I first met Joey Ruiter back in 2014, when he was gracious enough to invite me to his home to drive a spectacular creation called the Reboot Buggy. An alien-looking expression of an extremely minimalist idea of transportation, driving the Buggy was kind of like having one foot in the far future, and one in the recent past. The drive, and the ensuing conversations with Ruiter, also served to give me some small insight into a guy I consider to be one of the most original thinkers in the design world.
Ruiter works with some of the world’s leading furniture companies, designing functional art objects that enliven homes and offices. But his passion for all things automotive (or, motive, at any rate), is impossible to miss. Projects like NOMOTO – a motorcycle designed to blend seamlessly into an urban landscape – and Tinnie 10 – a tiny, triangular boat with a distinctly old-school feeling – cause observers to question really basic assumptions about why conventional vehicles look and feel the way they do.
I was lucky to collaborate on some media for Ruiter’s most recent project, Another Sedan, which was displayed at the Petersen Automotive Museum (joining his Moto Undone which is currently on loan). Mixing familiar, almost generic shapes with a wholly unexpected split body form and dual-personality take on driving vs being a passenger, it's some of his strongest, most challenging work to date.
In all, it’s a pleasure to have Ruiter answer our Five Questions, with answers just as unexpected as everything else he touches.
Which car was the most important to you when you were growing up?
I was a huge fan of anything wedge-shaped for sure. The Vector, P zero, and the like, but the Porsche 935 ELF racing was my favorite.
I even had that particular car in Matchbox form. Our backyard had a twisty concrete retaining wall just over waist height and I could race up and down it for hours. I still have the car and the wheels have some serious mileage on them.
On an odd note, I distinctly remember our 1973 Chevy Chevelle four-door. It was green, rusty, ugly, and almost embarrassing. I remember looking at it for extended periods of time. I studied every line, proportion, and detail, and developed a kind of passionate hatred for the car. How could a team of people shape this in clay, engineer it, fight over details, and still come up with this? (I ask these same questions about most new cars I see today, as well.)
Even then I remember having a thought, however, that still: haunts me to this day: “One day I will look back at this odd cluster of metal and think it was cool.” That day came true a few years ago when I was scrolling Facebook Marketplace for an early ’70s Nova…
You have a ticket to go anywhere in the world with any vehicle. What are you driving and where?
This one is tough to narrow down. My interests in all things Moto create a mind-melting brainstorming session. I think I’d need a luxury RV towing three cars to different select sections on roads.
First stop, just to get the trip started, Tail of the Dragon, and properly set up Porsche 356b. “Properly set up” in my mind means an improved exhaust note and really good brakes. I’ll do some driving, eating, and hanging with friends with similar vintage cars.
At the next stop, my magical RV meets me at The Stelvio Pass in Italy. This time I’m driving a resto-mod of an early 60’s Lincoln Continental convertible. Maybe not the most track-worthy car, but undeniably incredible for this awesome stretch of road. I’ll take in the views, eat roadside lunches, and then sleep well in my RV.
My home-on-wheels RV finishes my trip to the dirt-only sections of the Ruta 40. Here my Singer-prepared Safari 911 gets unloaded off the trailer and we are off in a cloud of dust and noise.
Tell us about a person, product, or company that we should be paying attention to in the next year?
I’m really rooting for Canoo, the EV startup. I have been super impressed with the company’s general value proposition, and with the vehicle’s form, function, and simplicity.
I am excited for what the future holds where platform-based EVs are concerned. It seems that when some of these make it to market at scale, the coach builder scene will pop up again. Bespoke bodies, wild forms, and more individual shapes could emerge.
Also, if you haven’t read Why We Drive by Matthew B. Crawford, you should. The book really enlightened my perspective on tech, the future of driving, and how we interact with each other.
What’s the most exciting thing you’re working on right now?
I get excited really easily. I am really excited about working on a new series of sculptures called TRANSPORT. These are forms that could roughly fit a human but don’t have references from the Earth – transport objects that come from an unknown source. I plan to take the learnings and apply them into a new line of furniture.
Then with even more excitement, I am creating an analog off-road EV with a timeless/futurism-inspired aesthetic. We will be shifting gears and locking hubs for sure!
What are three interesting items that can always be found on your desk?
I’ll give you three plus a couple more…
- Pyrite clusters from the Victoria Mine in Navajun, Spain. These naturally forming cubes have perfectly straight lines, 90-degree angles, and near pure cube dimensions. Nature isn’t always organic.
- Moleskine notebooks, maybe 5-10 at any moment.
- A few matchbox cars, vintage collection, and modern.
- Other miscellaneous odd rocks I’ve picked up in travels.
- And seemingly always, a dried-out smoothie cup with yesterday’s breakfast.