Petrolicious recently sat down with Shaheen Armin, a young man who quit his job designing new cars in the U.S. in order to create a documentary about a nearly unknown classic car. The Paykan, or “Arrow” in Persian was made in Iran since the ’60s, becoming known as “the national car of Iran” mostly because it was made for an incredible 38 years. Here’s our interview with one of the world’s foremost experts on the car—who’s working on a documentary about the Paykan as we type this.
First, tell us a bit about yourself.
SA: I was born in 1976 in Tehran. I moved to the U.S. when I was 20. Tehran is a massive city and growing up in such a place makes a profound impact on your personality. It is something that I carried with me throughout all my life. How did you find a love for cars? SA: When I was born, my parents lived in a small apartment in central Tehran.
They tell me that I used to cry a lot when I was a baby, so my nursemaid used to take me down the street where there was a car dealership. Looking at the cars was the only thing that would stop my crying. I guess that is where it all started.
Tell us about those early days in Michigan?
SA: I just couldn’t wait to get to the U.S. We were moving close to the suburb of Detroit; I couldn’t believe my luck. I remember going to my first Woodward Dream Cruise and I just couldn’t believe my eyes. I was surrounded by all those muscle cars. Their deafening noise and the smell of rubber was everywhere. It was really hard to take it all in. It was an emotional day for me.
Growing up in Iran, we only had only one car magazine. It was a black and white monthly publication. They were doing their best, but in those days during the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988), paper and ink were in short supply, so the overall quality of the magazine was really poor. I used to only be able to stare at those black and white small pictures of Mustangs, Camaros and Corvettes and now, I was standing next to the real things in the middle of Woodward Avenue. It was unreal.
Was it hard to start your career as an automotive design engineer?
SA: Of course, my dream was to get a job in one of the big three automakers, but that seemed so out of reach. I was taking some CAD classes at our community college and signed up for an automotive class. My teacher, whom I’m eternally grateful for, saw the dedication and passion in me. He was an employee of Chrysler himself, and he got me an interview at the Chrysler Design Studios. I got the job and after only two and a half years of being in the US, I was sitting behind my own desk at Chrysler Advance Studio.
The dream came true and for the next two years, I worked extremely hard, took night classes and got my B.S. degree and I became a studio engineer. I worked on so many different and exciting projects and I was a part of the design team of Chrysler LX platform (300C, Dodge Magnum and Dodge Charger) and numerous other design assignments. I loved being in the studio and got a chance to work with some very talented and amazing designers, modelers, and engineers. In total, I worked for more than 10 years at Chrysler and later I joined Honda America in Ohio as a product engineer, working there close to three years.
Story by Samir Shirazi. For the rest of it, hop on over to Petrolicious.com.