2013 SEM PCA Membership Dinner

GENERAL MEMBERSHIP DINNER

 

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2013

 

At Pasquale’s Restaurant

31555 Woodward Ave. Royal Oak

 

Detailed information will be forthcoming

For reservations or questions, contact Dave Miller

Tel. 248-613-5192;

Email: dmiller@signatureassociates.com

 

SEMPCA Membership dinner: Nov 15, 2013:  Guest Speaker Kip Wasenko

By David Miller

 

The leadership of this club tries to keep our membership dinner interesting and social.  The goal is to invite a speaker that brings the automotive passion we all seem to have, with an interest that not only connects to Porsche, but to the very cars we have had in our past, may have in our future, or at least have all around us. We vary this person from those that design, engineer, market or report on and field-test these exciting cars.   We were extremely fortunate to have someone in a pivotal role in one of the largest automaker in the world give us a “peek behind the curtain”.   We had a very engaging, dynamic speaker on November 15th with Kip Wasenko, as well a look into the GM in which we have not known.

 

Below: Kip and Ricca

Kip  has been involved with the CTS V race program at Pratt and Miller, but has a long history of performance cars at GM.  He has been racing a Corvette for the last 2 decades.  However, he spent his professional career at General Motors.  His past roles in GM design have included:

  • Director of Specialty Vehicle Design
  • Director of Design for Performance Division
  • General Motor’s Director

                 Chief Designer Cadillac

  •  

 

CHOOSING TOOLS

Kip  joined GM in 1969, when design computers were more than 20 years into the future, and spent most of the 1970s at Opel in Germany and Holden in Australia. “The misconception is that everything is done on the computer, but that just isn’t the case,” Kip has been quoted as saying, “at least not at GM.” Design ideas can be found in sketches done on restaurant napkins or beautifully rendered computer images. “Then there are guys like me who still do everything by hand,” Wasenko adds. “It depends on which tool you are comfortable with, and how you choose to express your creativity.”  We saw great examples of both hand and computer generated work.

Kips (Center) 2 Rotor Corvette design.

 

asenko’s insistence that every artist expresses himself in the medium they see fit has at its base the understanding that more than one set of eyes, or one set of hands, takes a design from concept to reality. Which means the modern designer’s toolbox encompasses pencil clay, and the computer screen.

 

ALL KINDS OF PERFORMANCE CARS

Kip, while GM Performance Division director of design, was the creative mind who proposed the Trans AM 421 SD/TA show car, coordinated the project, and upon its completion, proudly displayed the Trans Am at the Woodward Dream Cruise in August 2003.  This was followed by a wide-body version of the 2004-2005 Pontiac GTO.  These are vehicles that followed a long line of performance-themed GM cars thru the years.
DESIGNING CADILLACS
Kip was strongly influenced ( and attracted to GM) by Bill Mitchell.
William L. Mitchell (July 2, 1912 — September 12, 1988) was an important General Motors designer from the late 1930s to the late 1970s. [former GM Design chief] always talked about having design elements that were like, ‘a crease in the pants of a freshly pressed tuxedo,’ in order to signal formality,” reminisced Wasenko. This look, he stresses, can be bold or subtle, and stretch from the entry-level CTS .   Kip’s involvement in the “art and science” design of the CTS carries on into all of the cadillacs from that point through the current models.

HIGHLIGHTS

We were refreshed to hear about Kip’s career-long commitment to build a Mid-engined vehicle at GM.  We also learned of the way he ultimately gained approval by management to do it ( PPG Pace car).  Kip lead the design on the Cadillac Evoq. The Cadillac Evoq was a concept car created by Cadillac and unveiled at the 1999 Detroit Auto Show. The design led to the production of the XLR. A project begun under then General Manager of Cadillac, John Smith. , before entering production as the XLR . The Evoq concept car, and Cadillac its distinctive creased look.

Kip discussed how Ferrari’s design heritage influenced his own highly-regarded auto designs, such as the Cadillac Evoq concept car.

The look of the Evoq/XLR (and, by extension, all the new Cadillacs) polarized people to the point where they either loved it or hated it. There is no middle ground. “That was understood and agreed to from the start,” Wasenko explains. “To have something controversial wasn’t an accident, it was part of our strategy.” And the strategy had at its core a look that appealed to an American audience, didn’t copy the competition, and placed Cadillac on the consideration list of the next generation of buyers. It worked. Says Wasenko: “A research event conducted using three Cadillac concepts–the Evoq, Imaj and Vizon–showed the division had a surprisingly strong appeal to the next generation of drivers, those between 16 and 30.” A good thing since, at the time, Cadillac had almost no appeal to their parents.

All said, we enjoyed a view of concepts never built, built for show, and built for production.   Pace cars and race cars. Corporate politics and personal passion.   A very interesting view of what it is like to be there in the glory days, the dark days  and in the dawn of a new day.   If you ever doubted there was gas in the veins of some of the GM designers of the past 40 years, you would wonder no longer.

THINKING POLARIZATION AND PERFORMANCE

Kip discussed how Ferrari’s design heritage influenced his own highly-regarded auto designs, such as the Cadillac Evoq concept car.

The look of the Evoq/XLR (and, by extension, all the new Cadillacs) polarized people to the point where they either loved it or hated it. There is no middle ground. “That was understood and agreed to from the start,” Wasenko explains. “To have something controversial wasn’t an accident, it was part of our strategy.” And the strategy had at its core a look that appealed to an American audience, didn’t copy the competition, and placed Cadillac on the consideration list of the next generation of buyers. It worked. Says Wasenko: “A research event conducted using three Cadillac concepts–the Evoq, Imaj and Vizon–showed the division had a surprisingly strong appeal to the next generation of drivers, those between 16 and 30.” A good thing since, at the time, Cadillac had almost no appeal to their parents.

All said, we enjoyed a view of concepts never built, built for show, and built for production.   Pace cars and race cars. Corporate politics and personal passion.   A very interesting view of what it is like to be there in the glory days, the dark days  and in the dawn of a new day.   If you ever doubted there was gas in the veins of some of the GM designers of the past 40 years, you would wonder no longer.

Video from General Membership Diner, by Gretus Hoogestraat


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