Art Center Hosts Eclectic Transportation Showcase
For over 60 years the Art Center College of Design has been molding young designers to inspire the automotive world. Today, they not only are responsible for well over 50% of the world’s cars since Harley Earl opened the first studio, they are celebrating with their students and patrons with their own unique take on a “designer car show”––the Art Center Car Classic.
Known for assembling a wide range of automobiles centered around a single design theme, the Car Classic is a show everybody must attend. This year’s theme was “Inspired by Nature”, cars, trucks, semis, motorcycles all turned up to shine on the green of Art Center’s Sculpture Garden.
This year was no exception to the breadth of cars on the field. Everything from coachbuilt Bugattis to Corvette Stingray concepts, there was something for everybody. In addition to the buffet of vehicles on display, the show also featured a series of design panels––one of which was hosted by none other than The Tonight Show host, Jay Leno.
A panel that caught my attention consisted of designers Peter Brock and Tom Peters. Peter being known as the artist behind the original Stingray Corvette, while Tom the brains behind the latest Corvette Stingray. Both (alumni of Art Center) discussed their challenges and vision when progressing an iconic car like the Corvette and how the car should live in future. I’d say job well done considering the ‘63 Split-Window Vette is as cherished as any European marque during its time. Not to mention the new Corvette winning over automotive journalists and drivers all around the world.
One car that stole the show was Peter Mullin’s Bugatti 1939 Type 64 with its completed (albeit contemporary) new gullwing exterior. The chassis was Jean Bugattis last creation before his passing, and several decades later it wound up in the care of Peter Mullin. He brought the chassis to Art Center in 2007 where he tasked a select group of students to finish where Jean had left off.
Several years and design evolutions later, the mahogany (yes mahogany) buck was created and the aluminum panels were hammerd and rolled to perfection. The last time the car was in public was the 2012 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Having rolled off the truck the night before, the Art Center Car Classic was the car’s official world debut.
The body was designed to not only mate to the chassis but separate and display independently. The most unique feature of the car is its gullwing doors, a concept derived from Jean Bugatti’s original notes and sketches when the chassis was under development.
Adding to the excitement of the show, Mr. Mullin and his wife celebrated alongside show attendees about their recent gift to the school’s transportation design program––$15 million dollar gift to be exact. This is the single largest gift ever given to the school in its 83-year history. The money is said to kick-start construction on a new facility to in Old Town Pasadena (near the Art Center South Campus) for the transportation program, in addition to providing scholarship opportunities and new equipment.
The entire day was an overwhelming experience for such a unique venue perched above the Rose Bowl. One second you’re strolling past a Lamborghini Miura and the next a 1917 La Bestioni Boat-Tail Speedster (this year’s People’s Choice award winner). If you’re looking for something laid back, design centered and truly inspirational; I’d suggest marking your calendar for next October. The Art Center Car Classic is a show that nobody should miss.
Photography by Ezekiel Wheeler for Petrolicious