There’s no disputing it — Montreal’s Ralph Gilles is one of the coolest guys in the auto industry.
But when does Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ global head of design achieve peak cool?
That’s easy: When his eyes are peering out from deep within a racing helmet, tracking the line into the apex of his next hard turn on a track in a high-powered Viper ACR.
I’ve ridden shotgun with Gilles twice — the first time, at the Sonoma Raceway in 2013, after his beloved Viper was resurrected from the trash heap of Chrysler’s 2009 bankruptcy and lovingly improved.
The second time was a year later at the Circuit of the Americas in Texas, with Gilles driving a Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT.
I remembered those harrowing rides this spring while watching a new hourlong documentary on Gilles on Netflix. Abstract: The Art of Design tracked Gilles as he and his team developed the Chrysler Portal concept a year ago. But it was his comments about racing in the documentary that revealed what drives one of Detroit’s top designers.