Automotive furniture doesn't always live up to the designs they're inspired by. But one designer has proved this doesn't have to be the case
When automotive design and furniture meets it isn't always pretty, or in fact useful. But sometimes the combination of the two works so beautifully that all bucket seat-themed office chairs and engine component cum tables are forgiven. One sculptor is leading the way in how to do automotive furniture right by creating bespoke chairs mimicking the form and design of the world’s most valuable collector cars, ranging from the Ford GT40 to a Shelby Cobra Daytona.
Furniture designer Adam Williams has chosen to model his latest collection on 1960s and '70s automotive design due to a very significant person in his life – Castrol Oil's racing manager and his father George.
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George Williams served in the RAF during World War II, and aged just 29 became a director at Castrol Oil. He was directly involved in the brand's involvement in Formula 1 and at Le Mans for over a decade.
'He was really well known, so I grew up with Stirling Moss and all of those people. That’s what inspired me to do this; I saw all those cars coming through and went to the motor racing events,' said Williams. 'My cousin races that Cobra and the GT40, those two [designs] are his.'
Some of the designs are commissions, including a Porsche 917-inspired piece, and Williams is aiming to base all of this collection on 'famous' and 'really unusual cars' of the time. Each bespoke piece isn't completed overnight, as real effort has to be put in to make the design transfer successfully to a piece of furniture.
'[Each piece takes] around two months. I build a wooden one first, like a scale model and then it all works out. You weld it up and make it out of aluminium, sometimes fibreglass or titanium.'
'What I’m after is really the best cars. I’ve got my hands on really serious cars. I’m aiming for cars that are £800,000 to £1,000,000.'
The starting point of the design features to pick are the aerodynamic bodywork and sculptural air vents that are prevalent on so many of the cars of the time. Williams also looks to the materials used at the time, keeping the fibre glass elements of the Daytona and GT40. Once complete, the piece is painted in the racing colours of the car, mimicking that of the real car it is based upon.
'I’ll do one individual chair for each car. It’s nice to do an only one off. It’s not a commercial venture. My main business is designing furniture so this is a spin-off for me because my life is to do with cars. It’s great if it breaks even but it’s more of a passion.'
I would never want to do another one [of the same model] because when a car's worth $5 million, you might as well do just one chair, leave it at that and move on to somebody else who's got another car. It's quite nice to do only a one-off because with these cars, so few people have got them. You wouldn't get repeat business. You would on the replicas like the GT40s etc, but with the ones I'm after, there's so few around.'
The high quality work also demands a price representative of that fact.
'For those made out of aluminium or steel I’d say [it costs] around £12,000-£14,000. That sounds a lot but I’m not interested in making any for less than that amount because they’re quite a hassle to make! But I think that will lure people in that have bought the real thing.'
Designs commissioned and completed so far include the Daytona, GT40, Ferrari GTO and a 1952 Bentley Continental. Currently in production is the 917 and a Lamborghini Miura. And if you've got a priceless collector car and want a chair to match, perhaps you could ask Williams to add to the ever-growing list of creations too.