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Friday 17th November 2006


MICHIEL VAN DEN BRINK

Albert Mensinga talks to the Dutch designer who hacks at Ferraris.

Vandenbrink GTO
Vandenbrink GTO

In the world of car design, some of the good old times are coming back. I'm not talking about retro-design but about individuals setting up their own business eager to make a distinctive mark in the automotive landscape.

Known guns like Henrik Fisker, ex-Pininfarina's Ken Okuyama, ex-Spyker's Maarten de Bruijn and Marek Djordjevic of Rolls-Royce fame preceded 28-year-old Dutch talent Michiel van den Brink in starting up their own businesses.

In the golden days carrozzerias like Zagato, Touring, Bertone and Frua (and of course other European and American names, but those Italian names sound so damn good) bodied Ferraris, Maseratis, Lancias and Fiats to look even more gorgeous than the originals. Those times are coming back with unique designs made to fit existing chassis. Recent examples like the Glickenhaus Pininfarina P4/5 and the Ferrari 575 GT Zero by Zagato show that there's a market for bespoke cars just like that.

A few weeks ago I met Michiel van den Brink, who recently started the Vandenbrink Design company together with Robert Koumans. Together they form a solid basis for high-end automotive and industrial design.

Their initial focus is on the realisation of Vandenbrink GTO which was conceived as the 'Ferrari 599 GTO Mugello' concept study. Actual coachbuilding will be performed in cooperation with well-known Ferrari specialist and coachbuilder Hietbrink in the Netherlands. Vandenbrink Design also offers design talent and services to established and emerging car manufacturers and industrial product manufacturers.

I asked Michiel van den Brink to tell us about his philosophies and visions.

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"There are a lot of talented guys out there drawing extreme shapes, dramatic lines and unrealistic proportions, with immense big wheels and cockpits that could barely make a person fit. But at the end of the day there's reality, saying 'how on earth can we produce a thing like it?' Always a huge disappointment for the designer when his 'brilliant' ideas are torn to pieces or watered down.

'To prevent this from happening and don't waste to much time I start off with the possible techniques and human use in mind. The real challenge is to make realistic designs very beautiful with the use of today's techniques and regulations. Those were and always will be stipulating the shape and construction of automotive designs. You may dream in your sleep.

"For me it's a constant search for balance: the rules and restrictions make it almost impossible to use ornaments and it's also an immense challenge to create a sleek and slim nose. It has become the big brands' common practice to create cars that are everybody's friend. They certainly hurt no-one. But do they really appeal or float our boats? That's why I like very much TVR's consistent form-follows-function approach. The purity and clarity of their cars make distinct statements and point out the drivers' individuality. I think, but that's a bit of a bold statement to make, nowadays only small car brands like TVR, Lotus and Marcos can or will make cool and really uncompromised cars.

"The kind of designs I like are Pininfarinas, Astons, TVRs and such -- designs that don't hesitate to quote the past and why wouldn't they? It think it would be an insult for the grandmasters of the past not to. Recent projects like the P4/5 are the type of projects we like and can make happen. There's a vast group of sports car enthusiasts and collectors who'll want a car like that. Our 'Ferrari 599 GTO Mugello' concept study gained big international interest.

"Obviously there's a market. With our selected partners Hietbrink Coachbuilding and NAIT Media Ventures we can make such dreamcars become reality. The Vandenbrink GTO is an evolution of the Mugello-concept. I'm very happy we have such a fabulous kick-off and actually produce our GTO now.

"What we also have in mind is to do limited editions on existing platforms.

Just like the old days when you had the Maserati 3500 GT for example, with Touring or Vignale or Frua bodies. But the dream to come true would be total involvement in a new productionmodel.

"About TVR, since PH is a TVR-enthusiast place to be, I think it would be a good thing to produce a series of specials. TVR could offer a diversity / range of models and increase sales that way. It's just a thought that'll meet our skills.

"I can only hope one day they could discuss possibilities and share their views."