On Cars as Art

Mark Rollins in The Common Reader:

In 1961, the Jaguar E-type sports car (called the XKE in the United States), designed by Malcolm Sayer, premiered at a major auto show in Geneva Switzerland. Enzo Ferrari declared it to be the most beautiful car ever made. Ferrari himself is, of course, a legendary figure in the history of car design. Ferrari’s judgment was thus stunning in a certain respect. It is very common for cars to be put into stereotypical national, cultural, or ethnic categories. So, for example, there are sleek Italian sports cars, elegant but staid British sedans, and powerful American “muscle” cars. Ferrari’s assessment unsettled these standard categories. This was an Italian expert heaping praise on the beauty of a British car.

About 35 years later, Ferrari’s assessment would seem to have been vindicated. A version of the original Jaguar E-type was put on display in the Museum of Modern Art. It could be argued then that what Ferrari called the most beautiful car ever made—a functional design object—had finally come to be seen as a work of art.

More here.