Our content manager is on the road covering Monterey Car Week. Part one of his opus is available here
I’m lucky that I get to make my living by covering car shows. It’s a dream and I am always grateful for my career. With each car show I attend and cover I’m granted the opportunity to see the cars that were once posters on my wall or the wallpaper on my computer.
Earlier this year I finally saw a Lamborghini Countach in person and that was a pretty big moment for an 80s kid that watched Cannonball Run too many times and had a Countach poster on the wall. With each passing auction I get to admire a car that I have only seen in Road & Track, or online in a Google image search, and as the years advance my list of cars that I must see in person slowly dwindles. This is a good thing, as any form of achievement lifts the spirit, and it’s also an interesting anecdote at work.
Wednesday morning was RM Sotheby’s preview day and as I made way to the Monterey Conference Center I was getting peppy, which was a bit odd because I needed some more coffee and had an energy level best described as ‘exhausted’. It’s good to know that some moments can still get you excited when you’re in your 40s and you start to think you’ve seen everything you’ve wanted to see.
The excitement continued to build after I checked in and got my media credentials. I started searching around to find the 1998 McLaren F1 and this took a while as it wasn’t with the main selections, but was off to the side in a fairly nondescript area off the main path.
In hindsight it was in the perfect spot with no other cars nearby.
It needed to be isolated so we fans could bask in its profile and take in the subtle details of the car. I think a lot of us had the same sense of awe and we exchanged glances that acknowledged this was something special that must be seen in person. This may sound hyperbolic but I know what I saw and felt.
Those emotions were the same when I saw the works of Van Gogh in the Netherlands and Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait at the National Gallery. You just kinda’ know you’re in the presence of great art and even in silence those around you acknowledge the same energy and feeling with a knowing glance. It is one of those great communal moments that are unfortunately too rare.
Comparing a car built 25-years ago to the works of great painters seems like a discredit to those artists with a brush. I often think that due to the engineering aspect of many modern cars there seems to be less individuality on the sheet metal canvas. Thinking that a coachbuilt vehicle as a form of art makes sense. As the individual coachbuilder had more free reign to develop the shape, contours and decor of the vehicle and add individual flavor and flare. No two coachbuilt cars are the same.
A new McLaren is largely developed in a lab and that can come across sterile in the final product. But the F1 transcends that notion by virtue of the simple fact it was designed and developed by Gordon Murray.
To me, Murray is an artist with his racing car designs like the MP4/4. Taking his ability to develop a Formula 1 racecar, plus a blank canvas and a simple request for a road car led to his masterpiece.
Murray is an artist and the McLaren F1 is his Arnolfini Portrait that should be recognized as true art appropriate for any museum. On Wednesday morning I finally saw a true automotive masterpiece that had eluded me for years and I am grateful for the shared experience.