The Allure of the Automobile

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The notion of the automobile as art continued to gain traction this past week with the opening of The Allure of the Automobile, a new exhibit at the Portland Art Museum that features 16 of history’s most aesthetically pleasing cars.  For residents of the southeastern states that may be doing a double take, take solace:  this is, indeed, the same exhibit that ran at the High Museum in Atlanta early last year.  And for residents of the northwestern states, even more solace:  the exhibit is now available to your corner of the country.

Curated by Ken Gross, the veteran automotive journalist and onetime director of the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, Allure of the Automobile purports to explore the intersections of automobile design with artistic movements such as Art Moderne and Postwar Modernity.  Regardless of how effectively that connection is proven, the 16 cars on display are surely some of the finest automotive eye candy assembled in one room.  Here’s a few highlights:

1957 Jaguar XKSS

Well covered in this column in the past, the Petersen Museum’s XKSS, once owned by Steve McQueen, has won more than its share of competitive exhibition awards, and to boot is one of only 16 ever constructed.  A side of Jaguar that many people never knew existed…

1938 Alfa-Romeo 8C 2900B Touring Berlinetta

This touring iteration of Alfa’s prized prewar 8C, owned by Jon and Mary Shirley of Bellevue, Washington, won Best in Show at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2008.

1937 Bugatti Type 57S Atalante, Chassis No. 57562

Lent by William E. (Chip) Connor of Deepwater Bay, Hong Kong, this Bugatti is one of 17 examples that wore the factory’s Atalante coachwork, and one of even fewer that ride the lower and shorter surbaisse (French for lowered) chassis, for which the S stands.

1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Roadster

The Mercedes-Benz Classic Museum in Stuttgart, Germany, well known to anyone who watched Diddy’s Superbowl commercial for Mercedes last February, contributed this early SLR, one of three racing versions that the manufacturer built.

1953 Porsche 550, Prototype, Serial No. 550-01

Lent by Miles Collier and the Collier Collection of Naples, Florida

1961 Ferrari 250 GT Comp./61 Short-wheelbase Berlinetta, S/N 2689

Lent by Bruce and Raylene Meyer of Beverly Hills, California

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