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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 Sat, Oct 27, 2012

By: The LACar Editorial Staff


Words and pictures by John Grafman “I like Car Classic because it is not a lot of cars, it’s just really important cars and the people who come are all car people, enthusiasts.” Now, those words could have come from my mouth, or any of the other thousand-plus attendees to the best little car show in the world. But, these are the words of world-class car collector, and late-night talk show host Jay Leno. And, he’s right! Those who are frequent guests to this annual event at the Art Center College of Design have to laugh at the weather on this October morning. We typically have to brave one of two types of days for the gathering high a top the Pasadena hills. It’s either blistering hot - just a few degrees cooler than the surface of the sun, or rain. This Sunday it’s damp, but no downpour…yet. The gods must be undecided.


This year’s theme of Inspired Design is really redundant in some ways, as every year the cars are inspiring. Nevertheless, there are two vignettes that truly stand out among the many stories at the 2012 Car Classic. The first reminds us of how America was decades ago, in the fifties and sixties. This country was growing in many ways, including design and style. At that time a young man, and Art Center grad, named Ron Hill began an odyssey that pushed our tastes in new directions that not only merged with existing culture, but also created new sensibilities in automotive style. A few of the designs Ron worked on were on display, ranging from Cadillac to Corvair. However, looking at the numerous renderings that Mr. Hill penned on over the years showed us another world, one of fantastic vehicles and potential. Some of these vehicles have a George Jetson, space age, new frontier feel. Other sketches are of viable looking products that run on alternative power sources, like, yes, electric instead of gas. Maybe nothing so odd about that, except those are design samples from the seventies. Perhaps it’s not too shocking that Leno calls Hill’s amazing body of work “the apex of American automobile design.”

A Ron Hill rendering

It is only fitting that a Lifetime Achievement award was bestowed upon Mr. Hill. The former Art Center graduate (‘54) worked for 30 years at GM, and became chief designer at Chevrolet, Pontiac and Buick. Following his three decades in Michigan, Ron returned to Art Center as chair of the Industrial Design Department, and finally the chair of the Transportation Design Department. On the other end of the spectrum is a current Art Center student, Jonathan Peace. Maybe the name doesn’t sound familiar to you at the moment. But, we expect big things from this mild mannered designer. His first full-size project is a red, hot rod Ford Thunderbird. After 3.5 years of designing and fabrication on his dad’s car, the end result speaks for itself. This flawlessly executed job not only captures our imagination, but it caught the eye of the judges at the Riddler, the top hot rod event in the country. The Riddler Best Of Show award is one of the most coveted and most respected out of any show, anywhere. To the surprise of all, Jonathan managed to garner first place. Compounding this feat is the fact that he didn’t have prior experience on anything of this magnitude before. So, if this is what he can do on his first attempt, just think where he will be in a few more years!


The Car Classic theme this year seems so appropriate with the personal appearances of Jonathan and Ron. It’s hard not to be touched when this kind of talent is in on hand. And maybe, just maybe by the end of the day this is why our grey skies turned blue. For more information on Art Center Car Classic, go to

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