words/photos: Denis Podmarkov
Editor’s note: This article originally ran in the q4_2019 issue of quattro Magazine. If you would like to subscribe to quattro Magazine, join Audi Club here.
Long Beach, CA – Who doesn’t enjoy a good cup of coffee? I’m willing to drive a good distance for a good one; add in the mutual enjoyment of cars and there’s something undeniable. Meeting up with a fellow Audi owner and espresso enthusiast then… priceless.
Damon and I have seen each other at local events and stalked each other’s car passion on Instagram but have never actually had the time to talk and share our quattro stories. It was time for a change.
I met up with Damon at his house in Long Beach. He’s got a pristine ur quattro, which seemed the perfect mode of transportation for a quick trip to Steelhead Coffee for a chat.
DP: Give me the basics:, name, background?
DS: Damon Schell (@nutschell), originally from Fort Collins Colorado, but have lived in So–Cal for the last 25 years.
DP: We’ve seen what you drive. What drives you?
DS: Coffee, design/art of any kind, automobiles, sports, dogs. I played many sports growing up, especially basketball and tennis, always competitive. So I can watch anything from racing, to basketball, football, golf, and even poker and be perfectly happy…which drives the wife nuts.
DP: You said you’re in the automotive design industry; why automotive design?
DS: I love doing graphic design and product design but I’ve been drawing cars since I was 3, so it was a passion fit mostly. It wasn’t until high school that I realized there was potential to do it for a living…the challenges of creating mobile architectures/sculptures that are loved by enthusiasts and customers is so rewarding. I’m not sure what I’d be doing to make a living if I hadn’t been lucky to do what I am passionate about, which is enjoying cars new and old.
DP: Has your career had an influence on the type of cars you own?
DS: Funny enough, the cars I own usually seem to be things impressed upon me and my brain at a young age. Cars I grew up in or around had a profound impact. So like many people you want to hold on to those memories. But I will say the first generation TT came out while I was in design school and changed how I think about cars I design. The TT also helped me understand design doesn’t have to be über expensive. It can be executed on mainstream cars that are achievable to everyone and not just for the 1%.
DP: Why Audi?
DS: Audi is quite popular in Colorado. I grew up just north of Pikes Peak so the hill climbs during the quattro’s dominance made me an instant fan. Also, the father of a friend of mine bought a new quattro in 1984, Mars Red over black cloth…so Mars Red instantly became the color I associated with the quattro.
DP: What was the buying process like?
DS: A dialog with the owner through email started when I was made aware of the sale on Bring A Trailer before they ever had auctions. It extended for weeks about the owner’s time with the car, and then into my passions for Audi and the Mars Red quattro that had such great influence on me growing up in Colorado. In the end, the owner chose me as the car’s next curator since he believed I’d cherish and use it as he and his son had done. It’s the one and only car I bought sight unseen based solely on the conversations and sharing of detail through email and over the phone.
DP: Was the car hard to find?
DS: In 2009, I reached out to my friend’s dad in order to see if he still had the quattro I grew up around and if he’d sell it to me. Well, he did still have it but selling it to me was out of the question. It was used, abused and in rough shape, but it was still his beloved car. I started to set sights on other options when a coworker of mine introduced me to Bring A Trailer and my ur quattro had been posted to it. I immediately called and made contact.
DP: Do you own any other cars?
DS: I currently have the 1983 quattro and also a 2001 Audi TT quattro in Aviator Grey that I bought new as a reward for starting my design career. Lastly, I have a ’73 Porsche 914 that is modified and hot–rodded a bit.
DP: What’s your favorite coffee spot?
DS: Steelhead Coffee is my go-to. I’m incredibly lucky to have great coffee just a few minutes from my home. When Steelhead was preparing to open years ago, I bombarded the owner during the build and exclaimed my excitement for them. Turns out he is a car enthusiast as well, so we became good friends instantly.
DP: Where do you see the future for classic Audi cars?
DS: I truly appreciate the classics from Audi, and classic Audi owners and curators are an intensely passionate group. Their love for the ringed brand with a parts network that is largely unavailable means they truly love these cars and are courageous in their work to restore and/or keep these cars alive. I have dreams of driving my quattro or TT among all the electric autonomous cars through the city.
DP: Would you consider an e-tron? Why or why not?
DS: I would consider an e-tron. I haven’t had the pleasure of driving one yet, but I do know the exhilaration of instant torque and speed that comes with electrification. I’m not going to lie, the smell and sounds of an oil burner, as well as rowing through a manual set of gears, is intoxicating and I hope is something I can enjoy forever. But, the incredible comforts, technology, and connected convenience in the latest e-tron, and other electrified platforms, is definitely a pleasurable experience in an entirely new way.
DP: I noticed the canvas in your office. What’s the story?
DS: In 2016, Audi reached out to me through social media to say they had been following me and they ‘might’ be interested in using one of my pictures for an Audi event. I, of course, said yes and was humbled they had followed me and even had previously posted a picture of ‘Pebbles’ (my quattro’s name). Turns out I was one of five total Audi fans chosen to be included in their ‘Fan Inspired Art’ event. The day the video was posted to Audi’s social media of Artist/Designer Camilo Pardo painting my quattro on a large canvas in his studio was an incredible day. The fact that once the event ended Audi said it would then be sent to me and was ‘mine to keep and enjoy’ just blew me away. It hangs in my office and is a reminder to how fortunate I am to have the car.