New­port mu­se­ums high­light artistry of car cul­ture

The Washington Times Daily - - LIFE - BY MICHELLE R. SMITH

NEW­PORT, R.I. | Car en­thu­si­asts now have their pick of des­ti­na­tions to get their fix while vis­it­ing New­port, with two car mu­se­ums fea­tur­ing clas­sic and rare cars, the new­est hav­ing opened just this month.

The Audrain Au­to­mo­bile Mu­seum and the New­port Car Mu­seum both place a strong em­pha­sis on de­sign and dis­play the cars as works of art.

“What we’re re­ally talk­ing about is good de­sign, and how car de­sign re­ally re­flects art and so­cial his­tory,” said David de Muzio, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Audrain Au­to­mo­bile Mu­seum. “It’s another way to un­der­stand what the cars are, why they look like they do.”

The mu­se­ums fit right into the spirit of New­port, a re­sort des­ti­na­tion known for its man­sions, folk and jazz fes­ti­vals and beaches. Wealthy fam­i­lies have sum­mered here for gen­er­a­tions — bring­ing with them their cars.

“There is a car cul­ture here, and it goes right back to the late 19th cen­tury, when Wil­lie K. Van­der­bilt was ac­quir­ing and rac­ing cars. Some of the very first car races in the United States hap­pened right here in New­port,” said Mr. de Muzio.

Cars be­came part of high so­ci­ety as va­ca­tion­ers spend­ing time at sum­mer homes would pa­rade their cars around town. Some of those car races were held on the beach here, or on Belle­vue Ave., the leafy boule­vard lined by Gilded Age man­sions, Mr. de Muzio said.

Both mu­se­ums are drawn from pri­vate col­lec­tions, and they are dif­fer­ent and com­ple­men­tary.

The Audrain, which opened in 2014, is lo­cated in a his­toric build­ing on Belle­vue, next to the International Ten­nis Hall of Fame. It ro­tates through four ex­hibits per year of around 20 cars, drawn from a col­lec­tion of 225.

It has what Mr. de Muzio calls an “en­cy­clo­pe­dic” fo­cus, with a wide range of dif­fer­ent mak­ers and years, from pre-war cars to the present day.

An ex­hibit on view through June 25, “Drop Dead Drop Tops,” fo­cuses on con­vert­ibles and fea­tures a range of cars, from a 1930 Pierce-Ar­row Model A to a one-of-a-kind white and blue 2013 Bu­gatti Vey­ron 16.4L Grand Sport Vitesse “Le Ciel Cal­i­fornien.”

The ex­hibit even in­cludes cu­riosi­ties such as a 1957 Fer­rari Bimbo racer, a 12-volt elec­tric chil­dren’s car, which was based on the open Fer­rari Spi­der of the time.

The Audrain’s new ex­hibit, “Fast, Fun & Fab­u­lous: Best of Show,” fea­tur­ing award-win­ning au­to­mo­biles that are a su­perla­tive ex­am­ple of de­sign, or that have won races, opens July 1.

There’s still a new car smell at the New­port Car Mu­seum, which opened June 1 and is ac­tu­ally in neigh­bor­ing Portsmouth, a short drive from the at­trac­tions of New­port.

The mu­seum is housed in a 55,000-square-foot space in a build­ing once used by de­fense con­trac­tor Raytheon to man­u­fac­ture mis­siles. The dis­plays here are drawn en­tirely from the pri­vate col­lec­tion of Gun­ther and Mag­gie Buer­man.

About 50 cars are dis­played in five gal­leries, with clas­sics in­clud­ing Ford Shelby rac­ing cars, Corvettes, Mopars and a large col­lec­tion of fin cars, as well as some Euro­pean, Bri­tish and Ja­panese cars. Ev­ery model of Corvette, from a C1 to C7, is here. There’s a 1965 Ford Shelby 427 SC Co­bra, de­signed by Amer­i­can au­to­mo­tive designer and race car driver Car­roll Shelby, one of just 31 made, and val­ued by Gun­ther Buer­man at $3 mil­lion.

From a 1954 Buick to a 2017 Dodge Viper ACR, Gun­ther Buer­man said he wanted the mu­seum to ap­peal to all ages.

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