Automotive Elegance at Seattle Art Museum


This past Saturday – on June 29th – I attended the Rally for SAM.  It was a one day exhibition of exquisite museum-worthy automobiles, thoughtfully curated on the serene esplanade of Seattle Art Museum’s (SAM) Olympic Sculpture Park, overlooking the Puget Sound.  Billed as “18 Magnificent Cars from 5 Extraordinary Private Collections,” the show was a fundraiser for the museum comprised of a unique selection of cars, each with its own distinct pedigree.  And for all the pictures that I’ve seen of most of these cars through the years, they are a feeble substitute for the actual experience of being in their automotive presence.

Ferrari 375 MM - 1954
1954 Ferrari 375 MM (Rossellini Ferrari)

My personal favorite was a car I fell in love with 20 years ago when I first saw pictures and read about it in Cavalino, a literary journal dedicated to the history of Ferrari.   The 375 MM “Rossellini Ferrari”  as it’s known, is a one-of-a-kind 1954 Ferrari built for famed Italian filmmaker, Roberto Rossellini.  For me, this car is sublime.  There’s absolutely no clutter or any extra.  It’s sleek, powerful, simple and truly beautiful.

Ferrari F40 - 1991
1991 Ferrari F40

Also of note, were three Alfa Romero race cars from the 1930’s:  a 1932 8C 2300, a 1934 Tipo B P3, and a 1938 8C 2900B.  There were two 300 SL Mercedes from the 1950’s, with the iconic Gullwing doors.  Also present was a 1991 Ferrari F40, which was the last Ferrari built during the company’s namesake, Enzo Ferrari’s, lifetime.  The F40 was the first production sports car to exceed 200 mph.

Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spyder Competizione- 1960
1960 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spyder Competizione

More notable highlights include a Delahaye and a Talbot, both from 1937, and both absolute showstoppers.  Also on site was a 1960 250 GT LWB California Spyder Competizione, and a next generation Ferrari hybrid – a cream colored 2017 Ferrari LaFerrari Aperta that has a 6.3 liter fuel injected V-12 motor and a 708 kW electric motor for total output of 949 hp.  Wow!

Ferrari LaFerrari Aperta- 2017
2017 Ferrari LaFerrari Aperta

And though all the cars were spectacular in their own right, without a doubt it was a mezzmerizing black and orange Auburn that stole the show.   The 1932 Auburn (12-160A)Speedster is a car that defines grandeur and ceremony.  Unlike many of the other cars where the bodywork was outsourced, the magnificent coachwork was done in-house at the Auburn Automobile Company in Auburn, Indiana.  To experience this car is to understand why America fell in love with cars.  It’s everything.  You don’t go up and gawk at this car – you first catch your breath from the sight of it, and then you wait your turn and you walk up quietly to pay your respects.  Seriously, it’s all that.

1932 Auburn 12-160A Speedster (a)
1932 Auburn 12-160A Speedster
1932 Auburn 12-160A Speedster
1932 Auburn 12-160A Speedster

At what point does an industrial design become a work of art?  I found out this past Saturday at SAM– a day of automotive splendor I won’t soon forget.