Chasing the Future

by Bunker Bradley, 4/19/2018. Published by Permission. A Dean’s Garage Exclusive.

 

I’m Bunker Hill Bradley, Art Center Graduate, Car Designer, and Design Consultant located in Las Vegas, Nevada USA.

Writing about my 30-year career as a car designer is like taking War and Peace and condensing it into a tweet! I have designed cars and products from Detroit to Karachi.

Since leaving my first job, GM Design Staff, Detroit, I have worked in California, Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Taiwan and Karachi, Pakistan. I really feel like I have been to the ends of the earth and back as a professional designer. If the Earth was flat, I have looked over the edge and it was scary—scary what people want you to do in the name of design.

I was born, Bunker Lee Hill in Compton, California, before it was the “hood.” My Mom remarried when I was about 12 and I added Bradley on the end…now…Bunker Bradley. I graduated from Art Center College of Design in 1979 with a rather illustrious crowd of colleagues: Jay Mays, Mark Jordan, Ed Golden, Wolfgang Gotschke, David Rand, David Robb, Jeff Teague, Jay Roth, Dan Ellis, Kuni Ito, and others.

My first job out of ACCD was my “dream job,” GM Design Staff, Detroit (1979–1983). I really felt like I had made it. Just three years earlier, I was Sergeant Bradley, pilot training technician PTU, in the USAF (1972-1976), not knowing if I would ever be a car designer. A dream realized! GM had more talented designers, per square inch, than any other studio in the world and I was now part of it. My first project was to design the Pontiac Fiero in Advanced III studio with Ron Hill, Tony Balthasar, John Quincy Adams, Dave Rand, and Orval Selders. WOW. After four years of Buick I and Buick II and a special design team project to create the Allante/Reatta, I decided I had to see more of the world—namely Japan.

I gave notice at GM in the spring of 1983 and got an appointment with Chuck Jordan, VP of Design, to personally say goodbye, since he had hired me fours years earlier. On my last day at GM I had an appointment with Chuck and was showed into his office along “Mahogany Row” to wait for him to appear (the Design Staff executive offices at the GM Tech Center in Warren, Michigan). While waiting, I noticed he had a rather large picture frame on his desk on the left hand side. No one was about, so I turned it around, expecting it to be a photo of his family or son, Mark Jordan. I was shocked and my blood ran cold. it was a photo of one of my car renderings done in Buick II a few years earlier. I was in God’s (“The Design God–The Chrome Cobra”) office and there it was! It was the illustration of a rather smooth-shaped concept car with an F-15 jet in the background, done with a marbled background (the exact rendering that was placed in the EPCOT GM “Studio of the Future” display at Disney World). After seeing it in Buick II Chuck asked all the studios to produce similar large 40” × 60” renderings to display on the “Mahogany Row” walls at GM Design Staff.

He actually had my design on his desk and I was about to say goodbye and that I was going to join the enemy—Honda Motor Company!

I could not change my mind now! Honda HRA California was expecting me to show up in a week. The fact is that two months prior I had jumped into my custom ’76 Camaro (which had seven coats of hand polished black lacquer, a modified 350 small block boosted to 320 HP, 4-inch Hooker side pipes and a full aero kit) and drove to California. I only took a week’s vacation from GM and wanted to arrive in time for my scheduled appointment with Honda, so I tried to drive non-stop to Torrance from Detroit, normally a three day drive. Well, 39 hours and four speeding tickets later, I arrived at Honda and got my second design job—Senior Designer at Honda HRA. I had to go! So it was Goodbye Chuck, he wished me all the best and I started my journey around the world designing production cars and trucks.

At Honda (1983-1984) I was shown the “Honda Way” of living and designing cars. I made many trips to Japan with my design partner, Truman Pollard (later-Chief Designer of Mazda NAO). We co-designed the first Accord Coupe three-door and had many adventures in Japan along with Doug Halbert (later Executive Designer of Honda) and Abe-son in this Honda experiment of combining Japanese and American designers to design U.S. market vehicles. Honda was an eye opening experience and life changing for me.

In 1984, I had the opportunity of heading up Ford’s new advanced design studio in California—CCC of Valencia, California. (1984-1986). I signed on as General Manager to help open a brand new design studio, fully supported by Jack Telnack, VP of Design, Ford, Dearborn. With a crew of 10, we designed, engineered, modeled and built five to six show cars a year for Ford…nothing but challenging! Our first (my first design there) design and show car became the production 1989 T-Bird. So, I became the co-designer of the last big T-bird. After two years there, my best friend and our Sr. Modeler, Rick Teague, asked me to help him get a job in Australia. Many calls later, I could not find him a job as a modeler, but actually got a design job myself. I was going to Australia to work for GM Holden, Fisherman’s Bend, Melbourne.

It was quite a challenge changing jobs and working for vastly different companies. Each move was for different reasons, including family reasons sometimes. Each company had its own management style, design preferences, rules and engineering platforms. Once I left California, I moved westward and worked from my home base of Australia for 14 years, working throughout Austral-Asia. There are many stories, adventures, and challenges that could be told of my exploits in Asia and back to Detroit in the mid 1990’s, along with my time with Carroll Shelby and Shelby Automobiles.

A Brief Summary of My Career

1979–1983 Designer of advanced concepts and production cars, GM Design Staff.

1980–1983 Bunker Bradley Design. Freelance designer. All new White/Volvo Trucks, Western Star Trucks, Freightliner Trucks, and AutoCar Trucks. These included design projects for Larry Shinoda, John Delorean, and Jay Roth.

1983–1984 Sr. Designer of production exteriors, Honda HRA California. Co-designer of the ‘86 Accord Coupe.

1984 Instructor at Art Center ACCD Trans-4 class. Students included: Ken Okuyama (Ferrari), Craig Durfey (Viper), Dan Sturges, Christian Hass, Grant Larson (Porsche), and others.

1984–1986 General Manager, CCC–Ford. Also: Chief Designer, Chief Engineer and packaging layouts and fiberglass model assistant. Co-designer of the 1989 T-Bird and 1989 Cougar.

1986–1987 Chief Designer, GM Holden. Designer of the last J-Body Camira and the last Brock VL Commodore SS. Ushered in the VN, VP and VQ programs and revived the Aussie Ute. Taught evening design classes to the design team, including Sr. Designer, Mike Simcoe.

1987–1989 Design Director, NDA Nissan Australia. Co-designer of the Pintara TR.X, Nissan Pulsar, Pintara Sports wagon and Skyline facelifts; built and staffed a million dollar studio for Nissan in 1987. We had the best and most advanced design team in the Southern Hemisphere at the time. I also hired Chief Designer, Herb Grasse (designer of the Batmobile and Bricklin) as well.

1989–1994 Sr. Designer at GM ACC, California. Many advanced design projects under: John Schinella, Terry Henline, Tom Peters and Ben Salvadore. Designer of the new GTO and LA Commuter (this one went to Detroit along with Frank Saucedo’s truck project; a real honor).

1994–1998 Chief Designer, Millard Design Australia. Chief Designer of the award winning Axcess I show car. Chief Designer of the “Maleo,” the Indonesian Peoples Car, for three years, working on three continents through Venture Industries.

1996–1998 Chief Designer, Venture Industries, Detroit, Mich. Co-designed (interior design) the last Shelby Cobra-Series I. Re-designed many Russian cars and trucks. Started a Rapid Prototype Division.

1998–2000 Chief Designer, Radial Pacific/MSM Australia. Designer of the Axcess II, an award winning hybrid design. Started an advertising and publishing division for them.

2000–2002 Chief Designer, Venture/Holden Annex studio Australia. Directed the VZ production program for Holden.

2003–Present Freelance Design Consultant, Bunker Hill Bradley Design, California and Nevada, U.S.A.

2003–2006 Design Consultant to: Mazda NAO, Prisma Design, BMW/Designworks, Virtual GT Simulators, Race Sign Specialists, Image Options Printing, Diahatsu, Mattel Toys, Overbreak Toys, Price-Stern-Sloan Publishing, Road & Track Magazine, etc.

2007 Lead Designer for Suzuki, Duospace Studios California. SUV programs for a year with Kohei Eguchi.

2008 Design Director, Shelby Automobiles, Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.A. Co-designer of the Series 1 Cobra, GT350 2011, Prudhomme SS SuperSnake, Shelby Teralingua interior. Re-Designed and built the new Shelby Museum 2008 and admin. offices.

2009–2018 Design Consultant to: McKay Construction, AhernIT technologies, Summit West Fashion Long Beach, Royal Avalon Apparel California, Zuo Furniture, Burning Man and many others. I made a trip to Karachi, Pakistan to set up our designer sheet business in 2005. What an experience that was!

2005–2018 I have started several businesses along the way, using digital printing on fabrics as a basis:

1. BunkerBradleyCouture.com—woman’s fashion online shopping and Las Vegas showroom.
2. Lama Kasso Home Décor at Wayfair.com—pillows and throws.
3. Carbon Fabrics LLC—upholstery fabrics digitally printed.
4. CS Elite—licensed Shelby garments and jackets.
5. Hop Into Bed LLC—designer sheets.

It would take a whole book to recount all of my design adventures!

OK, if you made it this far, thanks for listening.

I am still “Chasing the Future” and still designing the future! The Skate MVP (modular vehicle platform) vehicle program is my version of an ultra-lite NEV electric connected car that we need now (see the illustrations). We at Skate International are looking for interested groups to push this one forward and make it a reality.

Cheers, Bunker

Bunker Hill Bradley Design, Las Vegas USA. 949-331-8716

Skate International LLC –“The future of personal transportation!”

1979–2003 Art Center to ACC Intern Project

12 Comments
  1. Thanks for the shout out Gary!…cheers, Bunker.

  2. Impressive track record, very good designs, fresh sketches. Thanks for sharing your experiences. Nice to know that I was not the only one who survived the “Hood” known as Compton.

    Roy

  3. Christopher Dowdey

    I was A Ford Designer, ’68 through ’75. Worked in Shinoda’s studio with the early am Knudsen charge.

    I remember lusting over any of Bunkers Design sketches that were pirated out of GM, or on some mag. Cover. He was awesome and an instrumental
    inspiration. Then I spent 28 years with American Sunroof or ASC Design with Mark Trostle, Sr. and worked with many of the Designers guided by Bradley. I never met Mr. Bunker but his influence was with me my whole career. Totally, way cool designer and a great inspiration. What a great culture this Industrial Design Gig. Bunker was the Real Deal!

    Cheers, Christopher Dowdey

  4. Roselyn

    Brilliant story. I have always known Bunker to be a design genius, referred to as the Design Ninja in Japan and at one point in his career referred to as the Design Machine in Detroit, but I never knew that he is also a gifted writer.

  5. Jay

    Ha! Bunker! Great to see you online! I forgot about that pic from the intern program.
    I recall shooting it and photoshopping myself in, after the fact! Cheers! Jay

  6. I still take my copy of Road & Track’s, Ferrari special publication out when I need some inspiration. But what really surprised me was the Shoei motorcycle fairing. I bought one and put it on my Honda CB 500 Twin back in the late 70s. It really changed the look and updated the bike. That’s what good design does.

  7. Hi,
    Your are welcome Roy…happy to share.
    Christopher, you blew me away with your comments. Thanks.
    Gary Campesi…I have seen your illustrations and hot rods often and it makes me want to just sit down and draw cars….inspiring and fun!

    Thanks, Bunker

  8. Jay…Good to hear from you again. Are you still Chief Designer at GM North Hollywood? You know…after you took pictures of me for my acting career and encouraged me to become an actor, I did get an agent within a month of applying. I auditioned for a year and a half for commercials and voice overs in LA without any luck. Then, “General Hospital ” the TV soap opera, called me a year later and asked me to come into work the following week as the older lead for the show! But, I just booked a flight to Taiwan to consult to CMC and told GH that I would be back in a week to do the show. Back in the USA a week later…I could not reach anyone at the GH show and lost out…so back to car designing.
    Take care and hi to your wife. Is she still acting? Cheers, Bunker

  9. Glen Durmisevich

    Great design life story Bunker. I’ve always felt as a designer you can create your own world. In your case it’s taken you around it too. Good to see it down in writing.
    Glen

  10. Christopher Rhoades

    Hi Bunker, I enjoyed reading about your life in Car Design; very impressive. I was doing an internship in Ron Hills studio in 85’ . I thought someone mentioned that during the Fiero project, they went out and bought a bunch of Porsche 914’s to use as chassis inspiration. Is this true?
    Thanks again for sharing.

  11. Hi,
    Christopher, Thanks…I have not heard that story. I worked on the initial advanced theme in Ron Hill’s studio with Hulki Alducatti (spelling?), the chief engineer in charge of chassis and composite panel designs. As far as I know, all engineering was original to GM. However, the ME-4 (Mid Engine-4 cylinder=Fiero) was downgraded to a secretary’s sports car by management because Chevy complained that it might affect Corvette sales if it was too powerful or too sports car like.

    Glen D…. good to hear from you.

    Cheers, Bunker.

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