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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
There's an article on Designer Manager Vicki Vlachakis in this issue. I'm working on the link... thanks for the lift, achieftain ;) The picture's at the bottom of the post if you've read this already:


"Designer Vicki Vlachakis forecasts a Solstice summer. From the Smokies to the Sierras, the 2006 Pontiac Solstice will be soaking up the sun and taming those twists and turns with abandon. And you may be one of the fortunate few at the helm of the newest America two-seat, no-compromise roadster when it's officially available come June.

Solstice saw the light of day in California, at the GM Advanced Studio, where the urge is to come up with future show cars. Inspiration for the rendering you see here was actually Pebble Beach, during a jaunt to the Monterey Historics - a popular annual event honoring the sport of vintage racing.

Entirely apropos, as Vlachaksi is quick to point out: Solstice takes a host of cues from some of the romantic, early ‘60’s European roadsters. Solstice flaunts great proportion, a long dash-to-axle ratio, short overhangs, a low ride, set-back seats, the venerable 177-hp Ecotec 2.4l twin-cam engine teamed with a close-ratio Aisin five-speed, and wheels pushed to the corners sans excessive wheel fat.

Vlachkis )PRONOUNCED Vla-ha-kis) has worked on five concept vehicles since she stared for you ears ago at the West Coast GM Studio - which was still under construction at the time. The self-assured 32-year old designer had experience at Mercedes’ and Audi in Europe before making the return move to her home state.


Why the car design in the first place?

I grew up in Pasadena, just a couple minutes from the Art Center College of Design. They offered select courses to local high school students, so I took them up on art classes. I knew I was going to be a designer, I just didn’t know where the energy was going to be directed. And then I became totally attracted to industrial design - Especially automotive - because it was this thing that embodied the latest trend, technology and existing art-work. And I just thought it would be the most interesting disciple to go I. I stayed at the Art Center, branching out to their campus in Switzerland, which is where I became really intrigued with European direction in design. That experience changed my perspective entirely.

And Southern California alters it daily.

You got that right. Just go shopping on a given Saturday and you’ll see all sorts of new and inspiring things, from people-watching to what’s on the shelves. Californians take pride in leading, rather than waiting for trends to hit, which is why the Advanced Studio is where it is.

What was your Solstice role?

When my sketch was picked, I basically became totally responsible for the interior. The cool thing early on is that we built the interior and exterior right next to each other throughout the program. That allowed the form language to really carry through the whole car, it’s really unity in the end product.

Why did you take Solstice beyond concept?

The acceptance by the press and public was unreal. So much that a new rear-wheel-drive Kappa architecture was developed to enable production. Not only that, it’s virtually unheard of for designers who do the concept car to also do the production version. But when it happened, I went through the whole process, including working at the Tech Center in Detroit for a year.

How did that go?

Youl earn a little something every time you do a project. The Solstice project was intense. But I think that schedule was to our benefit, because people weren’t given the chance to rethink everything. They didn’t change their mind about stuff. If you have too much time, you end up reworking everything and losing your original intention. In actuality, I’d never done an interior before. For six years prior to that when I did car design it was always an exterior fact. I did my part all on the fly. The funny thing is, I don’t think anyone realized it. I never said anything, I just played along: Like year, sure, I know what you’re talking about.

Did it really matter?

I’ve got to say there’s never an ideal place to begin the learning experience; you just jump right in. I think with any good designer who’s interested and motivated, they’ll learn it on the go.

Let’s talk Solstice in detail.

It’s a driver-oriented theme. Basically, all the controls lay on an instrument panel that wraps around you. I spent a lot of time detailing out the gauges, the shifter, the seats, all of the main touch points tat the driver would interface with. The great thing is, people say it looks much more expensive that it is. The seats were skinned and structured to be very dynamic and really hold you into the vehicle.

How do colors come into play?

The interior color scheme is an evolution of the concept car. I devised it based on fashion forecasting and current trends. Solstice has a very muted tone-on-tone scheme, where it’s more like cool grays and warm grays instead of your typical black. It’s not a lot of high contrast; there’s a richer, much more muted appeal. For inspiration, I naturally look to fashion, architecture and product design rather than other cars. If you look to other design disciplines, then you might bring something innovative to the mix.


Why the grab handle in the middle?

The center-mounted grab handle off the instrument panel was one of the key touch points on Solstice. Not only is it an ideal place to reach, it communicates that this roadster is made for winding roads. There’s one on each door also. Something you may not have noticed: There’s a number of neat storage features, from the glove box to tuck-aways between the seats. Plus three cupholders. And don’t over-look the chrome detailing that adds a jewelry-like aspect.

Jewelry?

In a generic sort of way. There are a few jewelry bits here and there on the exterior, to keep it sparkling. For instance, the bright surround of the windshield, which keeps the body of Solstice looking clean. And those wide fender vents that were designed around the Pontiac arrowhead logo as an iconic cue. Jewelry or not, the Solstice makes you look good.

What’s down the road?
I’ve developed Solstice out past the first year, but you’ll have to wait until we officially reveal those plans."

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