NEW YORK - The Art of the Automobile sale on November 21st offers 32 spectacular examples of "moving sculpture" from across the globe. Some were built to win races, and others were designed to be beautiful works of art that make a dramatic statement, and also happened to go quite fast. The offerings in this sale show what extraordinary heights can be reached when art and science converge – some of the greatest artists and visionaries of the 20th century designed these motorcars. The 10th floor of the Sotheby's galleries will be transformed by a truly impressive array of motorcars spanning over a century and ranging from a brawny and powerful 1912 Stutz Model A Bearcat to a supremely elegant and awe-inspiring 2011 Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Bleu Nuit.
The more functional forms in car design from the 1920’s gave way to the more fanciful curves and sensual lines of the 1930's which witnessed the the zenith of streamlined art in automotive design. The 1936 Type 135 Delahaye Competition Court Teardrop Coupé is a masterpiece of French Art Deco Design. The creator, Joseph Figoni, has created a virtual symphony of S-shaped lines and fluid forms. As noted automotive historian Richard Adatto has said, "the designs… almost seem like liquid caught in a moment of solidity." The full and flowing rounded curves are masterfully accented by Signature Figoni features including the integrated headlights, central tail fin with matching fins on the rear fenders and the pronounced curved molding that flows down the hood and the doors.
Figoni also designed the 1938 Talbot Lago T150-C SS Teardrop Cabriolet in the sale. As with the Delahaye, this magnificent car has sleek aerodynamic curves galore and it's no coincidence that Figoni's brilliant designs are streamlined as on an airplane. His coach building shop was located near an airfield and he would have been able to witness daily how efficient these shapes were.
In 1933 the designer Alan Leamy created the Auburn Twelve Speedster and with its sleek curvaceous fenders, louvered hood cover and swept back, bluntly pointed "boat tail," it was clearly designed to "cheat the wind." By amazing coincidence, in 1963 my father was with his good friend and fellow collector Everett Pye on a trip south of Albany, New York to buy a 1937 Cord, when the owner told him about the Auburn, chassis 2119E, which was stored just over the fence in a neighbor's yard. Everett later purchased the car and I remember, as a young boy, the many trips my brother and I took with our father to Pye's modest garage, which was only a few miles from our home in upstate New York. The sight of that Auburn, with its racy lines, is etched into my memory and helped fuel my passion for vintage cars at a young age.
The 1955 Lincoln Indianapolis Concept Car with coachwork by Gian Carlo Boano of Turin exemplifies the very best of collaborative futuristic designs produced during the 1950’s. It is highly sculptural with Pontoon-like outer wings, non-functional exhaust pipes (shown on the cover of the catalog) and a tail end inspired by a jet’s afterburner. With it's space age design, undulating curves and "nuclear" orange paint, it must have been the center of attention during its debut at the Turin Auto show in 1955.
The sale includes no fewer than four Ferraris and one of my favorites is the 1959 250 GT SWB "Competition" Berlinetta Speciale. This car is the epitome of elegance with a combination of a one-off lightweight body and bespoke coachwork. Five years later Ferrari would produce the glorious mid-engine 250 LM, chassis 6107 – with it's voluptuous fenders and flared tail end it is one of only thirty-two 250 LMs ever built, and is among the most iconic racing cars in the world.