Through May 29, the Audrain Automobile Museum will be showcasing supercars. It’s quite a lineup, with many millions of dollars represented on the show floor. For instance, the McLaren F1 is often regarded as the greatest street car of all time, and a 1995 example is in the exhibit. Another F1 auctioned at Pebble Beach last year for $20.5 million.
Only 17 Vector W8s were built, with outrageous specifications for the 1980s. It had carbon fiber (common now) and aluminum bodywork on a semi-aluminum monocoque chassis. The car weighed only 3,320 pounds. The 625-horsepower six-liter twin-turbo V-8 enabled 242 miles per hour and zero to 60 in 4.2 seconds. But they sometimes broke when journalists drove them, and the company went into receivership in 1993. The Vector in the exhibit is from 1992.
Donald Osborne, CEO of Audrain, said the Vector is one of the most popular cars in the exhibit—in part, because few people have actually seen one. “When it arrived, I spent a lot of time looking at it, and what I saw impressed me more and more,” he said. “It’s painfully evident why the Vector never went into actual production—it’s built to an astonishing standard, and the fit and finish is outstanding. There are parallels between Jerry Wiegert, the man behind the Vector, and Preston Tucker.”
Here are Osborne’s thoughts on some of the other cars in the supercar exhibit, which is proving the museum’s most popular ever. People do love supercars! All of the cars fit into the ground-floor showroom in downtown Newport:
2005 Porsche Carrera GT:
“For me as an old car guy, the Carrera GT represents the last link to the original high-performance thinking from Porsche. It stands out as an example of a car that is compelling in its production form, in a way that would be difficult to pull off today.”
1967 Lamborghini Miura
“The Miura is one of my childhood icons and dream cars. It seems impossible that Lamborghini actually built them for the road and sold them to customers. And it’s astonishing that when Lamborghini replaced its initial models, the 350 and 400, with the Miura, the company was only four years old. They could have produced the 350 and 400 for years more, but instead they came out with the Miura and then the Countach.”
1988 Porsche 959S
The 959 was incredible by itself, but this is the factory high-performance sport model—almost like gilding the lily. The 959 is one of my favorites, with four-wheel drive and twin turbocharging, and I love it because it’s like a Henry Moore sculpture with that flowing design. The basic shape of the 911 is turned up to 11. I’m a fan of competition cars that can be driven on the road, and the 959 was a homologation road car for Group B rallying.”
1991 Ferrari F40
The F40 is iconic in much the same way as the 959. But if you’re a true auto enthusiast you don’t have to love one and hate the other—they’re both great, and they couldn’t be more different. The 959 is all about technical prowess, and the F40 is incredibly basic, with sophistication that comes from its power, not from technology. It’s quintessentially Ferrari, and the last car Enzo himself approved. It honors his philosophy.”
1995 McLaren F1
“I dislike absolutes, but in any list of the greatest cars build from the nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries is going to include it, and I would put it up near the top two. Unlike the Vector, the F1 represents what happens when you have state-of-the-art engineering, cost-no-object product planning, and the resources to actually get the car built and sold. The F1 wasn’t a financial success, but it didn’t sink the company. Miles Collier, who owns this car, actually drove it across the country, from Florida to Montana.”
1998 Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR Straßenversion
“This car has been very popular in the exhibit, too, because many of our visitors have never seen one—though they’ve played the video game. It’s another roadgoing race car, and an amazing design.” Only 26 of these cars were made at a cost of $1.5 million each, and they added such creature comforts as air conditioning and leather upholstery to civilize the track beast.
2003 Ferrari Enzo
“The Enzo is a brilliant car, and thoroughly modern for its time. There’s nothing between you and the driving experience. I’ve never driven one to its limits, but you know exactly what it will do at all times—it never out-thinks you. It’s from an era when Ferrari was absolutely dominant in Formula One.”
2006 Bugatti Veyron EB-16.4 and 2019 Chiron Sky View.
These two cars are thoroughly engineered and beautifully built, designed to perform at a very high level. They’re different; the Veyron is much more usable. The Chiron feels like it needs to be driven quickly. If you own a supercar with this kind of performance—up to almost 1,500 horsepower—it represents a challenge to the owner.”
2015 Porsche 918 Spyder
“The 918 is one of favorite cars on the planet. It represents the perfect application of hybrid technology. It is capable and quick around town, yet offers the power and experience you’d expect from a very high-performance car. BMW did something similar with the i8, and both adapt alternative technology to their brand identity.”
2021 Tesla Model S Plaid
“The Tesla is capable of 1.9-second zero to 60 times. If supercars are about numbers, then this electric car has the numbers—it accelerates prodigiously and is faster than the rest.”
Other cars in the exhibit include a 2020 Ford GT, 2021 Mercedes-Benz AMG GT Black Series, 2010 Lamborghini Reventón Roadster and 2005 Mercedes-Benz CLK DTM AMG.
Up next at the Audrain is “Land Yachts: Cruising the Interstate Highways,” starting June 4 and continuing to September 4. Audrain Automobile Museum, 222 Bellevue Avenue, Newport, RI 02840, (401)856-4420. The museum is open seven days, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.