You might say that, after his family, Fireball Tim Lawrence (and yes, that’s his real name—more on that later) lives for cars and car culture, especially car culture here in Southern California.
Cars are his passion and he’s made a living designing, promoting and writing about them. Now, the man that many know as Malibu’s ambassador to all things cars has a new project—publishing coloring books. His latest features—what else?—cars and Malibu.
“I grew up loving cars,” Lawrence told TMT recently. “My family was in show biz. I’m not really sure where the inspiration came from, but as far as cars go, I love anything with four wheels.”
Lawrence said he was inspired by children’s author and artist Richard Scarry’s books from the 1960s like “Cars, Trucks and Things That Go.”
“I was always inspired by things that were kind of fish-out-of-water ideas, and that was animals driving cars, cars that looked like rocket ships and cars that were made out of a sausage, and things like that,” the illustrator explained.
He drew, too, and wound up at the Art Center College of Design where he said he found he could become a professional car designer.
“Only, I did not become that,” Lawrence related. He ended up working for Walt Disney Imagineering with a focus on vehicle design. He designed automobiles for Disney parks—everything from the Indiana Jones ride to the mother of all car rides, and many a child’s first time behind the wheel, Autopia.
In 1991, after a mass layoff at the company, Lawrence and his wife Kathie, whom he met there, decided to start their own business and haven’t stopped since.
Lawrence went on to the film business designing cars for movies, television and commercials. In three decades he’s worked on roughly 400 filmed projects. However, Lawrence never forgot his love of childhood books.
“In the back of my mind, I still loved those books. I was a fan of Hot Wheels and collecting die cast toys,” Lawrence recalled. “It was the only thing my parents ever bought me, because they knew I loved that. I didn’t want clothing or anything like that. Then the time came a few years ago when I decided it was important to create a legacy project—something that would be here long after I was gone.”
That’s when the 53-year-old landed on the idea of publishing a “super high-quality coloring book.”
“They are not only well drawn and fanciful, but inspiring and unique,” Lawrence said. “I really was strong in the automotive market because we have a TV show that’s called ‘Fireball Malibu Vlog.’”
At 800 episodes strong, filmed in Malibu and with 30 million viewers on automotive channels and online, the show focuses on Southern California car culture. Lawrence also is known for his local in-person car show event called “Wheels and Waves” happening every third Sunday at the Malibu Country Mart.
With his coloring books and the renewed interest in coloring taking off, Lawrence’s books’ subjects include Mustangs, mermaids and beach life. His latest launch is a Malibu coloring book because “there was nothing of that nature here in town.” The books should be available at the Adamson House and a few other Malibu locations, as well as through Amazon.
“Coloring is pretty extraordinary because it accomplishes a number of things: It expands your creativity, it keeps you present in the moment, it’s therapeutic and especially kids—when they color in something, it no longer is my art, it becomes their art,” Lawrence mused. “It’s something they share with their families, moms, dads—it’s something they’re very proud of. It’s also a way to share your passion. If you’re into Mustangs, you can buy a Mustang book. If you’re a grandparent you can give that to your grandkids and share a little bit of your passion with your family and friends. It’s a very rewarding product because it’s a low price point, high usage value. That’s really cool.”
The Malibu resident has seven books out with a goal to publish 100. He’s currently working on a vintage trailer book and a rat rod book. His wife, Kathie, is working on something he calls “truly unique”—a combination coloring and recipe book.
“It takes coloring to a whole new level to pull families together and create a level of health through creativity,” he said. “That’s never been done.”
And that name—Fireball—it’s real. His writer/producer parents named him Fireball at birth. It a name he says he tries to live up to.