Iconic design: 70 years of ArtCenter influence

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Peter Brown may be best known for this Shelby Daytona Coupe, but he also did this De Tomaso P70 | Larry Crane photos

The title atop this story could easily describe the ArtCenter College of Design’s unforgettable Craig Ellwood-designed black bridge building on a hillside above Pasadena’s historic Rose Bowl, yet another iconic design. But the 70 years of inspiration, technical training in a host of creative pursuits — and character-building — was the focus of this year’s annual Car Classic at the California college. 

The event was a key element of a three-day reunion of Transportation Design alumni. We were given the opportunity to see a field of creative projects, many of which were being shown in their real-world production editions. Graduates of ArtCenter are given the tools to create dream-car forms and the skills to see them through to dealer showrooms. 

With the support of school president, Lorne Bachmann, Transportation Design chair Stewart Reed, many of the department’s faculty and scores of willing volunteers, the school’s sculpture garden was packed with more than 150 delightful vehicles, many supported by fans nearing the status of a cult. 

And the field was laced together by the presence of dozens (hundreds) of ArtCenter graduates who were responsible for the majority of the hardware we came to see. 

Once again, this writer/photographer has failed to edit down to the number of images, but the gallery includes those I simply could not leave out. Ignore the ones you don’t think are necessary to the story — I can’t. 

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Larry Crane has been an automotive literature aficionado from childhood. Car books and magazines represented most of his reading experience. He moved to Southern California in his early twenties to be close to his favorite cars. After a WestPac stint in the Navy, he was offered a position redesigning Motor Trend magazine. Then, for Steve Earle, he created America's first vintage road racing magazine as both editor and designer. FromVintage Racer he joined Road & Track and then David E. Davis Jr., asked him to help create a new kind of car magazine, Automobile. After 12 years, Crane took his family back to Los Angeles to create his dream magazine, AUTO Aficionado, which attracted an impressive cadre of the most influential members of the collector car hobby until the national economy made that one impossible to continue.

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