Cars are always the result of form follows function, but when push comes to shove, it’s the form that grabs your attention and ropes car guys into a lifetime of obsession. The annual Car Classic at the Art Center College of Design is a celebration of both auto form and obsession.
Since the school opened in 1930, it has consistently produced graduates that have gone on to create the most beautiful and iconic cars in history. With an undergraduate student body of only 1,600, and over 200 in transportation design, the Art Center is literally dripping with talent and automakers from around the world come to Pasadena to scout their next great designer.
That reputation allows the Art Center to call upon a truly unique group of collectors for the Car Classic, in a show with no real theme or requirement except that the car must be interesting. That can mean avant garde or championship-winning, drop dead gorgeous or completely non-sensical; as long as it makes you feel something. The 2012 show did not disappoint.
Under threatening gray clouds, the field spewed out onto the campus like a Concours d’Excellence. Icons like the ’33 Duesenberg J Torpedo and ’30 Ford Model A Roadster harkened back to another era, the ’55 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing and ’65 Ferrari 500 Super Fast added sporting elegance while the Maserati MC12 and McLaren MP4-12C brought track star prowess.
Fan favorites like the ’61 Thunderbird Coupe and ’72 Chrysler Imperial LeBaron (owned by Art Center grad and Blade Runner creator Syd Mead) drew crowds to their chrome all day, and an Aston Martin DB4 Zagato teamed with a pair of Jaguar E-Types for their own personal fine art museum.
The future of auto design was also on display, as well. The Cadillac Urban Luxury Concept, Fisker Karma and Nissan Leaf shared a corner under the watchful eyes of sketching students. Jay Leno himself helped out in that department, whooshing into the show behind the wheel of a 2006 General Motors EcoJet.
In the keynote event, Leno interviewed Art Center grad (c/o ’54) Ron Hill. Hill became the chief designer for Chevrolet, Pontiac and Buick and penned the Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz and Pontiac Fiero in front of the stage.
It was all just the tip of the iceberg. The Innovation In Motorsports section included Formula One and open-wheeled Indy cars, among the oddities of a ’23 Voisin C6 Laboratoire and bare bones ’30 Bugatti Petite Royale Type 46.
You couldn’t find a more colorful car show anywhere. Fitting, that.
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