(Apologies to any plumbers out there for that header.)
One of the great blessings of my particular mental make-up is also a considerable curse at times: it's that I happen to look at the world largely from an aesthetic perspective. All my life I've seen the beauty in certain objects, ugliness in others...but I see in terms of beauty and ugliness (and everything in between) all the time, everywhere I look.
I don't think this is quite...normal. And I don't claim it's any great advantage.
Naturally, my appreciation of "things" isn't limited to official art or objects commonly accepted to have an aesthetic purpose. I was a teenager, for instance, before I realized that not everybody has favorite trees. Trees to me are simply beautiful, some more than others, and when I see a particularly outstanding example, I remember it. Not on purpose; I just do.
Pace Tom Wolfe, perhaps the objects most widely accepted by the greatest number of "normal" people to be aesthetic objects, in addition to practical ones, are automobiles. Which leads me to my question:
Have you ever seen a more butt-ugly car in your life?
It's the new 2009 Roll-Royce Phantom Coupe. The picture, by Richard Newton, comes from Winding Road, a "webzine."
It even has jowls. Check out that little swoopy excrescence on the side panel.
Granted, I'm not in the market: I'm sure the people tasked with selling these things don't care what I think. (My picture's in the dictionary under "peon.")
And of course there's always a certain appeal to objects made of fine materials that are crisply fabricated. I'm sure the Phantom Coupe has those qualities in spades. But my Gawd, you'd think for all the green they want for this truck they could hire a designer...I've doodled better-lookin' cars than this. The thing looks like a Chinese copy of a Chrysler.*
At least in the old days, Rolls-Royces were beauties. (Anybody got a picture of one of those? Send it to me, or shoot me a link—I'll post it.)
I suppose it is a matter of taste. One of the cars I like best is the classic Jaguar sedan (my tastes run decidedly British), and those are considered a bit blah by many non-connoisseurs.
What's your favorite car, considering aesthetics and naught else? I heard once of a guy who had a body-less Bugatti Type 35 in his living room, as an objet d'art. That I'd like to see. Is there any car you'd put in yours?
*Although that description does a disservice to the Chinese...and to Chrysler.
P.S. Michael, a.k.a. arrested_development, brought up Dan Neil's superb "The 50 Worst Cars of All Time," published by TIME.com in 2007. Time-consuming to click through one page at a time, but brilliant, and brilliantly funny at times. Entertaining, astute, and recommended for when you have a spare 15 minutes if you haven't already seen it.
P.P.S. Another one not to miss—The Telegraph's list of "The 100 Ugliest Cars." Found this one through a link provided by Paul H. Be sure not to miss the caption explaining the inclusion of the Porsche Boxster(!?)...hilarious!
Our friend Ed Taylor writes: "Here is a photo from 1963 of my father and his Silver Cloud Rolls Royce which I still have. He was still driving it in 2007 before he died at 89 years old. After his death, I had it completely restored. I believe it is a real work of art and it always reminds me of my Dad."
Reader John Long writes: "Thought I would send you a pic of what I think is a beautiful car, a 1938 Tatra T77a from Czechoslovakia. Designed by Hans Ledwinka and Paul Jaray, the noted Zeppelin aerodynamic engineer. Best of all, it is now parked in my garage, after many years spent getting it out of Russia and then restored in the Czech Republic."
Reader Ron Nelson writes: "Well said Mike. Here is my entry for one of the most beautiful cars ever. I owned this car for about eight years—having bought it from my movie star cousin. She bought the Rolls when it was one year old and kept it until very late in her life when I became the owner. This somewhat rare 1967 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow Drop-Head Coupe (convertible) was the prototype for what became the Rolls Corniche. Word of caution for those lusting after a 'senior' Silver Shadow—they love spending time in the company of Rolls-Royce mechanics. I appreciated every minute of owning this piece of art but I was relieved to see it find a new home after eight years of contributing to the 'new, local Rolls-Royce' agency."
Reader Mike Dennis writes: "I grew up in South Africa and my Dad had one of these Citroën 11 cars, and ever since then I have lusted after one. The British version had a timber dashboard with the gear change projecting from it. Sometimes called the Maigret car after the television series. Apart from the Spitfire fighter plane it is one of the best pieces of aesthetic engineering for me."
And check this one out: reader Don Mohr doesn't have a car in his living room, but he collects unusual art, and he has two motorcycles displayed in his home in Anchorage, Alaska, as sculpture—including this 1958 Triumph in, yep, his living room!