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Exclusive: Frank Stephenson on the new film "Chasing Perfect," designing cars & more

EXPERT COLUMNIST
Exclusive
43   //    Timeless

Frank Stephenson / Photo courtesy of Sicily Publicity
Frank Stephenson / Photo courtesy of Sicily Publicity

Chasing Perfect is a singular, charming portrait of Frank Stephenson, one of the most influential car designers in the world. His designs range from high-concept hypercar, such as the McLaren P1, to everyday city vehicles as the iconic new Mini.

The documentary ultimately traces the renowned car designer’s sparklingly different approaches to design and his vertical move into electric aircraft design. Altogether, Chasing Perfect is a fantastic film for car lovers and documentary-fanatics alike, as helmed by director Helena Coan; Coan previously directed Keepsake, which premiered at the Underwire Film Festival, and is also an acclaimed musician.

I had the pleasure of doing Q&A with Frank Stephenson himself on behalf of Sportskeeda and highlights from that inspirational yet sports-oriented interview are below. Chasing Perfect is now available through all your favorite video-on-demand outlets.

How long did you spend working on Chasing Perfect?

Frank Stephenson: Personally, I was involved for about 6 months of shooting at the different locations around the world.

How would you describe Chasing Perfect to someone who hasn't seen the film? 

Frank Stephenson: I think that people should see this film as a means of being entertained, enlightened, educated, amused and excited about the future. The story is packaged with warmth and personality. I hope future generations of designers are inspired, that they can see the work ethic necessary for success but following dreams and making them a success in business is tough -- but if you have the right approach you can succeed. 

You are, of course, an influential car designer. When in your life did that become your chosen career path?

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Frank Stephenson: Without realizing it at first, it was on March 19, 1969, the day I saw my first Jaguar E-Type parked on the side of the road in Casablanca, Morocco.

Do you follow racing-oriented sports?

Frank Stephenson: Yes, very much. 

Of all the car-related racing organizations, like NASCAR and Formula One, do you have a favorite?

Frank Stephenson: I'm a huge fan of drag racing in all its forms, from Pro Stock to Top Fuel. In the U.S. the NHRA oversees it and in Europe, there's the FIA. I love it because it's an all-or-nothing type of racing, both driver and machine are equally responsible for the performance and it's a very visceral kind of motorsport. I also love MotoGP, where it's always thrilling from start to finish with edge of the seat viewing throughout.

Racing sports aside, are there any sports, teams or athletes you follow?

Frank Stephenson: Yes, yes and yes. I follow the MLB and the NFL, specifically the [New York] Yankees and the [Minnesota] Vikings. As to athletes, it's a bit different. I admire those who win or lose on their own, having to push themselves to their personal limits to win. I admire the mental toughness, self-discipline and consistency that this takes -- guys like Bruce Lee, Eliud Kipchoge, Paul Bonhomme, Alex Honnold, and Roger Federer.

A lot of people do not mix their professional and personal lives. In your case, do you have or collect a lot of cars?

Frank Stephenson: I do mix the professional with the personal, simply because what I get paid to do is also what I love to do. The problem with designing cars and loving them is that it puts me into a situation where my tastes have priced me out of the realm of my dream car collection. Besides a Jaguar E-Type, Series 1 FHC, I've come to terms with my collection being on display at home in 1:18th scale.

Any surprising hobbies beyond cars?

Frank Stephenson: I'm a die-hard gym rat who's addicted to pumping iron. Some people need the sea, I need weights. 

Chasing Perfect aside, any upcoming projects you can talk about?

Frank Stephenson: Sure. Frank Stephenson Design (FSD) wants to define future design by being ahead of everyone else and that can and will be applied to many different areas. The reason for this is that FSD wants to apply its unique design thinking to benefit people in all walks of life. So, this means the world’s safest child seat, the future of mobility with flying taxis, wristwatches for space, land, and sea, sunglasses and some other ones too soon to mention.

Finally, Frank, any last words for the kids?

Frank Stephenson: Definitely! Actually, too many, but most importantly, find your passion and make it your day to day life. Then find a way to balance all that energy for your passion with something else that you love because achieving equilibrium is so important in life. Remember that success in anything is directly related to how much you want it and how much effort you're willing to give it.

There will always be someone better at doing something than you, learn what you can from them and always set your goals high -- very high. Your mind will give up before your body so don't ever give up on your goals. Always stay focused!

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