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Show Review: Art Center Car Classic 2007

Fri, 10 Aug 2007 00:00:00 -0700

For those of you who haven't yet attended, Art Center's Car Classic is rapidly becoming the talk of the concours circuit. Held during the middle of the summer trimester at the main Hillside campus in Pasadena, it was started just three years ago and is gaining quite a following not only because of its intimate setting in which to admire the cars but also because attendees rub shoulder-to-shoulder with a variety of current and past industry designers and celebrities. To this fellow automotive enthusiast and Art Center alumnus at least, the Car Classic likens itself most to Lord March's Festival of Speed and Goodwood Revival in the UK. There too, spectators and all manner of industry big hitters are present with the shared goal of thoroughly enjoying the breathtaking variety of automotive sculpture and history on hand.

Beyond that, as a visitor, one is contributing to the reputation of Art Center College of Design Transportation Department and helping the future success of its students. Of course, this means visitors find themselves in the midst of the next crop of future designers, all busy working out the final details on their student models. And, years from now, perhaps you will recognize the name of a student whose work you admired at Car Classic 2007 in a Auto Show write up about a new concept or production car right here on CDN.

Set in the Sculpture Garden at the South End of the gorgeous Craig Ellwood-designed main campus, the Car Classic overlooks the Rose Bowl, the better part of Pasadena and the San Gabriel Valley, providing a beautiful backdrop for the amazing automobiles on hand. This year the theme "celebrated those vehicles that push the boundaries of design through their extravagance, unconventionality, and uniqueness of vision". Here was a scope which, very interestingly, allowed a huge variety of vehicles both pre-war and modern to attend - the kinds of automobiles you don't usually find side by side.

For example, it was possible to admire both a full-size Hot Wheels' creation (the "Twin Mill") alongside a vintage 1939 Delahaye Type 165 Figoni & Falaschi, not unlike the example which won Best of Show at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in 2000. Keep in mind that one of these two got its start as a couple of orthographic sketches sent off to China for production into a limited edition 1:64 diecast toy vehicle, only later to actually be produced into a one-off full size running concept car.

Walking past a 2007 Dreamcraft Gatsby 7-cylinder radial engine motorcycle (which made one wonder what stretch of road could possibly be appropriate for such a creation), it was easy to have your breath taken at the sight of the 1925 Rolls-Royce Phantom 1 Aerodynamic Coupe. This is a car whose design language feels not unlike the Bugatti Type 57 SC "Atlantique", but which at the same time remains unmistakably a Rolls-Royce. Its round doors with the side glass split at a 12 o'clock position and winding down away from each other is something one would be hard pressed to find anywhere else, and which required more than a moment of silent marveling to appreciate.

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By Eric Bauer