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How the Piston Foundation Inspires Me

It started off innocently enough with my friend Fernando asking, “I have a friend who needs help with a logo…” Sounded simple enough. “Let me see what I can do,” was my reply at the time.

By jeff mason

April 30, 2021

Sure enough, the logo had some readability issues, (red type on a grey background is never a good idea) which I was able to correct while maintaining the integrity of the original concept of crossed pistons. So, I wondered, who are the Piston Foundation, and what do they do?

Why I Care About Cars

Back up 50 years, and I am a geeky kid growing in Hawaii with a propensity for taking things apart to see how they work. My dad worked in the trades as a welder before becoming a maintenance supervisor so most things were fixed at home. Roof leak? Get up there and patch it. Car running rough? Check the plugs. Is it fuel or spark? Everything was within your power to fix.

By my teens I had outgrown Hot Wheels and Revell Models and was busy working a minimum wage job to buy my first car. A ’72 Toyota Corolla MAD, predecessor to the SR5, 1600CC, hemi head, 5 speed, 1,900 pounds of rear wheel drive potential. This car proceeded to suck every hard-earned dollar I earned for the next 5 years. In the process I learned to rebuild the engine, (high-compression pistons, larger cam, bigger carbs, ported and polished the head), rudimentary body work (fender flares and rust) and painting and track set up (re-jetting the Webers and tire setup).

DIY car skills are a good fit for the Piston Foundation.

Fast forward to the present, and I am married, finishing out a successful graphic design career, empty nesting, and contemplating what projects to tackle in my retirement.

Full disclosure, by this point I have purchased my dream car, a 911 cabriolet and have been enjoying it as a Sunday driver. Thankfully tracks frown upon convertibles so it has saved me from the dollar suck of trying to gain a few more seconds in lap times. That slippery slope keeps beckoning.

Then along comes the Piston Foundation.

Why I Care about the Piston Foundation

I have found my people.

When Robert asked if I could “clean up” a presentation deck, I happily agreed, not realizing at the time that this would lead to a long and satisfying relationship with the Foundation. Numerous decks, logos, packaging, and websites later, I am finding that what makes my day is working with an amazing group of dedicated people that love cars and car culture as much as I do, for a cause that is not only timely but crucial to the hobby that we love.

The job of running the ambassador program is very much not in my comfort zone, but the people I am meeting inspire me and remind me of how transformative this hobby can be. I never thought that I would be talking to people at that rarified level of the hobby, with our only connection being a love of cars. It’s been an amazing experience getting to know the ambassadors and reaching out to new candidates.

For the greater part of my life, cars have been a quiet solitary experience, save for the occasional Cars and Coffee events, but now I have connected with the most diverse group of enthusiasts across the country, and the globe! The ambition of the Foundation is breathtaking and I am humbled by the scope of the undertaking and am inspired by the people I work with and the opportunity to move the needle for this great cause.

Karl Maruyama is Creative Director of the Piston Foundation, manager of our ambassador program, and founder of Maruyama Design.

Support skilled trade education for future auto restoration technicians.


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