An artful look at car culture

Southern California loves its cars. From the freeways to the beach, hotrods to woodies, Californians have a love affair with unique and eye-catching cars. At Art Center’s Car Classic ’11, the venerable Pasadena design institution will be showing how California’s car culture has impacted transportation design, while giving visitors an eyeful of the classic cars that built this tradition.

Stewart Reed, chairman of transportation design at Art Center, said the 10th Car Classic, to be held Oct. 23, will be more than just a chance to see some classic cars.

“It’s not really a Concours show in the sense of so many of the big Concours d’Elegant,” Reed said. “This is more of a design show, and that’s our goal, because there’s also an educational mission attached to it.”

This year’s show features four main California-centric themes: Vehicle Design Studios, Hot Rods, Beach Culture, Motor Spots, each of which will be the subject of a panel discussion. Guest speakers will include Cobra Daytona Coupe designer Pete Brock, Chip Foose of Foose Design, Dave Kunz of KABC-TV and Barry Megiar, who hosts “Car Crazy” on the SPEED Channel, with host Jay Leno.

Reed said the show’s more holistic approach to design stemmed out of its ad hoc beginnings.

“It was just a group of our own alumni, and a lot of whom who teach here part time, from the local [auto design] studios, they said, ‘We should all get together and bring interesting cars over; it’s a nice chance for the students to see things up close,’” Reed said.

Since the event expanded into a full-on show in 2003, it has called upon Art Center’s network of alumni employed in Southern California’s many advanced automotive design studios.

“There’s something like 20 automotive advanced design studios in proximity to Art Center,” Reed said. “A lot of the studios are bringing their team here, visual material to show development from their studio to show different conceptual designs that have made it to production … we’ll have, as of yesterday, it looks maybe 10 or so concept vehicles from local studios.”

In addition to showing off new concepts, the show focuses on how design evolves over time.

“What we do with the show curatorially is, for example, create very unique pairings of vehicles here,” Reed said. “Last year we got a real early vintage Mini and the new Mini side by side, and let [designer Frank Stephenson] talk about how he interpreted a modern Mini for a modern generation.”

This year, the unique vehicles on hand will include some of the “holy grail of hotrods,” according to Reed, as well as dune buggies, woodies and all-American Eagle racers.

In addition to all the cars, the show will include exhibits on the evolution of bicycle design and a review of alternative transportation for the urban environment.

Reed said the event is as important for Art Center’s students as it is for the attendees.

“It’s not just cars; we really are broadening it to a broader view of transportation design,” Reed said. “We like to say, you can’t teach passion, but you can fuel it … It kind of does that for the transportation design students.”

The Art Center College of Design is at 1700 Lida St. and is open 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Advance tickets are available for $50 and can be purchased at the door for $60. Alumni tickets are $30, and children 12 and under receive free entry. Tickets include parking at the Rose Bowl and a shuttle to and from the event. To purchase tickets or for further information, visit

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