Car Design as High Style, 1930-1965

Car Design as High Style, 1930 to 1965. New retrospective exhibit at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta
Peter Harholdt

Packard Twelve Runabout Speedster: 1934
The exhibit, titled "The Allure of the Automobile," opened March 21, 2010, and features 18 auto-design breakthroughs that were radical concepts in their day — and which influenced car design for many years. "This exhibition will showcase the greatest feats of engineering and luxury design from 1930 to 1965, when cars became synonymous with success, power and wealth," says museum director Michael Shapiro. Guest curator Ken Gross was instrumental in persuading classic-car collectors to part with their masterpieces for the exhibit. As Gross describes it, the museum's goal was to "consider the stylistic development of automobiles in the context of prominent design movements like Art Moderne and post-war modernism." Artistic ambitions aside, the cars are pretty sweet to look at. The show runs until June 20.

Only four Packard Twelve Runabout Speedsters were ever built, and the actor Clark Gable had this one modified, says Gross. The car was built in Detroit after Packard's design director toured Europe — a trip that most certainly influenced his ideas. The car features a V-windshield, a front opening, "suicide doors" and shapely, Euro-inspired, valenced fenders.

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