Dream Cars

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Dream Cars: Innovative Design, Visionary Ideas, on view at the Indianapolis Museum of Art through August 23.


<ul><li><p>Newsstand Rate $1.75 INDEXES ONPAGES 36 &amp; 37</p><p>May 29, 2015</p><p>BY JAMES D. BALESTRIERIINDIANAPOLIS, IND. Once upon a time, the</p><p>future was a bright, highly polished thing, sleekwith speed, speed that flew at the speed of thought.We would zip around in flying cars from homes thatcleaned themselves to work that did itself to play infields where our senses and dreams mixed and min-gled until the boundaries between them fell away.The smallest thing, the atom, would get us there.Unless it killed us first.</p><p>Small things rule now, some even smaller thanatoms: electrons; viruses both kinds; amino acids.We are still here, but the future has taken on theweaponized patina of the apocalypse. Now, thefuture, as we envisioned it once upon a time, isrevivified in Dream Cars: Innovative Design,Visionary Ideas, on view at the IndianapolisMuseum of Art through August 23.</p><p>The show is part of our past, a thing for which weare nostalgic. The exhibition is brought to life bysome pretty nifty state-of-the-art micro/nanotech,courtesy of the Net tech that the dream cardesigners of the 1940s and 1950s could just aboutimagine. In the fashion of Disneys Test Track atEpcot, visitors can design their own cars, virtually,and test them, replicating in minutes what once</p><p>took months when the dream teams at DetroitsGeneral Motors, Torinos Pininfarina and otherssculpted models out of clay and subjected them towind tunnel tests with jets of ink marking themovement of air over the bodies of cars. To add evenmore to the exhibition, a tablet app allows visitors toexplore features inside the cars that would other-wise be inaccessible. So, how we experience theexhibition is part of what the exhibition is about.Todays microtechnology facilitates our appreciationof yesterdays whiz-bang macro vision of today.</p><p>Nevertheless, it is the cars that captivate theirlong lines and low silhouettes, the graceful, swoop-ing fenders on some, and the functional, spare,Space Age simplicity that characterizes others.</p><p>Those of us who grew up on dream cars drewdream cars. Drawing dream cars in the margins oftextbooks and the pages of our wide-ruled spiralnotebooks sometimes roused the wrath of our teach-ers. But the long nose and high spoiler on thePlymouth Superbird? Excaliburs 1970s revival oflow-slung, growling, 1930s roadster style? The BlueFlame going for the land speed record on theBonneville Salt Flats? The Snake and theMongoose? (I will leave you the pleasure of lookingup those two.) The gull-wing DeLorean in the Back</p><p>to the Future movies? They wanted you to drawthem, to weld your own imagination onto them andsend your nuclear-powered turbine hybrids intoouter space.</p><p>What is amazing about the Dream Cars inIndianapolis, apart from their beauty and style, isthe sheer number of what were then futuristic gadg-ets that are now standard features on automobiles.As examples, the seats in the 1936 Stout Scarab, aproto-minivan, could be reconfigured and even posi-tioned around a table, the 1951 GM Le Sabre XP-8boasted heated seats and could run on either gas orethanol, and the 1956 Buick Centurion XP-301 didaway with rearview mirror in favor of a closed-cir-cuit TV camera mounted above the tail cone thatdisplayed traffic behind you on a 4-by-6-inch moni-tor on the dashboard. Moisture sensors in seatsclosed the tops on dream car convertibles in theevent of rain. For security, built-in intercomsallowed those inside to communicate with anyoneoutside without opening a door or window. The 1942LOeuf lectrique, built as a response to the gasshortages in Paris during the German Occupation,looks like todays Smart Car, with its wraparound</p><p>Chrysler Thunderbolt, 1941, designed by Ralph Roberts and Alex Tremulis. Courtesy of Roger Willbanks, Denver, Colo. Michael Furman photo</p><p>DreamCarsInnovative Design, Visionary Ideas</p><p>( continued on page 30 )</p><p>Above: Bugatti Type 57 Comptition Coup Aerolithe recreation, 1935, designed by Jean Bugatti and Joseph Walter;made by the Guild of Automotive Restorers. Courtesy of Christopher Ohrstrom. Joe Wiecha photo</p><p>Published by The Bee Publishing Company, Newtown, Connecticut</p></li><li><p>30 Antiques and The Arts Weekly May 29, 2015</p><p>General Motors Firebird I XP-21, 1953, designed by Harley J. Earl, RobertF. Bob McLean and GM Styling Section staff. Courtesy General MotorsHeritage Center. Michael Furman photo</p><p>Plexiglas windshield. The catalog doesnot say, but where did he get that Plexi,and how, especially during the war, did heshape it to fit the car?</p><p>Even more amazing are the experimen-tal features on some of these cars that arestill down the road, in the future, for us.</p><p>The huge nose cones on the 1959 CadillacCyclone XP-74 (called Dagmars, after thescreen name of a well-endowed 1950s star-let) contained proximity sensors to letdrivers prevent accidents (this technologyis only now entering the market) and toallow for driverless driving on smartroads of the future theirs and ours.</p><p>Designers and design studios of theDream Car era were stars. NormanTimbs, Syd Mead, Ettore Bugatti, GordonBuehrig: these are just a few of artistsand tinkerers who built cars on theirown, in their spare time, just to see if theycould. They built cars that looked likerockets, and teardrops, and fish, mimick-ing and challenging nature. From the1930s through the 1950s, GM largelyunder the direction of Harley Earl, who,while not a designer himself, seemed tohave the ability to inspire designers threw lavish Motoramas at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York, complete withdancers in outfits designed to match thecars and home design for the forward-thinking consumer: 1956, for example,featured the popular Kitchen of</p><p>Tomorrow exhibit by Frigidaire, thenowned by GM.</p><p>There were rivalries among designersas well. In the early 1970s Ferrari andLancia contended to see who could buildthe sports car with the lowest practicalsilhouette. How low can you go?Carrozzeria Bertones design for Lancia,the Stratos HF Zero, stood 33 inches highat its highest, 313/16 inches lower thanFerraris 512S Modulo. Thin-wedge carslike these continue to dominate our ideaof a high performance sports car and theyare emulated around the world.</p><p>The most recent entry in the exhibition,the 2001 BMW Gina, bridges past andpresent notions of design. Looking like anupdated 1930s roadster, the car is con-structed of a skin of Spandex fitted over aflexible carbon frame that can be adjust-ed by the driver to conform to changingroad conditions: The deployable rearspoiler [for example] could grow taller toincrease down force, enhancing tire gripat high speeds. And in a very sexy twist,the hood unzips to reveal and access theengine.</p><p>An exhibition like this begs you to nameyour favorites and to argue for yours infavor of everyone elses (the book alonecaused a stir in my house). I have a softspot for the 1936 Bugatti Aerolithe, withits steampunk rivets, sweptback fendersand teardrop windows. The Chinatownlines of the 1941 Chrysler Thunderboltand the exaggerated film noir curves of</p><p>Tasco, 1948, designed by Gordon M.Buehrig. Courtesy of the Auburn CordDuesenberg Automobile Museum,Auburn, Ind. Peter Harholdt photo</p><p>Cadillac Cyclone XP-74, 1959, designed byHarley J. Earl and Carl Renner. Courtesy ofGeneral Motors Heritage Center, Warren,Mich. Peter Harholdt photo</p><p>Voisin C-25 Arodyne, 1934, designed by Gabriel Voisin. Courtesy of Merleand Peter Mullin, Brentwood, Calif. Michael Furman photo</p><p>Norman Timbs Special, 1947, designed by Norman Timbs. Courtesy ofGary and Diane Cerveny. Peter Harholdt photo</p><p>General Motors Le Sabre XP-8, 1951, designed by Harley J. Earl and GM Styling Section staff. Courtesy of General Motors Heritage Center, Warren, Mich.Michael Furman photo</p><p>Stout Scarab, 1936, designed by William B. Stout. Courtesy ofLarry Smith. Michael Furman photo</p><p>BMW Gina Light Visionary Model, 2001, designed by Christopher Bangle.BMW AG</p><p>DreamCarsInnovative Design, Visionary Ideas</p><p>( continued from page 1C )</p></li><li><p>May 29, 2015 Antiques and The Arts Weekly 31</p><p>Chrysler (Ghia) Streamline X Gilda, 1955, designed by Giovanni Savonuzzi and Virgil Exner. Courtesy of Scott Grundfor and Kathleen Redmond.Michael Furman photo</p><p>Dreaming Of Futures Past</p><p>the 1948 Norman Timbs Special make mewant to don my fedora and take a case.And the 1953 Firebird I XP-21, a car Imust have seen but do not recall, calls tomind all the rocket cars I drew as a kid.But, when all is said and done, I wouldtake the 1955 Chrysler (Ghia) StreamlineX, nicknamed Gilda after the 1946 filmnoir that starred Rita Hayworth in thetitle role. Designed by Carrozzeria Ghiain Italy, the Gildas bullet shape and gasturbine engine (originally intended butnever installed, until recently), its lowprofile and prominent fins, make it theideal car for the would-be private eye-slash-superhero.</p><p>Dream cars like these are highly col-lectible. They are also exceedingly rare.Many were scavenged and recycled intoother projects. Once in awhile, however,someone finds one of these wonders, rust-ing away in a field or languishing in someforgotten garage or shed. Treasures likethese, even in the most dilapidated condi-tion, bring small fortunes and greatacclaim.</p><p>Today, the dream awakens. A renewedinterest in automobile design is emerging.The focus, for the present, building on theBMW in the exhibition, is on alternativefuels, economy and materials (I am think-ing of Tesla and the three-wheeled Elio),but the driverless car and the smart roadare on the horizon, bringing us full circleback to the Cadillac Cyclone. The move to</p><p>cheap fossil fuels fueled the first revolu-tion in automobiles. The move away fromfossil fuels may well ignite a new revolu-tion in personal transportation. With therapid strides that have been and continueto be made in computer design software,can a new aesthetic be far behind?Microtech drives macro vision.</p><p>I have caught my son drawing cars attimes lately, when he should be doing hishomework. Wrath? No chance. I sit downbeside him and draw my own gyroscopic,plasma-powered, roadster/camper dreamride, and show him a few old tricks, trickshe is free to ignore. Once upon a time, itseemed like it might be time for a road tripto Indianapolis. But not in the minivan.</p><p>Dream Cars: Innovative Design,Visionary Ideas was organized by theIndianapolis Museum of Art in conjunc-tion with the High Museum of Art inAtlanta, and curated by SarahSchleuning, curator of decorative arts anddesign at the High Museum of Art, in con-sultation with award-winning automotivewriter and IMA guest curator Ken Gross.The exhibition premiered at the HighMuseum of Art in May 2014.</p><p>The Indianapolis Museum of Art is at4000 Michigan Road. For information,317-923-1331 or www.imamuseum.org.</p><p>Jim Balestrieri is the director of J.N.Bartfield Galleries in New York City. He isalso a playwright and author and writesfrequently about the arts.</p><p>Edsel Ford Model 40 Special Speedster, 1934, designed by Edsel Fordand Eugene T. Bob Gregorie. Courtesy of the Edsel and Eleanor FordHouse, Grosse Pointe Shores, Mich.</p><p>Buick Centurion XP-301, 1956, designed by Harley J. Earl and Charles Chuck Jordan. Courtesy of Sloan Museum, Flint, Mich.</p><p>Michael Furman photo</p><p>At The Indianapolis Museum Of Art Through August 23</p><p>LOeuf lectrique, 1942, designed and fabricated by Paul Arzens. CourtesyMuse des Arts et Mtiers, Paris. Michel Zumbrunn and Urs Schmid photo</p></li></ul>