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The Allure of the Automobile

Friday, June 17, 2011
Showing right now at The Allure of the Automobile at the Portland Art Museum. I had the opportunity this past Friday evening to go to the exhibit and take in the allure.

For me, there were two highlights. The first greeted us at the door; it was a 1961 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato, an automobile truly curved in all the right places. Gorgeous from any angle, the Aston Martin set the tone for the rest of the exhibit: cars that were amazing not just because they were beautiful, but cars that were beautiful because they were amazing. The vehicles showcased were striking in so many ways; the technology and innovation behind them, and the effort that went into taking a well-built thing and turning it into art.

1961 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato from the Allure of the Automobile exhibit

The second highlight for me was the 1937 Mercedes Benz 540K Special Roadster. The car was breathtakingly beautiful; a striking silver, with sleek, futuristic lines and a magnificent attention to detail. I spent far too long gazing at it and reading the associated placard. It's easy to see why this automobile is billed as a favorite among period celebrities and Nazi party bigwigs; it's a rolling work of art that will turn heads and yet is reportedly astoundingly well-built.

1937 Mercedes Benz 540K Special Roadster from the Allure of the Automobile exhibit

Of course, every vehicle there is worth mentioning; from the Tucker to the Bugatti, there was nothing there unworthy of the collection. And sometimes the stories behind the vehicles was as interesting as the vehicles themselves, such as the story about the VP of General Motors and his clandestine manufacturing of the 1959 Corvette Stingray.

Throughout the exhibit, I found myself admiring these machines and even caught myself thinking, "they don't build them like they used to". I had to quickly check myself; the automobiles on display were never produced in high numbers; instead they were crafted and hand-built in extremely low volumes; sometimes, only one was ever built. Of course, they can't build them like these anymore: safety standards have forced many compromises in style an design. Still, the rare, expensive, exotic cars of today, such as the Bugatti Veyron, the Koenigsegg CCX, or the prototype Cadillac Sixteen might one day be lumped in the "art" category, much as their ancestors were in the museum.

Pierce Arrow from the Allure of the Automobile exhibit

One thing that's for sure: after seeing this exhibit, the allure of the automobile is quite clear.


Blogger Unknown said...

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7:22 AM, August 14, 2018  

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