Matt Crooke was born into a ‘car family’. And not just any car family, a Chevy family specifically. His grandfather bought a 1959 Corvette brand new and his dad, a new ’73 Camaro, natch. And both his grandpa and dad still own those cars.
Unfortunately, Crooke disappointed his patriarchs as he matured. He became the “black sheep and got really, really [heavily] into the European cars. I always enjoyed the European cars, the styling… I always wanted a Porsche.” But Porsches aren’t cheap, and thus Crooke focused on Volkswagens.
He began working early, at an age when most boys are still playing video games, and by 16 years old he was running Tuning Zubehör’s (a European tuner) US operations. Around this time, VW Sport, one of his favorite tuners, changed their name to 1552 (now Fifteen52), and things in the VW scene began transitioning from one style to the next.
Crooke knew VW Sport well and had been following them, and their owner Brad Beardow, for a while. Now however, Beardow noticed Crooke’s work for Tuning Zuberhör and tried hiring him multiple times before Crooke finally agreed. In hindsight, Crooke likens it to becoming your favorite band’s guitarist. And while Crooke didn’t start Fifteen52, he now co-owns it with Beardow.
For those who don’t know, Fifteen52 is insider lingo referring to 1990’s OBD-I/early-II diagnostic equipment used by Volkswagen. And while this year Fifteen52 is celebrating their 20th anniversary, it was mostly a tuning company for their first 13 years.
Crooke helped Fifteen52 shift from tuning towards wheels, and when he joined the company in 2010, he was already helping Beardow design the Snowflake wheel. Designed with a nod to VW’s history, it gave Rabbits a hot-rodded, yet elegant look.
Still today, when beginning a new wheel they try to keep the design minimal, ensuring that it looks proportionally correct, accentuating its details, and eliminating extraneous elements. And while their inspirational sources are apparent, and Fifteen52 doesn’t attempt to hide anything, their wheels have a unique design language that is instantly recognizable and aren’t blatant knock-offs (pardon the pun) of classic wheels – they stand on their own.
The Snowflake and subsequent designs, like the Tarmac and Turbomac, have been noticed widely and some of the people they followed like Ken Block and Magnus Walker became associates because they liked what Fifteen52 was doing. But more than partners, Crooke considers them family and friends, and that’s really why he loves what he does – it’s “more than just a business, we really focus on family and the community around us. That’s what keeps us going.”
In addition to designing wheels, Fifteen52 has also developed Instarim, an app that allows you to photograph a car and see their rims on it. They also build custom cars for some OEMs and well-known tuners because their designs integrate with some brands’ histories and design language so seamlessly that they look natural. To that end, Fifteen52 has designed and will be selling custom tuned and designed Ford Focus STs and RSs, Fiestas STs, and Mustang Ecoboosts through Sarasota (Fl.) Ford.
Working with Ford? It makes you wonder what Crooke’s family thinks now…