Classic Cars Shine Alongside Student Designs

A glamorous toast to the Tucker opened the Academy's VIP preview at the San Francisco Chronicle 57th Annual International Auto Show 

Academy of Art University hosted a dazzling red carpet cocktail reception on Friday, Nov. 21 as part of the San Francisco Chronicle 57th Annual International Auto Show. The brightest stars in the Academy’s classic car collection were on display alongside distinguished work from each of the Academy’s innovating departments.

It’s estimated that more than 2,000 people attended the VIP preview before the auto show officially opened the following week, Nov. 24–29. White-coated waiters served drinks and hors d’oeuvres to car aficionados, members of the press and Academy faculty and students who received the exclusive invite.

“It is a fabulous experience; not only can you get up close and personal with some of their collection, but you are free to roam around the rest of the show without all the crowds,” said Cadillac & LaSalle Club member David Greenburg.



The 1949 Kaiser Virginian. Photo by Drew Altizer.

“Finally he said it was never coming, and that the big companies didn’t want it to exist, and wouldn’t let Mr. Tucker buy steel or the supplies he needed.”

This kind of innovation in the face of adversity is a quality the Academy is proud of fostering in its students. The “Tucker Torpedo” boasted safety innovations not seen in previous models, including a padded dashboard, a pop-out shatterproof windshield, and a third swiveling headlight in the center that was used to light the way around corners.

“The Tucker represents such courage on a part of a man, to live his dream, to make this wonderful design and this car very unique,” Academy of Art University President Dr. Elisa Stephens said. “He bet everything on the dream, and it represents, I think to our students and to America, that hard work and moving forward, win-lose, if something’s well designed, it stands the test of time.”

Also on display was the 1920 Kissel Roadster, one of the first cars to be mass-produced, although less than 150 of the “Kissel Kars” are known to exist today. The 1935 Duesenberg SJ Convertible Coupe was another highlight; a multi-million dollar collector piece, the popular slang word “doozy,” is thought to have originated with these Duesenberg cars, known to reach speeds up to 135 mph. This particular auto is perhaps most well known for previously belonging to the publishing giant William Randolph Hearst.



The School of Industrial Design’s display at the 57th Annual International Auto Show. Photo by Drew Altizer.

Beside rare collector cars that covered four decades of automobile innovation sat fresh ideas from current industrial design students in the form of futuristic car models. B.F.A. student Jack Liu is graduating this spring with a concentration in transportation design, and his TD 5 model looks more like a spaceship than a car. Designed for the year 2040, its shape addresses issues like traffic, tourism and parking, and its features include complete privacy and sky parking.

Across from Liu’s TD 5 was a forest green car model for Jaguar, created by Academy students Tyler Carpenter and Allan Warner. Carpenter designed the model and Warner sculpted it, documenting the entire process using nearby visuals. Oversized wheels hoist this car’s frame higher than most, and an open arched cockpit makes it the perfect off-roading machine.

But Academy students’ work highlighted at the event wasn’t limited to new-age car models. Each department had their own display, highlighting the most popular careers attained by students in the program. They also included television monitors with slideshows and clips of the designs and artwork currently being crafted by students.

The antique car display hosted by the Academy of Art brought important historical significance to the auto show overall, which is best known for revealing the following year’s models for every major automobile brand.

“We are proud to be able to exhibit vehicles from the museum that represent the elegance, style, craftsmanship, technology and innovative spirit of automotive designers past and present,” said Auto Show Director Kevin Diamond.