With the birth of the café racer movement that saw riders racing from one café to the next in Europe, primarily London circa 1970s, manufacturers started developing motorcycles with minimal components that enabled competitors to go the distance in the shortest time possible. Now, café racing is loved by bike enthusiasts worldwide who enjoy a quick zip through a city versus a lengthy road trip.
Andrew Bazinski, who served as lead designer for the all-new Ford Escape, works out of his one-car garage in Ferndale, Michigan, building café racers from retro motorcycles. Under the dim light sits a finished 1992 BMW R100R in Tank Green, while Bazinski works on his 1981 BMW R100, which he plans to completely black-out.
Though he takes pride in his work, Bazinski can’t yet fully enjoy the fruits of his labor. As a Canadian citizen from the Windsor area, he’s awaiting dual citizenship so he can acquire a Michigan motorcycle license. In the meantime, he continues to take design inspiration from his café racer project. The clean aesthetic of a café racer is what Bazinski sought to bring to his first sketches in developing the all-new Ford Escape.
Bazinski’s interest in motorcycles first emerged when he was involved in a Harley-Davidson project while at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. After graduating with a degree in transportation design, he worked in product design for Audi in Austria, where he was influenced by German engineering and learned about BMW motorcycles.
After that stint in Europe, Bazinski landed a job with Ford Motor Company. His father had also worked for Ford. Bazinski recalls his dad bringing him to work when he was a child and showing him around the design studios, sparking his interest in automotive design. Returning to Ford as an experienced designer in 2015, his first project was giving the Transit Connect a facelift.
The fourth-generation Escape presented Bazinski with his first opportunity to design something brand new. Though Studio S had already started on a theme for the all-new SUV, it appeared convoluted to Bazinski, so he went to work on a sketch that aimed for a more streamlined appearance. Taking cues from café racers, he worked to strip it down to its sleek, pure core. It had to have a sporty, fast-looking silhouette to mimic the aerodynamics of a café racer and rider, which nearly become one when in motion.
Around this time, Bazinski recalls Craig Metros, executive director of Ford North America design, and Chris Svensson, former global design director, swinging by his desk for a look at the sketch. “That’s the one,” they said.
Marketing research went on to identify the aspirational customer they were targeting as the “Confident Escapist,” someone who is energetic, confident, and wants a vehicle to evoke his or her personality. Bazinski, who was 27 and renting a loft in Detroit’s Corktown at the time, saw himself as that customer, a millennial go-getter. He wanted to draw a vehicle he and his friends would want to own.
At this point, Bazinski moved to the clay stage and began using tape as a tool on the previous theme to replicate his sketch. As the previous iteration had too many angles, he was looking to clean it up and let the design flow. He converted the “smiley” grille into a more dominant design and toned down the fins, which had been too aggressive. After pounds of clay over weeks of adjustments, the theme for the all-new Escape was established.
Of course this wasn’t the only project Bazinski was working on at the time. Back home in his cluttered garage in Ferndale, he was stripping down the R100R’s stock parts, because an overbodied café racer isn’t a café racer at all. It needs to be fit for the quick bursts of speed it desires.
Bazinski got into café racing projects with little to no knowledge of working on bikes. He pushed himself step by step, through YouTube tutorials and motorcycle forums, to learn how to create the aesthetic of a café racer. That first on-and-off project took about a year and cost more than $1,000 in parts, but Bazinski was so excited about the finished product that he immediately looked to begin another one – with his wife’s permission, of course.
“You have a product that’s already built,” he said. “Frame, cladding, everything. The essence of the bike is there, you just create the pure thing.”
Bazinski’s second café racer, the 1981 BMW R100, is “a little more of a project,” one that’s being assembled slowly but surely. And his new hobby is attracting some attention, with one follower on his Instagram page asking him to commission a café racer for him. For now, Bazinski is focusing on his own bikes.
As for the all-new Ford Escape, its sleeker and cleaner silhouette could soon have young buyers racing from Starbucks to Starbucks in the next generation of café racers.