May 31, 2007

The Romance of the Motor Car

What is it about the automobile that has enthralled people for over a century?

From the earliest "horseless carriages" to today's "concept cars", people of all ages have had a love affair with the motor car. Not just as a means of transportation, but as an identity, a symbol of speed, glamor and freedom to travel the highways and byways of our land.

I remember begging my parents to let me drive. Just to sit on their laps and steer the car as they pressed the pedals that my legs were too short to reach. Probably not the safest move, but we lived in the country on a dirt road and there wasn't much traffic. I couldn't wait to get my learner's permit and then came the negotiations to borrow the car to go to school functions and into "the City". I dreamed of owning a sporty red MG convertible! The supreme irony is that I now live in Manhattan and have never owned a car. Heck, I haven't even sat behind the wheel of a rental in almost a year!

But all the fantasies of car ownership and the romance of the automobile came back last week when I happened to be at Christies auction house at Rockefeller Center for a sale of Latin American art. Specially installed in a small ground floor gallery was the "McQueen Ferrari" - the prime lot of a touring exhibition for a sale of "Exceptional Motor Cars" coming up in Monterey, California.

We all know Steve McQueen as a daring and handsome movie star. He was a brilliant actor and he was passionate about his cars. The jewel of his collection was a 1963 Ferrari 250 Grand Touring Berlinetta Lusso, one of only 350 examples built between 1962-63. This elegant and powerful auto was a custom order V-12 painted a gorgeous chestnut brown metallic with beige leather interior. Now fully restored by its current owner, this superb example of engineering beauty and speed will be offered for sale in August. The successful bidder will be buying not only a rare and prized machine, but part of the legend that was its original owner.

I will probably never own a car, much less a vintage collectible motor car, but as I looked at this beautiful machine I thought of how much more than a utilitarian means of getting from point A to point B the automobile was and remains. The grease monkeys who spend every possible moment tinkering with engines, the race car drivers who risk life and limb in the pursuit of speed, the car buffs who love to wax and polish their wheels - all this is a major part of our culture and will never go out of style.

The Steve McQueen 1963 Ferrari 250 GT
Lusso Chassis 4891
Christies Exceptional Motor Cars
California August 16, 2007

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