I can still remember those late night races like it was yesterday- me in my E30, Jacques in his Dad's '83 Rabbit. It's been over 15 years since we terrorized the deer under the moonlight on those North Carolina back roads, and no matter how many life events have taken place between then and now I'm still amazed that the more things change, the more they stay the same. I grew up with Jacques Flynn in Chapel Hill, NC. We lived only a few miles apart and despite coming from very different parents shared a common interest in almost everything but none stronger than our interest in the automotive world. At the time the aftermarket scene was a fraction of what it is today and our pizza delivery budget prevented us from even considering modifications. So instead of wrenching on our cars we just drove them and drove them hard- drifting the E30 long before ever hearing the term, and "hooning" in the Rabbit to within an inch of its life. Once Jacques got his first real car, a MK2 GTI, it was just a struggle to keep that high mileage 8V running, chasing down fueling and electrical problems with limited tools and knowledge. Our imaginations would have to get us by and the local news and video store had just the inspiration necessary. We frequently poured over the pages of PVW , Car and Driver, and the occasional Max Power. In my head I was constantly putting my own twist on what the manufacturer came up with, little did I know that Jacques had much larger aspirations. I didn't even think much of the frequent sketches and doodles of exaggerated coupes and roadsters that covered his notebook during math class. When Jacques seemingly out of the blue announced he had been accepted into the Art Center College of Design and was moving to Pasadena, California I remember thinking he was crazy. Sure he had some interesting ideas, but they never seemed to translate on paper, but who was I to stop anyone from fulfilling their ambition as I had some pretty wild ideas of my own. As an act of good faith and support I even co-piloted on the long trip out west. Distance and time among other things caused us to lose touch over the years but during that span we both were hard at work moving towards our goals. The Art Center enabled Jacques to get those ideas out of his head and onto paper without losing anything in the translation. Meanwhile we were working on getting Black Forest Industries off the ground. Fast forward ten years, the death of a mutual friend put us back in touch. After realizing that we would both be attending SEMA in Las Vegas regularly we decided to make a point of catching up there each and every year that it was possible. So for the last couple of years that's how things have gone. But this year in particular after hearing all about life in LA, I decided to extend the trip out west and pay a visit to see Jacques' new life and take the opportunity to take a few photos of his long term '68 Volvo P1800 project at the same time.
On an unusually hot day we made our way up the 405, both the car and myself battling an overheating issue- mine a result of a hangover from the night before, the Volvo's from a less than functional radiator fan. Out of the busy smog covered city, into the hills and onto the twisting Mullholland Drive, the underpowered but spirited little P1800 came to life eagerly sweeping through the turns while I tried not to vomit. Eventually we wound our way down to the PCH stopping for some fried calamari at the infamous Neptunes restaurant ( of Fast and the Furious fame). With the sun getting low we found our way onto a Malibu beach public access and acted like we knew what we were doing to prevent any hassle from the beach patrol.
In that late day California light it was easy to see what made the P1800 such a desirable trophy to someone who spends their day agonizing over windshield rakes, bumper overhangs, and other body lines that would otherwise go unnoticed to the more casual enthusiast. The P1800 has a few rather unique styling cues but none more unique than the chrome accent line that starts as a fin and ends up as a door handle (or vice versa depending on how you look at it). The P1800 has that exotic look that gives off the impression that it cost far more than it did. In fact as it sits this example has less than $10k into it, and that's sort of the whole point.
Not one to question the original design, Jacques has more or less left his Volvo unchanged, choosing to restore it rather than mold it into something that it was never meant to be. As with most automotive builds though, the wheel and tire choice is always one left to individual tastes. In this instance Jacques chose to widen the stock wheels from 4" to 7" and powdercoat them a dark metallic silver. Wrapped with BFGoodrich Radial T/A tires they give a sporty and purposeful - yet decidedly classic look. The only other cosmetic modifications of note, are the intentional delete of the front bumper and the fact that the coupe sits 25mm closer to the ground. Further enhancing the sport suspension is an upgraded anti-roll bar. The original B18 4 cylinder engine has been refreshed with dual SU carbs. The engine was converted to an electronic ignition system as well as given a new set of performance headers, plugs and wires.
While the Volvo project represents a look back at what once was, Jacques' day to day consists of sketching out what could be. After finishing up at Art Center, he had the opportunity to do a little work for none other than Volkswagen. Some of you may remember the 2006 VW GX3 concept pictured below as being featured on www.vwvortex.com. It was said to be "A motorcycle with VW features: Light, fast, and environmentally friendly, the GX3 shows that conceptually it is much closer to a motorcycle than to a classic type automobile. This two-seater Volkswagen is one of a kind - bold, young, and affordable. It opens a new driving dimension, turns even the daily commute to work into a small trip to freedom, allows you to cruise in the carpool lane, even if you�re driving solo (the GX3 is a motorcycle, after all!) and with its keen handling it opens up completely new horizons for recreational driving."
Eventually Jacques moved from VW's studio into a more involved design role at Mazda in Irvine, California where he still works today. He has had a hand in many different projects yet he remains closely tied to the same fundamental concepts that I saw in those math class drawings. Below is an example of a Miata spyder concept created specifically for SEMA two years ago. These exercises help to expand thinking and eventually pave the way for the next generation Miata. While it is still far from being finished Jacques has largely defined the future of that iconic RWD Roadster as part of his contribution at Mazda.
As if the long hours at the studio and time spent tinkering on the Volvo were not enough, Jacques has taken on yet another another design project. This time however, it does not revolve around anything with a motor. This design exercise is a new handmade men's wallet company called JAQET. Even though at first glance the product and idea may appear simple, the very same automotive design principles have been applied to create the final calculated outcome. His Long Beach apartment and garage double as both headquarters and manufacturing facility for these meticulously produced leather goods.
Each wallet starts life as a bare hide that is dyed, sealed, cut to shape, punched, sewn, branded, and packaged all by Jacques himself. Having only been around a very short time, the brand is already beginning to pick up steam - being distributed and sold in boutiques as far away as Osaka , Japan. The biggest trouble so far is keeping up with the demand given the fact that this is currently a one man operation.
With each and every design project completed comes new experience and knowledge about the process and how to solve the problems encountered along the way. Moving forward with his brand and into retail there will be many more challenges to come, as we have faced many of those ourselves along the way. We wish Jacques and JAQET continued success and we are here to share our experiences as well as learn from others who enjoy the design process as much as we do.
To see more JAQET wallets click the image above.