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Car shows always have themes just like your junior prom. Most of the time they’re so vague no one has any idea what they are. However, instead of “Under the Sea” or “Dancing Among the Stars,” the Art Center College of Design’s annual Car Classic picked “Red, White and Blue,” and it was impossible to ignore.

The red meant Italian cars, which meant, for the most part, Ferraris. There were 17 Ferraris by our count, maybe more, mixed in with Lamborghinis, Lancias, Alfas and Maseratis. And they were all red. A sea of red. The reds were all lined up against the south part of the lawn.  

American racing colors are white with a blue stripe, so America got the white section, the middle of the grass on the Art Center’s Sculpture Garden, perched high above the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. There were Corvettes and Cadillacs, mostly all white, though Jay Leno’s white Yenko Corvair did have blue trim.

Then there was the French section. Try as they might, Southern California couldn’t come up with more than about 10 blue French cars. But they were good blue French cars: a Bugatti Type 55 from the Mullin Automotive Museum, a 2018 Bugatti Chiron, Rich Plavetich’s 1959 Deutsch Bonnet HBR-5 Coach, the windshield of which he hand-carried on a flight from France, and a flock of Citroen 2CV in various guises that flew in from all over.

It was an impressive sight, spread out all over the lawn in those colors, a big American flag, or a French flag depending on whether you were looking at it from the west or the east. It might have been best-viewed from a hot air balloon, but we didn’t have a hot air balloon. We didn’t even have a drone. 

Ferrari F40

Owner Rick Principe, God bless him, drives his F40 as often as he can. Be more like Rick Principe.

Around the periphery were concept cars from major manufacturers: a 1954 Chrysler Ghia GS-1 Coupe, 2009 Corvette Stingray concept, 1953 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe by Ghia, 2005 Shelby GR1 concept, that Infiniti single seater from Pebble, and a couple of Faraday Futures – the FF91 and the Zero 1.  All of those manufacturer concepts served as reminders that more than half of the cars you see today, and more still of the cool cars you see today, came from Art Center graduates. 

C1 Corvette

This C1 Corvette helped carry American racing colros (albeit minus the blue stripe)

And, since the field is already packed with experts in design, it’s a judged show. Here below are the winners:

Motorcycle: Paul Greenstein’s 1929 Henderson Model KJ (runnerup Philippe De Lespinay’s 1976 Morbidelli-Benelli ARMI 125 VR Grand Prix Racer)

Other Colors (cars that are not from the red, white or blue countries): David Spiegel’s 1936 MG SA Saloon

Special Interest: Gary Wales’ 1938 Bentley 4.25 L Special Roadster

American Classics: The Petersen’s ’53 Ghia Cadillac

American Performance: Paul and Sherrill Colony’s ’55 Corvette

American Special Interest: Michael Leeds’ wild Blastolene “Blown Ranger” Fairchild XFR0001 Roadster

French: James Selevan’s 1976 Renault Alpine A110B

Ferraris: Donnie Crevier’s 1963 400 Superamerica

Italian Exotic: Chuck Gayton’s 1976 Lamborghini LP400

Italain Special Interest: The Byrd Family’s 1927 Lancia Lambda 7th Series Airway

Blastolene Roadster

The Blastolene Roadster

Designer’s Choices were:

Bruce Meyer’s 1960 Chevrolet Cunningham Corvette Le Mans Roadster; The Mullin Museum’s 1932 Bugatti Type 55; Po Shun Leong’s 1972 Citroen DS 21 Pallas; David SK Lee’s 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4; Thomas Shaughnessy’s 1962 Fiat/Abarth 1000 Coupe; and Bruce Heavin’s 1957 BMW Isetta.

There is no Best of Show here but if there was, we’d have given it to the Byrd Family’s 1927 Lancia Lambda Airway. The car was designed by Albany Motor Works of England and meant to reflect the general enthusiasm for airplanes at the time. As such the body was meant to simulate an airfoil or an airplane wing, with fabric wrapped over a wood frame structure. It was used as a daily driver for many years, then “fell into disrepair.” The Byrd Family acquired it in the ‘90s and had it restored in Australia, where it had spent most of its life. The restoration included new wood, Australian ash. It was quite a stunner. But then, the field was carpeted with stunners.

Even so, next year might be better. That’s when the Art Center’s Transportation Design department celebrates its 70th year. A big reunion is planned that will last the whole weekend. New car designs could be born. You never know. Start planning now.

The Byrd Family's Lancia

The Byrd Family’s award-winning Lancia