Bugatti. Ferrari. Porsche. Even if you aren’t an automotive enthusiast, you’ve heard of these luxury cars.
There’s a place in Atlanta where you can see some of these rare and innovative automobiles. But there’s a catch: these cars aren’t for sale.
"Dream Cars: Innovative Design, Visionary Ideas" is the latest exhibit at the High Museum of Art. The exhibition features 17 concept cars, designed by Ferrari, Bugatti, General Motors, and Porsche. The automobiles in “Dream Cars”are from the early 1930s to the 21st century that pushed the limits of automotive design -- ideas from the past that shaped the future.
Ken Gross is an automotive historian and the consulting curator for “Dream Cars.”
“I like to say that in the past, the future was a lot cooler,” said Gross. “After World War II, people came home with great optimism. Cars represented the future to them, and the future was spaceships and airplanes, and rockets. And they really thought that was what would appear on the roads of America.”
Sarah Schleuning, the High Museum’s Curator of Decorative Arts and Design, has been working on the project for three years. A self-described “design junkie,” Schleuning says her father inspired her interest in design when the Oregon architect took his family on trips to see some of the nation’s greatest buildings.
“Dream Cars” isn’t the High Museum’s first foray into the automotive world. In 2010, the museum held an exhibit called “Allure of the Automobile”, which looked at the rise of the coachbuilder. Schleuning says the High wanted to expand that concept for “Dream Cars”.
Concept cars, said Schleuning, are visions of the future. The exhibit highlights early ideas that became reality decades later.
“They’re really more than just cars. They’re really more about ideas,” said Schleuning. “I hope that’s one of the things people get out of the show. You take something as ubiquitous as the car and you don’t think about all these evolutions that happen to get something like the backup camera. It was introduced in ‘56 in the Buick Centurion, and yet now it seems almost standard. So, it took over 60 years to make that happen.”
The High Museum found cars from all over the world to use in the “Dream Cars” exhibit, including automobiles from private lenders. The Bugatti came from a private lender in Toronto.
One of the most unique cars in the show is L’oeuf Electrique, or The Little Electric Egg. The car was designed in 1942 by an artist and locomotive engineer as a way to get around Paris during World War II. True to its name, the three wheeled, 75-pound car is shaped like an egg.
There’s even a car Michael Jackson wanted to get his hands on: the 1970 Lancia Stratos Zero. At 33 inches, the doorless Stratos Zero is considered the lowest running concept car ever built. The late artist wanted the Stratos for his 1988 movie, Moonwalker. The automobile company wouldn’t let him have the car, so the movie’s team built a replica.
Unfortunately, most concept cars are never intended for series production. Designers create these cars to experiment with technology.
“Part of what’s great about them is they are about what’s possible,” said Schleuning. They’re not looking at something coming out in five years. “They’re looking at 30 years or 50 years. It’s really kind of amazing that people put so much effort into something that isn’t going to be built in the big picture.”
“Dream Cars” visitors can also download an app that functions as an audio guide, featuring interviews with Schleuning and Gross. The app also includes historic video footage and images.
“Dream Cars: Innovative Design, Visionary Ideas” runs until September 7.