Beyond Restoration

IND’s new Automotive Restoration Associate of Arts Degree Program announced at annual Auto Show reception


A classic 1935 Duesenberg SJ Walker-LaGrande Convertible Coupe and a 1930 Cadillac V-16 on display at 58th Annual San Francisco Chronicle International Auto Show. Photo by Susana Bates for Drew Altizer Photography.

On the evening of Nov. 20, over 30 beautifully restored vehicles selected from the Academy of Art University Automobile Museum captured the attention of guests at the cocktail reception in honor of the 58th Annual San Francisco Chronicle International Auto Show.

The Stephens family hosted the fulgurant red carpet viewing one day prior to the opening of the Auto Show at the Moscone Center, not only to showcase their car collection, but to announce the School of Industrial Design’s new Automotive Restoration Associate of Arts Degree Program. Tom Matano, executive director of the School of Industrial Design, briefly explained the key elements that students will learn in the program, emphasizing how the history of each vehicle is as important as learning the skills behind car design and restoration.

“The cars here are an integral part of the curriculum. Students learn about the history of the cars in their design classes and then begin to recognize some of the design cues. It helps them to understand the progression of car design,” Matano said.

The event itself has become an anticipated part of development for students at the Academy. Dr. Elisa Stephens, Academy of Art University president, shared her thoughts on the value of hosting this function to kick off the Auto Show. “What happens here is the school gets exposure, the students get exposure and the more the school is recognized, the better it is for our students and alumni,” she said.

Once the Auto Show opens to the public, thousands of people see the vehicles on display as the classic cars are set up next to the new cars being shown.

A different selection of cars is selected every year, rotating the Academy’s extensive collection and thus creating a genuine new experience for guests. Each car was displayed with a brief piece of literature on its history. 

The highlight of the evening was the 1938 Lincoln-Zephyr Coupe. The vehicle sat behind the velvet rope on a rotating elevated platform, hypnotizing recipients of the exclusive invitation. Clips of the coupe’s humble beginnings in The Green Hornet 1940s television series were projected behind the car. Historically, the Zephyr Coupe can be thanked for saving the Lincoln brand from going out of business. There were originally approximately 2,600 made; today, there are less than 100. 

Chairman Emeritus Dr. Richard A. Stephens dreamt about owning a few classic automobiles in his lifetime but the actual assortment of cars began after he received a 1929 Packard Convertible as a surprise gift from his daughter.

Today, his favorite car from the current collection is the 1948 “Tucker Torpedo” that was highlighted at last year’s event after being a new addition to the Academy’s Auto Museum. Its nickname stems from its creator, Preston Tucker. Tucker struggled financially to create the other 50 Torpedos, but he built a beautiful car “against all odds” as Dr. Richard A. Stephens described it. The Torpedo joined the rest of the collection on display this year.

Celebrity fashion designer Richie Rich expressed his admiration of the assembly of classics. “They’re absolutely all amazing. It’s so hard to select a favorite one out of the collection,” he shared. 

Ludmila Kisseleva-Eggleton, member of the Art Deco Society of California, commended the Academy on their yearly event. “I’m blown away by the beauty of the cars. I’ve seen many vintage cars before, but here … they are so well presented and maintained.”