Annual car exhibition draws alumni, students

The sixth annual Georgia Tech Auto Show, held March 28, treated gear heads and car enthusiasts to a plethora of dazzling sights and sounds. From revered historical vehicles to futuristic alternative fuel cars, the show presented a wide range of vehicle classes and showcased highlights of the automotive industry over the past 100 years. Cars owned by students, faculty and alumni and were displayed along with motorcycles and some unconventional vehicles, like a three wheeled electric vehicle used for low-range commutes called the Zapcar Xebra.

The event was scheduled to occur in several West Campus lots. However, due to rain the event was relocated to the parking deck next to the Baker building. Spectator turnout was still relatively high, although the number of entrants dropped significantly due to the weather. Of over 250 registered vehicles, only 75 were present on the top deck of the parking lot. Still, the event boasted a variety of vehicles from the pre-WWII era to present day modified Scions and Porsches.

“This event is really about the Tech community coming together and sharing their love for all kinds of cars. We really don’t say who can and can’t come or what cars they can bring,” said Mike Powell, EE ’08. The deck was filled with alumni eager to share their stories about their cars and Tech. Gilbert Zeal, EE ‘60, drove through the rain from Pensacola, FL to the auto show in his yellow pastel 1965 Ford Thunderbird.

“This place has really changed since back when I came here. None of these buildings really existed,” Zeal said, referring to the Biotech quad and the Nanotech building.

Among the more exotic cars present was the Elan Motorsports DP02, a racing car sold ready to race in the United States for around $90,000. Another crowd favorite was an authentic 1951 Hudson Hornet, still preserved with its original configurations and colors. Also present was a modified and custom painted 1961 Mini S owned by a Tech alumnus, which drew particular interest from the crowd. The Gas Hopper, an alternative fuel vehicle intended for low-range applications also drew interest because of its small structure and handle-driven operation.

Several campus organizations used the event to showcase their work. WreckRacing presented several cars at the show, with their modified Mazda Miata turning many heads. The EcoCar Challenge group, which aims to improve the fuel economy of a GM vehicle, was also present. The group aims to improve the efficiency of a 2009 Saturn Vue by 31% using E-85 Fuel in the engine. “We’ve got all sorts of people from different majors working on this project to help raise fuel economy,” said Landon Reed, the Outreach Coordinator for the project.

The event also had a guest speaker, Robert Englar, an aerodynamicist from GTRI who spoke at length about the importance of aerodynamics to a vehicle. Specifically, he detailed his team’s collaboration attempt to break a class land-speed record with a modified Cadillac XLR on the Bonneville Salt Flats.

“It is important to understand what role aerodynamics play while driving because the same principles that apply to race cars apply to your SUV on the road,” Englar said. He and his team were able to take the XLR up to 240.5 mph, just 1.5 mph shy of setting a world record.

The show also awarded prizes to the best cars in various categories, such as pre-WWII, post-WWII cars, modified, unmodified and alternative fuel cars. The winners in each category were awarded a trophy that consisted of a digitized 3-D version of the Ramblin’ Wreck embedded in a crystal piece.

“Over the past 6 years this event has filled my personal dream of having a place where car enthusiasts can get together and share stories, and I hope that we can continue this tradition for a long time to come,” said Stirling Skinner, one of the main organizers of the event.