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Automotive Concept Art

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 Tue, Jan 12, 2016

By: The LACar Editorial Staff


Wayne Kady, General Motors, Advanced Design Studio, 1961. Airbrush, ink, gouache on paper.

Words and photographs by Christopher Merlo On the eve of the 2016 North American International Auto Show, as we eagerly anticipate the debuts of all that is new and groundbreaking in automotive design and technology, the American Dreaming exhibit at The Scarab Club in Detroit offers a fascinating look back at designs and concepts from the classic age of the American automobile. Covering the post-war boom years from 1947 through the mid Seventies, an era of such luminaries in automotive design as Harley Earl and Bill Mitchell, the exhibit looks into this bygone era and the designers of less renown who worked for these icons of American car design. American Dreaming, curated by Robert Edwards and Greg Salustro, is an ongoing project by the two to bring attention to the heritage of Detroit and the “lost art” of automotive design, literally. You see, nobody quite knows the magnitude of the output from the men and women who “dreamed” and worked in the design studios. Unfortunately, the bulk of their work, countless sketches and renderings developed for internal design reviews, have been lost to the trash bin, the victim of office cleanings and the lack of appreciation of their historical significance.


Ralph Amprim, General Motors, Oldsmobile Toronado, c. mid 1960s. Chalk, color pencil, markers on paper.

Edwards and Salustro believe they are in a race against time to document this artwork and the designers who created it, many who are now in their seventies and eighties. The to-be-completed American Dreaming documentary film features interviews with many of the designers represented in the exhibit. With over 59 works on display, ranging from the sci-fi, space-age-inspired aesthetics of the Fifties to the over-the-top exuberance of the Seventies, it’s tantalizing to imagine the energy and optimism of the designers and the studios they worked in. It’s also a tribute to a time when the practical and impractical were equals and where both were allowed to run wild in the imagination. American Dreaming: Car Style Detroit, 20th Century Automotive Concept Art runs through February 13, 2016. A gallery talk takes place on Thursday, January 21 @ 7 p.m. For additional information on the documentary go to The Scarab Club is located in Detroit’s museum district at 217 Farnsworth, Detroit, MI 48202. Open Wednesday – Sunday from Noon – 5 p.m.

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