The sleek blue 2023 Corvette Z06 eased around the Daytona 500 track in February, pacing the racers as they approached the green flag. Hunter Drake, PRA class of 2018, watched with pride that he hadn’t felt before. In his first year as a creative exterior designer at General Motors, Drake’s theme for the design of the pace car was chosen. The design featured a unique dot matrix fade created with the logos of the vehicles respective brands. It was a moment that was unfathomable to Drake not long ago.
This level of success so early in a career is unusual in the field. Drake said young designers, including himself, have much to learn from real-world experience so having his design chosen wasn’t something he expected.
“Although it was awesome to see the completed Pace Cars before they were revealed, watching the race on TV and seeing the cars pace the track was undeniably the best part of the project. I never thought that I would have been able to have something shown to the public so soon, but on one of the biggest stages in the world, the Daytona 500 was the perfect place for them to be shown,” Drake said. “I felt this overwhelming sense of accomplishment and was so proud that I could defy the odds. It wasn’t long ago that I was worried that I wasn’t going to get a job, and just a few months into my new job I got my design theme picked for something so huge.”
Drake’s journey to the job of his dreams started when he was young. His love for cars was ignited by his grandfather, who owned a Chevelle SS and would let Drake help him work on the car. During his time at PRA, Drake explored his artistic abilities but also learned important lessons about follow-through and leadership. Art was the basis of Drake’s PRA senior capstone project. Each year seniors work with a local professional on a project in a field in which they are interested. Drake designed a STEM semi-trailer that could provide lower income communities with STEM classes that students didn’t have access to otherwise. He credits Mark Nuss, high school social studies teacher, with showing him the importance of investing his education and seeing things through. Drake describes his time as a member of student council and co-captain of the baseball team during his senior year as “humbling” as he learned that his attitude affected the whole school or team.
“PRA encourages a strong healthy work ethic through its classes and communal learning,” he said. “Being able to work in a team is crucial to the success of any project or program, and many of the opportunities I learned about becoming an effective leader and team player came from PRA.”
Family friends in Michigan introduced him to Lawrence Technological University, where he attended after PRA. Life in college, he said, got harder, but that wasn’t a bad thing. “Going into college there’s a lot you can learn about yourself, not just what you’re studying. There’s a lot more that you learn about yourself.”
Drake utilized his summers away from college to pursue internships and get real world experience designing. During the summer between his junior and senior years, he interned at Ford. Throughout the summer, Drake rotated through every studio at Ford, which included the truck studio and the off-road studio.
“When I got the internship at Ford, it was a huge step in my school career,” he said. “Just like jobs right out of school, internships are hard to come by and only three kids in my class got internships. It was a huge step to get that opportunity and I gained a lot of experience and knowledge in studio work with people in positions that I eventually wanted to be in. Getting that experience was really helpful and plays a big role in how I’m applying the skills I have now.”
Drake said there can be a disconnect between the creative side of car design and those making the models, both clay and digital. His internship at Ford allowed him to learn to better communicate with the modelers and learn to transition between studios, which he’ll do now at GM too. He started doing creative exterior design work for the performance and motorsports division at GM. In May, Drake moved into the second studio in his three-year rotation, where he’ll spend the next year.
The last year has been one of change for Drake. During the summer of 2022, he graduated from college; married Lexie, whom he met during his freshman year at LTU; bought a house; and started working his dream job. Now he is settling into his new life, and focusing on his growth as a car designer.
“Always thought this was what I wanted to do and was determined to get there,” Drake said. “I knew this was where I belonged. This year’s success fully cemented my passion for car design. Now I know that I have the capabilities to contribute meaningful ideas to any program. I have so much to learn, but it was all in all an amazing experience that I can take with me to my next rotations and future years at GM.”
By Amy G. Partain
PRA Communications Manager