• Jul 4, 2007



I was young when I set up my first automotive company. It was small, as you might expect of a corporation founded by a 14-year-old. CJT Inc. produced only two vehicles. The MF2000 was a super-swoopy, gullwinged sports car with a tri-turbo V-12 that ran on either hydrogen or unleaded. Our other vehicle was an unnamed sport truck I swear GM stole and now, 22 years later, calls the Avalanche (what does that say about GM design? Hmmm).

Both cars, of course, were totally on paper and in my head. In fact, this may be the first time I've ever told anyone about them. They were awful-looking things, of course, since most of the design cues were taken from the mid-80s domestics I saw in my small rural hometown and a few over-the-top Italian supercars.

How many "amateur designers" reading this right now are nodding in agreement, remembering high school notebooks with 20 variations on the 911 profile, but only one page of physics notes?

A.J. Starkey of Texas is one of us armchair car designers. Starkey says his sketches are not meant to attempt to improve upon the pros, but instead are his escape from a relatively mundane cubicle-worker's life. He submitted to Autoblog his take on the admittedly gorgeous Dino rendering of Ugur Sahin. Starkey's take (seen above, with more here.) utilizes more design cues of the past, keeping the rear air intake lower on the body, and generally being more true to classic Ferraris.

Continue reading after the jump.
Starkey knows Sahin's design is more professional looking. That's entirely not the point. Starkey's intention, and that of all the rest of us doodling during meetings or classes or on days off, is that while he was working on these sketches, he wasn't a proposal writer in a beige, Dallas-area cubicle. Instead, he was an automotive designer, sketching out his ideas for the next Starkey creation, imagining how its lines would reflect midnight streetlights on deserted city boulevards.

So as I was emailing with Starkey, I mentioned I needed to go re-design the new Dodge Avenger. I never found the time, but he jumped right in.

"Talk about a challenge...phew," he wrote, "I'm glad Dodge has some gutsy lines and the like, but some of the heyday cues might fit - I take issue with noses quite often. For the Avenger, I think the throwback to an 'wrapped' grill / light cluster would go a long way to give the design some oomph. Like a stylish chrome piece, probably about a 1/2" wide. I see it separating the headlamps from the turn indicator...something sorta like that."



His Dartvenger, seen above, is a rough, quick sketch, but has some good ideas. While not a radical departure from the current Avenger, the grille is straight outta the 60s, and the thinner-looking C-pillar is a nice touch, but I wouldn't want to contend with potential blind spot it would certainly cause, though.

By the way, to this day, CJT Inc. is still producing cars for an elite group of well-heeled buyers. Who live in my head. There may be a few of you right now calling me crazy, but it's probably a safe bet to think just as many are laughing, knowing that, in their heads, their imaginary sales numbers and JD Power rankings are much better than mine.

But I bet their fleet sales are higher.

Thanks, A.J., for sharing your work and and resurrecting some memories. Hopefully several readers right now are digging through boxes looking for 20-year-old sketchbooks with plans for next year's model lineup.


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  • 13 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      Haha, this describes me from the time I was 7 til now (19). Designing cars has always been my dream, so when it came time to pick a college, i said "F- it" im going to do car design" So now im a Sophomore in the transportation design program at the U of Cincinnati
      • 7 Years Ago
      Oh I can so identify with this. Actually, I still doodle. A lot. What once spoke to my imagination has now become a genuine interest in cars and I'm studying automotive engineering now. What once began with doodles might end with me actually developing new generation cars ;).
      • 7 Years Ago
      I drew cars throughout my school years. I do it a lot less today, I think because people are more likely to notice you sketching during a meeting than during a class. I have a folder containing all my favorite sketches. It's neat to see how my designs evolved with the times. I did cars that were cab-forward, elliptical, and then edgy. All my shapes were original, I couldn't draw real cars if I tried. They were often one or two years ahead of their time. Of course, real designers work four and five years ahead.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I did the same thing when I was a teenager in the mid 1970's. Some are horrific, of course- but many were pretty predictive, i.e. cab forward design on some. However, I'll have to say I had three primary styling influences on my drawings- the 71-74 Pantera, the 68-70 AMC Javelin, and the 74-75 Imperial LeBaron. Yeah, I love big 70's Detroit velour-lined barges. Sue me. And that Imperial's one of the best, styling-wise. And I loved chrome, too- and miss it on today's plastic econocrap looking piles of squeeze.
      • 7 Years Ago
      i do this all the time.. i have drawings all over my walls and by notes for my classes have a couple cars on every page.
      • 7 Years Ago
      The true successor to the dino in styling, if not engine placement, seems to be the Alfa Competitione. It has all the delicate styling of the original dino. This sketch just reminded me of this fact, as the car pictured here looks so much like the alfa in profile.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I have a while notebook filled with car designs, granted nonoe of the wheels are circular but they were more "today" designs than future cars. Many names that i came up with have been stolen by car companies (Outlook, XC50 etc.) But i've given up on automotive design because i dont like where car designs are going these days.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I've been doing sketches since I was a little kid and learned how to draw. 25 years later, it's still my favorite thing to do at meetings, when I'm bored at work, etc. You'll never mistake my sketches with any pro renderings but it's nice to see design elements that I've used years ago be seen on today's cars. I'll never get credit for them - nor should I - but it gives you that warm/fuzzy feeling inside.
      -ez
      • 7 Years Ago
      My roomate and I took blue painter's tape and cut it into thin strips and had car designs all over our walls at college. Our Living room looked like a car design gallery. Nice thing is, after a few weeks, you can peel off certain sections and create updated designs.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I've been doing this for over 30 years now, in fact I just finished a drawing a little while ago. I always liked to design my own cars, and in fifth grade, I'd do drawings and sell them to kids in my class (until the teacher made me stop).

      I used to love the amateur car design contests that Motor Trend, Automobile Quarterly & Collectible Automobile used to do, and I wish they would make a comeback. Now, Peugeot is the only one I know of that's open to amateurs, but they compete against professional designers and design students as well. Are there any others? I remember I got an honorable mention certificate for an Alfa Spider and a Tucker design for two of the AQ contests in the late 80s.

      I still like to design and draw future cars, but I also enjoy designing my own cars for defunct companies and historic eras. I'm on a big 30s kick right now.

      aswad khan
      • 3 Years Ago
      I'm a Sri Lankan. I' m Aswad khan.I'm 42 year old. I do my own car design till now. In 1997 and 1998 i had participated in Japanese car styling future concept car design competition.I have selected in best 14 car designer.Even now I'm designing my original design. To make my dream car I need technical and financing supporter.I hope you can share together with me to make my dream come truth. Please send your comment
      • 7 Years Ago
      We've put my 9 year old son's drawings online at www.ethanscars.com . It's pretty cool!
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