Interview: Dave Marek - A candid discussion with Acura's Chief DesignerCanadianDriver: Feature - A candid discussion with Acura's Chief Designer
Acura design chief Dave Marek; photo by Paul Williams.
Click here to see more of Dave Marek's
Hot Rod art
More hot rod art by other artists can be seen here At first meeting, Acura's Chief Designer Dave Marek seems an unlikely automotive executive.
What you notice are the ponytail (you read that right), the big smile, the casual style, and his
willingness to talk enthusiastically about cars of any type, manufacture and vintage.
hot rod designs: Big Gasser (top), His
& Hearse (middle) and Cop Out 2; images courtesy Dave Marek
.Click image to enlarge
But replace Marek's business suit with a Hawaiian shirt, so to speak, and he
transforms from designer of mainstream luxury performance vehicles like the Acura TL and RDX, to bona-fide California hot-rod guru, creator of the Big Gasser
, Sweet Sixteen, His
and Hearse and Cop Out 2.
"Oh, yeah, it's a definite yin and yang thing with me," said Marek
."That's exactly it, and it's because I totally love cars: all kinds, always have." Dave Marek
started drawing cars at the age of three.When he
was a child and teenager in Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, his
neighbours were hot rod legends Dick Bertilucci and Don Tognotti, both of whom worked with California custom car icons George and Sam Barris.
"It was my dad who told me about the Art Center College
of Design in Pasedena, and kind of nudged me towards it," Marek
explained."Once I got in it was like, 'I'm home.'"
Marek's celebrated automotive fine art, custom model building, vast scale-model collection (he has 1,500 die-cast and about 3,000 plastic models), production of graphics for C.A.R.T. and American Le Mans racing cars - including the Honda
and Acura team graphics - are, he
says, exercises in pure fun.
In contrast, his
"day job" for Acura and Honda
requires approximately 100 employees divided into specialist teams, with work proceeding through planned stages from flights of fancy, to mainstream cars for suburban driveways.
"Like the hot rods, designs for Acura
can start out real wild, but you soon rein in the urge to get crazy," said Marek
."Still, I want Acura
to have more of its own identity and distinctiveness."
To that end, Honda's
January 2006 announcement of a dedicated Acura
design studio to be built next to Honda R&D Americas'
headquarters in Torrance, California, should further differentiate Acura from Honda
.The initiative coincides with Acura's
expansion from a North American division of Honda
, to a global brand. As Design Chief at the new facility, Marek will oversee a design environment where new directions for the Acura marque can be explored.
"We start with its stance," Mr. Marek
explained, "And build up from there.
"With a concept, the designer has to push the envelope," explained Marek
"It's still got the big 19-inch wheels, the tight gaps between the wheels and fenders, the tough feel," says Marek
."And it's got that central, chiselled, line from the TSX.As far as the surfaces go, we're looking at where the sun hits the car; what kind of highlights does it produce; where are the shadows?"
According to Marek
, the grille is the strongest identifier for any brand.The headlights add character, he
says, but, "The grille is the money shot."
"Don't laugh," says Marek
, "But at one point we thought of actually exposing the turbocharger through the hood, so you could see the all the cool technology that's hidden from view."
Although that wasn't practical, if you take a look at the front of the RDX, you'll see a clever compromise, where simulated vortex diffusers in the Acura grille suggest the airflow that leads directly to the turbocharger's intercooler.
"It's kind of like a hood scoop, really.It's just built into the Acura grille!"Marek