Not For Sale: Car Museums

A sermon about why car museums are to be avoided if you like old cars.

Ford Sierra Laser. Image source: The Truth About Cars

Originally published on 31st January 2014, the editor has selected to re-issue this piece, partially because it carries a fine profile shot of a Ford Sierra (making it vaguely topical) but primarily because it is an amusing, well crafted article – even if the author’s principle argument is somewhat debatable.

Every car museum I have visited in the last 2.25 decades has been a disappointment. Cars are inherently space-consuming selfish monsters and even when they are caught, killed and pinned to plinths this quality does not diminish. They need plenty of room, alive or dead. Alive, the car needs sufficient space for portly passengers to open the doors and affect egress without having to close the door behind them, at a minimum. And dead, in a museum without sufficient space, the car can’t be assessed properly. You need to stand back, fold your arms (essential) and try to gaze at the vehicle with Gestalt theory in mind.

First look at it as a set of parts and then as a whole and then as parts, alternating. This is done by looking just above the roof and then concentrating on the entire object while trying to keep your eyeballs still. It is not easy. If you want to see the car in its entirety while looking directly at it, you need about fifteen metres between you and the bodywork.

In stark contrast to this demand, most museums allow two metres, sometimes even less room. The Transport Museum in Coventry, England, packs the cars in as if the place was a carpark. Some cars you can see the front and back of, some the front three quarters. None stand alone with room to breathe as they once did in the design studios.

Rather better is the Schlumpf Museum in Mulhouse, France. But while the cars are spaced quite nicely, they are parked in angled rows and roped off. You can’t see the side profile of any car not parked at one end of a row or another. And the last time I was there, the cars were dusty. This would be unacceptable in a shop and unacceptable in your garage and so it is not right in a museum.

Imagine visiting the Louvre and finding Peter Paul Rubens’ The Apotheosis of Henri IV and the Proclamation of the Regency of Marie de Médicis coated in grey particles. You don’t travel to the Louvre to see The Apotheosis of Henri IV and the Proclamation of the Regency of Marie de Médicis obscured by dust and so similarly you don’t travel all the way to Mulhouse to find the French President’s CX Prestige hiding under what looks like the contents of a vacuum cleaner bag.

Finally, for the most part, car museums show specimens that are uninteresting to those of us who truly like cars as design objects and not as totems of status. I don’t care at all for Formula 1 or racing cars. And though of passing interest, the elite of road-going cars are not that fascinating and anyway tend to be well reported and well-preserved. It’s the banalities that I want to see, reminders of how unusual the past was. A Ferrari 347 Mondialissimo was always an special car and wealth is timeless. Wealth then is the same as wealth now.

But a Subaru 1800 is a detail of yesteryear that has vanished from the world as completely as unicorns, nymphs and goblins have done. I want, then in my dream museum, to have 250 cars selected for their ordinariness, lovingly polished and placed on plinths with a 10 metre clearance to the next exhibit. Such a museum would barely scratch the surface of what could be shown but it would be a start.

Until such a time as this museum is built I am staying away from automotive museums as I can’t bear the disappointment or the frustration. Better is to go on a trip to a foreign place and just look at the vehicles parked on the streets.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

56 thoughts on “Not For Sale: Car Museums”

  1. Having a partner whose interest in cars is slight, I haven’t a huge experience of car museums. I visited the Science Museum and Beaulieu as a kid but my adult life visits have been opportunistic drop-ins whilst passing – off the top of my head, the Schlumpf Collection just after it was opened, the Haynes Museum in Somerset and the Turin Museum (see Galleries). And I did have to visit the Brooklands Museum once, for work reasons.

    Of course I could be more forceful and self-indulgent, but the fact is I agree with Richard. Cars which can seem fascinating on the road can look rather sad sitting in a Museum. A bit like a whale dead on a beach. The problem with exhibiting cars, as with exhibiting Etruscan pottery, is that you need to imagine them in context. Cars are best seen moving but, if not, parked in suitable environments. If I see a car, I’m not really satisfied with Richard’s crossed arms pose, or standing chin in hand going ‘Hmmm’. I want to walk around it and fiddle – open doors, click switches, sit, roll down windows, go Brrrmmmm! I want a used car lot.

    Schlumpf was interesting because of the dustiness. That was in the early 80s, is it really still like that? Haynes (this was 15 years ago) was more the rows of tightly packed cars variety and I can’t remember much, except a room of entirely red cars – which is hardly an interesting theme. The exhibits at Turin were exhibited with reasonable room to view and great effort had been made to put them in context, but then you find that their context might not be yours.

    Also, returning to a comparison with other museums, many cars in museums give the same impression as mummies in museums. They might have been cars once, but they will never be driven again. Their engines are seized, their paint is brittle and their tyres are wooden. As you say Richard, they are dead. The Traction Avant in Turin with thick crazed paintwork was a strangely depressing sight.

  2. I generally agree with Richard’s sentiment. As a child, I visited two car museums: the old BMW Museum, which I mostly remember for its intriguing 1970s concrete architecture (which left a mark on my younger self even without me being aware of the architect’s name, Karl Schwanzer, which sounds very rude in German), and the Rosso Bianco collection, which, back in its day, was among the biggest Ferrari museums in the world and only left the impression of being huge, dusty, packed and boring on my young mind.

    In recent years, I revisited the BMW Museum and went to Mercedes-Benz’ shrine to their great and not-so-great achievements, which obviously benefitted from the Swabian marque’s truly rich heritage and actually was worth the visit. The BMW Museum, on the other hand, felt more “commercial”, and could only boast the odd concept car and prototype to tickle my fancy. Alas, most of that stark concrete architecture had been lost during the revamp a few years ago. I guess I’ll have to watch Norman Jewison’s Rollerball again to get another glimpse of that (as well as Maud Adams’ cheekbones).

    The true standout, however, was, on the face of it, a mere makeshift interim solution. During the renovation of Turin’s car museum, a number of car exhibitions were put at Turin’s exhibition hall, a fantastic structure designed by Pier Luigi Neri and worth a visit even without any cars involved. But there were cars involved, and what cars they were… it was an embarrassment of riches! Priceless prototypes by all the Turin carrozzierie, which were not cordoned off and given the space necessary to work their magic. The cars and their surroundings were spellbinding and the entire experience was far removed from any car show or car museum I’d ever visited. I’ve taken some photographs which I’d love to share (as soon as I get to understand the gallery’s uploading modus operandi, that is).

  3. My sermon neglected the Benz museum near Stuttgart. This does indeed allow a lot of space for each car and for that I was thankful. What M-B neglected to do their was show sufficient largeness of spirit to show the cars that had just gone out of production, as if the “good cars” are always from a distant, dim past. If I was the owner of a 1989 Mercedes 190D and I saw my very own car in the museum, I would be thrilled to know my car was not just something Benz sold but something Benz still believed in. And maybe a bit of humility in car museums: imagine if Alfa Romeo´s museum featured an Arna or 90 with the admission that they didn´t always get it right. Or if Benz´s museum featured a Vaneo. “Mercedes tries to make fine cars but sometimes even we don´t live up to our high standards but we hope that we can learn from our mistakes. As David Bowie said, If I haven´t made good three mistakes in a week, then I am not worth anything.
    We think the Vaneo was just not good enough to be a Benz.”

  4. While I prefer a car to be in its dynamic environment, the opportunity to investigate a static example of something rare is something I rather like. You also are quite often left alone to think about why something was made that way rather than have “one of those types” expressing their knowledge on how the series 3 shared its windscreen with a DKW and how that simply brutalised the designer’s intention over your shoulder as they do in a show or a “revival”.
    A very nice New Zealand chap I recently met suggested that I visit a museum in Dunedin where they have an exhibit on motorcycles. It was empty bar some school kids who were drawn to the large Harley Davidsons and trail bikes which they could sit on, while their mothers made approving noises and swiped at their telephones. They had a Britten on display there on a pedestal, and no-one was paying it any attention. Perhaps the world’s most advanced motorbike, made in New Zealand of all places being appreciated by only me. I loved it. I looked at all the castings, the welds, the suspension all of it- and wondered what made John Britten choose that solution. I’ve done this in many museums where exotic and unusual cars and bikes are on display.
    While I appreciate the Subaru 1800, it was a compromised resolution (like all mass manufactured products) not an inspirational solution. Museums afford me the opportunity to explore someone else’s mind.

  5. Car museums can be stagnant places – a little bit like biographies in that often the mistakes and foibles are excised in order to provide the illusion of unbroken success. As Richard points out, a museum including the less favoured models is providing a balance. Neglecting to do so is a little like watching a period film where everyone drives pristine cars from the exact period – no real-life street-scape was ever so rigidly mono-dimensional.

    However, seeing older cars on the open road is an experience that now lacks the context of it’s contemporaries. Old cars become imbued with the roseate glow of nostalgia, which can often prevent us from seeing them fully – we merely view the shadow of what was. A ghost amongst the new machines.

    My recent experience of car museums were similar to Richard and Sean’s – access and the ability to take the entirety of the vehicle was an issue in both places. However, I understand the issues of space museums face – cars take up a lot of room, especially if you are going to give them the space to ‘breathe’. The Heritage collection at Gaydon is on a massive site, yet suffers in places from this problem due to the enormous number of cars it houses. However, for those with a penchant for the more mundane, it is one of the few places where an Austin A40 Farina rubs shoulders comfortably with a TE Alvis.

    Does anyone get the balance right? Maybe the curators need to be more creative or are we just expecting too much from an industry that in this country at least, did a very passable job of running itself into the ground..?

  6. Looking at that picture of an original Sierra, I rather wish there was a museum that had an original, unused example of every car built. Sitting in a knackered 30 year old Sierra bought for £120 on eBay, it would be impossible to understand its appeal. But I would like to sit in a squeaky new one and smell the fresh vinyl. By law, a copy of any UK publication must be deposited with the British Library. It’s a pity that car manufacturers don’t do the same. I know cars are larger, so maybe a suitably sized island (the Isle of Wight?) could be annexed for such a use.

  7. Once upon a time there was just such a car museum. It was called the Patrick Collection – (presumably named after someone called Patrick) and it housed everything from an unused Ford RS200 Group B special to one of the last Morris Ital’s – and just about everything in between. It should have been a huge draw, but a few short years ago, the entire collection was auctioned off and dispersed to the Scirocco’s and the Bora’s. (Okay, I did mean winds. Look, it was a literary device – a somewhat clunky one I accept, but do you really have to sigh like that?) Anyway, it is a great shame, but our modern world seems to have developed a marked aversion to depth. Oddly enough, I can still smell the aroma of a Brand new Ford of that era. I love (loved?) the smell of polymers in the morning…

    1. Didn’t go well with your anchovies did it ? 😀 Nobody can trust the tastes of someone who likes anchovies.

  8. Lol @ “the apotheosis of Henry IV and the proclamation of the regency of Marie de Medicis” tag attached to this article. It’s exactly what brought me here.

    1. Richard will be pleased. I’m pleased you’re enjoying the site.

  9. If I’am being honest and without hyperbole, this is the car design-related website I’ve been waiting for all my life. You have no idea 😀

  10. ….and you’re all so…. prolific. Usually when I like Something there’s never enough of it but I still have hundreds of articles to go through by the looks of it. Are you on drugs ?

    1. That’s kind of you to say NRJ and yes, we’re all on a highly scientific ‘marginal gains’ doping programme, overseen by a team of eminent sports scientists. Apart from Simon our senior Editor of course, who is an occasionally functioning alcoholic.

    2. Coffee mostly in my case with the odd glass of vermouth in the evening.
      I’ve tried two Spanish vermouths and neither pleased me.

    3. Didn’t go well with your anchovies did it ? Nobody can trust the tastes of someone who likes anchovies.

    4. I expect you don´t like capers either.
      To be serious, anchovies and vermouth are a dire combination. I´d never have them together. Even a dry vermouth has too much sugar in it. However, a fino sherry goes well with salty things like anchovies.

  11. I don’t mind capers at all. They go nicely with salmon. Anchovies are satan’s food for me. They just tastes like you gulped some sea water where loads of fish have died and rotted. I don’t know if anchovies pizza is a thing where you are but it’s a big thing here, has been for decades. God knows I don’t approve of this unholy combination of the most perfect food on earth (pizza, for the uneducated anchovies-lovers out there) and these ugly, stinky pieces of rotten food that passes for fish. You may think “well, it is your choice if you don’t want to get that anchovies pizza you cretin” but anchovies pizza is often the only pizza left in boulangeries because most sane people don’t go near it and that makes me hate anchovies even more.

    1. Turning to matters more positive: a traditional Irish and British dish is boiled mutton with a caper and parsley sauce. The tricky thing is to get mutton. Using lamb is a waste of lamb. Boiled, the mutton is excellent. I boil it in a stock of diced carrots, celery, onion and bay leaf. When cooked one takes litre of stock and reduces it to a half, add double cream, chopped parsley and all the capers you can get your hands on. If they are salted ones, rinse them.

      As to anchovies on pizza, count me in. I love the way they melt. They are full of glutamates which are also found in garlic and parmesan – a natural flavour enhancer.

    1. All the more for me to enjoy.
      I hide them in joints of roast beef. They melt and disappear. I blend butter and anchovy with worcester sauce and put disks of it on grilled steaks. I add anchovies to oxtail stew.
      Black olives, olive oil, pepper, capers and anchovies make a pungent tapenade. Another thing is anchovy pastries (Victorians liked that). As you can see my avatar information is not without justification.

  12. Are you the same Richard ? I replied to you on another thread thinking you were a completely different person.

  13. Cars, like aircraft, are best appreciated by using them or by seeing them being used. In a museum they lie still. All that is available then is a distant impression.

  14. A really interesting article. Seems that in times gone by there was a lot more banter in the site. Is that a sign of the desperate times we live in these days or is it just my imagination? Aaah Smokey Robinson 😊

    1. Earlier the site was more like five people in a pub. These days its our authors on a stage at a big book festival. Also, the world is a bit less cheery than back then….

    1. That’s until you see their shop for WW II and Wehrmacht devotional items right (yes) behind the entrance and start to ask yourself what kind of people is running the place (hint: the museum was founded because three people had a large collection of military stuff and wanted to make others pay for that by putting the stuff on public display).
      The museum and local authorities were in a fight for many years. The museum had a couple of aircraft – like a Concorde – on stilts so they could be seen from the nearby autobahn, causing endless crashes from gazers. A wall was erected to block the view and the planes were put on higher stilts to be visible despite of the wall. This game went on for years until some law makers found a way to limit the height of these stills in the interest of traffic safety because there was no hope for some kind of prudence on behalf of the museum operators.

      Not something I’d want to support with my money.

  15. Car museums are so often frustrating places, with their lifeless exhibits ‘pickled in aspic’ and roped off so that your impressions are strictly limited and you have no opportunity to study the details up close.

    Much more satisfying are those local gatherings of what our esteemed editor accurately describes as “cars in fields”. Here you can appreciate every aspect and nuance of a highly polished Mk2 Ford Escort estate under the gaze of its appreciative owner, who is sitting in a picnic chair and enjoying a cup of lukewarm tea from a Thermos flask . That’s more like it!

  16. I am in agreement with Richard on the deficiencies of car museums. Apart from not enough viewing room, the lighting is also often a problem as a car looks very different in artficial light as opposed to natural outside lighting.
    Years ago I often fantasized about “my own car museum” where there would be no Duesenbergs, Bugattis, Ferraris and such since the existing museums already service that segment abundantly. No, in my fantasy the museum would be segmented by decade and have regular cars that everybody remembers and many owned displayed in a street setting appropriate with each decade. And not cordoned off (most of the cars would not be valuable enough anyway to worry too much about fingerprints and scratches) and perhaps even unlocked so visitors could have a seat inside. Some might use the analogy that they don’t want too see their wife in Playboy magazine since they can admire her every day and rather look at women out of their league but to me cars and women (even though I’m glad both exist) have a very different value set.
    A museum setting that comes closest to my ideal is the Toyota museum at MegaWeb in Tokyo; you walk through all kinds of streets with shopfronts, houses, hotels, garages and so on. All just props of course but very nicely done. In some streets, the lighting is also as realistic as it can be in an inside setting as the ceiling is artfully painted to mimic a blue sky with some clouds that reflects light from hidden sources. Other streets are designed as a dusk or nighttime setting. Here’s an example of what it looks like:

    1. yeah I was in the MegaWeb long ago. I really enjoyed being there. At the time one can take a ride in electric car and travel around the building. Fees applied though. Too bad it is no longer around….

      I was in Toyota Kaiken Museum as well.

  17. There’s an internal contradiction between cars as a motion concept and museum as static displays. Having said that, a car museum can be interesting and worthwhile to see unusual, one offs or really old vehicles.
    By the way, did any of the authors or contributors of DTW pay a visit to the “Motion. Cars. Art. Architecture” exhibition at Guggenheim Museum of Bilbao this summer? If this is the case, I’d like to know your opinion.
    P.S.: Richard, regarding Spanish vermouth, have you ever tried vermouth based on Sherry wine?, why don’t you make a try with a white Lustau?

  18. I’ve not been to too many privately owned car museums and if I think about it most of them do no longer exist (don’t show me your cars).
    I liked the Rolls-Royce museum of Magister Vonier in Dornbirn (Austria), the world’s largest collection of pre-ar RRs. It was fascinating to see how these cars were made – like using fabric inserts in the roof because it was not possible to make sheet metal roofs with sufficient surface quality.
    The Rosso Bianco collection was an absolute highlight I visited a couple of times and enjoyed it (opposed to Kris) because it was the exact opposite of a Ferrari collection, holding some veryy rare and exquisite sports cars oike two (out of fofteen made) Alfa 33 Stradales. It’s pity the owner sold the collection because he was frustrated by the non-appreciation shown by the Green biased Frankfurt city parliament. The new owner simply auctioned off the cars, ruining an absolutely unique collection of cars you could not see anywhere else.
    One of my neighbours has a motorcycle collection in a shed. There’s the largest group of classic MV Agusta motorcycles world wide with twenty-seven out of about six hundred ever made, Jim Redman’s World Championship Norton Manx and a couple of Honda oval piston racers. Even he is now starting to sell of the stuff, maybe I really should not be allowed to have a look.

  19. The only car museum that I thought displayed the cars with proper space for scrutiny was a temporary Alfa Romeo exhibition at the Science Museum in London in 2002. Mind you as they only had about 10 cars space wasn’t much of an issue.

    On a mild tangent Manchester Airport’s Concorde was originally kept outside at their runway viewing site. It meant you approached it with views of bits of Concorde peeking out over the flat paddock n’ barn conversion countryside of Cheshire. At one point you’d see her tail fin seemingly grazing a thatched cottage, before getting there and been able to stand back and absorb her beguiling size contradiction; tiny but takes up a lot of room. Onboard she felt a bit “Alive”, shimmying a little in crosswinds. Now a hanger has been built to protect her from the elements. Is it big enough to stand back and see her properly? Having only seen this Concorde mausoleum from taking off and landing, it looks a bit small.

    Like F1 cars and their ilk, some exhibits are more special than others. Landing last month at Manchester I spotted that Concorde now has a Trident to keep her company. Will the Trident get it’s own cocoon to protect it from the elements? I bet it won’t!

  20. Context is really important when exhibiting items of all sorts. Many art galleries feel a little sterile, typically comprising a series of large rectangular rooms with paintings hung on all four walls, but no furniture other than a solitary and usually uncomfortable bench in the centre, seemingly designed to encourage you not to linger.

    Some more enlightened museums and galleries instead create reproductions of period rooms in which are combined artworks, furniture and other artefacts, so that you can appreciate the items in a realistic context. The Boston Museum of Fine Arts, as well as having traditional large galleries, has a number of rooms like this:

    Well worth a visit if that’s your thing and you’re visiting the city.

  21. On the subject of museums, why is it that science museums these days all seemed to be wholly given over to amusing children with interactive activities? There’s nothing wrong with that per se, but adults seem to be largely ignored by such establishments. The last science museum we visited was the Nemo in Amsterdam. There was nothing we could find pitched at an adult audience and the racket created by over-stimulated children was deafening!

    (Apologies to parents everywhere: I’m sure they’re all little darlings! 😁)

  22. It is a thought-provoking article. I’ve always found museums to be a bit unsettling, a bit like zoos. In the back of my mind is the question of what would happen to the exhibits were the place to shut permanently.

    That said, I’ve been to Volkswagen Group’s Autostadt a couple of times and highly recommend it – it doesn’t cater to children, particularly and there’s lots of room. There are also special, often interactive exhibits which change over time.

    However, when I went there, they naturally enough had a few mk1 Golfs on display, which I found unsettling – it emphasised the passage of time, somehow. I’d much rather see the vehicles out on the street. That said, I recognise that museums play a vital part in preserving social history and objects which otherwise wouldn’t exist, so I shouldn’t complain too much.

  23. Don’t think I’ve done too many museums – the Volo museum north of Chicago doesn’t really qualify, as most of the cars are for sale… I have done the Harley museum in Milwaukee though – not that I’m a fan, but if it has wheels and an engine….
    And of course the exhibits in the De Haviland museum in Hertfordshire (?) have wheels and engines….

  24. Amen to the choice of a Subaru 1800.

    But, would it be an early GLF, or the later (styled with a ruler) Turbo?

    Give they both had frameless windows, would it matter?

  25. I have to say, my first motor museum experience was the Petersen in Los Angeles and, to a car-obsessed 18 year old who’d never seen in person many of the most famous classics throughout history, it was like visiting Mecca, especially the vault tour. It was a bit uncanny when the docent asked if we knew what we were looking at and hinted it was an Audi progenitor; I was the only one to guess (correctly) Wanderer, thanks to DTW and the like! That said, I’ve been back a few times and it’s certainly a bit gratuitous with their primary focus on expensive classics and movie cars. I had the opportunity to briefly visit the Lane in Nashville this summer and it’s much more my speed! I love their curated exhibits and their focus on European proletariat offerings like this collection of 500 derivatives they had while I was there.

    I think as with anything it’s a matter of finding the right museum for the right person. I appreciate these types of museums because in many cases they allow me to see cars that I’d never otherwise be able to view with my own eyes in person, either because of rarity or geography. I definitely agree that some can be a bit fuddy-duddy and that in general cars are not meant to be displayed as keepsakes, but it certainly beats them being scrapped or abandoned in a field somewhere! If a museum can foster the love of motoring in a future generation while teaching them the industrial achievements of our past, I say it’s a job well done. My bucket list still includes the Volvo and Saab Museums as well as exploring the sheer bevy of motoring-related collections dotted around the UK!

    1. I also visited the Lane Museum in Nashville last month and agree, it is fun and the cars are not all over restored. The collection of home made vehicles were great, also the Tatras and the Dymaxion which is a wonderful object. The Skoda museum next to their factory is pretty good, lots to look at given their long history and unpretentious, perhaps like the cars.

  26. I’m in two minds about car museums. I appreciate the chance to see some of the more unique cars that otherwise I would not come across, but the museum setting is a bit off. On the other hand, you get to do some people watching as well, which is its own reward. An exhibit I visited recently in Brussels had the same problems, although the cars weren’t dusty and some were evidently still in use. By the way, the Junior Zagato on the left is one of my absolute favourite cars, so I was quite happy to come across it.

    However, happening across the yellow headlights of a Citroën LN on an open street recently and the surprise and delight that provided support Richard’s argument. As did coming across this rather lovely Autobianchi A111 and being able to walk around it or get enough distance to take it in properly.

    My dream garage has a Junior Zagato and a MkIII Honda Civic, possibly an Si. After that things get muddled. My dream museum exhibit is a huge black Mark Rothko painting, though, or one of the Seagram murals. I have seen both and was blown away by them. Paintings work a lot better in a museum than cars. Sculpture can go both ways: sometimes it’s better in a museum, sometimes it’s better outside.

    1. Hi Tom. The Autobianchi A111 is a real curiosity. It seems extraordinary that Fiat senior management would have authorised the expense of developing what was a direct competitor to the Fiat 128, but still a completely different car. It was a rather good looking car:

    2. This is why I love this site. I like to consider myself well informed on things automotive, and I never knew this car existed. A bit of googling reveals it to be what could have been the Fiat 123- which explains the 125 vibe.
      What a shame it wasn’t the 128 replacement. It’s certainly better looking than the slightly lumpen 128 which always struck me as more of a ‘BMC’ look. A wagon version would look fantastic.

    3. Hi David. I agree about the A111 being better looking than the 128. Although I like the Fiat, the Autobianchi looks classier, thanks to its separate chrome door window frames instead of the 128’s one-piece pressings, I think:

    4. It’s more than that. There is so much more resolution happening. Like the way the dropped waistline changes from concave to convex above the tail-light and that line’s continuation right around the car, or the treatment of the roof gutter termination, or the grille and headlight treatment. Everything is just resolved and ‘curated’ so well.

    5. Hello David and Daniel. And that is why I love this site: you throw in a tangent and someone picks it up and runs with it (if you’ll forgive the muddled metaphor). I was struck by the A111 immediately, but wasn’t particularly conscious of why. Your comments threw light on the matter: the A111 is a remarkably sophisticated design. The contrast with the 128 might be partly explained by the fact that the Autobianchi was never intended to sell in large numbers (possibly not with a big profit margin either, since Autobianchis were generally thought of as experiments) and the Fiat was. That might explain the dullness of the 128: it’s designed to be cheaply built (with the usual Fiat proviso that this intention doesn’t mean it was actually that easy to build).

      That doesn’t fully explain the sophistication of the A111, though. It almost feels like it wasn’t just a technical experiment, but also a sort of testing ground for designers to cut their teeth and come up with the best solutions they could think of before the bean counters got hold of them at Fiat proper. Or something along those lines.

      Its slightly unadventurous sophistication (and the fact that DTW highlighted the fact) does remind me of the second-gen Granada featured here last week. It is also a nicely detailed design in an outwardly conventional package. Albeit that the Granada previewed the “death of chrome” earlier than I’d thought it had. In other words: its design is older than I would estimate it to be. Here’s three generations of Granada snouts, illustrating how the second generation got rid of the chrome for sparse but well considered detailing and how the third gen (or Scorpio in Europe) continued that trend. I suppose the Scorpio facelift could also be described to have sparse detailing, but I wouldn’t call it well considered (though other opinions are available, certainly at DTW).

  27. I enjoy car museums. They give me a chance to see unique vehicles that one wouldn’t see in the metal otherwise. Having said that, last week I spotted an Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo in the open. Wonderful car.

    They might very well be a display of wealth of the owner, but that has never bothered me at all. The same argument could be made regarding a Rembrandt or Renoir. Paintings are obviously different from cars, but does that mean that the entire value set we use to judge these artifacts should be 100 percent different?

    Having said that I do enjoy seeing more regular cars as well. Here’s yesterday’s catch:

    1. Good morning Freerk. I love that Rekord C estate (or, more accurately, shooting brake, since it’s a two-door). I doubt the colour is original but it suits it very well.

      The Chevrolet Citation? Not so much…😁

    2. As far as I know the Citation earned a reputation for having a terrible build quality. These cars were not that common where I lived, but GM sold no less than 1,6 million of them. I don’t think I’ve seen one in the last two decades until yesterday.

      I haven’t seen a Rekord in ages either. But I agree with you, it’s a nice car.

  28. For those of you yet to visit a car museum and, having read thus far, have had your worst fears confirmed, I recommend that you try The Great British Car Journey at Ambergate in Derbyshire (post code DE56 2HE).

  29. The autobianchi seems a little narrow and a little short for its height. I would prefer this handsome design placed on a larger car, like a bigger fiat 125 replacement and smaller than a fiat 132. It is obviously an upmarket car, watch the beautiful wheels. This colour seems to be after market addition. It’s not 70s colour. I would like to see it in white.

    1. The A111’s wheels shown here are aftermarket items. The standard wheels look exactly like that

      As you can tell from its development project number 123 the A111 was an alternative solution to the Fiat 124 which was dumped onto Autobianchi because Fiat felt it needed a car that could be licensed out to partners like Lada, Polski Fiat et al for which the 123 would not have been the suitable product.

  30. Thank you Dave. It could have been kind of a small Fiat 130, handsome design with beautiful details, fwd and modern technology. I think the grille would be changed.

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