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Modern Classic - Steve Harper Interview

Modern Classic - Steve Harper Interview

Thu 24th March 2016

In late 2015 Keith Adams of Modern Classic interviewed Steve Harper in his Studio about this past...

Canley Studio 1983-84

Canley Design Studios

The Austin Morris Design Studios at Longbridge were amalgamated with the Rover, Solihull and Triumph Teams at a new headquarters in 1992.

Based at Canley, Coventry the once home of Triumph, the new Studio was part of a combined R&D and Sales facility, where the new prestigious Design Studio was actually created by converting the old Triumph Gearbox factory.

This meant that there was ample room for the enlarged Exterior, Interior and Colour & Trim teams, plus ample space to handle the large product range of models.

Despite having a mixture of old furniture from the former studios, and a gale force aircon system, the Studio also include a large purpose built Showroom and an external model viewing garden.

For 3 years, until December 1984, Steve Harper worked on many projects in the Exterior, Interior and Advanced Design Studios.

The Canley Design Studio was the birthplace of the Rover 800 and many other products that followed, and was also the home for the Honda design team during the collaboration Honda Legend/XX programme.

The pictures show:

1.  The large floor space of the studio can easily be seen here, with the clinic model for the Rover 800 and an early AR16 clay under development. Designer Gerry McGovern can be seen in the 2nd image.Below that is a foam core card cut-out, used to evaluate a fastback 5 door option on the Honda-Rover 200.

There was plenty of room for full size tape drawings and each designer had ample desk & display space, as can be seen at Steve Harper’s desk in July 1984. 

2.  The Interior Design Team, Canley 1884 included from the left: Bruce Bryant, Cliff Wilkins, Chief Designer Graham Lewis, John Gregory, Steve Harper, Simon Butterworth, Chris Johnson, Charles Coldham & Bob Hipkins.

3.  The 1984 Design Summer School, for the winners of a competition in AUTOCAR magazine. Features: Design Director Royden Axe (5th from the left), then 7th from left David Woodhouse, David Arbuckle, Exterior Director Gordon Sked and Steve Harper (tutor).

The 4 week ‘term’ gave each of the 4 students a chance to develop their drawing skills, to create a design, which was built as a scale model for them, by the best of the Canley clay modellers.

4.  The 1984 Art in Action was the second Art fair attended by the Design studio. Held in the grounds of Whitney in Oxfordshire, the festival attracted many disciplines of Arts & Crafts.

So the Rendering seminars by Steve Harper and the exhibitions of clay modelling techniques by Gary Barker were well attended. Little was known outside the Industry about the materials and skills used in the design business and amateur/professional artists, students and the like were appreciative of the insight and the refinement of the full size clay model which was also on display.

5.  Designers at Ease: Cliff Wilkins, Chris Greville Smith, Howard Guy, Bruce Bryant and John Gregory ponder over some images in the latest Car Styling magazine.Charles Coldham busy during his lunch break, and later again.Chris Johnson with his hangover cure hat.Clay modellers Gary Barker and Steve Bell jest with Steve Harper over his phallus like centre console model for the AR16 project.