AutoMatters & More #416: ArtCenter College of Design Car Classic 2015: Visions of the Future

There are all sorts of car shows. Some are primarily new car shows, like the L.A., Orange County and San Diego International Auto Shows. Then there are car club and enthusiast car shows. There are specialty vehicle car shows, where the featured vehicles range from lowriders to electric cars, and everything in between. There are car shows to benefit charities, and specific marque car shows, like the annual San Diego Mustangs by the Bay event. There is often a competition associated with these shows, where judges award points based on various criteria.

Today we’re going to take a closer look at a Concours d’Elegance. This type of car show is typically reserved for very rare and often very expensive cars: antiques, exotic sports cars, low production-volume specialty cars and so forth. The older examples of these are often meticulously restored, but sometimes they have the ‘patina’ of being left in their original, unrestored condition. These automobiles are often the best of the best, and are there by invitation.

One of the most famous of these shows is the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in Northern California. In Southern California we have several, including the ArtCenter College of Design’s annual Car Classic.

Founded in 1930 and based in Pasadena, California, ArtCenter is a private, nonprofit college that offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate degree programs, including Advertising, Entertainment Design, Environmental Design, Film, Fine Art, Graphic Design, Illustration, Photography and Product Design, but perhaps it is most well known for its Transportation programs. Some of the world’s foremost automotive designers are ArtCenter graduates. The college also offers ArtCenter for Kids classes.

“Car Classic serves as a reminder that behind every beautifully designed car is an innovative and talented designer – one most likely educated at ArtCenter College of Design.” This “event has examined automotive culture and vehicle architecture through the lens of design.”

Most recently held this past October, the automobiles were displayed on the lush, rolling, picturesque green grounds of the ArtCenter College of Design’s main campus in Pasadena. “This popular public event celebrates the very best automotive design, showcasing the College’s strong ties to industry and honoring many of (their) noteworthy alumni.” It is a wonderful opportunity to get up close to the automobiles, to enjoy and photograph them in a natural environment.

The college’s classrooms and exhibit areas were open for walk-ins and tours during this one day event, giving the public the opportunity to not only see the cars that inspire the future transportation designers, but also the environment in which they study. Students worked in their transportation design studios and 3-D rapid prototyping labs. There were exhibits of students’ work and much more.

Jay Leno brought along his 1966 front-wheel-drive Oldsmobile Toronado, and he interviewed Ed Welburn, Vice President of Global Design for General Motors.

At “Meet the Designers,” there was a panel discussion with Chris Bangle (BS 81), Clay Dean and Tisha Johnson (BS 99), and a presentation and book signing by Syd Mead (BS 59).

Throughout the day there were live interviews from the field by Ed Justice, Jr. and Dave Kunz. Student artwork was for sale, with proceeds going to students. BBQ items and refreshments were available from the Art Center Café, and ArtCenter merchandise, art supplies and more were available in the Student Store.

Of course the main feature was the display of rolling art on the green. Featured vehicles included a 1935 Bowlus Road Chief – an aviation-inspired aluminum travel trailer designed by the builder of Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St Louis; Harley Earl’s 1938 Y-Job, the auto industry’s first concept car; the aerodynamic, rear-engined 1947 Tatra T87 – one of the most advanced production cars of its day; the legendary Hirohata Merc, a 1951 custom designed and built by George and Sam Barris; a 1982 DeLorean DMC-12, with stainless steel bodywork and gull-wing doors; the experimental 1987 Oldsmobile Aerotech, designed to break speed records; the 2014 Chevrolet Chaparral 2X Vision – a concept developed for PlayStation 3’s Gran Turismo 6 video game; and the 2015 Blade by Divergent Motors – a supercar that employs 3-D printed components to reduce energy use and production costs.

At the end of the day, Barry Meguiar conducted the awards ceremony.

For more information about ArtCenter College of Design and its annual Car Classic, visit

Copyright © 2015 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters & More #416