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Posts Tagged luxury cars

Long beige car with swooping fenders and color-matching tires

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Fred Duesenberg set out to build an automotive masterpiece. Its superlative engineering included a 265-horsepower engine that could push the car to a 116-mph top speed. Duesenberg built only 481 Model Js between 1928 and 1935. No two are identical because independent coachbuilders crafted each body to the buyer’s specifications. Is it the world’s finest? One thing is certain--the Model J will always be in the running.

Etching of man sitting by a fireplace in luxurious vaulted room with text "He drives a Duesenberg"
Woman in horseriding ensemble among dogs, with text reading "She drives a Duesenberg"
Duesenberg ads associated the car with wealth and privilege. / THF101796,
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Drawing of long car with swooping fenders along with text and inset image of car interior
Long black car with long fenders; also contains text and inset image of car interior
Long, boxy car; also contains text and inset image of car interior
These are a few of the many body styles offered in a 1930 catalog. But that was just a starting point--each car was customized to the owner’s taste. / THF83517, THF83518,
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Rounded car trunk, opened to show luggage fitted snugly into two compartments
The Henry Ford’s Duesenberg has luggage designed to fit the trunk precisely. / THF90800


This post was adapted from an exhibit label in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation.

Henry Ford Museum, Driving America, luxury cars, cars

Boxy green car

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Seven feet, seven inches tall, this limousine was designed to make a grand entrance. And it wasn’t short on style, either. Even the chauffeur’s compartment was done up in leather and mahogany. The owners gazed at the world through French plate-glass windows or shut out prying eyes with silk curtains. They enjoyed an umbrella holder, a hat rack, a flower vase, and interior electric lights to illuminate them all.

Page with black-and-white illustration of car in front of house at top; text inside circle design at bottom
This 1910 ad for the Rambler limousine promotes luxuries such as a mahogany ceiling, a mirror, a clock, a cigar case, and a speaking tube so the owner could talk to the chauffeur. / THF83353

Inside factory with many car bench seats and people working on them
The Rambler, like many luxury cars, published a magazine for owners. Many issues emphasized the company’s quality construction methods. / THF83351

Two men work on a car body on sawhorses
Rambler Magazine showed workers putting finishing touches on a body in 1911. Before Henry Ford developed the moving automotive assembly line in 1913, cars were built like this—on sawhorses. / THF83356


This post was adapted from an exhibit label in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation.

luxury cars, cars

Black car with long hood and whitewall tires

THF90723

In an era of extreme automotive styling, the Mark II was elegantly understated. Its advertising slogan, “the excitement of being conservative,” confirmed that Mark II’s appeal depended not on chrome, but rather on flawless quality control, extensive road testing, shocks that adjusted to speed, and power steering, brakes, windows, and seats. Not understated was the $10,000 price. Owned by VIPs like Frank Sinatra and Nelson Rockefeller, it was the most expensive American car you could--or couldn’t--buy.

Three men standing around clay model of car on table
William Clay Ford (left) reviews a clay model of the Mark II in 1953. He inherited a passion for styling from his father, Edsel Ford, and directed the Mark II’s design and development. / THF112905

Car dashboard with large steering wheel
The dashboard--luxurious in 1956--featured an instrument panel inspired by airplanes, with a pushbutton radio, watch-dial gauges, and throttle-style climate control levers. / THF113250

Two-page spread with a photo of a long blue car with a woman leaning on the hood and a concrete balustrade behind; contains text and smaller car detail images at bottom
Like the car, advertising was understated. This Vogue magazine ad links the car with classic design in architecture and fashion. / THF83341


This post was adapted from an exhibit label in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation.

Henry Ford Museum, Driving America, luxury cars, cars

Long white car with scrolling style lines and green fabric top
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Longer than a Duesenberg. Twice the horsepower of a Rolls-Royce. More costly than both put together. The Bugatti Royale was the ultimate automobile, making its owners feel like kings. It is recognized as the epitome of style and elegance in automotive design. Not only did it do everything on a grander scale than the world’s other great luxury cars, it was also rare. Bugatti built only six Royales, whereas there were 481 Model J Duesenbergs and 1,767 Phantom II Rolls-Royces.


Ettore Bugatti formed Bugatti Automobiles S.A.S. in 1909. His cars were renowned for their exquisite design and exceptional performance—especially in motor racing. According to lore, Bugatti was at a dinner party when a woman compared his cars unfavorably with those of Rolls-Royce. In response, he designed the incomparable Royale.

Silver hood ornament of elephant standing on his back legs on car hood; black grille and headlight visible
The Royale's elephant mascot was based on a sculpture by Rembrandt Bugatti, Ettore Bugatti's brother, who died in 1916. / THF90827

Because Bugatti Royales are so rare, each has a known history. This is the third Royale ever produced. Built in France and purchased by a German physician, it traveled more than halfway around the world to get to The Henry Ford. Here is our Bugatti’s story.

Black-and-white photo of a long car with swooping style lines; two people and two dogs sitting outside car
Joseph Fuchs took this 1932 photograph of his new Bugatti, painted its original black with yellow trim. His daughter, Lola, and his mechanic, Horst Latke, sit on the running board. /THF136899

1931: German Physician Joseph Fuchs orders a custom Royale. Bugatti Automobiles S.A.S. builds the chassis in France. Its body is crafted by Ludwig Weinberger in Munich, Germany.

1933: Fuchs leaves Germany for China after Hitler becomes chancellor, taking his prized car with him.

1937: Japan invades China. Fuchs leaves for Canada—again, with his car. Having evaded the furies of World War II, Fuchs and his Bugatti cross Canada and find a home in New York City.

1938: A cold winter cracks the car’s engine block. It sits, unable to move under its own power, for several years.

1943: Charles Chayne, chief engineer of Buick, buys the Bugatti. He has it restored, changing the paint scheme from black and yellow to white and green.

1958: Now a General Motors vice-president, Chayne donates the Bugatti to Henry Ford Museum.

1985: For the first time, all six Bugatti Royales are gathered together in Pebble Beach, California.

Six long cars on a green lawn in front of a body of water
The first-ever gathering of all six Bugatti Royales thrilled the crowds at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 1985. They are the ultimate automotive expression of style and luxury. / THF84547


This post was adapted from an exhibit label in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation.

Driving America, Henry Ford Museum, luxury cars, cars

Boxy maroon and black car with open driver's seat

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Wealthy Americans were familiar with the Brewster name because the company had been building elegant horse-drawn carriages for over 100 years. When Brewster finally began building automobiles in 1915, they looked like carriages. Chauffeurs dealt with the 20th-century auto technology—a quiet 55-horsepower engine, an electric starter, and electric lights—while owners rode in 19th-century carriage comfort. Tradition eventually lost out to the rush of modernity, and Brewsters began to look like cars.

Black-and-white photo of carriage
Look closely at this 1890 Brewster landau carriage in The Henry Ford’s collection, and you’ll notice some similarities to the Brewster automobile. / THF80571

Illustration of boxy car with open driver's seat; contains text
“Landaulet” is a car body style with separate compartments for passengers and driver. The passenger compartment is usually convertible. The driver’s compartment can be either enclosed or open. / THF206171


This post was adapted from an exhibit label in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation.

luxury cars, cars

Baby blue car

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The secret to this car’s striking look is a blend of English elegance and Italian aggressiveness. Late-1950s Rolls-Royces inspired the Riviera’s creased fenders and crisp roofline. But the Riviera leans forward, like a cat poised to pounce—or a Ferrari poised to win races. The tension between these approaches makes the Riviera one of the most memorable designs of the 1960s.

Silver limousine with long hood parked crossways on driveway with grass, trees, buildings in the vicinity
General Motors styling chief Bill Mitchell looked at Rolls-Royces, like this 1960 Silver Cloud II, for inspiration. They were modern without being trendy. THF84938

White car parked in front of landscape with a row of thin trees
Many elements of this Ferrari 250 GT Pininfarina coupe slant forward to create an aggressive look. Can you see similarities between it and the Riviera? THF84932

Partial view of car console and front seats taken from backseat
Buick compared the car’s interior styling to that of an airplane, claiming the driver “probably feels more like a pilot” in the Riviera’s bucket seats. THF84935


T
his post was adapted from an exhibit label in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation.

design, luxury cars, cars

Long, tall boxy maroon automobile
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Early car buyers knew what motor vehicles should look like--carriages, of course! But automobiles needed things carriages didn’t: radiators, windshields, controls, horns, and hoods. Early automakers developed simple solutions. Brass, often used for carriage trim, was adopted for radiators, levers, and horns. Windshields were glass plates in wood frames. Rectangular sheet metal covers hid engines. The result? A surprisingly attractive mix of materials, colors, and shapes.

Page with text and two illustrations of cars
Although the Stevens-Duryea Company claimed its cars had stylish design, most early automakers worried more about how the car worked than how it looked. / THF84913

Page with text and two images of cars, one head-on view and one from the side
To build a car body, early automakers had to shape sheet metal over a wooden form. Cars made that way, like this 1907 Locomobile, often looked boxy. / Detail, THF84914

Image of car and text
Some early automobiles looked good. But even the attractive ones looked like an assembly of parts, like the Studebaker shown in this 1907 ad. / THF84915


This post was adapted from an exhibit label in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation.

design, Driving America, Henry Ford Museum, luxury cars, cars

Long black convertible with swooping lines and whitewall tires
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Although it wasn’t the most expensive car of its day, the 1937 Cord was pricey. But its Depression-era buyers were well-off and didn’t mind a stylish car that attracted attention. The Cord’s swooping fenders, sweeping horizontal radiator grille, and hidden headlights were unlike anything else on American highways. And although it wasn’t the first, the Cord was the only front-wheel-drive production car available in America for the next three decades.

Image of red car on gold and black background; contains text
This 1937 Cord catalog shows the sedan version of the car. THF83512

Page containing several drawings and text
The company’s definition of luxury included not only the Cord’s styling but also its comfort, its ease of driving and parking, and the advantages of front-wheel drive. THF83513

Page showing car dashboard with text
Customers who wanted even more luxurious touches could buy accessories from the dealer. The Cord Approved Accessories catalog for 1937 included some items now considered basics, such as a heater, a windshield defroster, and a compass. Image (THF86243) taken from copy of catalog.


This post was adapted from an exhibit label in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation.

luxury cars, cars, Henry Ford Museum, Driving America

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1931 Duesenberg Model J
Inline 8-cylinder engine, double overhead camshafts, 420 cubic inches displacement, 265 horsepower

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The Duesenberg is a beautiful automobile, and under the hood there’s plenty of go to match the show. The straight-8’s four valves per cylinder and duplex carburetor helped it pump out an enormous amount of horsepower for the time. (Later supercharged versions produced an astounding 320 horsepower!) The Model J could break 100 miles per hour without breaking a sweat.


Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.

by Matt Anderson, luxury cars, cars, Engines Exposed

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Undoubtedly, our 1931 Bugatti Type 41 Royale is one of the most popular automobiles in the The Henry Ford’s collection. Rarely off display, the Royale has been a fixture in Henry Ford Museum for decades. It’s rare to walk by the car and not see at least one person snapping a photo, studying the label, or simply daydreaming about what it’s like behind that big steering wheel. And why not? The Royale has everything going for it: beautiful styling, superb engineering, and a princely price tag – not to mention, as one of only six in the world, exceptional exclusivity.

Needless to say, it would take something very special for us to loan the Bugatti to another museum. Our friends at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles have presented us with just such a reason. Last month, the Petersen opened an exciting new year-long exhibition, The Art of Bugatti. Automobile aficionados know the Bugatti name via the magnificent race and road cars built by Ettore Bugatti in the 1920s and 1930s. But Ettore was just one member of this remarkably artistic Italian-French family. Ettore’s father, Carlo Bugatti, designed exquisite furnishings. Ettore’s brother, Rembrandt, was a talented sculptor. (The elephant that sits atop our Royale’s radiator is based on a piece by Rembrandt Bugatti.) Ettore’s niece (and Rembrandt’s daughter), Lidia, was an accomplished artist.

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The Bugatti Royale’s distinctive elephant mascot was cast from a sculpture by Rembrandt Bugatti, brother of Royale designer Ettore Bugatti.

Furniture, paintings, sculpture, silver and – of course – automobiles from each of these three Bugatti generations are featured in the Petersen’s show. The broad-ranging exhibit even reaches into the present day. Volkswagen, current owner of the Bugatti marque, has loaned a 2016 Bugatti Chiron to the show. The two-seat supercar, capable of an astounding 260 miles per hour, carries forward Ettore Bugatti’s tradition of elegance combined with performance.

Our Bugatti Royale will be away at the Petersen for five months. The car leaves Henry Ford Museum in mid-January 2017 and returns in mid-June. While it’s away, we’re going to fill the Bugatti’s place in Driving America with another special luxury car from our collection: J.P. Morgan, Jr.’s 1926 Rolls-Royce New Phantom Limousine. It’s been several years since the Rolls-Royce has been on view, so the loan provides a special opportunity for The Henry Ford’s visitors, too.

We are proud to be a part of this wonderful new Bugatti exhibition, and we encourage anyone visiting southern California between now and October 2017 to stop by the Petersen. It’s properly regarded as one of the world’s finest auto museums, and The Art of Bugatti only adds to that reputation.

Matt Anderson is Curator of Transportation at The Henry Ford.

Henry Ford Museum, Driving America, by Matt Anderson, cars, luxury cars