Today, Apple designer Jony Ive turns 47. One of the threads of his incredible career has been a passion for hot wheels. Before going on to become one of the world’s most famous designers, Jony Ive went to London’s Central Saint Martins Art School fueled by an early passion to design cars. Eventually, though, he took a detour that led him to revolutionize design in personal technology.
Apple hasn’t gotten around to making an iCar yet, but Jony’s passion for automobiles is still revved up and cruising for thrills. The famed designer hasn’t been afraid to fork over some fat stacks for a nice car on a whim – even if one of his brutal beauties almost cost him his life – and has gathered a nice little collection of luxury cars over the years.
Here’s a look at some of the fabulous cars that have puttered their way into Jony’s garage, with insider information about each one pulled from the pages of Leander Kahney’s new book, “Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products.”
Orange Fiat 500
Jony drove himself to school each day, arriving at Walton behind the wheel of a tiny Fiat 500 that he nicknamed Mabel. This toy-like Italian job would be the only non-British car that Jony would own. It was the early 80s and Jony sported long black hair, teased into spikes several inches high that was so monumental that it scraped the roof. Jony devised a solution that teachers still remember: he drove it with a mop of spiky black hair poking out the sunroof.
“Frogeye” Austin-Healey Sprite
Jony eventually upgraded from the Fiat 500 to an entire stable of luxury vehicles, but his love for four wheels started when he was a teenager. He and his dad were restoring another car, a vintage “frogeye” Austin-Healey Sprite with spherical headlamps that seemed to rise out of its hood like a couple of wide-open eyes.
Aston Martin DB9
The Aston Martin DB9 is a supercar known for its association with James Bond. Jony had the car delivered to New York and drove it cross-country with his dad, Mike. It cost about $250,000, but just a month after he got it, Jony wrecked the car on Interstate 280 near San Bruno. The accident nearly killed him and his commuting partner, Daniele De Iuliis, who was riding in the passenger seat.
“Jony was going pretty fast, although he said he was not going over 80 miles per hour,” said a colleague. “Something happened in the traffic. Jony lost control of the car, which went into a spin. It sling-shotted the back end, whacked into a panel truck and knocked that over, and went straight into the median. The whole car was smashed. They were lucky to get out alive. The car was a mess; totally fucked up on all sides.”
The airbags went off, filling the car with the smell of the explosive that set off the airbags. Jony found the smell unsettling as he came to. “He woke up with the smell of gunpowder in the car and that was weird. He was distressed by that,” said another source. “Ironically, the car crash alerted Apple to how important Jony is to the company and they gave him a big pay raise.”
Aston Martin Vanquish
Jony was undeterred in his quest for speed and cool cars: He bought a second DB9. When it burst into flames parked outside his garage, he complained to Aston Martin. “Him being English and his relationship with Steve and Apple, he went to Aston Martin and they told him they’d give him a great deal,” said a source. The company offered him a discount to move up to the Vanquish (2004–2005 model), a $300,000 grand touring car with a monstrous V12 engine.
As well as being fast and powerful, Aston Martins are known for their innovative production methods. Their cars are built from unusual, lightweight materials like aluminum, magnesium and carbon fiber. The all-aluminum chassis is glued together rather than welded, which makes it incredibly strong and resistant to cracking. Jony would soon introduce similar production methods to Apple’s manufacturing arsenal.
White Bentley Brooklands
Soon after his purchase of the Aston Martin Vanquish, Jony looked to British luxury car manufacturer Bentley for his next miracle whip – a white Bentley Brooklands. With its classic Bentley waterfall grille as well as dual headlights with wraparound parking lights, the Brooklands looks like a rich man’s luxury vehicle built for comfort more than performance, but don’t be fooled, Jony’s White Lightning boasts over 500 Horsepower and tops out at 183.9 mph.
Land Rover LR3
Being the most powerful person at Apple comes with its perks, like being able to go buy a luxury SUV on a whim just because you’re jelly of a fellow co-worker’s wheels. That’s exactly what happened with Jony’s purchase of the Land Rover LR3, after one of his colleagues in the design studio bought one. “Jony wanted one as well and got one within days,” said a source.
Black Bentley Brooklands
Later, Jony added a black Bentley Brooklands to his stable. Costing about $160,000, the Brooklands was hand assembled with lots of interior wood and leather. It’s another powerful machine, capable of reaching 60 miles per hour from a standing stop in five seconds.
This story first appeared in Cult of Mac Magazine.