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West Coast Choppers' Jesse James Joins a Powerful Lineup of Dynamic Designers at AutoWeek's 2008 Design Forum

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DETROIT -- Jesse James, owner of West Coast Choppers, will be the keynote dinner speaker at the 15th annual AutoWeek Design Forum, 8 a.m. -- 9 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2008, in the Riverview Ballroom of Cobo Conference/Exhibition Center in Detroit, Michigan.

Rounding out the list of speakers sharing their insights on design in the automotive and consumer arenas are the following:

  • Paul Kolada, founder and principal, Priority Designs
  • Aaron Pizzuti, design manager, Chrysler LLC
  • Troy Trepanier, president, Rad Rides by Troy
  • Franz von Holzhausen, director of design, Mazda North American Operations
  • Carl Zipfel, director of exterior design, HUMMER, General Motors

The Discovery Channel's "Monster Garage" catapulted James to national fame as the leader of televised teams of experts who built "monster machines." The hour-long program showcased the groups' adventures in transforming stock vehicles into other types of vehicles or machinery. Some of the more memorable projects included transformation of the Chrysler PT Cruiser into a wood chipper, a Lincoln Continental into an open road racer and a Ford Model A into a rat rod, just to name a few.

As owner of West Coast Choppers, a Long Beach, California, custom motorcycle fabrication shop he founded in 1992, James developed a following with the special-order motorcycles he painstakingly tailors for each buyer. Ranging in price from $60,000 to $150,000, one-of-a-kind bikes were created for such famous riders as basketball legend Shaquille O'Neal, musician Kid Rock, NASCAR driver Kyle Petty, NFL wide receiver Shawn Jefferson and model Tyson Beckford.

Designed for Fun is the theme of the daylong AutoWeek Design Forum, celebrating design as the ultimate differentiating factor between products, the catalyst of passion and the primary force that drives consumers' interest and purchase decisions. The event features individual morning presentations, afternoon tours of the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) and a dinner program.

Addressing the Design Forum attendees throughout the morning will be:

  • Kolada of Priority Designs -- Kolada's industrial design consulting firm -- which boasts TaylorMade, Adidas, Lowe's and American Standard among its clients -- is internationally recognized for its creativity and problem-solving capabilities. The firm specializes in three major design areas, including sporting goods, home products and medical devices. Kolada is a native Detroiter and a graduate of Cass Technical High School and the University of Michigan.
  • Pizzuti of Chrysler LLC -- "Raised in a puddle of gasoline" in the family garage, Pizzuti's creativity has earned him patents for the Dodge Durango and Jeep(R) Hurricane, which also snagged an IDEA silver award. The Hurricane was further recognized as the "Best of What's New" by Popular Science and received an AutoWeek Editors' Choice Award in the Most Fun category.
  • Trepanier of Rad Rides by Troy -- Rad Rides by Troy is one of the most well-known and respected custom automobile companies in the business. Clients include many of the nation's top collectors, celebrities and manufacturers such as Chrysler, Ford, General Motors and Toyota. Trepanier's creations include the Chicayne, the first twin-turbocharged small-block street machine and the nation's only EPA-certified e85 kit, which he's currently developing. The Grand National Roadster Show recognized Trepanier as the 2007 Builder of the Year.
  • von Holzhausen of Mazda North American Operations -- von Holzhausen is responsible for Mazda's North American Design Center which houses the design and development of all concept and production vehicles for Mazda North America. As design manager for General Motors prior to joining Mazda, von Holzhausen oversaw concept and production design for several vehicle programs, including the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky.
  • Zipfel of General Motors -- A self-proclaimed "truck guy," Zipfel's career began as a professional off-road motorcycle racer and a motorcycle mechanic. Following a track injury that sidelined his racing, and a degree from the Cleveland Institute of Arts, Zipfel joined General Motors in 1993 to work on the C5 Corvette interior. He moved quickly to the Truck Studio and has been the exterior design director for Hummer since 2003, leaving his mark on the popular H2 and H3 models. His most recent work can be seen on the new HUMMER HX concept.

The AutoWeek Editors' Choice Awards, presented annually during the Design Forum dinner program, will recognize the Best in Show, Most Fun, Most Significant and Best Concept vehicles of the 2008 NAIAS. Advance registration for the daylong program, which includes continental breakfast, lunch, NAIAS tour, reception and dinner, is $275.

Advance tickets for the full day or dinner program only are $225 and $175 each, respectively. Deadline for online registration is Friday, January 11. Limited on-site registration will be available during the Design Forum at $325 for the full day and $225 for dinner-only attendance.

Visit for additional information and to register online. Information is also available by contacting Kathy Sovoda at 313-446-6041 or

Source: AutoWeek

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