13 August 2007

Channeling the Deuce

The Collectors Foundation recently honored the 75th anniversary of the iconic 1932 Ford, known as the “Deuce,” in modified coupe or roadster form, by offering a $5000 scholarship to the ArtCenterCollege of Design student who could best interpret what a 1932 Ford Roadster would look like in 2007.

The scholarship, funded by Hagerty Insurance and Ford Motor Company, was awarded to Gabriel Wartofsky. Gabriel was chosen by attendees of the ArtCenter Car Classic on July 15, for his Vegas-meets-Detroit design.

A fifth (of eight) term ArtCenter student, Gabriel Wartofsky, was born in Washington , DC , to a dancer mom and a painter dad who lived a simple life. “We had no TV and no car and we ate dinner by candlelight,” he said. “It taught me to value imagination.” His parents, who are avid antique collectors, also instilled a sense of appreciation for history in their son. “I learned to respect the past and the craft behind antiques,” he said.

But how does a boy raised to believe cars are unnecessary accoutrements of modern life achieve a love affair with all things automotive? “Cars just resonated with me. My brother and I would check out all the cars in our neighborhood. I just had a fixation with them.”

Due in part to his family’s lack of a television, but mostly because of his insatiable interest in automobiles, Gabriel read any collector car magazine he could find. It was in 1989 – in one of those magazines – that he first learned of ArtCenter ’s transportation design program. “It was a story about ArtCenter students in Europe and I thought ‘I need to go there.’ I always knew I needed to come here.”

He called the school for information, but it would be years before he finally realized his dream of becoming a student. After high school he headed to GeorgetownUniversity where he studied Spanish and Portuguese, followed by stints in Spain , Brazil , and Boston .

It was during Gabriel’s year in Boston that he became acquainted with the hot rod culture. “There was this clan of hot rodders that would hang out in my neighborhood. Seeing them was like looking into a time capsule. Those things were their babies. The amount of care and attention they lavished on their rods made them seem more like their pets than their cars.”

After Boston , Gabriel finally headed to Southern California, and to ArtCenter , where he said his earlier education served him well. “I’ve always been intrigued by languages and design is a language.” While all cars tell a story, hot rods have a uniquely “human touch” according to Gabriel. “It’s a symbol of American culture that you can make your own car. Hot rods are the purest expression of the true American automotive soul, representing individuality, ingenuity, and a relentless love for mobility.”

Gabriel was drawn to the design contest by the simple beauty of the ’32 Ford Roadster and the opportunity to put a modern spin on its timeless grace. Always intrigued by polar opposites, he designed his rod with two American cities in mind: Vegas and Detroit .

“ Detroit is gritty, industrial, blue-collar. Vegas is glitz, glamour and camp,” he said. “I wanted to combine the glitz of Vegas with the industrial brute of Detroit .” He achieved that by channeling Vegas in the car’s body, with holographic flames and tinted, transparent buttresses, while the big block V-8 is all Detroit , as are the exposed frame rails. “It’s the beauty of a showgirl, combined with the might of a factory worker.”

According to Gabriel, winning the Collectors Foundation scholarship has been a great experience. “It’s been really affirming,” he said. After he graduates from ArtCenter , he hopes to use his education and his art to create environmentally-friendly vehicles that are luxurious at the same time. “Wastefulness is a sign of status. I want to change the paradigm of luxury. I want to make what I love responsible.”

A portion of every Hagerty Plus membership goes to support the Collectors Foundation, where it helps to fund scholarships like Gabriel’s and other programs that promote the future of the collector vehicle and boat hobbies. For more information on the Collectors Foundation, click here.

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