All I did was answer an ad for a Alfa GTA.

There are many nice photos of the finished car on Motor Sports Center’s website.


So I drove down to Scottsdale to see an Alfa GTA that was for sale. The man that had the car was selling it for a friend. He took me behind a rather large, impressive shop to where the car was parked along with the remains of several project cars and various other pieces. I decided that the Alfa was too big of a project for me, but in the course of conversation I mentioned that I had worked at GM Design staff. My host asked me if I knew Dave Holls who I had worked for indirectly, since he was a director over several studios.

That seemed to be all the credentials I needed to get a tour of Chuck Rahn’s shop. He had several very interesting car projects going on, and eventually we sat down in his office. There on the wall was a print of a very unusual painting.

In the late ’70s I was assigned to Buick Exterior Production Studio, and sat next to an extremely gifted designer, Gray Counts. He had developed a reputation for exceptional renderings, and Dave Holls asked him to illustrate a design that he had roughly sketched similar to a 1937 Type 57 Bugatti. Bob Shaw, a friend of Dave’s in Florida had a Bugatti chassis and an engine, but no body. So it was decided that Dave would design a body similar to what Jean Bugatti might have done originally utilizing T59 Grand Prix racing wheels and a left hand drive seating position. Dave’s rough sketches ended up on Gray’s drawing table to refine and illustrate. There were very few prints made of that illustration, and I had one framed on my wall.


Dave Holls original rough sketches of the car that Gray Counts used as a guide for his rendering.


Gray Counts’ finished rendering.

Fast forward 30 years later. There was one of Gray Counts’ prints on the wall in Chuck Rahn’s office. I was really surprised to see it, and told Chuck my story. He floored me by telling me that the unfinished car was in his other garage. The car had the start of an aluminum body, but it wasn’t right. The engine was at an engine builder, and chassis and other parts were in his shop. There also had been fabricated a set of unbelievable banjo wire wheels for the car. Cost, apparently, was no object.


The unfinished car stored in Ron’s garage.


Ron Kellogg bought the stalled project. The project being resurrected, Dave Holls paid Chuck Rahn a visit armed with a full-size line drawing of his vision of the car, did some studio arm waving, and left Chuck to figure it all out.


Dave Holls, Bob Shaw (I think), Chuck Rahn, and Ron Kellogg.


I visited Chuck a few times, and I could see he was struggling to interpret what he was seeing in Dave’s sketches and translate that into 3D in the form of a foam model over the chassis. So I offered to help, and Chuck gave me the opportunity to give Ron Kellogg a presentation to try and get involved with the project. I demonstrated what was wrong with the body they had and proposed a practical process to design the body that would lead to a spectacular result. Ron subsequently hired me to come up with the body design based on Dave’s rendering. The problem with Dave’s sketches and rendering is that while they gave a sense of gesture and stance, there wasn’t enough information that would define the forms and shapes, and work out all of the transitions and surface development necessary to complete a car.


Sketches used to convey to Ron what needed to be done to the car to get it right. The side view is showing the differences between the body currently on the car and gesture lines showing that the profile of the car needed to get from the hood to the tail in one curve instead of being fractured by the cockpit.

I got in touch with Larry Brinker who was then Chief Sculptor at Nissan Design International in La Jolla, California. We came up with the strategy that had several stages. First, we leveled the car (without the body) and used a transit to pick hard points on the car and plot them in 3D space using X,Y,Z coordinates. Then I took that information and turned it into a 1/5 scale, four-view surface development drawing with sections and profiles, along with sketches of different ways to handle the transitions and other details. Larry built a 1/5 scale model, and he and I got together several times with the model to go over and refine it. We kept Chuck and Ron in the loop with photos.


The four view, 1/5 scale development drawing that was derived from the points taken from the actual car’s chassis. I created enough profiles and sections to give Larry enough information to build the clay model armature and start the model.


A montage of shots of Larry’s model.

The finished clay model as presented to Ron Kellogg at Nissan Design. Click here to review more photos of the model and presentation.


Ron and Sonya Kellogg with the finished clay model.


The finished model was presented to Ron and Chuck at Nissan Design on a Saturday. Ron approved the design, and the model was sent out to be digitized. The digitized surfaces were then enlarged to full size and a drawing was produced from the information. Chuck Rahn built a stringer buck of the design to give to the body fabricator who made the body from aluminum.

3D wireframes of the digitized surfaces.


Chuck Rahn’s wooden stringer buck used by the fabricator to build the finished body.


Photos of the car being constructed at Andy Palmer’s Palmer Coachworks in Bellflower, California.


The car was eventually finished, and I saw it for the first time at the Great American Roadster Show in Pomona, California in 2006. There are many nice photos of the finished car on Motor Sports Center’s website.


Myself and Larry Brinker at the Great American Roadster Show. The process that Larry and I used to create Ron Kellogg’s Bugatti is adaptable to a variety of projects. Click here to review more photos of the model and presentation.


By way of footnote, according to the Motor Sports Center’s pictorial essay on the car: “The Kellogg project required climbing special challenges. Not the least of which was getting the approval of the Bugatti Trust for permission to go ahead with the program. So the Kellogg Bugatti has a legitmate historical production chassis number. This is no small accomplishment. Assigned the number #128, year 1937.” It’s difficult to imagine what a brand new 1937 Bugatti could possibly be worth. If there is only one, that’s the very definition of rare. It’s a very special car indeed.

Click here to review more photos of the model and presentation.

  1. Bernie Smith

    FANTASTIC! Both Dave Holls and Jean Bugatti would be very proud!

  2. David R. North

    I saw this stunning car at the Art Center Car Show 2006. I thought at the time it was one of the most desirable cars I had ever seen. Fun to see the development story and remember friends who worked on this project. Good Story.

  3. Pete Maier

    I too saw the car at Art Center’s event in 2006. I knew Dave Holls quite well through my art work after leaving GM, but never really worked for him directly while at GM. The car is a true tribute to Dave’s love of the classics.

  4. Bob Dustan

    Dave Holls and I became friends at Michigan State, and remained so at GM Styling/Design. We all know how talented he was, but his design for this Bugatti Roadster has to be one of his best.

  5. Wayne Barratt

    Beautiful car, it has become my favourite Bugatti! Looking at the sweep front fenders, one has to imagine that Dave Holls was influenced by the Lotus 7 S2’s as they are very similar in shape.

  6. Richard Nelson

    I first met Ron in mid 80’s and would love to contact him if at all possible. At the time he had John Bonds 1950 Ferrari F1 racecar in his garage. along with a gorgeous 911 that was Chevy powered, plus a Bugatti engine in a glass display in his living room, along with three of Dan Gurney’s most famous race cars in his living room….a complete and total car nut, one of the most interesting car freaks I’ve ever met….plz let me know if he’s still around and contactable…….

  7. Richard he sure is around, go check out

    I am his grandson and we recently sold this car, however it was a fantastic car I grew up with the build throughout my entire life. I am in some of those pictures when the car was shown at the Quail.

    And yes I can admit my grandpa is a total car nut!

  8. I know Chuck from way back and have owned several T59 projects. The thing that has always hit me about this car is that everything looks great on paper or from pictures but when you get near the car it just doesnt work. The t59 chassis and GP car is very small and tight. To translate into a touring car with those gorgeous fenders should have been scaled up a bit. A t57S chassis would have been ideal. The workmanship and attention to detail is amazing. In most of the articles I have seen Chuck doesnt get the credit he deserves as the awesome car builder who really made this happen.

  9. John Worker

    Yes, I can confirm that it is Bob Shaw second from the left in the group photo. I first visited Bob in Antiock in the eighties and he spoke of little else other than his plans for this beautiful car. We then joined Dave Holls at the Oshkosh air show- what a week, well worth crossing the Atlantic for! Incidentally I was a G.M. student at Vauxhall Styling in the mid sixties, when Wayne Cherry was being most creative.

  10. Gary…Thanks for posting this project! I know nearly all the individuals associated with it and followed it pretty much all the way to completion- just a suprilative work! This is quite typical of the work I do in my retirement-there have been 6 jobs to date, and another is in the offing. I cannot think of a more interesting and engaging way to continue life’s journey. Dave Cummins

  11. Gary,
    You probably know that Dave also designed a special body for a Lincoln. He had a friend who was Chief Engineer for Ford, Connie Buschard, and it was done for him. The car has the look of the forties with one exception, a low chrome molding. It was black with a silver hood and deck. When you opened the door there was a small siler plate on the sill that had the designers name on it, Dave Holls.

    Dave must have liked what the strong contrast did for the proportions of the cars.

    Dave loved cars.

    Dick Ruzzin

    Dick, I saw that car at the Pavillions car show in Scottsdale several years ago. It was drop dead gorgeous. It was featured on Hemmings Daily on September 26, 2016.—Gary


    I have studied Bugatts for years and even have a radiator shell from one of the Bugatti boutiques in England.

    You are the one who made that car look like a Bugatti. Gray’s sketches are pretty good but there was a longway between the sketches and the three dimensional car. A great story and especially how you grounded the frame to create the body.

    I hope to see it some day.
    Dick Ruzzin

  13. Glen Durmisevich

    Hi Gary,
    I would like to see about inviting Ron Kellogg to bring the Bugatti to next year’s EyesOn Design if he still owns it. Could you email me his contact information? It would make a great tribute to Dave Holls and show how a modern day car designer would style a classic car. I know what it takes since I designed a Boattail L-29 Cord for a friend who was building it.

    Best regards,
    Glen Durmisevich

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