Fireball tim lawrence

Designing Big, Collecting Small with Fireball Tim Lawrence

We recently shared a photo of a young Fireball Tim Lawrence playing with his toy cars in our “Collective Memories” series. Like many readers and contributors to the Model Car Hall of Fame, he had a plethora of model vehicles to zoom around, crash with abandon, and create adventures. He managed to turn that early love of car culture into a career in Hollywood.

Fireball tim lawrence

Lawrence (and yes, Fireball is his real first name) is the son of not one, but two Hollywood writers. His parents worked back in the days when a scriptwriter might work on several shows and movies at a time, and they wrote a lot. And he met a lot of famous Hollywood folks along the way.

“I went to Art Center College of Design, and then my first job was at Disney Imagineering,” he recalled. His next real job in Hollywood? Seriously, no kidding… he was one of the main designers of the 1989 Batmobile, from the Burton/Keaton movie. He takes credit for the original sketches of the sleek, sinister car but acknowledges many other hands helped shape the final form. “The initial concept was mine, but a lot of other artists contributed to the final car,” he said. “For that movie, I only worked on the Batmobile.”  “Only” sounds pretty modest here, of course.

burton batmobile

Most of his career has been under the guise of Concept Artist, he says. That can range from clothing, architecture, weapons, furniture… anything to help sell a fictional world. “Vehicles, weapons, props, sets, and worlds,” Lawrence said. “Anything with a high concept that needs an entire design language, that’s my forte. You’re essentially building a brand for the movie.”

“Working on movies, you might be active for about six months on a project, and then lots of downtime,” he said. “I might go stir crazy with nothing to do, so around 1996 I developed ‘Fireball Tim Art’ as a brand. It’s the merging of cars and Hollywood.” His Facebook page is constantly active with new posts and live content weekly.

Fireball tim garage

One of his inspirations was Syd Mead, whose career as a “Visual Futurist” was unparalleled. Mead was actually his mentor and a good friend. “Syd designed a future full of optimism and possibility. He created beautiful cars in fantastic cities of the future with prosperous-looking people,” Lawrence said. “Most visions of the future are dark and dystopian, but Syd usually found the bright side. Mead was famous for the brooding cityscapes of Blade Runner, but aside from that, he mostly created positive visions.” Mead also designed for companies like U.S. Steel, creating conceptual looks into that beautiful future (made possible with steel products, of course).

duke of speedLawrence considers his art a side hustle to his movie business. His ongoing series of TV and movie car caricatures has been wildly popular, and he even likes to mash up disparate ideas like the Speed Racer Mach 5 wearing the livery of the Dukes of Hazzard Charger. “The Duke of Speed,” he calls it.

Back to that Batmobile, which was also around for Batman Returns, considered by many a better sequel to a great first act. Since we’re a diecast site, we asked him about what that car means to collecting. “Hot Wheels has made so many versions of that one,” he laughed. “I had to stop collecting them all. I just don’t have the room for all of them.”

He was the co-owner of a car museum that recently closed to make more time for the little things in life. Even his diecast collection, which had been on display there, is pretty big. “It’s not my bag to hang onto a car for too long. I like to drive for a bit, but the maintenance, insurance… it’s much easier to own diecast,” he said. In recent years, he has acquired something fun or unique, enjoyed it for a few years, and then swapped it for the next ride. “For the past several years, I’ve only collected the 1/64 models.”

Fireball has also been working on a publishing project called Diecast Heroes. We’ll bring you a story about that venture as well soon.

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