Cobras, Stingrays and Mako Sharks, oh my! Auto afficionados get “Inspired by Nature” at Car Classic

This past Sunday, nearly 2,000 visitors—transportation designers, car collectors, auto enthusiasts and more—assembled at Art Center College of Design for its popular annual Car Classic event. This year, the event showcased transportation design “Inspired by Nature” and celebrated a generous recent gift from Southern California philanthropists and car collectors Peter and Merle Mullin, who attended the event.

Nearly 90 carefully curated cars, trucks, motorcycles and bicycles–many of which, in keeping with the event’s theme, were inspired by birds, fish, insects and other natural phenomena–were on display at the event. A jury of alumni, faculty and industry leaders issued Best in Class awards to 18 vehicles in eight categories; while attendees voted for five vehicles in five categories.

Local custom auto designer Gary Wales’ 1917 La Bestioni Boat Tail Speedster was named the People’s Choice award winner. The Inspired by Nature award went to the 1959 Chevrolet Corvette Racing Stingray, whose lines were originally penned by alumnus and Car Classic honorary guest Peter Brock. And a 1961 Chevrolet Corvette Mako Shark, designed by alumnus Larry Shinoda, received the first ever Kids’ Choice award.

Behind-the-scenes interviews with designers and collectors took place throughout the day. ABC-7 automotive reporter Dave Kunz conducted roving interviews on the field with car owners beside their vehicles. Susan Carpenter, automotive critic for the Orange County Register, moderated an “Inspired by Nature” panel discussion between yacht designer and alumnus Glade Johnson, custom vehicle designer and Decoliner creator Randy Grubb, and alumnus Freeman Thomas, designer of the Audi TT and Volkswagen New Beetle.

And, in an historic moment, Tonight Show host Jay Leno, a passionate car collector himself, interviewed Brock and his fellow alumnus Tom Peters, whose re-launched 2014 Corvette Stingray was just named Car of the Year by Yahoo! Autos.

Peters was also honored with a Lifetime Achievement award at the event for his extraordinary contributions to transportation design, including his years working with General Motors. “Tom has the ability to envision what others can’t see, and his passion, spirit and commitment to win influences everyone around him,” said Clay Dean, Design Director for GM Global Advanced Design. “Simply put, the men and women who work for Tom share his desire and thirst for winning, and they create incredibly spirited designs.”

Also at the event, on behalf of the General Motors Foundation, Dean announced a gift of $110,000 through the company’s annual University/Organization Partner Program, bringing to more than $2 million the total invested by GM throughout its partnership with Art Center.

Right before the Car Classic awards were announced, Art Center’s Transportation Design Department Chair, Stewart Reed, led the audience in a round of applause for Peter and Merle Mullin, who recently donated $15 million to Art Center, the largest gift in the College’s 83-year history.

Recognizing the Mullins’ gift, Art Center President Lorne M. Buchman notes, “Merle and Peter have exhibited a deep understanding of the importance of design and Art Center’s leadership role in shaping the future of transportation by supporting the needs of our programs. On behalf of the entire community—and especially on behalf of the thousands of students who will be empowered to make a positive difference in the world—I extend my heartfelt gratitude to these longtime friends of Art Center for their philanthropy and vision.”

For more information on the event, visit the Car Classic website.

Sponsors of Car Classic 2013 included the Ford Motor Company Fund, Jaguar, Land Rover, New Century BMW, RTT USA and Solid Concepts, with in-kind support provided by media partners including L.A. Weekly, Los Angeles Times, KCRW and Los Angeles magazine.

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