Parker Brothers Concepts
“If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat! Just get on,” Sheryl Sandberg once said. For Shanon Parker, that rocket launched when he posted on the Internet that he and his brother Marc could produce an actual working concept motorcycle, which they called the “Neutron.” The futuristic machine looked amazingly similar to a CGI (computer-generated imagery) cycle that appeared in the blockbuster movie, “Tron: Legacy.” He and his brother were ready to shut down their concept shop and this was, more or less, a Hail Mary move to see if he could generate some buzz.
It was more than buzz . . . it was a digital tsunami. An hour after posting the comment, he checked his wife’s laptop to see if there was any response, and was shocked to see it was up to 85,000 searches! “I closed the laptop and rebooted it because I thought it was an error, but when I did, it had gone up more.”
Simultaneously across town, Marc’s phone began to ring with inquiries – even before Shanon had a chance to tell him what he had done. “That is the way our business relationship has been; Shanon more or less says, ‘Let’s try this’ or ‘We can do that,’ and then he tells me, and we are both stuck with delivering,” Marc said smiling.
And deliver they have. Their Neutron bike created such a stir, the SyFy Channel made a reality show about their partnership. In fact, when they took a Neutron up to Daytona for Bike Week, traffic was blocked as people flocked around them to see the dream machine. The police politely asked them to not drive the bike on the street to avoid the congestion it stirred.
In their showroom, museum and fabrication studio, open to the public and visible from SR-528 at Port Canaveral, the Neutron is but one of the movie and comic book creations that have come to life. But as Marc says, “What differentiates us is that these aren’t typical concept cars; these are concept vehicles you can actually take out on the street and drive. That’s what we love to do.” Adding, “I will warn you, that if you do take one out, the police will stop you. Not to give you a ticket, but to ask to take pictures!”
Their Differences Make It Work
When Marc was out of the room, Shanon said, “My brother is somewhat of a mechanical genius. If you show him a concept, even one that other people say can’t be built, Marc will find a way to build it…but don’t tell him I said that.”
Interestingly, Marc was just as glowing about Shanon’s design capability and people skills. “Shanon has such a sense for what something should look like and sometimes, honestly, he just makes me flaming mad. I’ll be welding for 10 to 12 hours on a project and Shanon will come down to the shop and say, ‘This line needs to be straight or more curved.’ And I’ll blow up and ask him if he knew how long it took me to make that. He sometimes doesn’t get how the whole machine is like a house of cards and you can’t just come up and pull a piece out. But then I calm down, think about what he’s saying and I have to admit he’s right. He is passionate about the design and the quality. And if there is a problem with a customer, you don’t want me talking to them; my fuse is too short. Shanon handles that.”
Marc continued, “Our strength is that neither one of us had formal training in design or engineering. The first thing they teach you in most schools, for that sort of thing, is what you can’t do. We never had that, so we figure we can do whatever we dream up.” Adding, “When Shanon comes up with a design, somehow I can just see how to make it work.” Though “synergy” is an overused word, it perfectly describes the dynamic between this pair of imagineers, who could well have designed the bumblebee, which of course shouldn’t be able to fly either.
The two started designing and building vehicles as a hobby, intending to focus on the custom chopper market, however they realized that the competition in that arena was fierce and well-funded. Their thought was, “If you are going to break into a market you have to do something no one else is doing, and do it first.” So they went after the concept niche and their first product was a Bat Cycle, which is also on display in their shop. But orders didn’t start pouring in, until they introduced the Neutron.
From the Stars, For the Stars
As their reputation spread they were contacted by Hollywood producers, as well as pro wrestlers and rap artists. One of their most impressive creations, the “Shredder,” was designed and built for the director of the 2012 film “Battleship,” Peter Berg.
The brothers had flown to Los Angeles and met with the film team and were asked to build a “Battleship Car,” to be used for movie premieres. A sort of Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, built to look like the USS Missouri. They said they could do it, but on the flight back to Florida looked at each other and said, “That is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of, we are not building that.” The two decided they each would work up a concept separately and then would compare what they came up with. Shanon said, “It was amazing; both of our concepts were almost identical.”
Because they didn’t clear it with the client and were building the vehicle as a part of their TV show, they had to wait until the last minute for final assembly. Fortunately, when Berg saw it and realized you could sit inside it and actually drive it, he was ecstatic and even drove it himself up the red carpet for the premiere!
Considering the Parker Brothers were making choppers as a hobby in their garage just a few years ago, where they will be in the future is only limited by their boundless imaginations.