The twelfth year of the Car Classic at the Art Center College of Design saw a record number of people show up for the event on Sunday. Close to 1800 people passed through the sculpture garden on the college campus throughout the day to view the large collection of classic and modern vehicles that had been “Inspired by Nature,” according to Jay Sanders, executive director of the undergraduate transportation design department. Twenty-four trophies were awarded to motor vehicles on display at the event, in categories such as student’s choice, people’s choice, kid’s choice, classic beauty, motorsport innovation, designer’s choice, and inspired by nature, amongst others.
Familiar faces were scattered throughout the crowd, with celebrities such as Jay Leno, Late Night host, who brought his 1991 McLaren F1 to the show. Big names in the auto industry at the event were Clay Dean, Tom Peters and Frank Saucedo of General Motors (GM), Freeman Thomas of Ford, Jae Min of Audi, and Peter Brock of Brock Racing Enterprises, and many more.
“Our alumni of this college are really the Who’s Who of automotive design,” said Sanders.”Many of them are even faculty here as well, so they love being part of this. We have a lot of very strong connections in the industry that allow us to pull together something like this, where normally to get this level of star power in the automotive industry in one place would be a real challenge, but for us is something that we are able to do just because of that relationship.”
There are numerous design studios in the college’s surrounding area, according to Stewart Reed, chair of transportation design at the school. “Almost all the major car makers have a studio close by here so that gives a huge advantage to have design education taught by working professionals,” he said. “The founder of the college had the idea to have professionals teach, instead of professional teachers, and it absolutely works today.”
“With Art Center College of Design, we’re all about beauty and aesthetics and functionality,” said Sanders. “For us to be having a show like this where the very best in design is represented, we feel that that’s a good match with the college and with our efforts to promote good design out there in the world, whether that’s automotive design or graphic design or film or photography or product design. This really celebrates the best and that’s what this school is about.”
The Car Classic is as much an event for viewing quality automobiles as it is for allowing students to get hands-on knowledge and experience with the vehicles. Many owners allowed attendees to pose inside their cars for pictures.
“There are no velvet ribbons, no velvet ropes to keep you back,” said Randy Grubb, an original Blastolene Brother. “To be able to get so close to the cars is a real treat.” He brought with him his 2013 Randy Grubb Decopod scooter, which he allowed people to pose in with a shiny, sleek matching helmet, as they took pictures.
Several design students were at the event, taking pictures and examining cars alongside the collectors. “We run a class in our graduate program called Transportation Histories and Futures,” said Geoff Wardle, executive director of graduate transportation design. “The idea of that is that you have to understand the context of transportation or automobiles from their history before you can extrapolate into the future. We are teaching students at the Art Center to design products or vehicles or services or systems for the future, but you have to reference what’s been done in the past. There are lessons to be learned.”
The event began roughly twelve years ago as a grass roots event on the part of some of the faculty at the school. “[The faculty] got together and said we oughta have this weekend at Art Center, in the sculpture garden, it’s a nice place to gather and just bring our cars over, invite a few friends that have interesting cars,” said Reed. “It was very spontaneous. And we said it was so fun we had to do that again next year. And by the third year it appeared to be serious enough that you could make a really nice event and promote the interests of the college with the event.”
Reed said that the event held two purposes: one to aide students in imagining what a career in design might entail, and the other to generate media coverage, to inform the community about the college and possibly encourage future benefactors.