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07/18/2004 SUPERSTARS

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Mon, Jul 26, 2004

By: The LACar Editorial Staff


When it comes to the world of car design, this just might be Mecca. The human emotion that somehow binds us to cars like almost nothing else is, in large part, due to the magic created at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.

Since 1930, this school has managed to create some of the most successful auto designers the world has ever known. While we live in a world of hype and exaggerated claims, this one statement rings completely true. Actually, this is an understatement. A majority of the design studios are filled with Art Center graduates, including the studio heads. By some estimates, more than half of the car designers on earth are graduates from this school.

In the annual Art Center Car Classic, tribute is given to the designers and the works that they have borne. To narrow the field down some, the afternoon's theme is supercars. These cars are the ones that turn our heads when we catch an occasional glimpse on the streets of Southern California. Los Angeles has more than its fair share of amazing, hyper-fast cars in stunning condition. To see so many of these cars at one time and in one place is sensory overload. Sunday's affair is the equivalent of overdosing on viagra. Quick, get me some cold water!

The cars (as hot as they are) aren't the only reason why our blood is starting to boil. With the mercury working its way to triple digits, we are longing for some A/C in the hills of Pasadena. To give you an idea what we have on hand, here is an abbreviated list: A "57 and a'59 Testa Rossa, a '62 Ferrari 250 G and a F50, a 1960 Porsche RS60 Spyder and the 2004 Carrera GT Spyder. Also a '02 Saleen S7, '04 Callaway C12 and a '04 Lamborghini Gallardo Coupe is on hand. Aston Martin spanned the years from '55 with a DB2/4 MK 1 Saloon, to the '05 DB9 in both Coupe and Volanteconvertible form.

As it turns out, there is something for everyone. There are cars that bring back fond memories as well as those we just simply just lust for. The list of names runs from Alfa Romeo to Scarab. Legendary names such as Bugatti and Bizzarrini share the limelight with lesser known special manufacturers such as Allard and Warth-Hilborn. With over one hundred supercars on hand, this has become one of the premiere automotive events in California.

The collection of cars on hand is only equaled in importance to the industries luminaries on hand. This was a Who's Who of the auto design world. In attendance is Henrik Fisker, currently in charge of Aston Martin's design; Grant Larson, manager of advance exterior design at Porsche; David Marek, who heads up Honda's design efforts; from GM's west coast director is Frank Saucedo; and also Freeman Thomas who now heads DaimlerChrysler. All these designers are very talented and dedicated to their art. Yes, they are also all Art Center Graduates. Now this isn't the extent of the notables in attendance but rather the tip of the iceberg. Some of the other well-known grads on hand are Chip Foose, Howard Koby, Chuck Pelly and Richard Pietruska, to name a few.

While producing such highly regarded talent in both people and machines over the years, we can be sure that tomorrow's crop of Art Center designers and products won't be any less exciting than today's.

- John Grafman

With so many supercars represented from all the past era's to the present of automobile production, it is not easy to pick one that has special meaning to me above all the other great cars. I'm a modernist and feel that the new, 2005 Aston Martin DB9 Volante combines best what a supercar is all about. The impeccable designed exterior styling oozes with power and luxury. The DB9's frame, body panels, 450hp 48-valve V12 engine, and double-wishbone independent suspension are made of lightweight aluminum alloy. The engine is mounted up front and the 6-speed manual transmission, or available 6-speed paddle shifting automatic transmission, is mounted in the rear for perfect, neutral 50/50% weight distribution. Giant 14in. vented disc brakes and 6-piston calipers quickly slow the DB9 down from triple-digit speeds. The DB9 rides on high-performance 19in. ZR rated tires and aluminum alloy wheels. Inside you are surround by the finest leather, exotic woods and aluminum trim pieces. The one-touch convertible top just takes 17sec. to fully deploy and is designed to keep the cabin quiet and weather tight. This modern day supercar accelerates to 60mph in just 4.5sec and tops out at over 180mph. More than 90% of its torque is available at just 1,500rpm. The new Aston Martin DB9 is a technological wonder wrapped in the finest furs. If you can afford the price of admission, the new Aston Martin DB9 is your ticket to ride!

- Harvey Schwartz

This beautiful bright red 1967 Lamborghini Miura (for Spanish bull) P-400 sits in the shade begging for my attention. I stare at the car trying to imagine this mighty V12 rushing by at a top speed of 174mph. Holding that vision for a moment I step forward to get a closer look. Designed by Gandini and inspired by the famous Ford GT40, this car sported the very latest in mid-engine designs. Originally starting out as two projects, the chassis was built and first shown to the public ## the coach was added later. Premiering in Geneva in 1966, it was followed by the S and the SV. In 1974 it was replaced by the Countach.

- James Kubic

The Art Center Car Classic '04, Supercars Past and Present was truly an amazing collection of vehicles, from concept to production cars. But, one of the most exciting and original vehicles on display was not an auto, but a motorcycle. Named "Saga" coming from Dreamcraft Studios, blends organic lines with high tech innovation. The Saga looks like a sculptured piece of art in motion. In the age of seeing custom motorcycle shows on TV, and seeing other custom bikes, the Saga comes out on top as a true piece of rolling art. Everything on the bike, from the headlights, to the exhaust is incorporated into the bike, making it a one fluid piece of amazing machinery.

- Tommy Grafman

"It's like a really beautiful person with a really awful personality." That's the description Robert Ross volunteered about his 1970 DeTomaso Mangusta. Translation: It may not be the best driving machine around, but it sure is great to look at. I deemed it one of the best looking at the show and that's saying a lot, considering all the beautiful gear gracing the grass at the Art Center. The Mangusta remains one of Giorgetto Giugiaro's finest designs, looking every bit as fresh in 2004 as it did when it was designed in 1966. Robert's red rocket is one of 401 that were made, 250 of which made their way into the USA.

- Roy Nakano

When it comes to the 1957 BMW Isetta 300 Moto Coupe, I don't know if anyone would think of this little egg-shaped eye catcher as the "Ultimate Driving Machine", but it is a BMW. Originally built by an Italian scooter factory, BMW bought the rights to produce the Isetta in the mid 50's. Weighing just seven hundred pounds, The Isetta 300 features a 1-cylinder, 13-horsepower engine and can reach speeds of up to 45-50 miles per hour. The interior features a single bench seat that can seat up to 3 reasonably sized adults. But the most unique feature of the Isetta is that the entire front end of the car opens outward for easy entry. In the event of a collision, the driver and passenger can simply escape through a canvas sunroof! In the 1990's, when it came to selecting an interesting vehicle for a unique character on a popular television series, the Isetta was the car chosen for Steve Urkel on ABC's "Family Matters". Between 1955 and 1964, BMW produced over 160,000 of the vehicles.

- Reed Berry

In recent years, Aston Martin has led the charge towards a modern era supercar. In full force, the mark is thoroughly represented with examples like the '55 DB2/4 MK 1 Saloon, the '61 Zagato, and the 1962 SB4-GT. To emphasis that they are by no means an also ran, both the DB9 coupe and Volante convertible were on hand as well as a 2002 Vanquish. From a prior episode, I can verify just how potent a vehicle the DB7 is. Extremely rare was a styling buck from the DB7 (lord only knows how someone got his or her hands on that). The 9 is new and improved, taking off from where the 7 left off. Both cars are enticing and intoxicating. The styling, to use a well-worn phrase, looks fast even while at a stand still. One wonders just what terror these can strike on deserted freeways. These are tasteful renditions of exotica; these variations will withstand the test of time. New and old, the Aston Martin brand is classic in every sense of the word.

- John Grafman

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