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Avanti and Loewy shine under California sun

Lew Schucart, Avanti Magazine

The designs of Raymond Loewy took center stage - literally - under a hot summer sun in this northern Los Angeles enclave.

The 2009 edition of the Art Center College of Design's Car Classic highlighted the best of transportation designed for land, sea and air.

Loewy was featured as one of the few designers to create vehicles for all three.

This year's theme reflects the broadening scope of Art Center's transportation design department, which has been graduating students who have led in the field for 60 years.

Although previous years' shows - they've been held since 2003, not counting last year - featured mostly automobiles, this year's show and exhibit showcased the best of all forms of transportation that push the boundaries of design.

Spread out across the hillside campus were 100+ examples of automotive design excellence, featuring classic, sports and custom cars, hot rods, motorcycles, aircraft and watercraft.

Attendees also got a chance to view the work of current design students as they work on the future generation of transportation.

Highlighted at center stage where spectators entered the center's Sculpture Garden was AOAI member Chuck Sydoryk's mint-fresh from restoration 1963 Avanti.

Its recently completed mechanical and frame-off and mechanical restoration was done by D'Elegance of Fallbrook, Calif., with body sculpting and paint by Calamia Customs of Vista, Calif.

Chuck's Avanti was transported from D'Elegance the previous day.

It is painted Avanti Red - 63R-3848's original color - and optioned as one might have been built by Andy Granatelli and his Grancor Corp. - R-3 engine, four-speed T-10 transmission, and original, restored Halibrand magnesium wheels.

Chuck's Avanti, originally an R-2 with automatic transmission, was previously owned by AOAI board member Steve Cabella. This is the Avanti that was on display in November 2002 in a downtown Tokyo gallery.

And the R-3 engine? It's been featured previously in Avanti Magazine Issue 111, still packed inside a crate in England.

In the late 1990s, AOAI member Paul Johnson acquired two rare R-series engines from the original purchaser who had them shipped to England direct from Paxton Products in Santa Monica, Calif.

Those engines - Chuck's R-3, and an R-4 engine - were uncrated and spent a number of years on display at the Studebaker National Museum in South Bend.

Truly a world traveler.

"I just pulled the car from the restoration shop on Saturday afternoon and saw the car in brilliant sunlight for the first time ever," explained Sydoryk of his 1963 Avanti.

"In looking at the front of the car, a design detail just jumped out at me - something I had never noticed before - the centerline body crease that starts just above the front bumper and travels up and over onto the hood before disappearing into the hood bulge, installed originally by the Loewy/Kellogg/Andrews/Ebstein design team. My restoration people "defined" that line and with that, I could no longer refer to my body people as mere body men, or restorers."

"They had become "Sculptors," and that's what this car needs in restoration, all the unique lines and blends of curvilinear body creases need to be "sculpted." This car demands that level of work to truly highlight and honor those who envisioned the finished project.

Sydoryk's Avanti was not the only Loewy design on display.

Longtime Costa Mesa, Calif., resident Stuart Shaffer volunteered his original, Loewy-designed 1959 Dorsett San Juan cabin cruiser for display.

Shaffer is the original owner and has meticulously maintained his watercraft over 50 years.

"It's one of the finest original examples of a an unrestored Dorsett still existing," commented David Hagerman, director and CEO of Loewy Design in Marietta, Ga.

The 19-foot Dorsett San Juan features inside sleeping accommodations for two to four persons, a sink, toilet and icebox - yes, an icebox. No electric refrigeration needed here; owners must chill their food by placing blocks of ice inside.

Shaffer has used the boat over the last 50 years throughout California, taking his family on camping vacations, both on inland lakes across the state and in nearby coast-hugging harbors.

Rounding out the Loewy display were large-scale models.

Jacque Loewy, grandson of the world renowned designer provided a scale model of a Boeing 707 jetliner decorated in Air Force One colors, as well as a 1951 Greyhound Scenicruiser bus.

The original Boeing 707 Air Force One exterior colors and interior design were created by Raymond Loewy, in close consultation with President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy.

That plane was decommissioned earlier this decade and is on permanent display at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif.

A Pennsylvania Railroad GG-1 locomotive rounded out the display case.

The Lionel O-gauge locomotive was loaned for the exhibit by AOAI Illinois member Thomas Gipe. He received the train set in 1947 as a gift from his father and it is a perfect survivor of one of Loewy's creations.

Exhibit Highlights

To kick off the event, the crowd was treated to a flyover by aircraft designed by aerospace engineer Burt Rutan.

Two more Rutan aircraft - a Varieze and a Long EZ - as well as the black A ‑Star Eurocopter used in the television series "24" were temporarily parked in the center's Sculpture Garden.

Attendees were also treated to additional flyovers throughout the day, including one by Formula One Air Racing champion Nemesis NXT.

Other vehicles on display included:

A GM Ultralite concept car designed by Burt Rutan;

A "Fins and Wings" corral including the original George Barris‑designed Batmobile and GM Firebird III concept car;

Amphibious vehicles includes a 1967 Amphicar and a 1944 VW Schwimmwagen;

Ed "Big Daddy" Roth's flying Rotar car;

"TV" Tommy Ivo and his legendary Barnstormer drag racer;

Rare and exotic motorcycles including a 1928 BMW and a 1956 BMW with sidecar, custom bikes, and the debut of the Polaris "Core" concept bike;

The unveiling of the Blastolene Brothers' new hot rod based on a full‑size Peterbilt tractor; and

Ten rare microcars including Messershmitts, Goggomobiles and a Vespa.

Speaker Highlights

The only thing more inspiring than seeing the vehicles may be hearing from the people behind them.

Burt Rutan, designer of the record‑breaking aircraft Voyager and SpaceShipOne and winner of the 2004 Ansari X‑Prize, delivered the keynote address at Car Classic ‘09. Rutan is currently preparing to open the doors for sub‑orbital space tourism with the launch the Virgin Galactic spaceline with Sir Richard Branson, and is scheduled to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from Art Center and General Motors Design. Mike Melvill, who piloted SpaceShipOne to win the X‑Prize, was at the Car Classic too.

In the afternoon, KABC‑TV automotive reporter Dave Kunz moderated a panel of Art Center graduates who have attained great success designing motorcycles, yachts and aircraft.

Earlier in the day, Kunz interviewed Loewy grandson Jacque Loewy on his grandfather's designs.

In addition to leading the automotive studios of Pininfarina, Ferrari‑Maserati, Ford, General Motors, DaimlerChrysler, BMW, Porsche, Audi, Volvo, Nissan, Aston Martin, Mazda, Toyota/Lexus and Volkswagen North America, Art Center alumni currently head design teams at Harley-Davidson, BMW Motorcycle, Aprilia Motorcycles, MV Augusta Motorcycles, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Polaris, Teague, Gulfstream Aerospace, Bombardier, Cessna Aircraft, ICON Aircraft, Lear Jet, Tiara Yachts, Bayliner Boats and Glade Johnson Yacht Design, among others.

Barry Meguiar, host of Speed Channel's "Car Crazy," emceed the awards ceremony, where twelve honors were presented to vehicles of exceptional design.

Awards handed out at the show's conclusion included seven Design Showcase Awards, three Designers' Choice Awards judged by a stellar panel of professional automotive designers, a Students' Choice Award judged by a team of Art Center's top Transportation Design students, and a People's Choice Award judged by all in attendance.

More information on this year's show, and previous shows can be viewed on the internet at www.artcenter.edu/carclassic.

Writer: Lewis Schucart

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