DETOURS December 2017:   2017 Art Center Classic | Yes, But is it Art?

St Johns Concours d'Elegance

Cobble Beach Concours d'Elegance

2018 Concours Events featuring art exhibitions

St John's Concours d'Elegance
Plymouth, Michigan, USA
July 27-29

Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance
Pebble Beach, California, USA
August 24-26

Cobble Beach Concours d'Elegance
Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada

Ken Eberts 2017 Hershey Poster

Ken Eberts created the 2017 event poster for the Antique Automobile Club Of America's Eastern Division National Fall Meet featuring the cars of the Bill Davis Collection centering on his 1930's-40's GM cars. The background of the poster art features the Leithiser Mansion on Chocolate Ave in Hershey, Pa. This is Eberts' 21st annual official Hershey poster.

The theme was red, white and blue with a row of white cars, a row of red cars and a row of blue cars and I have to say in the white section it was a brilliant idea because you could compare far disparate cars and appreciate styling nuances without the distraction of color.

This car is a local "star" in Calif. a Cadillac designed and built by Ghia, about the same time as Ghia was building a lot of Chrysler prototypes. It was bought by a prince married to a Hollywood star to give to her to save their marriage but the bribe didn't work.

ArtCenter Classic 2017

By Wallace Wyss
   This concours, if you want to call it that,is not really to be judged by any rules like say, Pebble Beach Concours. No it’s eclectic as all hell, and I say, rightfully so. For instance, right next to an unpainted (and deliberately rusty) “rat rod” there was another hot rod with what looked like your RR Merlin V12. And yet a few feet away was a new Bugatti Chiron and next to that a Veyron.

The theme was “red, white and blue” with whole squadrons of cars in either, you guessed it, red, white or blue. I actually enjoyed that because, in the white cars, it was easy to enjoy comparing their styling without the distraction of color.

The reason that the ArtCenter show is so diverse in what they invited to show is that the school is not only for car designers but also for entertainment industry designers, who will be designing the sets and props for many films to come. So their minds need to be stretched too, as to the possibilities out there. A lot of the students are from foreign countries where such outlandish vehicles are not allowed on the road.

I could even say some of the arts were artful one off sculptures, like the prewar Bentley of Gary Wales (who is nicknamed the Prince of Wales) which has a two seat roadster body of his own design, complete with three tailfins on its wood straked rear deck.

There was scarcely any artwork for sale, a few portraits by one student, and no car art, but the reason for this is the students are so busy doing artwork for school, they don’t have time to make work for sale.

There was a great speech by “Sasha” Selipanov, an Art Center alumnus who has rocketed through the design departments of three auto makers so far (including Bugatti and Lamborghini) to emerge as the chief of advanced design for Genesis. That alone made the event worth it for me, showing how his drawing talents (samples were shown during his speech)  fostered his rapid rise.

Editor's Note: Most of the time we assign the word "art" to represent two dimensional paintings or drawings and three dimensional sculpture. But that is not to say the word "art" can't be stretched to cover actual three dimensional self powered vehicles....

Yes, But is it Art?

Gary Wales and his “Black Prince” Bentley
By Wallace Wyss

  Gary Wales is a dreamer. But one difference between Wales and most car fans is that he actually builds the cars he dreams about, welding, bending metal, the whole nine yards. His 1938 Bentley, chassis B 161 LE , shown at the 2017 ArtCenter Classic in Pasadena, is a marvel to behold, both in terms of workmanship and in terms of vision. and, dare I say, there's more than a little art involved since the body shape a favorite body style of his envisioned in three dimensions .

The styling is all prewar inspired, though the body was built to his design in the last five years. With its ominous black body and tailfins, it looks a little sinister, like you imagine it was originally commissioned by a British Royal who was the "black sheep" of the family. The car is nicknamed “the Black Prince” and Gary’s nickname is the “Prince of Wales. He has elaborate coats of arms on the car and I didn’t have the nerve to ask him if they are real.

Gary bought an old Bentley about 30 years ago, a four door saloon. The body was in rough shape so he took it off and threw it away. And tehn it sat. For decades.

Meanwhile, other Bentleys came and went in his life but all the while, in the back of his mind, he was envisioning  what would be a proper sporty body for an open tourer version.

He finally got the idea down to a finite line, which necessitated moving the engine and gearbox back 18 inches in order to attain  50/50 weight distribution and make it a two seater. Wait a minute, that sounds like he wants to make it a racing car.

Did I mention Wales won a coast to coast race in a vintage car? It’s in his blood.

Then he had a body built , bespoke, to his own design. The fender style is early 1920’s flared upwards and out, but not curving around to enclose the wheels, that trend came later with “streamline moderne.”

Now there were some difficulties. Like he wanted sidemount wheels, but, with the body being shorter than it was when the car was first built, there was no place to put them, unless you wanted to throw out the doors. Which, at Gary’s age (75) would mean too big a gunwhale to hop over. So, inspired by the famous “round door “ Rolls, he cut a round hole on each side in the rearward hinged doors that just barely clear the sidemounts on each side. A very slick solution!

Then there’s the wood. Gary likes wood. He has three different kinds of wood in the car. The hardest task was carving fins out of wood and attaching them so they melded in with the wood covering the rear deck.

The dashboard is also a little history lesson. He uses guages from many different marques, all prewar, but the most interesting is a large tachometer from France that once sat on the dashboard of a WWI Nieuport fighter plane. The headlights are by Marchal.

The completed car suits Gary’s character. He is a world class raconteur more than willing to take anybody within earshot on a nose-to-tail tour of the car, explaining in intricate detail the decisions that went into each and every styling feature. Sort of like watching the "Director's Cut" of a film and having the director sitting beside you explaining his thoughts on setting up each scene. A privilege indeed!

Always ready with the documentation, at ArtCenter he showed me three e-mails from Bentley designers inviting him to display the car at their design center.

Now I ask you: what can designers hard at work doing Bentleys for the year 2020 possibly learn from a custom car done in California on such an ancient chassis? “Class.” Gary built what you would expect a sporting Bentley to be like in the 1920s and though “class” is difficult to define, it is exceedingly difficult to build into a modern car. Hope the young designers at Bentley learn something here...

THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss can be reached at

Detours continued: September 2017