for fellow artists? How did you find the process overall?
Work hard, but enjoy the creative process. For blipshift, try to keep the limitations of the printing process in mind as you design. You are limited in the quantity of colors you can use, and the number of background (shirt) colors to choose from. And don't be afraid to submit your ideas! The worst that can happen is the say no (they let you down easy, believe me!), but usually they have constructive comments that will improve your design, so be open to that. The submission process is pretty easy, and it's gratifying to get the exposure for your designs. And the money doesn't hurt either!
Thanks again Rob for your torso passion and skills in the art of vector. Apex Everything!