As global creative director, Dave Marek is the man leading every aspect of Acura design, gunning to push this Japanese luxury brand to new heights in the 21st century.
Aside from his work on current products like the Precision Concept and 2019 RDX crossover, Marek has a few all-time favorite cars. But what are they?
Well, this is a question we posed to him recently, and below are seven or so vehicles that float his proverbial boat like a dinghy at high tide. It’s an eclectic selection of models that, surprisingly, contains not a single Acura product. In an era or rampant partisanship, his responses are refreshingly candid, running the gamut from mass-produced Detroit iron, to racecars, to heavily modified customs. Check it out!
The very first car he named without even a hint of hesitation was Ford’s iconic namesake model from 1932. “Well, that’s an easy one,” said Marek. “I mean, if you start way back.”
The deuce is legendary in automotive circles, not only for its classic design but because of its historical significance. It was the first truly mass-produced vehicle that offered the smoothness and performance of a V8 engine. Not only that, but it also helped give birth to hot-rodding during the middle of the last century. Today, there are almost certainly more ’32 Fords on the road than Ol’ Henry ever built, a testament to its legendary beauty and borderline-obnoxious popularity.
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Next up, a car that’s even older, by a cool two decades. The Blitzen Benz is a racing machine that broke the world land-speed record back in 1911. On the sands of Daytona Beach, Florida, Bob Burman piloted this agrarian-looking vehicle to a terminal velocity just shy of 142 miles an hour (228.1 km/h), though other drivers attempted similar feats in Europe a couple years prior. Delivering that insane speed was an absolutely dinosauric 21.5-liter four-cylinder engine that provided an advertised 200 horsepower, some three times what the ’32 Ford could muster, along with a speed-run that was so devastating, the record stood for eight years.
While describing this vehicle, Marek seemed at a loss for words. He said, “I love that, it is one of my favorites. It’s just amazing. It is amazing, it is amazing in that era, that that thing was there.” Hell, it’s still awe-inspiring more than a century later. The thought of going more than 140 miles an hour while perched atop something barely as sophisticated as a tractor is simply terrifying.
Jumping ahead several decades Marek mused, “But then, then it becomes… the ’71 Tyrrell… Jackie Stewart’s F1 car is super iconic for me.” Riding lower to the ground than a one-bottom plow, with meaty tires and a broad stance, it’s hard to see how a racing fan could not love this beautiful speed machine.
[Image: Brian Snelson]
“And then every ‘70s F1 car is, easy,” said Marek, continuing, “But then my favorite of all time is specifically the factory long tail [Porsche] 917… Actually, the ’70 Le Mans long tail.”
Low and voluptuous, this family of racing cars still looks futuristic today. The 917 led Porsche to victory at Le Mans in 1970, aided by a stable of some 600 horses.
“I love 917s. It’s not just the perfect racecar, it’s perfect proportions, like, for any car,” said Marek. “The first time I saw one … it was like a spaceship.”
But this acclaimed automotive designer must include at least one product on this list of favorite vehicles from his employer. Not doing so is simply uncouth! “As you go forward,” recounted Marek, “By the ‘80s, you know, then it’s the MP4/4 and any of the Honda cars because I was already working for Honda and it just became like, this is awesome!”
This car is the result of a collaboration between McLaren and the Japanese automaker. A match made in heaven, it dominated F1 racing in a way never before seen. Of 16 races in the 1988 season, Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost won 15 of them in the MP4/4.
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Various Custom Hot Rods
But racing cars are one thing, and Marek left plenty of space on this list for a bit of whimsy. A child of the 1960s, he fell in love with the custom cars and hot rods that were created during that era. Chopped and modified post-war Fords and Mercuries were touched upon during our chat, but what he really goes for are outrageous custom vehicles like the Pizza Wagon and Ice Truck.
“Those were huge for me because you could do these crazy show rods, I mean they had a bunk-bed car, they had the outhouse car, they had all this stuff. But the good ones were proportioned, they were proportioned right, they were done right,” said Marek. “I mean, the Boothill Express… it’s an old hearse that they made into a hot rod and it’s nuts, but the proportions and the feel of it was done so good.” The complete freedom to do whatever a designer feels like is part of what attracts him to these sort of, admittedly, outlandish vehicles. “And that stuff I just devour, and still do,” he added with a smile.
Finally, we come to the last vehicle mentioned by Marek, an outrageously customized Cadillac owned and commissioned by ZZ Top frontman Billy Gibbons. Impossibly low and seemingly longer than a country mile, this devilishly dark beauty is based on a 1948 or ’49 Sedanette model and created by the late custom-car wizard Boyd Coddington.
“CadZZilla’s definitely on there. It’s ridiculous,” remarked Marek. And one glance is all it takes to understand what he means. From every angle this car is absolutely nuts, resembling something a superhero’s arch nemesis would drive. The car is simply dripping with sinister elegance.
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