Last year I attended the Art Center Car Classic for the first time, and was just astounded by the quality of the cars present at the event. Not only the quality, but the fact that the attendees strive to represent all different facets of automobile design. It’s truly a great show for those that, not only like seeing beautiful machines, but who also like to learn about the stories behind the sheetmetal.
When I walked into this year’s show, the first cars to catch my eyes were an Aston Martin DB35 and a Siata 208S. Right by that pair sat a Ferrari Enzo and Maserati MC12. If that wasn’t proof enough that this show is worth attending I kept walking and ran into a Maserati O.S.C.A. racer and a Lancia-Ferrari D50.
Then I saw it! The Aston Martin DB4 Zagato! I had wanted to see one for a long, long time as it is one of the most beautiful cars in the world. This particular car was in Monterey at the Quail Motorsports Gathering when I attended, yet managed to completely miss it. But not this time! This time I was all over it with my camera. It was definitely a crowd pleaser.
Just as I was photographing the DB4 Zagato, I heard the loud scream from a jet turbine and saw everyone rushing towards the back of the show area. I quickly made my way through the crowd and gazed upon the glory of Jay Leno’s Eco Jet! This thing is not only incredible looking, but it sounds absolutely amazing. I truly love it for its craziness.
Once the crowds cleared, I was able to spot a Lotus Elite sitting by its self, ignored by the rest of the crowd. This made for a perfect opportunity for grabbing pics. This car was just incredibly clean. Then right by it sat a 1957 stunning electric blue Buick Caballero with an Airstream trailer attached to it. Not far away there was a Mk1 Ford GT40 parked beside a Lamborghini Miura. In my opinion this was a perfect pairing as they seem to have a very similar silhouette. One was shaped with the intention of function and the other with beauty as the sole purpose for its design.
The aforementioned DB4 Zagato had gotten my heart racing earlier, but then I spotted the Singer 911 and my heart started pounding like crazy. I had wanted to see a Singer 911 ever since I learned they existed, and I was simply flabbergasted by it. They are just so perfect! The attention to detail is amazing. Everywhere you look you see where Singer has gone the extra mile to create perfection. Nothing is overlooked, nothing seems half-assed. There were certainly no short cuts taken. Fit and finish is way higher than what you see in your typical build. Seeing this car in person really helps you see where all the money goes and to me it really justifies the asking price. With a Singer 911, you truly are getting the best there is. The early 911 is the car that really got me into cars, making the Singer 911 perfect in my eyes as it mixes the looks of the early 911’s with the performance of the later models.
Then came the car that stole my heart. I have to admit that lately I have been kind of snobbish towards American cars as I see so many of them at car shows, and most of the custom builds are copies of something someone else has done. There seems to be very little innovation and creativity left. But then I saw my literal dream car. A very custom 1955 Ford Thunderbird, Riddler Award winner, which was designed and built by a 22 year old Art Center Student and his brother. I’ve always had a thing for T-birds and even drive a 90’s model. The night before this event I was struggling to sleep and I started thinking about how great it would built a custom 1955 T-bird as very few seem to be customized. You often see custom C1 Vettes built, but seldom do you see a custom 1st gen bird.
I easily spent 20 minutes standing and walking around this car. Everywhere you looked there were custom touches. Everything had been reshaped and smoothed over. The designer even created his own twist of the T-bird logo. This was my kind of build! Everything had fluidity to it and looked very simple, but when you dipped into your memory bank and thought about what an original looks like you realized that virtually no surface was left untouched. Even “Mr. Hot Rod” Bruce Meyer, came over and drooled all over the car. I fully expect this build to win awards at every single event it enters. It’s that awesome. In fact it was so great that I have to admit that I almost shed a tear. I was THAT overwhelmed by it. I had NEVER had that feeling with any other car. I had been excited at the sight of cars such as a Bugatti Atlantic, Hispano Suiza, Voision’s, Duesembergs, etc. but no other car had come close to this. It really helped to liven me up and bring some of the enthusiasm for automobile design back into me. I’ve been to so many car shows and have seen so many cars that it had become the equivalent of what I would imagine being a long time Playboy photographer could become “Oh look woopty doo! Another naked lady.” I guess you could call this car my Marilyn Monroe? It just has something that stands out above the rest.
The day ended with my favorite part of the show, seeing and hearing the cars leave. The exit to the show grounds is a straight up hill driveway and the cars often accelerate hard up the hill. It is pure aural pleasure for those patient enough to stick around to the very end.