Amateur car design: How fast do your dreams go?

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.

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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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