Icons and New Perceptions

Spectator - June 2002

Spectator — June 2002

By Tom Fexas

Icons and New Perceptions
How your Spectator avoided making one mistake and admitted to making another.
 More of this Feature
• Part 1: Icons
• Part 2: Icons
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• Spectator Index

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• tomfexas.com

Please bear with me on this car story--I'm making a point.

In the late 60s, Ferrari debuted its stunningly beautiful 365 GTB/4 Coupe. Critically acclaimed worldwide, this design set new benchmarks for the auto industry and spawned a plethora of imitators. In the early 70s, as this car (also known as the Daytona) was nearing the end of its run, Ferrari came out with its successor, the 365 GTC/4 Coupe. Although designed by one of the top styling houses in Italy, the look was rather unfortunate. The car had strange upswept hips aft and a black rubber bumper encircling the front end. Due to its ungainly proportions aft and the oval bumper, the merciless Italian auto press immediately dubbed the car "The Hunchback with Clown Lips."  Ouch! Talk about stinging criticism. To this day the car is known by that moniker, and as a result, it's worth maybe a third of a Daytona in similar condition. The Daytona had a six-year run, while the GTC/4 lasted only two. It all comes down to proportions and shapes.

In 1999 we entered into a contract with Grand Banks to design its new flagship, the 64-foot Aleutian Class motoryacht. The boat was to be a "sleeper." Grand Banks has always been known for its "dependable diesel cruisers," which cruised at 9 to 12 knots (some faster with bigger engines). But the 64 would be a wolf in sheep's clothing--the wolf being the hull shape, high-tech, lightweight construction, and machinery that would push her to about 22 knots. The sheep's clothing part was going to be her traditional styling.

Although we are not widely known for this type of boat, the fact is I started in this business back in 1966 designing conservative, long-range cruiser types. My first design was a series-built 50-foot long-ranger built in Taiwan and Singapore. A good number of staid designs followed, but it was boats we did like the Midnight Laces, slick Cheoy Lees, and Palmer Johnsons that captured the marine press' fancy.

I'm sure Grand Banks talked to a bunch of other naval architects before choosing us for its new project. After riding on our boats, the Grand Banks powers that be knew we had the hull but were concerned about the "look."  Ah....the elusive "look." That's what it all comes down to. The "look" will make or break a project. Our dilemma became: Just how do you restyle an icon? How do you push the design far enough to be considered contemporary yet still reflect the heritage and family resemblance of the long, proud line of Grand Banks boats? A mistake here could be deadly. We certainly did not want our new Grand Banks design to be the floating equivalent of "The Hunchback with Clown Lips," and so, after the easy part (the hull) was done, we carefully moved on to the styling, during which time I ended up losing a lot of sleep.

Next page > Icons, Part 2 > Page 1, 2

This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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