Inside the car designers' car show

AutoClassics visits the world-famous Art Center College of Design facility in California, for its renowned annual car show

Inside the car designers' car show

It’s not everyday that Art Center College of Design, the premier transportation design school in the world, has a car show, but when it does you’ll be sure they'll go the extra mile.

Art Center is hidden in the lush hills overlooking the mountains of Pasadena, California. Today Stewart Reed, head of the transportation department, has gathered a unique collection of Italian, French, and American cars… yes, there’s a theme here, red, white and blue.

Now being that we’re in Los Angeles, also the car culture capital of the world, we are very lucky to have access to some of the greatest cars, which means we’re a hard crowd to please. Upon entering you are overwhelmed with a sea of red cars filling the hill, parked so close you can barely walk through them. The red 1976 Lamborghini LP400 sits next to a 308 GTB4, which is next to a 4C, which is next to a GTV, next to a Dino, next to a Fiat Jolly. As Jay Leno says, a Jolly always comes up at auction after the million dollar car and goes for $120,000, which makes it seem like a bargain.

Leno brought his 1966 Yenko Corvair Stinger today, white with blue stripes, parked next to 1960 Briggs Cunningham Corvette Le Mans roadster. Also white with blue stripes. Jay’s Yenko is perfect in every way, it’s even got a JC Whitney steering wheel. Leno holds court next to the car, answering all questions. I ask Leno what his next dream car would be… he says now it’s more than just a car, it’s the story that makes it exciting.

Of course it's not all fun and games for everybody today, the students still have to work. Art Center is famous for working its students hard; it’s not un-common to pull all-nighters. I should know, I was once an Art Center student myself. Inside, a few transportation students are working. You can see their clay models, sketches, and mood boards. You look at the cars outside, and then look at the designs inside, and you wonder if this really is the future of motoring.

One car, a time machine, sits quietly clothed in a shiny patchwork of metal panels. It’s by Silverlake artist Baron Margo, and it’s called Metamorphosis. Next to that sits a creature called the Blastolene Blown Ranger Fairchild XFR0001 Roadster. Both are probably the most unique of customs here today.

Faraday Future's FF91 car right next to Infinity’s concept, which was unveiled at Monterey this year. Infinity’s car is a piece of reimagined history, from the works of 1930s Auto Union or Mercedes, right down to the brakes. It really is an homage to everything that’s great about motorsport, and it’s all handmade, and all-electric. When compared to the pair of electric VWs – a Beetle and a Karmann Ghia on the hill – the Infinity feels quite exotic.

In sharp contrast, Jonathan Ward of Icon has brought his Derelict Rolls-Royce, old on the outside, packing a new 427 crate motor on the inside.

The blue tide brings us Alpines, Citroëns and a stunning Renault R5 Turbo. Personally I’d take the R5 as a daily drive. It’s perfect: small, fast, and economical.

The white tide gives us an Avanti, a Corvette, a Studebaker, Cadillac, Lincoln and a Pantera. Large gas guzzlers for our American highways.

People talk about winners, or best of show, yet when you look at all the styling icons it’s hard to choose. Form vs Function, are you a Ford or Chevy man? This is how a car show brawl begins… and that’s what makes a great show.