A detail of a tail light from a Type 356 Gmünd Coupe, manufactured in 1949 (shown below), is just one of the cool artistic touches to be found in the Porsche By Design: Seducing Speed exhibition, which opened last weekend at the North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA) in Raleigh. A collection of 22 Porsches — including a couple of famous ones belonging to Steve McQueen and Janis Joplin — span the history of the fabled German automaker since its inception in the 1930s.
It also reminds how cars traverse so many mnemonic highways as well. My own Porsche memory is of a silver 944 from long ago. The attraction was purely visceral; I was no speed freak, and the Florida landscape is not particularly noted for its autobahns. It’s the 944’s lovely lines, especially from the front, I will always remember.
A burgundy MGB, from the last year the convertible was manufactured, was first to capture my heart. The moment I encountered that little beauty, which belonged to a college boyfriend, I knew a similar one was part of my future. Mission eventually accomplished — but alas, hearts are meant to be broken, and unlike the Porsche, the British roadster was not renowned for its engineering excellence. Gas ended up flooding the interior, among other temperamental issues, and the love affair sadly came to an end (at a mere 10,000 miles).
Most beautiful car ever? I’ll go with the Jaguar XKE convertible, at bottom, the sleekest and most gorgeously timeless piece of machinery ever produced. A moving work of art if ever there was one.
Artistic overtones color much of the Porsche By Design exhibit, which runs through January 20. “They are rolling sculpture,” NCMA’s director said, and it’s believed that this is the first design show comprised exclusively of Porsches. The automobile-art connection is the result of ongoing efforts to procure wider audiences for museums.
Everyone has a car story — or two.