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Allure of the Automobile: 18 Custom Vintage Cars in Atlanta

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Oh, the allure of the automobile! In 2010 Atlanta’s High Museum found a way to tempt even the most art-phobic person to walk through its doors: an exhibition of some of the world’s rarest and most brilliantly conceived cars in automotive history.

rear view of silver concept car exhibited at The Allure of the Automobile

The exhibit was aptly named “The Allure of the Automobile” and once the men in our family found out about it, they just had to go. I tagged along, of course, even though I don't know the first thing about vintage cars. I was certainly intrigued. After all, how often does an art museum show cars as artistic masterpieces?

(Besides, the High Museum of Art is the the leading art museum in the southeastern United States, with more than 12,000 works of art in its permanent collection. Who knew what else we might see, if we had time to explore?)

The High had collected 18 automotive masterpieces from both sides of the Atlantic, dating from the ’30s to the mid-’60s. Each was a one-of-a-kind, custom-built design. Most were previously owned by noted car enthusiasts, such as Hollywood legends Clark Gable and Steve McQueen.

The exhibition was very well set up, with lots of descriptive explanations, such as

  • the evolution of the motorcar,
  • contrasts between European and American design, and
  • the significant changes in automotive styling and engineering both before and after World War II.

Pre-World War II automotive design: Opulence and Luxury

Before the War, many cars were custom-built and extravagantly detailed. They were designed for people with serious money, and only the privileged few owned one.

Pre-war American cars

1933 Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow
1933 Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow
1934 Packard Twelve Runabout Speedster, formerly owned by Clark Gable
1935 Duesenberg JN Roadster, formerly owned by Clark Gable

Pre-war European cars

1937 Mercedes-Benz 540 K Special Roadster
Front grille of 1937 Bugatti Type 57S Atalante Coupe
1937 Delage D8-120S, formerly owned by Louis Delage
1937 Hispano-Suiza H-6C “Xenia” Coupe
1938 Alfa Romeo 8C2900B Touring Berlinetta
1938/39 Porsche Type 64 (body shell)

Post-World War II automotive design: Speed and Style

World War II had a major impact on the automotive industry. They used all the research developments from the war – new lightweight materials, aerodynamics, safety features, etc. – to mass produce affordable cars. They also made stylish concept cars which often became production models.

Postwar American cars

1948 Tucker Model 48 Torpedo
1954 Dodge Firearrow III Concept Coupe
1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham
1959 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray

Postwar European cars

1953 Porsche 550
1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR
1957 Jaguar XK-SS Roadster, formerly owned by Steve McQueen
1961 Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato
1961 Ferrari 250 GT Comp./61 Short-wheelbase Berlinetta

More about the Allure of the Automobile

Looking back at our visit, Dan's biggest regret about our visit is that he only had a point-and-shoot Canon Sure Shot camera to capture all that beauty. Still, I wanted to share his shots because I know that – as grainy and blurry as some of them might be – true vintage car lovers can be pretty forgiving. After all, a poor shot is better than none at all, right?

For more information about the entire exhibit, please see the related press release: High Premieres The Allure of the Automobile.  (Special shout-out to their PR department. Without this press release, I’d not have been able to do this post. How could I possibly remember the exhibit’s details and the 18 names for all those remarkable cars?)

Our Atlanta Vintage Car Exhibit photo gallery has more views of the cars and a “thumbs up” feature to vote on your favorites.

Also, feel free to share any you like on Pinterest (with proper credit, of course!).

If you know anyone who enjoys vintage automobiles, please share this post in your social media channels.

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Written by Linda

Linda is multilingual and has been to over 50 countries. Her insatiable love of travel, cuisine, and foreign languages has inspired her to create As We Saw It with her husband Dan, a professional photographer. Her goal is to make travel easier for others and to offer a brief escape to another land.

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5 thoughts on “Allure of the Automobile: 18 Custom Vintage Cars in Atlanta

  1. Awesome 1957 Jaguar XK-SS Roadster, formerly owned by Steve McQueen! Another interesting feature about the Jaguar is the XJ 2017 model. This Jaguar model is going to offer eight different variants, and more long-wheelbase options – a luxury feel to the lineup.

    1. The XJ models are nice, as are the coupe and convertible. Jaguars handle beautifully but to be honest, the sedan designs are disappointing. Those cars are beginning to look like every other car on the road. Lately we have come to prefer Aston-Martins.

  2. These cars look a lot better than the modern soul-less computer-calculated aerodynamical vehicles. Vintage cars are a lot more than just cars. They are history, adventure, romance, design… so much incorporated in a vehicle.
    Pure works of art!

  3. These cars still looks classy, no matter what the new designs are coming but these designs are not replaceable. I am not sure why these sort of designs no longer build by the companies as with advancement of technology the design of the cars needs to be more creative with royal look.

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