Text DAVID HAMMELBURG for CARROS Magazine, Holland
Photography by JAMIE RECTOR

The Styletto Dream

“My dream started in 1998, and it really was by accident,” says Cor Steenstra with a twinkle in his eye. The location is an Italian restaurant near his home in Mission Viejo, in Orange County. The 50 year old Dutchman, founder of Foresee Car Design, who has called California home since 1998, is in the process of building a ‘super sports car’ under the name ‘The Steenstra GCM Styletto’. His goal is to present the first 200 mph, zero emissions car at the 2010 Pebble Beach Concourse d’ Elegance. His dream: to build the infrastructure of the future super highway called ‘MagLev’ – the magnetic levitation highway. Think of the cartoon ‘The Jetsons’, but with gravity. Steenstra explains that only after becoming a household name in America, can he hope to achieve his ultimate dream. “And what better way to create a name for myself than to have my own name on a car?” he says. It is a mere steppingstone for a vision with a vastly different looking future.

To celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the AutoRai ’99, Steenstra was asked to present an outlook of what the future automobile and infrastructure would look like in 2050. And so a dream was born. Inspired by the same software used for the movie ‘Jurassic Park’, Steenstra presented a computerized virtual 3D picture of transportation life circa 2050. The presentation was met with overwhelming enthusiasm by the viewing public. Only 5 years earlier Steenstra sold everything he owned to purchase $43,000 worth of computers and $92,000 for the software, convinced that he could build a car from scratch solely through the computer. After pioneering this technology, which is now common in all design studios globally, and “After the success at the AutoRai ’99, I knew that it was time to set my sights higher, and do my part to secure the clean, safe and secure future for my children,” he says looking back. “It took some guts to go this route and start anew, but it was a no-brainer.”

Steenstra has always considered himself an autofreak. He grew up in Driebergen, the son of a railroad engineer, and studied at the Utrechtse School van Grafische Vakken, and the Royal College of Arts London. As a designer, he quickly rose in rank at Volvo Car BV, Mercedes-Benz near Stuttgart, and Mazda near Frankfurt. Since starting his company, he has worked for Porsche, Hyundai, Nissan, Honda, Mazda, Toyota, Peugeot, Renault, Icon Aircraft, and Fisker Automotive. “I have to put bread on the table, so I have not given up my day job yet,” says a smiling Steenstra. “But the day will come when I can concentrate completely on Steenstra GCM.”

The name comes from a Volvo 1986 Concept Car which Steenstra designed, and conjures the image of a sleek knife cutting through butter. It is fully designed on paper and computer. After the original round of funding, he is looking for an additional $5.3 million to actually build the car, which is taking a bit longer than expected considering the current state of the economy. Together with friends Larry Webster, an EV specialist, and Danny Ellis, owner of Form Design, Steenstra developed a car more reminiscent of the ‘Batmobile’. Sleek in design, the all-electric Styletto is geared exclusively for the highest echelon of the market. The starting price is a whopping $159,900, as Steenstra has no interest in mass production. Only about 100 will be made per year. “The blueprint is actually simple and subtle,” he says. “It is sophisticated in sculpture, timeless, and tasteful. Think passion, performance, and perfection, and like alcohol, enjoy your car passion responsibly.” The 2-seat Styletto, in the same market segment as the Ferrari Enzo, Lamborghini Murciellago, and Porsche Carrera GT, will be followed by a 4-seater, a 2 by 2 smaller sports car, a cabrio, and ultimately an SUV. And by the time the first 200 Styletto’s will be on the road in another 5 years, the battery life will have improved to a point where a recharge will only take about 10 minutes. So how does Steenstra’s car differ from Tesla or Fisker? “Easy,” says Steenstra with confidence. “Tesla has a Lotus chassis and body which will cease being built next year, and Fisker is geared for mass production for a hybrid car that is not technologically efficient and is burdened with the extra costs of the GM bankruptcy.”

Steenstra takes us on a tour of his manufacturer and design partners. All of the places we visit are – in what can only be described as – non-descript structures, in the middle of Corporate Row which contains dozens of anonymous corporate buildings. But once inside, we see creative geniuses at work. At Swift Engineering, experts are hard at work with carbon fiber used for race cars, and the all-important wind tunnel aerodynamics testing. At Metal Crafters, where the prototype will be built and tested, Steenstra will set up temporary shop. All glass will be made there as well. At Form Design, the first clay model and hard model will be built. Since all locations are within a 30 minute drive of each other, the plan is to ‘build my own factory within a year for further R&D, and production.” “And don’t forget,” adds Steenstra, that the Styletto is already designed with the future superhighway in mind.”

“The Magnetic Levitation Highway is, simply put, a highway similar in infrastructure to what we have today, except cars will be put on trolleys, with the use of a magnetic strip under your car, like a train,” explains Steenstra. His idea is to use your own car and program it to your destination, like an automatic pilot programming a GPS system from beacon to beacon. According to his design, a 27 hour, 1830 mile trip from Los Angeles to St. Louis, would be cut to about 10 hours travel time. “It is environmentally correct, great for the driver and passengers to relax and watch movies – and most importantly – it is completely safe and fully efficient in optimal usage of the highway,” Steenstra says. “All the components are already in place with present day technology, and someone needs to take the lead.” But before we can start dreaming of napping during long drives, Steenstra first needs to become a household name. “It is the only way to make any headway with the US government and big time investors,” he laments. With a little luck and savvy backers, the Styletto will soon become a reality, and the long road to the futuristic highway a bit closer.

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