[Text from the information panel regarding this exhibition.]
In the decades leading up to and immediately following the Great Depression and World War II, luxury automakers worldwide reached new heights in engineering, aerodynamics, styling, and performance. Considered the Golden Age in the history of the automobile, the artistry and craftsmanship achieved from the 1930s through the 1960s remains remarkable.
Created for the privileged few, these luxurious, custom-built automobiles embodied style, speed, and elegance. American luxury automakers such as Packard, Pierce-Arrow and Duesenberg vied for business with such storied British automakers and older European firms as Mercedes-Benz, Bugatti, and Alfa Romeo, through striking innovations in engine configurations and an emphasis on elegant, streamlined shapes that pioneered the advanced designs to come.
Post-war European cars reflect the intense competition heritage that dictated their functionality and design. Mercedes-Benz survived the war, as did Jaguar. New marques like Ferrari and Porsche established their credentials on racetracks, and then turned to road-going models to help finance their competitive efforts. By the 1950s and 1960s, American cars made by General Motors, Chrysler, and Tucker came to illustrate the unbridled exuberance of the postwar era, influenced by aircraft, rocketry, and futuristic inventiveness.
These sixteen spectacular examples of pre- and postwar luxury vehicles illustrate the creativity of a group of design visionaries whose artistry remains unparalleled to this day.
Return to Portland Art Museum