Fueled by Passion

From a very early age I knew I had a passion for cars. Every day after school I would rush home to watch the Heathcliff cartoon and practice drawing the classic car driven by Iggy’s grandpa.

Day after day, I penciled the boxy cabin, the wheels and the squared off vented hood. I did my best to capture the Model A styled grill and radiator cap. It was tricky perfecting the shape of the headlamps, taillights and the oval side window. My paper would be covered with eraser and pencil marks from the numerous attempts. Next, were Model A’s and 32 Roadsters and from there I graduated to sketching modified versions of my ’94 Honda Civic and ’91 Miata. Admittedly, I was not the best artist and after all these years I’m sad to report there has been no improvement…not even a little bit. But had I known that there were schools that could’ve helped me marry my sketches with my automotive passion, I would have filled up every sketch pad I could find and attended a design school.

This is exactly what Sasha Selipanov did. Combining his passion, raw talent and desire to be in the automotive industry, he journeyed to America to pursue an education from one of the premiere design schools in Southern California – The Art Center College of Design. With names like Shiro Nakamura, Henrik Fisker and Peter Brock, the Art Center College of Design has graduated some of the best in the industry. Following graduation, Sasha blazed a trail of designs that have made him one of the most coveted designers in the industry today.

When Hyundai decided to establish their luxury brand Genesis, they knew they needed people in place that would think outside of the box and help them create vehicles that would put them on the map as a contender. They sought designers that were cutting-edge and capable of bringing forth designs that would validate them as a company deserving of a share of the playground amidst the big boys. Vehicles that showcased high-end luxury, styling, and refinement yet at a price point that is more favorable for that middle-tier Executive climbing the ladder of success. With that, Genesis needed the right person at the helm for their European division and in 2016 Sasha was hand-picked for the role of Chief Designer.

Sasha’s reputation precedes him as he has put pen to paper creating phenomenal eye-catching designs for the VW Group. His talents have earned him design credits for cars that went on to become concept and production cars – the Bugatti Vision Gran Turismo Concept, Lamborghini Huracan and the Bugatti Chiron. All of which make him a superhero of automotive design. His talents and practical knowledge of physics have served the VW brand well and Genesis looks to utilize that experience to help with their mission to create stunning show-stopping vehicles. Sasha and his team have recently created a concept car that is getting as much buzz as the exclusive Bugatti Chiron…the Genesis Essentia. A beautiful luxury coupe (concept) boasting a futuristic, yet modern take on style and elegance.

I was able to catch up with the very busy Sasha at the Car Classic 2018 being held at his alma mater – the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. This is one of the many worldwide stops for the Genesis Essentia and Sasha. Not only was he there to on behalf of Genesis, but also as a judge for one of the design categories. I have heard a lot about Sasha and have also done my research in preparation for meeting with him and I must say that what I heard and learned about this man was spot on. From his signature Sumac t-shirt and beard, he may appear intimidating at first glance, but upon meeting him he is social, approachable, and very generous with his time.

With 15 years in the industry he remains very humble in his demeanor. Talking with him was very easy and he represents himself and the Genesis brand with great professionalism. The man has a welcoming smile and energy that makes you want to immediately add him to your friends list. His love for cars struck a chord with me being that I’m a fellow automotive enthusiast, but I wanted to find out more about the man behind the designs. I arranged to meet with Sasha at the event and was lucky enough to snag him for a few questions before he was pulled in too many directions.

Perks Garage is happy to present to you:

“15 Questions with an Automotive Designer”

1. As a kid did you have any ambition to be an automotive designer?

SS: No, but I always drew cars and knew that I wanted to be in the automotive industry in some form. I think most of the designers in the industry come from 2 major directions. Either they are designers at heart and have a passion for cars or they are car guys at heart and want to be part of this car world. That is probably where I come from more. I always drew and doodled as a kid, but don’t think I had any meaningful interest or talent.

1b) When did you develop that interest and talent for drawing cars?

SS: It was just my passion for cars, I get them. Their like living creatures for me. There is a connection I have with them that I don’t necessarily have with another object like a toaster for example. The real heartfelt stuff only happens with cars.

2. Do you recall what your first design was as a kid?

SS: I kept drawing Ferraris as a kid…Formula 1 cars, mid 80’s forms. In a German automotive sport magazine in my grandfather’s old pile had I saw these 2 Ferraris on the bottom of the last page…revelation.

3. Out of your designs which is your favorite?

SS: As someone famous before me said, their favorite is always the one that comes next. I like how that sounds. Whatever is done, is done and look forward to the next big thing and wonder how I am going to get this to look even better than what I am currently working on. I am proud and fortunate to have worked on the cars that I contributed to, but I always look forward to what comes next.

4. Is car design your only hobby and passion?

SS: By a large margin, yes. I am a big fan of metal music and science, reading books on physics. Car design, car racing as well.

4b) Do you race?

SS: I don’t personally race but have done a few track days and want to build up my skills. I bought a quick car and have all the ingredients. I am not terribly bad but wouldn’t call myself an expert.

5. What car do you currently own?

SS: Nissan GTR, it’s a big-time dream come true. I have always wanted one and have a Tamiya 1:10 scale replica and 1/8th scale diecast.

5b) Where does the GTR rank for you as a sportscars? Top 3?

SS: Pretty close to #1 for me. There are cars that are unobtainable and amazing, but then they are unobtainable. But the GTR is a sportscar that you can aspire to and one day own. You don’t have to be an elitist to own. A car that enthusiast can dream of having without winning the lottery or be a Silicon Valley success story. Just having a great salary and be still being able to afford a sportscar (GTR).

6. Are sports cars the only cars that you have designed of have you ever dabbled in sedans or economy level cars?

SS: Throughout my 15-year career, I have had to touch on a bit of other cars as well. There have been sedans for VW and Audi, SUVs and Rolls Royce size competitor cars. So, I’ve done it all, but my true passion is with sports cars. I have been very fortunate that through all my cars it’s the sportscars (Huracan, Chiron, Essentia) that have made it through to production or show standards. But the next car may not be a sports car, it may be something else.

7. As far as design what is your role?

SS: Head of design of the European studio for Genesis. Along with a few designers I have helped bring onboard, we work together as a team. I’m very hands on so there is still a lot of designing that I do. I think a lot of other Design Directors for the company are probably not as hands on. Probably in part due to my age as I am still a little bit younger than your average Design Chief. But also, the fact that the thing I enjoy most about the job is designing things.

8. With design being a collaborative effort, how much of a design is you versus the entire team?

SS: There is a certain moment in which everyone becomes a designer. Hierarchy doesn’t play a role when we are producing design work. Everyone puts up design work and everyone is judging it for what it is without thinking, “well our boss did this sketch, so it must be great.” I really enjoy this process. I like the fact that when I give critique to my team, they are more than welcome to return with critique of my work. Only when it comes to the decision-making process does hierarchy play a role. I do get to decide certain things, yet I have a boss that ultimately call the shots. But before the decision making comes into play, the creative process is very democratic.

9. Is there a signature design element that you put into every design?

SS: No, I hope that purity, simplicity and beauty and these types of overriding qualities show. What I like are things that sit well on the wheels, that are muscular, have a sense of direction and purpose but also have simplicity and clarity. All of which are very conceptual.

10. Are you inspired by anything when you look at a blank sheet of paper?

SS: Usually music plays a big role. I try to get a sense of tension and rhythm and purpose from what I’m listening to at that point. It’s very linear the transition from what I’m listening to and what I draw.

10b) What music are you listening to these days? SS: A lot of underground heavy metal

11. How do juggle your career and family living in Germany and being employed in Korea?

SS: Its very tricky, we travel a lot to Korea. I think about 2-3 times in the last month. It’s pretty taxing on the family. But on the other hand, the projects are very exciting and there is so much life in the company right now so it’s a sacrifice we make. My wife understands that when I am home, I try to do as much with the family as possible. Don’t do late hours, get out of the office by 5-5:30. Spend as much time with the kids. It’s a balancing act.

12. What drew you to Genesis?

SS: The opportunity of a clean sheet of paper. With the other brands that I’ve worked with – Bugatti, Lamborghini and VW group as a whole, they are made from these historic gems. You have as much responsibility to push them forward as to protect what is already there. So, in a way you are like an art custodian. You are not going to come in one day and decide the Mona Lisa is not the right thing and enjoy your own doodle area. With Genesis, it’s a chance to create something from scratch without the wealth and history that the other brands come with.

12b) So basically you can’t go wrong? you can push the envelope yourself?

SS: You very much can go wrong but it’s in you, you team and you boss’s hands to set the direction. It a really good feeling. we are getting things going in a new path instead of carrying on what was already been done before we arrived.

13. What is your favorite component of the Genesis Essentia?

SS: The sculpture of the body side. I like how it moves the light toward the rear. I love how it accentuates the muscles of the rear. Outside of the styling looking at it from a whole, something must be said about Genesis. It’s a brand that’s not scared of making dream cars. The Essentia is by all definitions a dream car. There is also the possibility to dream and have your dreams realized.

14. I hear that based on the design you and your team came up with, the Essentia Concept car is a car that might possibly go into production?

SS: There is no official discussion or communication about it, so let’s put a rain-check on that.

15. So, what’s next for Sasha?

SS: New projects. New opportunities. New post-production and show car ideas are floating around. I hope that something new for everyone to see with be there soon.

After the interview, I walked away thinking to myself:

• What if I had stuck with my doodles and sketches?

• What if I followed my passion in the same way that he did?

But I definitely have no regrets. I get to meet and write about people that share my same passion and enthusiasm for the automotive world. And on this day our paths crossed and I had the pleasure to meet and interview Sasha Selipanov – designer of the Huracan, Chiron and now the Genesis Essentia.

Perks Garage would like to thank Sasha for his time. He is true an inspiration!

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Audi TT Mother’s Day repair

I would like to use this post to say thank you.  Thank you to the internet (Google) and YouTube for all of the helpful information that can be found with a quick search.  I belong to a few automotive forums and truly appreciate all of the individuals that have gone before me and fixed or customized something…anything.  Whether it is a light switch, garbage disposal and especially a car.  Your help has been tremendous throughout the years.  Enough cannot be said about these brave souls that dive in head first, cameras rolling and post up a step-by-step tutorial (with pictures), how-to and even how-not-to videos.  I myself am a do-it-yourselfer and have found myself in need of some technical support at times and last weekend was no exception. 
This past Mother’s Day Weekend, my son and I headed out last minute to buy some cards for his mom and grandma on Saturday.  We made a few stops here and there, checked out a CLEAN black Audi A4 S-Line (my next vehicle? Hmmm).  After that we returned home.  My wife was not back yet from running her errands, so my son and I pulled into the garage and went into the house.  We needed to start getting ready for a surprise 70th birthday celebration.  Before I headed upstairs to change I hear the garage open up.  It was the Mrs.  She pulled into the garage and walks in the house and immediately ask “Did you do something to your car?” Fear ran down my spine because on a number of occasions, I have tried to pull a fast one over her and do a modification whenever she left the house.  I had a perplexed look about me as my brain scrambled to think.  Did I do something and not tell her…again?  Ok, no mods…whew!  Rather unsure sounding, I so No and asked why did ask.  She tells me that all of my brake lights are on and obviously there is no one in the car.  Now I am really confused.

I head out to the garage and sure enough red lights are reflecting off of the inside of the garage door.  I played around with the brake pedal, the emergency brake.  Opened up the garage and started the car, shut it off.  Enabled and disabled the alarm and nothing was working.  Crap!  Of all the days for this to happen.  We needed to leave soon for the surprise party and tomorrow was Mothers Day.  It would be hard to have a part ordered and shipped on Sunday.  With quick thinking, I pulled the brake light fuse and let my little TT sit there dormant until I can do some research and figure out what was wrong. 

With my trusty phone, I was able to do a quick search before we left the house and discovered that a faulty brake light switch could be the culprit…if I was lucky.  Older VW’s and Audi’s are notorious for electrical problems and after dealing with my daughters 2001 Beetle, I was really concerned.  Later that night I hit the internet forums, YouTube and read more articles from people who shared the same issue over the years and how expensive it would be for the dealer to replace a $5 part.  Luckily it turns out to be and easy fix, I was just hoping that I could find the part on a Sunday.

The good thing about owning an older Audi is that the local auto parts store may have the part.  The bad is that it’s a German car and may need to order the part.  After some searching, I was able to find a replacement part for $4.95  at O’Reilly.  Lucky for me they have late weekend business hours.  After spending the day with my mom I headed to the parts store and I was able to buy the LAST one they had in stock.  Here are some pics of the 20-minute repair job.

Had to pull the lower dash off.  Yes the panel under the steering wheel.  Check out the seats side bolsters that hold me in place when taking freeway on ramps 🙂

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This is what it looks like under your dash right above your pedals.  That little purple thing on the lower right is the switch.

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You can see here, the old part and the replacement part side by side.  The green one is the new replacement part.

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A simple twist and click.  Plug the electrical clip back in, replace the fuse and voila!  

Now the kicker is that when I pulled the original switch out and put it back in to test it, the brake lights functioned perfectly.  SMH.  Replaced it anyway with the new part so I wont have to worry.

Again thank you Google, YouTube and the VWVortex forum.  You have saved me $100 in labor.  Now what to do with that $100? Hehe.

Perks Garage

Audi appreciation day

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I saw this and had to show it to my audience.  The artwork is fresh, and I love how the photographer took this shot.  I am a fan of Audi A3’s in general, and this particular Euro Sportback is worthy of some praise.  Its just too bad the US does not have this model…yet.  To the builder of this A3 and to Audi, I say job well done.  Well done indeed!

M. Perkins

May 4th

Well today is a special day.  Not because it is Star Wars May the Forth be with You day, but for another reason.  This date always reminds me of my little racing co-driver, die-hard rider, my road dog, my little “egger-on”.  Every automotive or motorcycle enthusiast, street racer, or even a mechanic that is a father has thought (and hoped) that one day their little gremlins will grow up to be like them.  Along that road of parenting and teaching them right from wrong, you experience the things that shape their future and begin to accumulate memories. Memories that make you smile, make you cry and thinking back on them, they even make you burst out laughing uncontrollably at what may have been the most frustrating time ever in my life.  These memories pop up throughout the years at family gatherings, graduations and in random “remember when” conversations.  Now that today is May 4th, I want to share a few of these special memories with you…enjoy!  

Now as far back as I can recall, she was always excited to know I would be the one picking her up from school.  Every so often, she reminds me of how she loved to hear the obnoxiously loud exhaust of my 94 Honda Civic rumble as I came speeding down the street playing some loud hip hop joint.  My car was fairly low and looked as though it was hovering at times and I loved it, and as little as she was, she loved it just as much.  As she got older, she would be my racing buddy and sit in the passenger seat of my Honda Accord.  She would fantasize that she was driving in her dream car…the Lexus IS300.  Now when this car came out, we would both drool when we saw one.  I was particularly fond of the IS in that eye-popping Auburn Sky Pearl exterior color, the black Alcantara seats and the 5 speed with that polished round shift knob.  Yeah, that was the one for me!  This was Lexus’ attempt at stepping up their game and going after the “young executive” market, a new territory for them at that time.  They were trying to shake that grandpa persona that they were known for.  The IS was a small, sporty 4 door.  It had a pretty plush interior and a low price point.  Nowadays, the streets of SoCal are flooded with the newly redesigned and refined IS 250s and 350s and the aggressively designed F Sport package, but “where’s the all-new IS-F Lexus…I’m waiting?!”  

Ok, now back to the story.  My young co-pilot wanted this car and at times pretended that she was piloting this vehicle and racing me down the freeway whenever we went for a drive.. You should have seen her little feet working those imaginary gas and clutch pedals.  One hand gripping the invisible steering wheel and the other shifting gears.  On a rare occasion or two or three or four times, where we were actually, kinda, somewhat, partially involved in a freeway Fast and Furious showdown with some other Paul Walker wannabe, this too-short-to-reach-the-pedals instigator would get excited.  She would shout out, “They are flashing their hazards.  Doesn’t that mean they want to race?  Let’s get’em!”  Whats a father supposed to do?  You can’t let your kids down.  LOL.  As the years passed and her 16th birthday was upon us, it was the time that all parents dread…driving lessons.  Now my wife, she has no patience for this and I don’t blame her.  I stepped up to do the teaching and in a stick shift, no doubt.  The words “Oh Boy!  This should be interesting,” were uttered a few times.  Looking back, I wished we had recorded this, as it was the most frustrating, painstaking, terrorizing time of our lives… and that was just starting the car.  

Now the car to be used for these driving lessons was my car at the time, my customized 2005 Acura TL.  SIKTL 2005 Acura TL 5925356 This car was the most expensive car I had bought and, as usual, I dumped money into it right away: wheels, exhaust, expensive body kit, short shifter, and custom headlights.  This car was a beast, a suit-and-tie kinda beast, with its black factory leather Recaro-like seats and Brembo brakes.  I really miss that car. 

Since our now 16-year old co-pilot was now ready to start terrorizing the streets, we started off with a few lessons.  “Now ease off the clutch and listen to the exhaust tone as it changes when you apply the gas. SLOWLY!  Feel the car.”  I believe that having a throaty exhaust helps people learn how to drive a stick because you can hear how much throttle you are inputting.  A little trick I use on the wife as well.  “Babe, I need to put an exhaust on the car so I can teach our kids how to drive a stick shift.😉”  I guess after she reads this, I will not only be banned from the dealerships, but the muffler shops as well. 

So after a few burnouts lessons in the TL, we went back to practicing in an automatic and let the driving instructor do his job.   Later that year I traded in the TL for a 2008 United Gray VW Rabbit. I named it “Mr. Jack Rabbit”.  It was a lowered two-door 5-speed, with a Magnaflow exhaust, cold air intake, short-shifter and 18 inch wheels.  Why?  Because I’m a tuner and this is what I do😊.  This was my baby after I traded in the TL and also my intro to German cars. 

With a few lessons down, my teenage co-pilot finally driving an automatic comfortably, it was time for a refresher on driving a stick shift.  So, as it goes with teenagers and hormones, they have NO PATIENCE!!!  It’s amazing how much we had this little Jack Rabbit bucking like a bronco auditioning for the rodeo.  I mean, what happened to what she learned just a few months ago?  And what happened to all the fun we had? The smiles? The laughter?  How did we get 100 feet from the house just for her to give up, pound the steering wheel, throw a fit, jump out of the car and walk home?  How did I get left alone, strapped in the passenger seat of my own car in the middle of the street with the driver’s door wide open?  WHUUUUUUUUUUT?!   I mean what happened to my little enthusiast? Where was that persistency and that “can-do attitude” she had through the first few lessons in the TL?  Kids! 

I sat there perplexed. You have to be kidding me!  We made it this far only to have a temper tantrum in the middle of the street.  Talk about grumpy!  After that unfortunate incident, the garage was now closed.  I retired and left the driving lessons to the professionals.  She got her driver’s license, and as it goes with most kids, you can’t tell ‘em anything after that.  

Fast forward a few years, I get a random phone call from my daughter. “Thank you for teaching me how to drive a stick.  There was a co-worker that was very sick today and I had to drive her car to take her home.  No one in the office knew how to drive a stick except for the two of us.  The guys were all looking around the office confused, so I jumped behind the wheel.  All the guys were saying, ‘you’re going to stall.  You won’t get out of first gear.’ Hahaha.  I showed them.  Started it up, threw it in first and eased off the clutch and we were off…HA!” 

This was probably the proudest dad moment she has given me to date.  Of course, we always laugh about the temper tantrum incident, but apparently she did learn something from me.   So on this day, May 4th, I just want to say…HAPPY 24th BIRTHDAY ASHLEY!  I LOVE YOU!  Now if she can just slow down that Mustang!  Darn Kids! 😉

Chevy Corvette Z06

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Unfortunately this was the best side view photo I could get of this beautiful Z06 as so many people were crowding around it at the Classic car show this weekend.  My wife says “no you can’t have one” because for some reason, she believes it is a car for old farts going thru a mid-life crisis.  Maybe it’s because that’s usually who we see driving them around our area.  All I know is that one day I will have one of these bad boys in my stable and not because I’m an old, bald, pervy guy picking up on young stock.  Oh wait, I am bald and getting old, lol.
I must say that these cars are amazing! Just look at it with it’s light weight construction, sharp lines, led lights up front and 650hp motor to match it’s futuristic styling.  This car definitely capable of putting a smile on your face, just standing still.  I have driven around in an early 90’s Vette and and early 2000 Z06, so I know what they are about…BUSINESS!!!  Chevy really did a number on this revamp and I must say that I had my reservations, but hats off  to you Chevrolet 🙌🙌🙌.   I am truly a believer in the new Stingray and Z06, and I haven’t even driven it…yet ;).  I do know a guy that is a bit of a car guy that is currently building one, and based on what has owned and modified in the past, I’m sure the customization world will be turned on its ear (full interview to come).  Until then, I will leave you with these quick snaps of the oh-la-la interior and oh yeah…that backside!  Enjoy.

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Photos by M Perkins