© 2024
Virginia's Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Taubman Outlines America's Early Fondness for Cars

Jeff Bossert

Cities like Roanoke are the frequent site for car shows. But a new exhibit at the Taubman Museum of Art offers a different take on America’s love for the automobile.

DRIVE! Iconic American Cars and Motorcycles’ covers the first 50 years of the industry, displaying 23 iconic vehicles from as far back as 1912.

"We were thinking pre-first World War, to the 1960’s. That covers a pretty good span, and maybe one or two cars per decade,” said exhibit curator and auto writer Ken Gross.  “But it didn’t work out exactly that way, because some decades, like the 30’s, are just so significant.”

He said in cases, visitors to the Taubman can look at a car and it’s telling its story, like the 1921 Stutz Bearcat Model K.

Creator Harry C. Stutz sent the prototype to compete in the 1911 inaugural Indianapolis 500 race.

“(It) was put in a garage in 1931, and brought out a couple years ago,” said Gross.  “So it’s about as original, authentic, and pristine, as pristine, untouched as any old car that age could be. In other cases, cars are restored, and everything here is restored to look exactly the way it was.”

Credit Jeff Bossert
1947 Steve McQueen Indian Chief Motorcycle with Sidecar

Taubman Executive Director Cindy Petersen says planning 'DRIVE!' was in the works for over two years. She says getting the cars to the second level galleries – through its freight elevator – was a bit tricky.

“It’s 199 inches ½, and so some of those cars, the bumpers came off, we used gojacks, we turned and twisted, and in some cases, there was only less than an inch to spare as we got them up.”

Other rare vehicles on display include a 1959 Corvette Stingray, a 1936 Stout Scarab (the earliest version of the minivan - less than 10 were produced), and a 1947 Indian Chief motorcycle once owned by actor Steve McQueen. 

The ‘Drive!’ exhibit continues at the Taubman Museum through February 3.

Jeff Bossert is Radio IQ's Morning Edition host.