The automobile has been one of the longest-lasting, most readily accessible and available forms of transporation in history. A new exhibit at the High Museum of Art pays homage to this innovation, featuring eighteen cars that have influenced the design of the vehicles we known today, alongside the sketches, patents, and models that went into their creation. "Originally viewed as a miraculous machine, the car became a projection of the style, values, and status of its owner," Sarah Schleuning writes in the introduction of Dream Cars: Innovative Design, Visionary Ideas. Yet, in addition to the practical cars purchased by consumers, many of the largest companies' design masterminds also created futuristic dream cars. There was Harley J. Earl's Buick Y-Job, which was considered a "laboratory on wheels," the 1941 Chrysler Thunderbird, which was dubbed "The Car of the Future," and Gabriel Voison's C-25 Aerodyne. The concept cars traveled to international shows and fairs, showing off their innovative, albeit impractical, designs. "The essence and elements of these concept cars live on, even if the cars themselves do not," Schleuning continues. "The concept car represents a transition and arguable dominance of style over engineering. The aesthetics and stylistic 'magic' must capture the imagination as a furturist vision; otherwise, regardless of the technological advances, the concepts will fail to be perceived as innovative automotive visions. Today, these concept cars of yesterday continue to provide sparks of possibility and glimpses of a future tomorrow."
Left: The 1953 General Motors Firebird I XP-21 was a lavish endeavor for the automotive company, focused on the car's external design and style, rather than its internal engineering (Harley J. Earl, design chief at the time, drew inspiration from the Douglas F4D Skyray delta-winged interceptor). The turbine-powered car, however, was never produced as a result of its loud engine and high fuel intake.