‘Precious Metal’ at the Petersen Automotive Museum

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1959 Chevrolet Corvette XP-87 Stingray racer
1954 Mercedes-Benz W196 among silver cars in a special display | Larry Edsall photos

Yesterday, we shared an Eye Candy gallery on the remodeled Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. In that display we included only one photograph from the inaugural exhibit in the museum’s new Bruce Meyer Family Gallery, a special exhibit space on the museum’s second floor.

We shared only one photo because we knew we’d be coming back today with a separate gallery from the Meyer showcase of “Precious Metal.”

Every car in the gallery was silver, and if the photographs look as if they were taken in black and white, it’s because of the color scheme in the gallery and because of the timeless nature of not just the color, but of these cars it adorns.

“The chemical properties of silver (Ag) give it the status of one of the most sought after metals in the world,” the sign at the entrance to the gallery read. “It is not only the most reflective metal, but it is also the most conductive and very malleable. As such, silver is used in jewelry, tableware, currency and other prized items. So it is no wonder that the color silver would be used to adorn automobiles in the form of metal brightwork and lustrous paint. When chrome plating was developed in the early twentieth century, silver cars captured public imagination, projecting a brave new look of the future and ending the era of brass and nickel plated cars of old.

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“Since then, gleaming silver cars have come to be associated with luxury, status and good taste. Auto makers routinely have saved silver touches for only the most prestigious models and show cars. Names like Silver Arrow, Silver Bullet and Silver Streak soon came to represent the pinnacle of performance and style. Today, silver cars are still captivating despite technologies and materials. It seems that for automobiles, silver cars will always set the gold standard to which others are measured.”

Photos by Larry Edsall

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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.