Have you ever seen a car with skin? What about a living room on wheels? My 8-year-old son and I explored the Dream Cars exhibit at the High Museum of Art and saw both, plus cars that amazed us with their unusual designs and features. What’s even more amazing is that most of these cars weren’t created last year or even within the past decade! An electric egg-shaped car was built in the 1940s, and a space shuttle-shaped GM debuted in the 1950s when the space program soared in popularity.
My son’s favorite was the LeSabre XP-8, modeled after a jet plane design. The dashboard elements looked like the instrument panel of an aircraft, and although it was manufactured in 1951, it featured elements like heated seats and a rain sensor that we might expect to find in high end cars today or in the future. William Stout’s Scarab, designed in 1936, introduced the idea of a car being a living space as well as a mode of transportation, with huge inside room and seats that faced each other. It could fit up to seven people who could eat, play games and interact while the car was in motion.
My son thought the silver spandex-like skin on the BMW gina (built in 2001) felt “rubbery and smooth”, and more like the cover we might put on our outdoor grill than a car’s exterior. We got to touch a sample of the flexible skin that stretches over the movable frame, so the car can change shape. Because the skin is translucent, the taillights shine through the fabric! We were intrigued to learn how changing one element of a car could influence others, like how having a panoramic wraparound windshield and bubble top meant there was no need for rearview mirrors on the 1956 Buick Centurion XP-301. Fascinating!
Visitors can choose between the adult and kids’ touch screen audio tours, and we toggled back and forth between both. The adult version offered more trivia and design background, while the kids’ version invited listeners to choose one element of each car on display to create their own imaginary dream car. It also offered automobile-themed jokes and promoted discussion about how imagination and engineering can work together. On the tour devices, clicking to see video clips about the manufacturing of several automobiles gives expanded insight, and we sat in the lounge area within the exhibit to watch some before turning in our audio guides. If you bring your iPhone or Android, you can buy the Dream Cars tour app instead.
– Dalia Faupel
If You Go
Dream Cars at the High Museum of Art
1280 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta