In a roundabout way, Ford Motor Co. played a role in the creation of the Dodge Tomahawk motorcycle concept.
Mark Walters, the 38-year-old who designed the 500-hp beast, credits Gene Bordinat Jr., Ford's design chief from 1961 to 1980, with helping him become a designer.
"I got to seventh grade, and my English teacher was kind of disappointed that I wasn't that interested in English," recalls Walter, a lanky Oregon native with a ponytail. "I had terrible spelling, and I was always sketching cars. She said, 'Mark, what are you going to do with your life? You're going to waste it, aren't you?'
"I said, 'No, I'm going to be a car designer.' And she said, 'Then I'm going to get you the name of someone who works in the industry, and you're going to ask all the questions about how to be a car designer.' "
Her contact turned out to be Bordinat."So I wrote this letter and asked him straightforward questions about what I had to do," Walters says. "He responded with four pages of typed text and sent back some books. I was surprised."
Walters ended up in design school - the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif. - and then worked as a designer for Renault in Paris for eight years before taking a job with DaimlerChrysler seven years ago in Auburn Hills, Mich.
He has spent his career in advanced vehicle design.
"The good side of that is you get to do all the way-out stuff," he says. "The bad side is people ask you what do you have out on the street. And it's hard to get anything on the street."
But his most visible project became the Tomahawk, an unexpected hit at the Detroit auto show in January. In many ways, the concept reflects Walters' technological design approach. He created the concept, based on a V-10 Viper engine, on his computer using Alias Wavefront, a CAD program.
"We wanted to give it a tool-like quality," Walters says. "It had to be brutal because of that motor."