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Thomas Kellogg, 71; His Futuristic Design for the Avanti Coupe Became a Classic Automobile

August 17, 2003|David Haldane | Times Staff Writer

Thomas Kellogg, a well-known industrial designer whose most famous work was the Avanti sports car, has died after a car accident in Orange County. He was 71.

Kellogg, who had lived in Irvine for many years, died Thursday at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach, where he was taken two weeks ago after his Mercedes-Benz hit a center divider while he was driving to lunch. Kellogg, who had suffered for many years from congestive heart failure and lung disorders, sustained several broken ribs in the accident, which destroyed his car.

"He was very well liked, sensitive and caring," said daughter Kris Machado of Aliso Viejo. "He was also very analytical and would always offer his opinion on any design whatsoever. Even in the hospital he was analyzing the way the room was -- it sounded like it met his approval."

Kellogg, who graduated from Pasadena's Art Center College of Design in 1955, was part of a four-member team assembled in 1961 by industrial designer Raymond Loewy to design the futuristic Avanti sports coupe for Studebaker Corp. out of a rented Palm Springs home.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday August 20, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 35 words Type of Material: Correction
Kellogg obituary -- A photo caption accompanying the obituary of Thomas Kellogg in Sunday's California section incorrectly stated that the Avanti coupe, which Kellogg designed, debuted in 1961. The first Avantis were sold in 1962.

"You rarely got a project like that," Kellogg later told The Times. "We had the bounds, the chassis and engine, but no further restrictions. So for days we just went wild, playing back and forth from sketches to three dimension and back to sketches."

The Avanti created an immediate stir among sports car enthusiasts, including James Bond creator Ian Fleming, who became an owner. The car was even admitted to art galleries as sculpture. And, although it has been in production only sporadically, it spurred a network of owners clubs that still exists.

"I've concluded that the car is cosmic," Kellogg told Associated Press in 2000. "It has some sort of personality or spirit that keeps finding people to take it over and stroke it and keep it going."

Kellogg went on to a long and successful career as a freelance designer, creating, among other things, exteriors for Rolls-Royce and Porsche, motor home and camper-shell designs, a line of dinnerware for Wedgwood china, space-capsule interiors and the shuttlecraft for the original "Star Trek" television series.

He maintained design studios in Newport Beach and, later, in Irvine. In 1972 he went to work as vice president of product development for the industrial and packaging firm Gould & Associates, where his package designs received international recognition and won several awards.

Most recently, he was developing designs in electronics, medical equipment, artist and engineer workstations, and transportation interior components for a manufacturer and supplier in Detroit.

He also taught at Art Center College of Design and was a frequent guest of Avanti owners clubs throughout the world, as well as a regular participant in the Concours d'Elegance each August in Pebble Beach.

"The only hobby he really had was looking at cars," Machado said.

Among his favorite cars were Acuras, Mercedeses and Porsches, all of which he owned at one time. He owned an Avanti for a while, she said, but "he sold it -- I don't know why. He always planned on getting another one, but he never did."

Recently, Machado said, her father was interviewed by reporters from KCET-TV Channel 28 -- the PBS affiliate in Los Angeles -- for a documentary on Avanti.

"All he'd been doing lately was showing up at these owners' clubs," she said. "Avanti owners are pretty fanatical about their cars."

A memorial service is planned for 3 p.m. Wednesday at Calvary Chapel, 3800 S. Fairview Blvd., Santa Ana.

Survivors include his former wife, Greta Kellogg of Irvine; daughters Kara Kellogg of Irvine and Machado; son Thomas W. Kellogg Jr. of Irvine; sisters Diane Lowe of Glendale and Susan Farrel of Torrance; brother Garth Kellogg of Palm Desert; and four grandchildren.

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