Adams Avenue Donuts Car
Show in Huntington Beach
By Chris Woodyard, USA TODAY
Calif. ' Michelangelo had the lively streets of
renaissance Rome. Vincent Van Gogh gazed upon the
pastoral fields of southern France. Paul Gauguin
escaped to exotic Tahiti.
where do Southern California's auto designers go for
you're Joel Piaskowski, Hyundai's chief U.S. designer,
you get up at dawn on a Saturday to stroll through an
impromptu car show in an aging shopping center.
There, in front of Adams Avenue Donuts and an Ace
Hardware store, he can admire the gentle curve of a
gear-shift knob or flare of a tailpipe from among dozens
of cars ' from Model A hot rods to late 1960s Shelby
Cobras ' that their bleary-eyed owners drive in from
across the region.
"Designers are attracted to all sorts of cars," says
Piaskowski, 36, as he looks for things to like in a
beat-up 1959 turquoise-and-white Chevy Biscayne.
goes to the weekly event, which is more or less
organized by a group of friends who call themselves the
Donut Derelicts. Anybody can simply park in the lot and
show off their classic ' or what they think qualifies as
a classic. The casual, come-as-you-are car show has been
around for nearly 20 years in Huntington Beach, which
bills itself as Surf City.
show, which starts about 6 a.m., usually breaks up by 9
a.m., only to be replaced by another one a few miles
deeper into Orange County in a coastal shopping center
called Crystal Cove. It attracts more exotic sports
Both underscore California's love of cars. New or old.
Sober or wacky. If it's somehow different and on four
wheels, heads will turn.
Many major automakers, both foreign and domestic,
maintain design houses in Southern California, making
the shows natural gathering places for stylists. Last
Saturday alone, Piaskowski encountered two of his own
workers and an old engineering friend from his 12 years
at General Motors.
of them, contract designer Terry Han, 36, was busily
snapping photos of the cars on display at the Crystal
Cove show. Taking aim at a Ferrari 246 Dino, he says he
prefers classic oldsters to the latest ones.
two displays are great places for carmakers to gauge
interest in new designs. Piaskowski once brought the
HCD8 concept car that Hyundai showed off at the North
America International Auto Show in Detroit to the
coastal shopping center display.
Huntington Beach, Piaskowski walks among mostly
middle-age men holding steaming cups of coffee in the
morning chill. He focuses on details ' sometimes the
smallest things, particularly on late-1950s or early
'60s cars. There's the jewel-like trim on the back of a
Cadillac, the tilt-out seats of a Chrysler New Yorker.
Eyeing the chrome jet-plane motif on the side of an old
Chevy Impala, Piaskowski says, "This car is getting a
little bit overboard."
turns away from cars with boring gray or beige
interiors, but the tan paint on a 1930s Ford catches his
eye. It's a shade that has long since been chased off
the palette. "This color won't work (today), but there's
a lot of beauty to it."
Asked if he knows the year of a metallic green Chevy Bel
Air on display, he runs back to the round taillights,
takes a quick look and declares, "It's a '62."
Piaskowski clearly knows his cars. His father was a
designer for Chrysler. He recalls the time as a boy when
his father brought home a Dodge Daytona muscle car with
a huge rear spoiler. "I remember standing underneath
looking up at the wing. It was so impressive," he says.
Piaskowski isn't a mere bystander at the shows. He
participates, wheeling in his 1965 Cadillac DeVille
convertible ' a chrome-dripping delight to the
designer's eye. He bought the 18-foot land yacht about
11 years ago, the $6,200 price apparently reflecting the
fact that it was covered with bird droppings at the
Today, the inspiration he draws from the old cars is
starting to show up in some of Hyundai's models. The new
Sonata, flagship of the South Korean carmaker's lineup,
has a few more touches of chrome inside as well.
"It's the exterior that captures you, the interior that
keeps you," Piaskowski says.
treats the old cars with reverence. "There's a reason
why they are classics," he says admiringly. "You look at
the classics, and they find ways to get noticed."