Heritage Museums & Gardens' New Auto Exhibit Showcases ‘Dream Cars’
By: Mary Stanley
A step inside Heritage Museums & Gardens’ automobile gallery is giving visitors a glimpse into the past and, at the same time, a look into the future.
Called Driving Our Dreams: Imagination in Motion, this new exhibit features 16 concept cars designed between 1927 and 2009 based on what their designers believed that transportation of the future could or would look like.
“It is easy to see how pop culture, current trends and even fashion influenced these designs,” said Ellen Spear, president and chief executive officer of Heritage Museums & Gardens.
Most of the vehicles on display are only concept cars, never having made it to full production.
“Unlike prototypes, these concept or ‘dream cars’ were meant to test designers’ imagination and influence what executives at car companies would put into production,” Ms. Spear said.
However, some of the forward-thinking designs dreamed up more than 50 years ago eventually did make it into later models. With features such as a video screen and a rear-facing camera to aid the driver in backing up, the 1956 Buick Centurion is an example of how some of these early designs were incorporated in later models.
“There were influences in these designs that never got picked up until years later,” Ms. Spear said.
She pointed out that the Lincoln X100 designed in 1953 included seat warmers, push button door handles, and a sunroof with a sensor built into it that would close the roof if it began to rain.
A 1953 Firebird II designed by Harley Earl incorporated design elements from fighter jets of that day and a safety guidance system that was supposed to help drivers avoid accidents.
Harley Earl was not only ahead of his time with his car designs but innovative in terms of marketing. “Harley Earl was the first designer to involve women in the design of cars. They were hired to choose the colors and fabrics for the cars. They were his damsels of designs,” Ms. Spear said.
While many of the cars on display at Heritage are from years ago, there are some newer models—models that could influence the types of vehicles that hit the road or the sky, as the case may be, in the future.
The Transition Roadable Aircraft or “flying car” designed by Terrafugia out of Woburn is one such car. With wings that move in and out of the vehicle’s body, a trip from Cape Cod to Boston may be as quick as driving to the airport in Hyannis, taking off into the sky and bypassing the traffic over the Sagamore Bridge and along Route 3.
University of Michigan has lent its 2009 model of a completely solar-powered vehicle to the exhibit. This solar vehicle can reach speeds nearing 100 miles per hour.
The exhibit extends into Heritage Museums & Gardens’ Special Exhibitions Gallery, where visitors can pique their imagination about transportation in the future and cities of the future. This exhibit includes a massive model of a megacity, called Paper Metropolis, created by international artist Kiel Johnson.
As part of this interactive exhibit, visitors will have a chance to build their own skyscrapers and design vehicles of tomorrow that can easily travel within densely populated cities.
“This is a kind of laboratory for visitors to think about transportation of the future and create their own future transportation,” Ms. Spear said. The Arbella Insurance Foundation Family Discovery Room will provide an opportunity for children to design, draw, and build their own concept cars. A ramp will allow the children to test their cars.
All of the vehicles in this year’s exhibit are on loan to the museum from some of the country’s top automobile museums and private collections.
The Driving Our Dreams: Imagination in Motion exhibit will be on display from Saturday, April 13, through October 27.
Ms. Spear said the museum’s traditional antique car collection is in storage during this exhibit.
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