DETOURS UPDATE December 2019:   Art Center Concours  |   Tokyo Auto Show 2019


by Wallace Wyss   The Art Center College of Design is a landmark not only in Pasadena but in the design world. It's best known for training many of the world car designers. Each year they have a car show and this year it had the theme of cars that were created for someone's dream, whether it became a production car or not. So it was far from the concours style of Pebble Beach where there is judging.

   The great thing about the Art Center show is that many of the people showing a car are retired designers. They might have even designed the car they are showing.  One of the best success stories is Chip Foose, son of a customizer, who brought two hot rods, one of which inspired a Chrysler Prowler (after he left Chrysler he produced a series of these hot rods) . He is an Art Center grad who though he has worked for automakers, prefers to build rods for private customers. There were some classic cars, you can't get  more classic than the one off Bugatti 57SC with Van Vooren coackwork designed as a wedding present for the Shah of Iran.

Among the interesting cars: A '68 Dodge Charger that had the steel body replaced by a carbon fiber one.. Weight savings 800 lbs! A one off special two seater designed by a GM engineer Herb Adams back in the 60's(and the first car I wrote a story on...) A mid-engined two seater electric car looked as wild as a Bugatti... bBut since it's electric, might not be hard to get it into production--no engine block to tool up for...

File under razz-ma-tazz the two gals in skimpy costumes and astronaut's bubble helmets appearing with an old Bertone show car. French cars were also represented by a Citroen where the owner detached the fender to show the maddening intricacies of the hydraulic suspension system. Not too many people do that at a car  show! And also waving the tri-color was a Matra Djet, a slim little mid-engine car that has to be one of the first mid-engined cars on the market (Detomaso's Vallelunga also claims this title)    

 I did not see many booths selling artwork--there were a few canvas giclees in the hallway as you left the building to go down the stairs to the law n where the show as but Art Center deliberately doesn't want students spending weeks making works for sale  instead of their class assignments.  There was an author named Patrick Kelley showing an unusual limited edition book (100 copies) that has the design drawings of 87 artists from Detroit's past(the cover says form the 1930s to the 1980s) . He says he has been going around Detroit meeting retired designers and arranging for their work to be published.  When you go to the Art Center show,  an extra treat is that you can walk through the halls and see student work. I ducked into one Trans Design classroom to shoot a clay model. I only heard one spoken presentation, but was heartened that the Corvette designer said he still loves clay because others in the industry want to skip that step in car design.    


by Rob Alen The Tokyo Motor Show is held every other year. This year it was in the process of refreshing and renewing itself, much like Tokyo is preparing for the 2020 Olympics.

The influence of Japan on the auto industry is profound: just-in-time manufacturing, quality control, reliability and dependability that shook Detroit. Once the leader in automotive and electronics, there is now competition from South Korea and China, so preparing for the Olympics should reinvigorate and showcase the country.

This year the electric car epidemic is spreading: Mazda showed an all-electric MX-30 SUV with a profile that looks a lot like a car on stilts. Mercedes-Benz brought their all-electric Vision EQS first seen at this year's Frankfurt Auto Show. Daihatsu showed product favorable to an aging population looking for a little assistance.

Like many auto shows these days, Tokyo attendance has been going down. Many foreign manufacturers were absent, it is not Tokyo, it is just the way it is these days. While the likes of Porsche, BMW, and Audi were not at the show, absentees did have a presence.

Peugeot took temporary exhibition space, a showroom and coffee cafe in the popular Roppongi Hills shopping complex. Locally, there are off-site brand showrooms forwarding their brand to owners and aspirants. Intersection by Lexus is a trendy restaurant, cafe and art gallery in the fashionable Aoyama district ( Mitsubishi has a location in Ginza, and adjoining the Porsche dealer in the Shiodome area is a Porsche-themed restaurant ( Mercedes has a showroom, cafe, restaurant and boutique in mid-town (

This year the show was ambitious to attract an audience with free admission to space and exhibitions looking like a science fair ( Aikido Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor, and this year's president of the Japan's auto manufacturers group, sponsors of the auto show, said the idea behind the show was to connect humans to cars as they are to horses. He may unknowingly be prescient, as today's equestrian enthusiasts are typically a select, wealthy group. Is that possibly a similar future for auto enthusiasts?

Detours continues... »