Art Center College of Design’s main campus is nestled in a secluded residential Pasadena neighborhood in the hills above the Rose Bowl. The black glass and steel buildings are a masterpiece of Modern design by LA Architect Craig Ellwood.

Art Center Campus

Art Center Campus and Car Classic Pavilion

Art Center Campus - Car Show 2010 Registration Building

I first became aware of Art Center more than 35 years ago when a little orange ball decal appeared in the windshield of a friend’s screaming red, always mechanically-challenged, Triumph TR-4A. She was attending Art Center studying package design and her projects always caught both my imagination and my breath.

2010 marks Art Center’s 80th anniversary. Two years after its founding during the depths of the Great Depression, Art Center established its industrial design program that encompasses almost every tangible consumer and industrial product manufactured in our world today, including automotive designs from its world renowned Transportation Design Department.

Art Center Student Illustration - Porsche, I think

The Transportation Design Department’s alumni have been involved some of the most iconic designs of the 20th and 21st Century including the Disneyland Monorail, the ’57 Chevy, the Corvette Sting Ray, the Porsche Boxster, the Enzo Ferrari and hundreds of Hot Wheels toy cars. Graduates have positions at virtually major automotive studio in the world. It also helps that there are more than 23 advanced automotive design studios in Southern California – testament to the global importance of our trend-setting car culture.

The two main events were the unveiling of the 2012 McLaren MP4-12C two-seat, mid-engine, magnesium, aluminum and carbon fiber supercar and a rare showing of the Williamson 1936 Bugatti 57SC Atlantic, considered to be the pinnacle of automotive art deco sculpture and one of only two ever built. It’s also most valuable car ever sold. At auction last April, it sold for an estimated $30 to $40 million to the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard, CA.

2012 McLaren MP4-12C aluminum and carbon fiber chassis

2012 McLaren M838T 90 degree 3.8 liter all aluminum V8

2012 McLaren MP4 12C front

2012 McLaren MP4-12C rear - notice the engine under the glass

The Williams 1936 Bugatti Typ 57SC Atlantic.... See what $35 million can buy?

Rear of the 1936 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic

The Bugatti doesn't have any bad angles. It is stunning in person.

The interior is another marvel of hand craftsmanship. You couldn't get close enough to get a picture inside.

The rain forced many people under the tent during the event, but I wandered into the student areas and found myself fascinated by a computer-guided lather carving future designs and memorized by the magic of a 3D printer.

Art Center student concept board for Alfa Romeo

Art Center student concept board for Audi (an Audi boat no less!)

Art Center student concept board for Porsche

Art Center Transportation Design Studio fabrication shop

Art Center Transportation Design Studio classroom

One room was dedicated to finding transportation solutions for a people with mobility limitations inspired by a student who suffered a spinal cord injury. I found a “What If” Post-it mosaic on the wall that really captured the spirit of practical creativity nurtured in every Art Center student: What If…..

  • You could control a mobility device with 1 finger
  • A wheelchair could hold a passenger, family, dog
  • A wheelchair has intelligence
  • Driver uses chest movements to drive vehicle
  • Put it together like LEGO
  • The uncomfortable was comfortable
  • A wheelchair had assisted arms
  • Vehicle helps in physical therapy
  • The wheelchair comes together when the person enters the vehicle
  • Ferrari makes a wheelchair
  • You never sit in another chair…

What If... Post-it Board

In that spirit of imagination, feast your eyes on the decades of the fusion of Art, Color, Engineering and Design from the Art Center Car Classic 2010:

1930 Cadillac 452A Convertible Coupe Roadster

1930 Cadillac 452A Convertible Coupe Roadster (the rain kept the detail guy busy). Now THIS is when Cadillac really did set a standard for the world. Oh what a difference in 70 years.

This is the gas cap for a stunning 1932 Maybach Zeppelin DS 8 Sports Cabriolet. I couldn't get an angle for a good picture of the car. This is the marque that Mercedes-Benz resurrected for its luxury brand to challenge Rolls Royce.

1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Spyder - The Italians really had style back then!

1938 MG SA Saloon - this sure wasn't the small MGs we remember here in the States

This is a 1953 Studebaker Starlight Coupe, with some very slick custom work. Someone spent a lot of money...

The interior of the 1935 Studebaker Starlight Coupe - all custom work

1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing. It gets better looking every year - and more valuable too

A side view of the 1955 Mercedes 300SL. It's one of the most iconic and inspired designs in automotive history.

2011 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG - Mercedes says it's the spiritual successor to the 300SL Gullwing. It ain't bad for $200k

The rear of the 2011 SLS AMG is nice too

The 2011 Mercedes-Benz SLS has a nice red interior - my favorite color. Mercedes got 'dissed for the interior being too austere, but I like it just fine.

The interior of a 1955 Porsche Speedster 540 Pre-A

1956 AC Ace Bristol Roadster

1958 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham. This was really a zenith for Cadillac. This car cost $13,074 new in 1958 and it was long-rumored that GM lost $10,000 on every car it built.

The '58 Eldorado Brougham came with a bar set in the glove box as well as a record player. These were the days before 8-track or cassette tapes. And everyone drank and drove or had their secretary serve them the booze in the back seat while they were driven by their driver.

Even the badge of the Caddy was expensive

1958 Ferrari 250 PF Cabriolet Series 1 - another classic style from Pinifarina

1959 Mercedes-Benz 220S Cabriolet

The 1959 Mercedes Cab looks great from any angle

1960 Chrysler 300F 2-Door Hardtop

The 1960 Chrysler 300F was based on the Imperial

Now these are a set of fins on the '60 300F

1960 was the Space Age and Atomic Age. This is one hell of a cockpit!

1961 Ford Thunderbird Custom Coupe. The candy apple red paint is spetacular on this car.

The interior of the '61 T-Bird is part factory, part custom, but the original was a futuristic fantasy to begin with.

1962 Volvo P1800 Coupe - from the TV show, The Saint, and one of the best Volvo designs - EVER. I love it.

Every angle is stunning on the Volvo P1800

1963 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia T3 - this is a rare example of the early KGs. It even has matching luggage. I wish VW would revive the Karmann Ghia.

Front view of the '63 VW Karmann Ghia

1965 Corvette Sting Ray (it was two words on the badge, but I've seen it as one word too). My favorite is still the original 1963 Corvette Sting Ray Coupe with the split rear window. What a car!

1965 Ford Mustang GT 2+2 Fastback. The original is still the best.

Interior of the 1965 Mustang Fastback

This 1965 Toyota Sports 800 2-Door is proof that Toyota once made cool, quirky, sporty cars. Oh how things have changed. Now, you'd be hard-pressed to find ANY Toyota with "fun" inside.

The 1969 Lamborghini Espada Series 1 Saloon was Lambo's first 4-passenger car.

1972 Citroen SM Coupe. Power by Maseratai. Styling like only the French can do. If only I could afford to own and maintain one of these cars...

2002 Bugatti Veyron 16.4 (a W16 engine with 1001 hp)

2003 Ferrari Enzo - this is one fast car, only 400 were made between 2002-2004. They were nearly 1 million euro new. Today, they are worth much more if they are in great condition.

2010 Think City Car. This electric vehicle, made in Norway, was supposed to be in the So Cal market a while ago. I hope it makes it here.

This '70s era Citroen SM conversion to a "work car" was in the parking lot

Check out the quality of the custom work on this Citroen SM

This is a one of a kind Citroen "El Camino-type" conversion

The Peraves E-Tracer won the Automotive X-Prize in the Alternative Class-Tandem. It's made in Switzerland and it's an electric conversion of the X-Tracer which is already sold in Europe.

  1. Tom says:

    Great pictures- I’m sorry I missed this. All there years in SoCal and I’ve never been there.

  2. Hey Tom, I’d never been to the Art Center campus either. Good thing I had GPS because it’s in a residential section of Pasadena, high in the hills. It was a fantastic experience. It’s one of those So Cal institutions most people have never visited.

  3. jason Kay says:

    Oh I am seriously jealous. Some awesome pictures !

    sell my car

  4. Hi there, this weekend is fastidious designed for me, since this time i
    am reading this fantastic educational piece of writing here at my residence.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s