One of the most important things you can do to guarantee a successful project car buildup is to have a clear idea of the project's outcome. Sometimes describing what you have planned isn't always sufficient, especially when you're working with another shop. Our advice is to spend the money and time to get a visual rendering.
You'll soon find out that seeing your car on paper doesn't always turn out like you thought it would in your mind's eye. Some people have the talent for knowing exactly what they want before they even buy a car, but as we see every time we go to a show, most guys need a little (or a lot of!) guidance to avoid visual "violations." It's the job of these designers to hear what you've got to say, and translate it to an image you can be proud of. A professional artist will help you avoid mismatches in color, texture, or proportion that arise when free-wheeling good intentions go awry.
This is an example of what...
This is an example of what three-dimensional computer renderings look like beneath the skin. This is PHR's Project Talladega drawn by Chris Gray with half of its skeleton exposed. A computer rendering is but one method-freehand drawing and photo illustration are also very common and effective.
Having a rendering done of your project car isn't very expensive compared to the cost and time of buying parts, fabricating, painting, and assembling everything. You might think that having a rendering done is a luxury only for professional car builders or wealthy enthusiasts, but you'd be wrong. Renderings have become a regular stop in the journey of building a car, especially in an Internet-savvy age where guys like to show off their dreams to fellow enthusiasts. The cost of a rendering tends to be proportional to the amount of work in the piece, and the experience or notoriety of the artist. (There's nothing like saying your car was designed by the likes of Steve Stanford, Chip Foose, or Chris Ito-provided you followed their visual direction.) At the bare minimum, if you're looking to just try on a different set of wheels or different paint colors over a photo, it can be done convincingly for as little as $100. In contrast, a custom piece of art that's hand drawn and suitable for hanging on the wall can cost up to $3,000, depending on the number of views you have rendered. Either way, if a mistake is avoided on paper, the fix is always cheaper than on the actual car. Picking up the wrong set of wheels or grafting a scoop you thought would look good can cost you tho in high school usands in parts and labor when a simple rendering for a couple hundred dollars could've saved you from that fate.
A large percent of home-based projects aren't completed the same year they're started. Harsh winters and busy schedules can slow the progress to a crawl. One thing that can keep you motivated is to have the end in sight. When you can see the finished product hanging on your garage wall, you'll gain a little more motivation, and carry some extra inspiration into your build.
Now, we introduce to you some of the guys whose passion is to help you visualize your project and share that vision with others. We've even used some of them-such as Chris Gray, John McBride, Chris Horton, and Eric Brockmeyer-to design recent projects for Popular Hot Rodding. We can honestly say they've saved us from many visual violations along the way! Some of these guys design cars full time, and some do it as a hobby, but you'll see the amount of work and communication it takes to bring something very impressive to the table.
Ben Hermance Design
Ben Hermance's career started with a box of Crayola crayons at the age of 4. His mother remembers him drawing pictures of his Hot Wheels cars and toy dump trucks. He spent most of his time through grade school doodling, but he went to a traditional college for a degree in business despite that. Once he was there, he realized it wasn't for him. He forfeited an academic and sports scholarship and started over his career path, this time doing what he loved. His influences are some of the guys you will be reading about in this story.
Ben has a lot of flexibility in the scale of his designing and illustrating projects. If you're just looking to modify an existing photo to give you an idea of how wheels and paint will look, he can digitally modify an existing photo and give you five versions to choose from for $175 per view. It isn't something he would add to his portfolio, but it serves the purpose of visualizing your plans. At the other side of the spectrum, he can do full-blown renderings, laying out exteriors, interiors, engine bays, and small details for $550 per view. His renderings start out as sketches on paper, then are scanned into the computer and redrawn in Photoshop.
Ben's style is very realistic; he doesn't believe it's helpful to have a rendering of a car chopped, slammed, and sectioned if you don't have the budget to follow through.
Some of his notable work includes the CTS body kit design for the D3 Cadillac. The body kit was so impressive, GM designers reevaluated the CTS-V body to look as good. He also helped Detroit Speed & Engineering with the paint scheme and interior design of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s '69 Camaro featured in many publications, and blown up to cover the sides of a big-rig truck.
|HERE'S THE DEAL: |
|Price: ||$175-$550 per view |
|Style: ||Photoshop and/or scanned digital sketch |
|Contact: ||www.hermancedesign.com, 508-612-0120 |
Problem Child Kustoms
Brian Stupski's background is in fine art and painting, with an emphasis in animation, so it's only natural for him to have the eye of a designer. He started out doodling like many of the others, and went to college to get a degree in his field. He aimed to work for a company like Pixar doing movies, but he had to stay close to home with his family, so he revised his plan. His professional experience is mostly in auto parts and service, so he has extensive knowledge of cars and how they work. Brian has always loved cars, and thought maybe he could make a living helping people envision their own builds.
Brian has quite a bit of experience building cars, so that helps him determine what is realistic and what isn't. When starting a project, the first thing he asks a client about is their skill set. Since Brian's client base consists mostly of home garage builders, he knows not everything is possible to achieve. The next thing is to assess the budget. The range starts at $650 for a two-view design, usually front and rear three-quarter angles. This cost can go up with the amount of body modifications performed. The drafts usually go back and forth between Brian and his client two or three times to get the desired product. When special parts are used and are visible from the exterior, Brian will send part numbers with the rendering. He even trolls the local pick-n-pulls to stockpile parts until that special project comes up.
His designs start out as a sketches, and are then scanned into the computer and brought up on Adobe Illustrator. This program is unique because it uses a vector-type file that never loses resolution or looks pixilated no matter how much you zoom in because it isn't a pixel-based image. This gives him the flexibility to print at an unlimited size, and zoom in to particular areas for great detail.
As a nice touch for the higher-budget projects, Brian will print a 13x19-inch image and add some special touches with an airbrush to really make the image pop. Apart from his builder clients, he has been asked to do airbrush drawings of existing cars for birthday or anniversary gifts.
|HERE'S THE DEAL: |
|Price: ||$650-$850 for two views |
|Style: ||scanned sketch into Adobe Illustrator |
|Contact: ||www.problemchildkustoms.com, 480-353-1795 |
Chris Gray Design
Chris Gray's story is really unique. He was born, raised, and educated in Scotland. He was attending the Glasgow School of Art to receive his bachelor's degree in industrial design when he met the woman who would soon be his wife. She was from Ohio and was visiting Scotland. Chris saw this as an opportunity to further his education in the States. He convinced her to move to Sacramento, California, so he could attend WyoTech and learn more about cars. Equipped with a degree in design and an education in automotive technology, he fell right into auto design work. He currently works at Marquez Design in West Sacramento, an outfit famous for its billet exterior and interior pieces for early muscle cars. He is heavily involved in product development at the shop, but after hours, he has his own business doing three-dimensional renderings.
Chris doesn't spend a lot of time on the design side of rendering because it simply gets too expensive; instead, he focuses on translating what the client wants onto paper via his computer. He starts with a rough sketch to get an idea of what the project is. Since he uses 3-D modeling software, he needs many references to make sure the scale is correct from every angle. The more photos the client can supply, the better. You may recognize his work on the rendering for PHR's own Project Talladega, a 1975 Chevrolet Laguna covered head to toe with graphics and custom bodywork.
What is great about this type of rendering is that the car can be viewed at all angles. This is extremely helpful when shops are working with their customers on a build and want to make sure everyone is on the same page. Chris has told us the design and rendering process turns out better builds than those without one.
|HERE'S THE DEAL: |
|Price: ||$500-up for front, rear three-quarter, and side views |
|Style: ||three-dimensional rendering |
|Contact: ||614-557-4299 |
Chris Ito Designs
Chris Ito, the youngest of three boys growing up, remembers getting a ride to school in his brother's Hemi-powered Model A. He learned to weld and experimented with fabricating by the age of 10. Needless to say, cars have always been a part of his life. Throughout high school, Chris took as many art-related classes as he could to get him ready for college. He attended the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, where Chip Foose also studied. From there, Chris moved on to work for various designers in Southern California before he was recognized by the big dogs at ASC Designs (Detroit) to do specialty limited-production vehicles. Currently, he is the design director for Peterbuilt motors, but fills his evenings and weekends drawing all sorts of hot rods, muscle cars, and customs.
He works on the high-end scale of our group here. This is not the guy you go to for a simple sketch, but the guy you go to for extensive body modifications.
With Chris' background doing concept work for the automotive OEMs, one of his areas of expertise is taking a concept car development approach to the hot rod world. When required, the color renderings are supplemented with a full-scale drawing to provide the builder with a 1:1 template of the design revisions of the base vehicle, or to establish the overall proportions, ride height, and driver packaging.
Many renderings are drawn out of proportion to give a more dramatic effect, but Chris won't do that unless there are plans to build it that way. He specializes in chop tops, leaned glass, sectioning, and body drops, so if that is where you are headed, Chris can help you nail the right combination. When possible, Chris likes to oversee the fabrication work and assist.
One of Chris' more well-known pieces of work was for Bob Johnson's G-Force 'Cuda featured in PHR. The G-Force 'Cuda stuck very closely to its original plan, which had heavy body modifications, as this rendering shows.
|HERE'S THE DEAL: |
|Price: ||$3,000-$5,000 |
|Style: ||digital and paper drawings, 1:1 layouts |
|Contact: ||email@example.com |
Eric Brockmeyer Designs
When Eric Brockmeyer was a kid, he would spend every dollar he saved on Hot Wheels and model cars. He would draw these cars and change them to how he would've liked them. At that time, he didn't know he could make a career of it. As he got older, he looked into how he could turn his talent into a paying job. He aimed to become a designer for one of the big domestic car companies. He went to the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, whose guest speakers told students about their job. One of the guests was a designer for GM who described how he spent months designing the side-view mirror for a Chevy Cavalier. This didn't appeal to Eric, so he looked elsewhere for work after school. He got a job in the design department of a boat manufacturing company, which was closer to what he wanted to do. He started drawing cars on the side, and the requested volume of drawings quickly forced him to choose between the boat job and hot rod rendering. He got the chance to work with Boyd Coddington and other high-end builders who really boosted his resume, and gave him enough work to get started on his own.
Eric's work starts with a photo and a list of likes and dislikes. Many people are married to ideas before the pencil hits the paper, so it's important for Eric to know what those ideas are. Just as important to note are a client's dislikes; if someone hates stripes, there's no use drawing five versions of the car with stripes on them. Like many of the other guys out there, Eric starts with a drawing on paper to get an idea of what the car will look like, then scans it into the computer for fine-tuning and additional changes.
Eric worked with us on the Project Street Fighter '66 Mustang. We gave him a couple of parameters to work with, and he came up with a unique design we plan on sticking to. Our keywords were Trans Am, orange, and flat black with Shelby-style wheels, and look what we ended up with! This rendering cost about $500, and can go up with more modifications to the body. Since interiors and engine bays are the most difficult and time consuming, they are treated to an additional view. Eric is happy to reform an unlimited amount of revisions, as long as it's not abused.
|HERE'S THE DEAL: |
|Price: ||$500-$1,500 |
|Style: ||hand sketch scanned to Photoshop |
|Contact: ||www.brockmeyerdesign.com |
Jason Rushforth started drawing early in life. As many artists do, he honed his skills during college. He attended the Northwest College of Art in Washington to obtain his degree. Unfortunately, graduating in 1992 spit him right into a lull in our economy, and getting a job wasn't as easy as he'd hoped. His friends had him draw their personal cars to help fill his days. The word of mouth driven by the product made it possible for him to draw full time.
Now he's designed some of the best-looking muscle cars, and his projects have been featured in many magazines. One that may spark your memory is this 1969 Charger featured in the November 2007 issue of PHR. The story's name, "All Business," is clear in this rendering, with its simple body, purpose-driven wheels, and front air dam.
Jason does all his work on paper. He starts with a simple outline sketch of the car and concrete parts. He makes several copies of this image and continues work with markers to modify each print. He then presents these to his client to further refine the ideas. If a builder and an owner are involved, he makes sure both parties see everything he produces and communicates with them to make sure the modifications made fit the builder's skills and owner's budget.
To give you an idea of what a rendering should cost, Jason tells us it should be about 1 percent of the final build when both parts and labor are considered. The more expensive and complex the build, the more time the rendering will take. A quick and easy rendering can cost as low as $500, or could go as high as $2,000, when several angles including the interior and engine bay are added. Though the model car, style, and budget are the biggest confines of any project, Jason loves the opportunity to stretch his creative wings whenever possible.
|HERE'S THE DEAL: |
|Price: ||$500-$2,000 |
|Style: ||markers on paper |
|Contact: ||www.jasonrushforth.com, 253-752-1448 |
Design Factory Art
Jim Gerdom started playing with model cars when his basic motor skills were first developing. The lines and construction of these cars were infused into his brain, and he could not, and would not, shake them. He attended the well-known Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, and proceeded to work for various companies doing different types of work. Most of the jobs were in the automotive industry, from the design of small parts on interiors, to clay work on body kits. Jim had an exemplary understanding of Mustangs in particular. About 10 years ago, he started selling limited-edition prints of his Mustang drawings and other Ford models. Since then, he has included other makes and models in the collection.
Even though business was booming in the print world, Jim wanted to expand his work base to include designing and rendering project cars. Jim works solely on paper media and doesn't use computers for his drawings. Jim will draw a couple of rough sketches to hammer out the fine details, but once they are agreed upon, there isn't much room for change.
When he works with a shop on a build, he finds it's really helpful to have all the aesthetic matters worked out before the grinder hits the paint. Aside from a super high-tech engine, body and paintwork are the most expensive part of building a car. If you make a mistake with the metal, it can cost you dearly. Jim's plan is to make sure the modifications and colors look good before the builder starts on the car. This also strengthens the relationship between the builder and owner. A drawing costs about $1,000 to get started, and goes up from there when more detail and angles are added.
Jim Gerdom is well respected in his field for his extensive 35 years of experience. He was also asked to teach a class at the University of Kansas as part of a program in which working professionals instruct industrial design students.
|HERE'S THE DEAL: |
|Price: ||$1,000-$1,500 |
|Style: ||markers, pastels, and pencil on paper |
|Contact: ||www.designfactoryart.com, 888-268-9933 |
It seems all our designers have a strong education in industrial and automotive design, and John McBride is no exception. He graduated from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh with a degree in Industrial Design and an emphasis in automotive design. John started his career at The Franklin Mint, an extremely high-quality scale model manufacturer. He worked in product development for over three years. He craved more design work, so he went to work for Mattel, first in the Matchbox large trucks group revamping their rescue and police vehicle line, then in the Tyco R/C group designing fantasy stunt vehicles and other stylized radio-controlled cars. His current employment at GMP Diecast is similar to The Franklin Mint, but John's level of involvement in the design of the model cars is much higher. He pitched the idea of having a Pro Touring line of 1:18-scale muscle cars built, which was approved. (Editor's note: Our office is packed with models of John's work-we can't get enough of it.)
After hours, John does the renderings for his business, Midnite Octane. When you come to him for a rendering, the first thing he asks is the model and year, and what you intend to do with the car.
Once the initial questions of likes, dislikes, and purpose are clarified, a three-quarter front shot is started. This runs around $500-$600, depending on the colors and detail. John tells us most of his clients ask for this single shot. John has found most people pretty much know what they want, so he helps them fine-tune various details, and even designs custom graphics. For those who wish to have more shots and detail, John is quick to accept the extra work-for a price, of course. One of John's strengths is developing new and unique automotive styling, including custom bodywork and custom interiors. Once the design is approved by the client, additional surface and contour drawings are produced to aid fabricators in bringing John's sketches from the drawing to reality.
One of his latest projects was recreating Sam Posey's number 77 Trans Am Challenger with a late-model Challenger core. This and other projects have been displayed at the SEMA show in Las Vegas, Nevada.
|HERE'S THE DEAL: |
|Price: ||$500-$600 per view |
|Style: ||hand sketch scanned to Photoshop |
|Contact: ||www.midniteoctane.com |
Kris Horton * Cars by Kris
In high school, Kris Horton knew he wanted to be in the animation industry. He attended the Academy of Digital Animation to fulfill his dream of working in Hollywood on animated movies. During his college days, he spent most of his time drawing cars when he should have been doing homework. Back in 2003, Kris did a project with PHR editor Johnny Hunkins on a Camaro concept that jump-started his career as an auto designer. Out of school, instead of sending his resume to DreamWorks, he started doing design work for Jada Toys, which does toy model cars from big lifted trucks, to imports, Pro Touring cars, and lowriders. Ever since the PHR Camaro concept, Kris has been hounded to do more work for builders, and he finally made the transition to doing renderings full time in 2008. He had maintained his business, Cars by Kris, part time for two years, so the transition to full time wasn't too difficult.
Kris Horton is one of the youngest guys out there in the rendering business, but by no means the least experienced. His business is thriving and the product is outstanding. Kris starts the project by getting to know the client and learning what he has his heart set on (as well as what he's open to). Kris begins and ends the processes on a computer. He uses a highly involved 3-D modeling program that can be viewed from any virtual angle once the model is done. This is particularly cool when the project is finished, and many customers choose to have a photo and a rendering side-by-side at the same angle. Kris has always had a thing for muscle cars, and this is reflected in his favorite work with the Pro Touring muscle car crowd.
Kris' work is so realistic, it can be hard to tell what is a studio photo, and what is Kris' work. The rendering shown here has lifelike paint, shadows, and reflections. A front and rear three-quarter shot starts at $375, and can go up to $750 for a five-view layout.
|HERE'S THE DEAL: |
|Price: ||$375 for front and rear three-quarter views, $750 for five views |
|Style: ||three-dimensional computer rendering |
|Contact: ||www.carsbykris.com, 760-481-5542 |
Zee Rehman was born in South Africa, but came to the United States to get away from the crime and poverty and live in the land of opportunity, where he has been for 13 years. This served him well ever since he started his business, ZVT Designs. He's self-taught, and traded years of schooling for even more years of research and practice.
Zee knows that sometimes a push in the right direction is all some people need to get the ball rolling on their project. That's why he can start with simply modifying a photograph in Photoshop. We say "simply," though it really isn't. It takes an eye for design and a steady hand to cut, skew, recolor, and transplant images in Photoshop. He charges $120 for this work where you can change wheels and colors to whatever combination you desire.
The next step is to have Zee hand draw your car, then scan it into Photoshop or Illustrator for a final product. This way, you can choose from infinite colors and change the look and shape of the car. This raises the price to around $225 for one view. Another option is to add an engine bay. This is a more complicated part of the car, and takes the most amount of time to create.
Zee does these renderings part time, as he is an event coordinator in "real life." This job allows him the flexibility to get everything done. Most of his clients are outside the U.S., and by comparison have more money to play with on their toys than we do right now. The kind of people he works with have more words than pictures to go by, so Zee makes their vision a reality. He's spent a lot of time with clients who request renderings to show potential sponsors. Having a clear vision of the project is very valuable in the hunt for support, and helps prove you will follow through.
|HERE'S THE DEAL: |
|Price: ||$120-$225 per view |
|Style: ||Photoshop and/or scanned sketch |
|Contact: ||www.zvtdesigns.com, 727-388-2003 |