Detroit is back, again. The Lincoln Motor Company has paired up with Shinola to present a one-off concept car headed for the lawn at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance on Aug. 15. The exclusive Aviator SUV is fitted with colors and materials inspired by the watches, bags and bicycles made by Shinola in downtown Motown.
“The craftsmanship really spoke to us as a design team,” says Kemal Curic, head of Lincoln design. “The attention to detail and things that are hand finished, those are the things really shared between the two brands.”
Initially known for its quartz watches, Shinola has expanded into a lifestyle brand that now includes leather bags and accessories, high-end power strips, bicycles and even a hotel, with its products assembled in a factory in the heart of the city. And although Lincoln’s main design studio is in Dearborn, 15 minutes southwest of Detroit, parent company Ford is in the midst of building a sprawling, 30-acre campus in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood, including an ambitious renovation of the long-abandoned Michigan train station. In their own ways, each company has grown to become modern symbols of American industrialism and down-to-earth luxury.
On the Aviator concept, a pearl-white exterior evokes the mother-of-pearl dial on Shinola timepieces. Chrome trim has been replaced in most areas with a soft shade of copper, which Ruthie Underwood, Shinola’s vice president of Creative Design, tells us was inspired by the clean and utilitarian aesthetics of their rivets and bike seats. It can be seen on the wheels, rocker panel, roof racks, front grille and bezels around the headlamps.
The unique Aviator boasts a striking two-tone interior featuring cognac-colored, chrome-tanned leather with cream-colored inserts and blue suede piping—all supplied by Shinola. Running down the center of each seat is a ribbon inspired by the stripe pattern that can be found on Shinola’s hotel awnings, as well as watch and bag straps. A brilliant, multi-faceted mesh metal trim runs across the width of the instrument panel and surrounds the controls on the center console. It’s complemented by copper trim on the dashboard, center console and speaker grilles. Combining metallic textures and colors can be tough to pull off, but Lincoln designers managed to elevate an already elegant cabin without making it look overdone. “We didn’t want to create something gaudy, but do it tastefully,” Curic says.
Curic and team will be watching closely when it debuts at Pebble Beach. Although there are currently no plans to produce the Shinola version of the Lincoln Aviator, Curic tells us: “This is a way to test the waters and see the reactions and go from there. We are certainly open to future collaborations and demonstrating that things can be done in a non-traditional, non-automotive way.”