Los Angeles Show Gets Stylish

November 26, 2005

2000 Isuzu Rodeo

2000 Isuzu Rodeo

Los Angeles’ annual car show has been a hit with shoppers from its inception. But in terms of international attention, media coverage, and manufacturer attendance, it’s in past years been overshadowed by the annual Detroit extravaganza that takes place shortly after it — even by the later Chicago and New York shows scattered throughout the spring.

 

But no more, organizers say. This coming year marks a break for the L.A. show, which will actually take place twice in the next calendar year. To reposition itself at the end of the auto-show season — and to recast its general theme in the direction of automotive design — the Los Angeles show is moving from January to November.

 

As a result, in 2006 there will be two Los Angeles auto shows, one to greet the New Year (from Jan. 6-15) and one just prior to the holiday season in ’06 (Dec. 1-10).

 

As it switches to a new date and a new focus, the show will once again spin off a Design Challenge competition. Inaugurated last year, the Challenge returns for the January show as an adjunct to the Design Los Angeles automobile designers’ conference also held during the show days. This year’s challenge will again help cast a spotlight on the L.A.area as a hotbed of auto design and trends, show officials say.

 

Too, the competition lets designers at the many West Coast studios established by automakers to break free from concepts that have future production vehicles in mind. “The Design Challenge is an exercise in free thinking and allows designers the chance to explore ideas without the restriction of production disciplines,” says Chuck Pelly, Design Los Angeles conference director and partner in The Design Academy, Inc.

 

This year’s Design Challenge pitted the West Coast studios in a competition to pen the best car for “An L.A. Adventure.” Included among them are commuter cars fashioned into urban-loft feel-alikes, a film festival on wheels, and a gourmet touring car that caters to drivers and passengers in at least two very different ways. And while none of the concepts are actually constructed in clay, fiberglass, or sheetmetal — it’s two-dimensional presentations only — this year’s designs are striking in their conceptualization nonetheless. The entries for the January 2006 Challenge include:

 

 

 

 

 

1999 Jaguar XK180

1999 Jaguar XK180

Audi Nero

 

Audi’s Simi Valleystudio enters the Nero, a design penned by Jess Harder and Raul Cenan. The Nero evokes Audi’s Auto Union racing history of the 1930s, with aerodynamic surfaces and carbon-black body panels and a translucent hood that shows off the engine beneath it.

 

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2000 Jaguar S-Type

2000 Jaguar S-Type

GMC PAD

 

An “urban loft with mobility,” the GMC PAD is easily the most fashionable way to live in your car yet conceived. The vehicle can operate in diesel-electric hybrid mode when on the go — but it can also generate power for its house features while parked. “Commuting is what other people do,” GMC offers up as the rationale for the radical concept, designed by a host of artists (Steve Anderson, Senon B. Franco III, Jay Bernard, Phil Tanioka, Sidney Levy, Brian Horton, Alessandro Zezza, Christine Ebner, and Frank Saucedo).

 

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1999 Isuzu Trooper

1999 Isuzu Trooper

Honda L.A. Rolling Film Festival

 

Honda’s R&D department turns in its Challenge quiz in the form of a “rolling film festival” — a series of vehicles designed around typical L.A.life scenes. There’s a car that doubles as a Jacuzzi; a “running bus” uses the power generated by ten human runners on treadmills as its motive force.

 

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2002 Infiniti Q45

2002 Infiniti Q45

Hyundai Greenspeed Gator

 

A drag-racer from Hyundai? Yes, and it’s a fuel-cell-powered one at that. Hyundai’s Gator, drawn by Eric Stoddard, sports an alien body shape with the white-hot performance of a Top Fuel dragster and something ominously tagged a “seat sling.” Giant hood blisters store hydrogen for rocketlike acceleration, while the rear wheelhouses hold electric motors that spin the Gator into orbit.

 

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2001 Infiniti G20

2001 Infiniti G20

Kia Sidewinder

 

Korea’s other car company steps up to the Challenge with the Sidewinder, a gas-turbine-driven two-seater meant entirely for drifting. Power in designer Marc Mainville’s concept vehicle gets shuttled into electric motors at the wheels. Kia’s shooting for green-friendly performance here, while giving props to the first sanctioned American drifting event, which was held in the L.A.area.

 

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2000 Hyundai Tiburon

2000 Hyundai Tiburon

Maybach CaliforniaGourmet Tourer

 

It’s all over but the degustation, when it comes to the Maybach Challenge concept tourer. Automated through its GPS links to the sky, the Gourmet Tourer is outfitted with all imaginable devices to store and serve food and wine — and panoramic glass areas that allow full enjoyment of the passing scenery. What other brand would give you a refrigerator, espresso maker, wine racks, and a microwave? Yep, you guessed right. It’s Kitchen Aid. Thanks and requests for reservations go to designer Andre Frey.

 

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1999 Hyundai Santa Fe

1999 Hyundai Santa Fe

Mercedes-Benz Mojave Runner

 

Slightly more doable than the Maybach concept, the Benz Mojave Runner sounds ready for duty in Fallujah. The carbon-fiber and aluminum exterior frame are twinned with night vision, sandstorm radar, GPS, and a hydrogen fuel-cell powertrain with power ports for tools and rescue gear, giving the Mojave Runner the ability to thrive in all kinds of weather conditions. Neater yet: designer John Gill’s newest edition has adaptive tires with changeable tread depth.

 

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990726_outbacksed

990726_outbacksed

Mitsubishi Roadster Konzept

 

Spelling aside, Mark Kim’s roadster idea car sounds right-on, with its trendy hybrid powertrain coupled with all-wheel drive. A total of 360 hp gets pushed through the AWD system via in-wheel motors in the inevitable marriage of Evo-style performance and Prius-style frugality. Kitschy detail: rear rumble seats that double as extra cargo space.

 

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2000 Honda Prelude

2000 Honda Prelude

Scion Exile

 

Toyota’s youthful Matt Sperling put pen to paper for the Exile, envisioning trips from ski country to beachfront and club-hopping all in the same day. Sportscar proportions soften the Exile’s functionality — its clever rear end acts like a movable cargo pod and detaches for use as a rolling locker.

 

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1999 Honda Odyssey

1999 Honda Odyssey

Smart Rescue Vehicle

 

Hubert Lee goes all Baywatch on the Challenge on behalf of not-quite-here-yet Smart. His Rescue Vehicle is drawn out for lifeguards on the California coast to help with patrolling, rescues, and applying sunscreen to chesty co-workers. With boat-style seating (up high and waterproof) the turbocharged, 800-cc Smart engine rides between the seats and also spins the jet pump when the Rescue Vehicle does its fabulous impression of an Amphicar.

 

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