Transportation Secretary Brock Adams and key representatives of the major U.S. automakers will begin to "re-invent the car" today at a two-day conference in Boston.

Adams, who called the automakers to the conference, said he wanted to begin an "all-out search" for the most-fuel-efficient and safest car that can be built.

The meeting, which will bring together several hundred engineers and research scientists, follows a recent speech by Adams in Detroit challenging the auto industry to work with the government to help meet tough new fuel efficiency and safety standards mandated by the government.

In recent months, several auto industry executives have been attacking government regulation of the industry and contending that future safety, fuel efficiency and environmental standards could add nearly $1,000 to the price of a new car within the next five years.

The Department of Transporation, particularly through its National Highway Traffic Safety administrator, Joan Claybrook, has responded by claiming that the benefits of such regulation outweigh the costs, including an estimated savings of $500 in reduced fuel costs over the life of a car. In addition, she has contended that there are major health and safety benefits that cannot be expressed in dollar terms.

A second gathering is to be held here this spring.

The objective of the program is to "discuss basic activities which could provide a pool of technological options for automobile manufacturers to develop and apply during the post-1985 period," according to a DOT announcement.

Three panel discussions will center on fuel and powertrain systems, vehicle structures and materials, and engines.

DOT's Claybrook and Research and Special Promotions Administrator Janes Palmer organized the Boston meeting, which is being led by Dr. Raymond L. Bisplinghoff, chairman of the National Research Council's Committee on Transportation, and a consultant on several government projects.

"We must develop a new car engine to help reduce the nation's dependence on imported gasoline and to meet the needs for improved air quality and highway safety," Adams said in his earlier speech calling for the conference.