Posted by: Mickey Goodman | May 7, 2010

Alluring Autos at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art

My next car

“Mia and Jael are dying to see the Allure of the Automobile at the High Museum,” my daughter, Beth, told me. “Would you like to take them Sunday while I drive Idan (5-year old grandson) to a birthday party? I jump at every opportunity to be with my grans and combining alone-time with a trip to the High — what could be more fun?

Teenage dreamer

Dream car

Ever so many years ago when I was a teenager, my dream car was a red and white 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible with fins that stretched all the way down the block. I could imagine myself tooling down the streets of Los Angeles, my long hair flying in the wind. When it was time for a new family car, I begged my dad to buy my beloved Bel Air instead of another boring black sedan. Alas, it was not to be.

I pouted until I spied a ‘57 Cadillac El Dorado hard top convertible – which at the time, cost a a staggering $13,000 – and my affections quickly shifted.

Through the years, I’ve lusted after various dream cars, only to end up with something more practical. But puppy love lingers. The High’s stellar exhibit of 18 ultra luxurious cars dating from the 30s to the 60s  gave me a chance to dream again.

The next generation of car lovers

Mia, Jael and fave Begatti

Mia, age 12, and Jael, age 10, were nearly dancing with anticipation when I picked them up. Me too. And the exhibit didn’t disappoint. We were ecstatic at the sight of the first car, a 1933 Pierce-Arrow, one of only three of its kind still in existence. We strolled around it, studying the long, sleek lines, reading the signage and listening over the earphones to the voices of guest curator Ken Gross and legendary late-night host and car collector Jay Leno who owns more than 84 cars and 73 motorcycles.

The second beauty, a 1934 Packard Runabout Speedster once owned by Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, was one of only four built. I could just see that handsome hunk looking over at his lady love and saying, “Frankly, my dear, I definitely give a damn about this car.”

Beloved Begatti

Once we hit the second exhibit hall, I was so engrossed in the visual and audio stimulus that I momentarily lost sight of the girls who flitted like butterflies from one car to the other. Both honed in on the bright yellow and black 1937 Bugatti Type 57S Atalante Coup. “I want that one,” Mia swooned. “No, that’s mine,” Jael argued. I smiled at the good-natured touch of sibling rivalry.

“Whoever buys it has to give me a ride,” I told them.

The handsome Bugatti was only one of the standouts. They also went gaga over the smorgasbord of Porch’s, Mercedes Benz, Cadillacs — all multi-million dollar babies — owned by notables like film star Steve McQueen and designer Ralph Lauren.

I was awed by the 1948 Tucker Torpedo, a revolutionary car conceived and built by Preston Tucker. Because of pressure from the Big Three auto dealers, negative publicity by the news media, a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation and a stock fraud trial, only 51 cars were ever built. In the end, Tucker was exonerated, but his company was in ruins.  A travesty, in my mind.

Porche prototype

We even fell in love with the wheel-less futuristic brushed metal body shell of a Porsche, the ancestor of a long line of sports and racing models that has made the company synonymous with speed.

As for favorites, there were too many to count. Mia liked the Pierce Arrow, an Alfa Romeo, the Cadillac El Dorado and perhaps best of all, the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. Jael stuck to the Bugatti as her #1 pick, but added a Ferrari, a Mercedes and a Rolls. Stuff to dream on.

Logistics

On a more practical note, we were told it was managing curator Ron Labaco, the museum’s decorative arts and design curator, who handled the logistics like special dollies to move the cars without scratching the floors or injuring the pricey vehicles.

The girls were so caught up in the allure of the exhibit, they wanted to make the rounds again and both snapped one picture after another to show their dad. Afterwards, we strolled through the galleries where Mia admired the impressionists. In fact, we all did. Who wouldn’t fall in lover with the likes of Monet, Manet and Degas?

As we exited, we noticed a poster for the upcoming Salvador Dali exhibit and both girls asked if we could come back. It was music to a grandmother’s ears – combining art and time with two of my girls. What could be sweeter?

See these beauties through June 20, 2010:

http://www.high.org/main.taf?p=3,1,1,17,2

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Responses

  1. Mickey, awesome post! Like you, I was entranced by the Allure of the Automobile exhibit at the High. We need to stake out the museum when they start to move out those cars … you can have the Cadillac and I’ll take that convertible Mercedes-Benz from the 1930s (with rumble seat).

    • Thanks, Nick. Your idea sounds like a plan. If I bring my granddaughter, she can ride shotgun.

      PS I loved your Olympic posts. How was the trip to Hawaii?

  2. For the past several decades, the Ferrari has attempted and succeeded in being one of the fastest cars in the world. Even models that have been launched over fifty years ago are still well received by car enthusiasts because of its modern innovation. The Ferrari California is probably just one of the many Ferrari models that will boast of high quality technology.

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