Peter Stevens, consultant automotive designer at Peter Stevens Design and visiting professor at the RCA
Images: the McLaren F1 roadcar and Rover
How did you come to be a car designer?
Both my parents were artists but it was my subversive uncle, a motor racing journalist, who inspired me to become a car designer. I studied sculpture at St Martins School of Art followed by industrial design at the RCA. This is when Ford asked Dawson Sellar and I to set up an automotive design course. A specialist course didn’t exist at the time and instead Ford had to train illustrators to be car designers. The company paid us a great salary for those days, £1,300 for each of the two years! Dawson bought a Porsche 356 from a retired lady race driver, and I bought a Zagato-bodied Abarth 750 Bialbero.
We set up the course structure, chose Nigel Chapman to teach and even went up to Loughborough University to learn about ergonomics. At the time only British carmakers worked with the college. Then Chrysler struck a deal with Peugeot which meant a French student came to the college. And when Dawson joined Porsche in Germany, the whole international exchange took place. In the second year two more students arrived, and by the fourth year we had four students. It took too long, however, for women to enter.
What journey did you take after leaving the RCA?
I worked at Ford for a couple of years then I went off to Ogle Design before setting up my own consultancy. In between I worked at Lotus and McLaren, which was very interesting as they were very small departments, which allowed us to do more or less what we wanted. Now I am working on environmental projects through Peter Stevens Design [LINK: http://www.peterstevensdesign.co.uk]. One is a wind powered electric sports car for Ecotricity [LINK: http://www.ecotricity.co.uk]. I’m also working on an electric scooter and bike.
What is your advice for young designers?
Ten to 15 years from now they won’t be designing the next Fiesta. Alternative technology and environmental projects are now part of the RCA curriculum and it is essential that young designers think theoretically about the whole environmental issue.
Peter Stevens, Peter Stevens Design