Description from an April 22, 1982 press release clipped to the photo.
Taken from an April 27, 1982 press release: Significant changes in the automobile industry are affecting traditional concepts of design education. At the Art Center College of Design, a prime supplier of automotive designers to the worldwide industry, this curriculum exploration is taking place in technological, creative and academic areas. Often as not, instruction may anticipate professional needs not yet fully established by the industry. (Omitted five paragraphs here from press release.) In the first phase of the Art Center project, the 15 students were divided into teams of three to design small two-passenger cars for commuting and neighborhood driving. Thinking through the problem, they came up with some innovative, yet realistic solutions. As the students conceived them, the cars could be powered by either very small gasoline or gas turbine engines. The proposed drive systems ranged from those used in conventional cars and motorcycles to track and tread systems usually associated with military vehicles. All the cars could largely be built in an automated factory with little hand work required. And, final assembly could be done regionally, providing local employment and reducing shipping costs. To encourage and motivate the students, and work within the limitations of a one day a week class schedule and a 14-week semester, Bradley suggested they not be restricted by existing government standards, currently available components (headlamps, windshield wipers, etc.) or even conventional 4-wheel package arrangements. Sketching 3-dimensionally, demands a certain spontaneity and aggressiveness, avoiding excessive "noodling" time which too often results in over-worked designs. Throughout the project, students were challenged to continually evaluate their models--to react to them, not merely to become skilled craftspersons somehow disassociated from the context of the design. Each of the five teams were encouraged to become self contained; to develop a vehicle name, to consider its modification potential for industrial, recreational, and even competitive applications. By the third week, the student teams began to construct the full-size models of their cars, cutting large sheets of foam core into the shapes they wanted. Easily cut, the pieces were then bent into subtle compound curves by soaking them in water and if necessary stripping the paper coating off one side to accomplish a more pronounced form. Assembled into a final design with glue and tape, and reinforced in places with Styrofoam, the models proved light, but rigid and strong. Being easily transportable, they could be taken outside into their natural habitat, so the students were able to evaluate how they sized up in relation to curbs, ramps, streets and other vehicles at project's end. According to Bradley, much improvisation and second-guessing was done by the students but always in an open-minded exchange of ideas. Throughout, the individual vehicle's personality seemed to be the essential ingredient. Accommodation for the package (occupants, drive train, luggage) was determined at the outset, verified with 1/5 scale 3-view drawings and strictly preserved during the entire project. "In the automobile industry," said Bradley, "ways of doing things have been established over many decades. Risks are few. Innovation often must be limited to expedience. Students in this project were encouraged to have fun, to be challenged and to design on their feet."