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A “new” 1939 Bugatti among the stars at annual Art Center Car Classic

Steve Siler

As it has for the last 10 years, the annual Art Center Car Classic brought a stunning array of carefully curated beauties from past and present to the manicured lawns of one the world’s preeminent transportation design schools, Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif. This year’s “Inspired by Nature” theme attracted rare and interesting automobiles with designs that mimicked forms and animals found in nature, such as the Corvette Mako Shark and Stingray racecar, as well as others named after animals, such as the Lamborghini Miura, Chevy Impala 409, and Plymouth Barracuda, and others that simply allow you to enjoy nature like the wicker-seated Fiat 500 Jolly, and, well, any of the many convertibles among the 80 or so entries.

Two particularly interesting automobiles at the Car Classic included the recently completed 1939 Bugatti Type 64 Coupe, commissioned by Art Center trustees Peter and Merle Mullin, using an incomplete but original Bugatti chassis, and the wildly styled, wooden-bodied 1917 La Bestioni Boat Tail Speedster, built on the chassis of an vintage fire truck and powered by a 900-cubic-inch inline-6 cylinder engine.

One of the coolest aspects of the Art Center Car Classic is its accessibility to the cars themselves. It’s one thing to watch multi-million-dollar Bugattis, vintage supercars, or fragile one-off concept cars spin around on roped-off turntables, but at the Art Center Classic, one can walk right up to them, peer inside and talk to their lucky owners who are usually sitting somewhere nearby. Even better, the event is not too huge, and is never crowded; in fact, a considerable chunk of the show attendees are current Art Center students, many of whom you’ll find sitting cross-legged by their favorite cars, sketching its various details.

Other highlights of the annual event include guided tours of the stunning Art Center Hillside Campus that allow participants watch its many students scribble away in drafting studios and work on 3-D models, seemingly oblivious to the millionaires milling about on the lawn outside. Indeed, it may be Sunday, but school is very much still in session. For more information on Art Center College of Design and the annual Car Classic, check out www.artcenter.edu.