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Looks Matter – Vintage Car Design As Sculpture

Automotive SculptureAny of you who follow my weekly car posts know my love of vintage cars runs parallel to my passion for design.  Many vintage automobiles can be appreciated purely as sculpture.  Cars just happen to be art one can drive and have a strong physical relationship with rather than plop into a room.

When I come across an elegant automobile with all those swooping lines and sinuous curves from another era or spy some intricate detail created when cars were still in their youth of existence, I get chills and my heart beats a little faster.  Automobiles not only move us, they move people in almost indescribable ways. SculptureSculpture in its traditional form is what typically comes to mind when one hears the word sculpture.  However, sculpture can be any three dimensional form which is crafted from solid materials and we appreciate as art.

Scroll back to the title photo of the 1951 Ferrari 212 Export Barchetta, look closer at the bottom edge of the car.  It doesn’t roll or curve under like the typical termination of a body panel.  1951 Ferrari 212 Export BarchettaThis small scale angled crimp reverts from a end point to a significant expression of the line as it turns back up from the fender and across the door and to the rear of the car.

When a car crosses over to sculpture to be admired as art, well designed details grab our attention causing one to appreciate a car as more than just a car.


This is copper on the wheel of an Isotta-Fraschini, an unusual choice. Moveable roof on 1934 Avion Voisin Type C27 AerosportA sliding roof on the 1934 Avion Voisin Type C27 Aerosport allows increased visibility yet the engineering allows for the absence of any visual framework to obscure the view.  The roof slides gently back over the rear window on shiny glides which when not in use appear as a design embellishment. 1953 Mameco-Ardun Glasspar G2It doesn’t look like a race car does it?  But it is.  This 1953 Mameco-Ardun Glasspar G2 raced at Pebble Beach in 1953.  Is styled more like a  touring car with this big flat front end.


Most architects and designers are familiar with a French Curve as a drawing tool, a template offering numerous curves to imitate.  Clearly when it comes to cars, the French had a way with the curve 1937 Talbot-Lago T150C Figoni & Falaschi CabrioletThere is hardly a section on this car which doesn’t curve.  They art deco styling on this 1937 Talbot-Lago T150C Figoni & Falaschi Cabriolet was commonly referred to as teardrop.  Forget the shape, something this beautiful rolling down the road is bound to make anyone a bit wispy.   One T-150 raced and placed at LeMans, so the curves are for more than sex appeal. 1937 Peugeot 302Ds Darl'mat Pourtout CabrioletThe 1937 Peugeot 302Ds Darl’mat Pourtout Cabriolet is the quintessential streamlined design of the late 1930’s, oozing style around every curve.   The circular vents along the sides of the bonnet are functional high design.

THE FACES1926 Renault 40CV Labourdette SkiffOne look at this 1926 Renault 40CV Labourdette Skiff from the front and a refined face is apparent, at the time most other automobiles sported a great big grille.  This pinched metal front end became a Renault signature, or is this just how we view the French?1931 Alfa Romeo 6CThe Italians has their own way with beauty.  With headlamps an integral part of the front fenders, the 1931 Alfa Romeo 6C, did not have pretty face.  However the body doesn’t stop,  va va voom from every angle.

INDIVIDUALITY COUNTS1934 Alfa Romeo Tipo B P3 AerodinamicaInteresting fender design.  Is it a toy or a car?  One big black tailpipe (?) perfectly bisects the car, which makes you wonder is this an intended design statement or necessary evil?  A 1934 Alfa Romeo Tipo B P3 Aerodinamica has elements of whimsy and purpose.

COLOR MATTERS1957 Ferrari 500 TRC Scaglietti SpyderA big toothy grin is the give-away .  There is no doubt this is a Ferrari, however by forgoing the typical Rossa Corsa (Red) one tends to look a bit closer at this 1957 Ferrari 500 TRC Scaglietti Spyder.  The humps and bumps tuned for aerodynamic precision, yet those up and down fenders are clear, don’t mess with me.

Viewing cars as art, for their appearance and visual characteristics while may seem superficial at first glance, is merely just a careful honing in on an automobile’s appeal.  Like everything, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  While we all may gravitate to different shapes and sizes, let’s be honest… we aren’t being superficial when we admit none of us would drive or want to look at an ugly car.  These cars demand art quality prices, because they are very worthy of their respective pedestals. We gravitate to beauty, and there is nothing wrong with looking.

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