Featured: These Were The Wildest And Weirdest One-Offs, Race Cars, People-Movers, And Kustoms From The 2019 ArtCenter Car Classic

These Were The Wildest And Weirdest One-Offs, Race Cars, People-Movers, And Kustoms From The 2019 ArtCenter Car Classic

Alex Sobran By Alex Sobran
October 22, 2019
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Photography by Alex Sobran

The amount of car shows on any given Sunday in Southern California is enough to indulge any given preference. Whether it’s supercars, hot rods, Japanese imports, 4x4s, air-cooled Porsches or whatever revs you, this is the place to be if you want to be spoiled for choice—it’s why enthusiasts move here despite draconian smog laws and double-digit sales tax. The scope of events is great for the attendees, but it makes it hard for the organizing side to create an event that stands out. Barriers to entry are high and so is the attrition rate, but the annual ArtCenter Car Classic in Pasadena has remained one of the best weekends on our car show calendar thanks to its ambitions and the talented group of alumni that help realize them.

For example, the theme this year was one-offs and other extremely limited production vehicles. By their nature this is a tricky group to get together in one place, let alone in a count big enough to justify a price of admission. For fans of prototypes and jaded people who think they’ve seen it all, this past Sunday in Pasadena was well worth it. Below we go through a few of our favorites.

1996 Callaway C7R

Relative to the world going on outside them, the definition of rarity becomes much narrower at car shows. It’s why seeing a red Corvette in traffic is more exciting than seeing hundreds of them lined up in a field in Pennsylvania. It’s why you probably won’t see any Callaway-modified examples outside of events like that one. And it’s why you probably won’t see this extra-special Callaway creation at a Corvette show.

Callaway, the Connecticut-based company that got its start selling turbocharging kits for four-cylinder European imports like the Golf GTI, is best known today for building horsepower freak Corvettes like the C4s they mutated into 250mph-capable twin-turbo “Sledgehammers.” Callaway also modified a C4 ‘Vette into a race car to compete in GT2 classes in the early 1990s, but when GT1 cars like the Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR and Porsche GT1 were reaching the height of their popularity in motorsport shortly after, Callaway decided to build the C7R.

Rather than modifying a Corvette this time, the C7R was the result of a practically from-scratch effort to build an endurance racer that could hold its own in Europe. Working with the company’s German partners to build the car, company namesake and founder Reeves Callaway mandated a lightweight car with a carbon fiber chassis, a front-mid-mounted Callaway-tuned V8 (a 650hp supercharged 6.3-liter), aerodynamics suited to Le Mans, and a simplicity and general logic of construction that would make it durable enough to go the distance.

It looked the part, but the C7R failed to even qualify for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1996. The second of the two C7Rs was modified with a more aggressive and less attractive aero package than the first chassis that’s pictured here, and it only raced once, at the Daytona 24 Hours in 1997, where it led its class at the halfway point before retiring due to electrical issues.

1969 Citroën Break ID 21F

Even though Citroën made more than one of these Safaris/Wagons/Brakes/Breaks/Whatever You Want To Call Them, this perfectly restored Creamsicle-schemed example was a highlight of the event. For those who think wagons can’t be as masterful a blend of form and function as a car made by a marque like Ferrari, here’s an example that’s prettier than any 275. The engineering in this beautiful baguette is also at least as interesting as any contemporary sports car, and when these Citroën’s are all working correctly and filled with the correct-color fluids they represent the best version of the French eccentricity stereotype.

There are plenty of cars from different manufacturers and countries and time periods with V12 power to pick from, but there are fewer choices when it comes to hydropneumatic plushness coupled to a shape that could fit in at MoMA as easily as it fits in seven people. It’s just a pretty object to look at, regardless of which part of it you’re looking at. The chic single-spoke steering wheel, the jewelry case of gauges in the dash, the rake of the rear hatch and its sculpted chrome hat, even the way the hydraulic hard lines are routed around the engine bay is beautiful. I get it if Volvo 240s don’t check your aesthetic boxes, but I think this wagon deflects any and all soccer mom and grocery store jokes. 

1917 La Bestioni 14-Liter

As we’ve done in the past, Petrolicious presented the People’s Choice Award at this year’s Car Classic, but we’d be kidding you if we pretended to know what we were looking at this year after we tallied up the votes and arrived at the winner. Most of the ballots simply referred to it as “The Beast.” An original nickname? Hardly. A project like no other? Definitely. Built by Californian Gary Wales out of the rusty husk of a 100-year-old fire engine, the chain-driven, boat-butted, 14-liter result of his hard work managed to stand out in a car show almost exclusively comprised of the ultra rare.

Wales managed to save and incorporate some of the original bodywork into his restored and reimagined version, and the contrast between a century’s worth of patina and the yacht-like luster of the new woodwork is just subtle enough, like the ghosts of the Sausalito Fire Department (S.F.D.) markings on the two halves of the hood. Regardless of whether it’s to your taste, the bodywork on this thing is impressive, but under those panels is something that’s equally so: The restored American LaFrance straight-six and its 14-liter capacity is the same unit that would have been there in 1917.

The three cars above were far from the only notable pieces of a group that included the Lancia Stratos Zero, original Chip Foose hot rods, a Fiat 600 Mirafiori shuttle, Group B homologation specials, and futuristic concepts like the blue F-Zero-styled EV pictured below. The variety here was remarkable, as if that needs saying again. The Meyers Manx showing was also quite cool considering the diversity of purpose between of three buggies on display and the fact that their creator, the nonagenarian Bruce F. Meyers, was plopped down in his chair in the middle of them.

Another example of the scope on display could be seen in two cars from 1953 that were facing each other across the campus basketball court: the Cadillac 62 Series “Emerald Tug” Kustom (which belongs to a tugboat captain who has seemingly gone through every aspect of his land barge), and the only Bosley GT Mark 1 ever built. The GT Mark 1 is a hand-built, fiberglass-bodied, tube-framed, Chrysler Hemi V8-powered prototype created by a multi-talented horticulturist/coachbuilder/engineer from Ohio named Richard Bosley.

Using knowledge gleaned from studying Ferraris of the period, building scale models, and reading Road & Track articles on how sports cars were made, he set out to build his vision of a GT car that could be driven on the road but was also suited for endurance racing. It supposedly racked up 100,000 miles before he sold it, though of course it looks much younger than that now in its current state of restoration.

I hope you enjoy the rest of the gallery below, and if there are any cars you see that you’d like to know more about, just ask, and I’ll do my best to add whatever additional information I can in the comments.

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