Richard Ferlazzo’s official title might be Design Director GM Holden, however he’s probably better known as the father of Efijy, the stylish concept car that enjoyed world-wide acclaim. He also headed up the team responsible for the VF Commodore; in fact, during Richard’s 26-year tenure at Holden, he’s been involved in virtually every Commodore since the VN. His resume also includes a stint in the US, working with another design legend, Larry Erickson, the guy who penned CadZZilla. When it comes to automotive design, few can match Richard’s credentials. He also freely admits to being one of us … an enthusiast!
FreeStyle Rides couldn’t think of anyone better qualified to offer advice on ensuring your next project boasts looks to die for. With this in mind, we strapped Richard into the inquisition chair, shone a bright light in his face and demanded he divulge the secrets behind captivating design.
Style wise, what do you think is the most critical aspects to consider when modifying a car?
Proportion. It’s the first thing all us designers talk about whenever we discuss our favourite cars. Similarly, for a custom car, changing the size of the wheels, dropping the ride height, slamming the roof … all these things alter proportion and all have to be in harmony. That’s not to say they need to conform to some magical formula. Take Efijy; it’s as wide as a Hummer, as long as a Statesman, lower than a new Corvette and sports 22-inch wheels. Yet it doesn’t look squashed, or stubby; its proportional elements complement each other.
What things do you survey when looking at a car?
After proportion, I’ll look at surface treatments. The section and shapes of the panels, grille openings, lamp shapes, mouldings, bright work and details. If there’s one aspect that’s out of place, it will draw your eye. You can do whatever else you want, paint it the brightest colour, fit the biggest engine, nothing will change the fact that one jarring element will likely ruin the overall look.
Is there one common mistake you often see?
Cars that are overcooked. They have too many things going on and lack simplicity. Having a clear vision and deciding up front how far you’re going to take a project will help avoid this and result in a more cohesive result. It also helps to pick and stick with one theme – which can be a challenge, as many outside influences can send you off course. Regardless of how good an idea may be, avoid trying to combine too many diverse elements into one build, as they may not work as one.
So, in your opinion, you shouldn’t mix ’n’ match themes?
No, not at all, customising is all about experimentation! It doesn’t have to be stereotypical but it does need to be consistent. Take Efijy; although it’s a radical retro design, it incorporates numerous modern aspects. However the modern aspects, like the large diameter wheels, LED lighting and touch screen monitor are all executed in a retro style. I used to say to myself, if a designer had today’s technology back then, how would he have styled it? Getting it to all work together is one of the triumphs of Efijy.
Should part of this clear vision be things like drawings or sketches?
Cars are very hard to draw. It’s a lot easier for people to use computer programs like Photoshop to create good imagery. However, just like renovating a house, there’s no reason why you can’t have a scrapbook of cars from which to draw inspiration.
What annoys you when you look at some modified vehicles?
All production cars are compromised, as they must meet a myriad of conflicting objectives. With a custom, you only have to please one master, yourself. In my mind, customising is all about improving a vehicle, bringing in your own personality, in your own unique way. Take your time to get all the elements working together before you take the plunge and start applying candy!
Do you have any golden rules when it comes to the engineering aspect of vehicle modification?
I’m not an engineer, but I have spent a lot of my life hanging around them. To me, any car should be a complete package. With older cars, it’s easy to dramatically improve engine performance. However the dynamics of the suspension and tyres, along with loads on bearings and especially the performance of the brakes, should all be improved to match. If it’s just a trailer queen it doesn’t really matter; otherwise it needs to be a balanced, holistic approach.
Why are some cars revered, while others have lacklustre appeal?
The key to any car’s success is creating something that’s more than the sum of its parts. With good design, any build, no matter what, can achieve this goal. Subconsciously our brains want to see lines and surfaces that flow; when they do so in harmony, objects appear attractive. It all comes back to that overriding philosophy; proportion.
story CRAIG PARKER photos JOHN CHURCHILL & Holden Australia