By Tunde Wey
May 22, 2013
Charlotte Street running east cuts a wide dull grey path as it slices through the old Cass Corridor, with its wide fields and more than a few structures that have seen better days, ending abruptly at Woodward. Charlotte prematurely ends exactly at the Bankle Building, a three-story squat brown structure. Built in the 1920s, the ground floor is fronted with glass, opaque from a distance. If you draw a little closer and press your face into the glass, the world of Camilo Pardo opens up.
Camilo Pardo is owner of the Bankle Building, an artist and founder of Art & Development
, and, perhaps most famously, the designer of the Ford GT
. Pardo is an industrial designer by training, graduating from College for Creative Studies (CCS) before spending over two decades with Ford, where he was an automotive designer. He looks the part, with long hair, a sparse beard and slight steel-colored glasses.
As lead designer on the Ford GT, Pardo gained international attention. Pardo describes working on the vehicle as a "designer’s dream project" because the Ford GT is a mid-engine vehicle – a car with the engine behind the driver, like a Ferrari. The vehicle was manufactured in 2005 and 2006 in limited quantity.
"We only made 4,100 and everything sold between $160,000 and $170,000. Which is completely out of any sales bracket for Ford; Ford does not sell cars at that price. This was an extraordinary thing for Ford to do. Nobody ever expected Ford to come out with a vehicle at this time that would outperform Ferrari and sell that high. It was extremely out of the ordinary. It happened; we did it."
Pardo, along with his team, provided Ford a huge win. Pardo says, "The Ford GT was considered a success. It was an international hit; that’s putting it mildly. I believe our public affairs people told us this car had more magazine covers than any other car in history. It was a car the world of automotive design was waiting for. It’s actually a redesign of a famous race car from the '60s, GT 40.”
Even with all its success, Ford eliminated Pardo’s studio. "It was the time when the automotive companies took that heavy hit and Chrysler and GM went bankrupt and Ford cut their work task in more than half, so that was the end of that. It was fine because I had a lot of things going already on my own."
Pardo remains grateful for his time at Ford, especially working on the Ford GT, because it was his efforts on this project that gave him the platform to work on his other projects.
"That’s what kicked off a lot of my recognition. I was a recognized artist from Detroit but when I became recognized for the Ford GT that was international and very strong. There was so much attention given to that vehicle that people starting investigating what else I did. That completely amplified my paintings and my fashion and everyone who wrote about me wrote about my studio and my work, everybody from Rolling Stone to Road and Track
Pardo is working on renovating the Bankle, the building he purchased to house his studio in the mid-90s. Pardo works out of the bottom floor of the three-story, 21,000 square foot building, using it for his design studio. The Bankle has played host to fashion shows featuring local designers including Cyberoptix
, and the launch of ecofriendly fashion label Homeslice Clothing
. The signature event at the Bankle is the annual Designer’s Party held during the Auto Show week, a celebration of automotive designers. Pardo, who is currently renting out the space adjoining his studio to a local gallery, has plans to restore the property's top two floors to be able to host more events and offer it out to local artists, continuing the Bankle’s tradition as cultural hub.
But Pardo’s main inspiration is his own art, which he incorporates into his high-end custom designs for private collectors of Ford GT vehicles. His custom Ford GT business has him working with car collectors who are eager to have the Pardo imprimatur
on their vehicles. Pardo redesigns the car livery – exterior color and graphics, interior, engine compartments and wheels, for clients across the United States.
Pardo, a CCS grad, considers himself an artist and operates as such working in a variety of media. "I graduated from CCS as an automotive designer. That means I’m an industrial designer and I like designing furniture, automobiles, fashion, interior design, product design; once you’re an industrial designer all that stuff is in your ball park. But all my life I’ve been a fine artist and a painter." His art, which is predominantly racing-themed, features sports cars, racers and a variety of sports racing characters colored boldly and provocatively. Shapely women and evocative gestures are a prominent theme; just as with the Ford GT, sex and danger intermingle gloriously. His work is on display at Detroit’s Brooklyn Park Lofts, Royal Oak’s Pizzeria Biga
, and remains a popular seller on the web-based limited edition print gallery 1XRUN.
Pardo remains constantly working. He has started a satellite design studio in L.A and just recently purchased his fifth Ford GT, which he is customizing. All in a day’s work for him.
Photograph by Marvin Shaouni Photography.