Sensuous Steel at Nashville's Frist Center is the first major museum exhibition of the "rolling sculpture" of the 1930s and '40s. We take a virtual test drive of a selection of the 18 elegant Art Deco masterpieces on display.
1934 Edsel Ford Model 40 Speedster
Designed by E.T. “Bob” Gregorie specifically for Edsel B. Ford, the speedster features a two-seater aluminium alloy body patterned after an Indy race car. It is the only one of its kind ever made.
1930 KJ Henderson Westfall
This one-off custom motorcycle was originally built by O. Ray Courtney in 1936 based on a 1930 K.J Henderson. Now meticulously restored by its owner Frank Westfall from Syracuse, New York, the bike not only looks like a lesson in Art Deco but its inline four cylinder engine means it can compete with today’s racing equivalents.
1929 Cord L-29 Cabriolet
Designed by Alan Leamy who is known for styling the famed Auburn Speedster, the Cord L-29 Cabriolet was the first U.S. front-drive luxury car. It was painted its notable burnt orange color by its former owner, architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Famous for commenting that the Cord “looked becoming to my houses,” Wright kept the model right up until his death in 1959. “The proportion and lines of the Cord come nearer to expressing the beauty of both science and logic than any car I have ever seen,” he said.
1938 Talbot-Lago T150C-SS Teardrop Coupe
Often considered the car that defines its streamlined era, the Talbot-Lago T150C-SS Teardrop Coupe made its debut at the 1937 Paris and New York auto shows. Most of the models were bodied by Figoni et Falaschi – the influential French coachbuilder founded by Giuseppe Figoni and Ovidio Falaschi – into voluptuous shapes that became referred to as the 'Goutte d'Eau' or teardrop. The T150C chassis that this model is based on was focused on competition. The car is lent from the collection of J. Willard Marriott, Jr.
1934 Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow Sedan
Designed by Phillip Wright, the Arrow Sedan was originally built for the Chicago Century of Progress Exposition (1933-34). This car was the epitome of luxury with a price tag of $10,000 (roughly $170,000 today). Only five of these sedans were made, with three of them surviving to this day.
1935 Stout Scarab
Bill Stout, an aircraft engineer who developed the Ford Tri-Motor aircraft, began creating a radical sedan concept in the early 1930s. The end result, the Scarab, featured a roomy interior that boasted moveable seats and a small table. This unique auto anticipated the first minivan.
1936 Delahaye 135M Figoni and Falaschi Competition Coupe
One of coachbuilder Joesph Figoni’s first aerodynamic designs, this model was commissioned by French race driver Mr Albert Perrot so he could be seen around Paris. It is now owned by automobile collector Jim Patterson and is part of his prestigious Patterson Collection based Louisville, Kentucky.
1937 Delahaye 135 MS Roadster by Figoni and Falaschi
Created for the 1937 Paris Auto Show, this car was called “a Paris gown on wheels.” The roadster features aluminium coachwork and a leather interior by Hermès. Most significant are four features that were patented by Figoni and Falaschi, which included a roll-down disappearing windshield.
1941 Chrysler Thunderbolt
Conceived as a concept car to help restore Chrysler’s reputation, the Thunderbolt was designed by Alex Tremulis of Briggs Manufacturing's styling department to be truly revolutionary. With its concealed headlights, slab side body with no separate fenders and a retractable hardtop (a feature that would not be adopted until 1957), it was radical at the time.
All photos © 2013 Peter Harholdt
June 14 through September 15, 2013
Frist Center, Nashville