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Glitz & Glam
All About Luxury
Feb 1 2011 - May 30 2011
Luxury automobiles, like luxury homes and rare artwork, provide pleasure and serve to make a distinction between the classes. The working person will buy a utilitarian vehicle that does what needs to be done in an affordable way. The person of means will purchase a vehicle that does more than transport – it must make a statement about the status and identity of the owner. Granted, every vehicle makes a statement, but an average Mustang is a different statement from a Prius which is different very different from a Duesenberg.
Luxury can be viewed in several ways. A quarter-million dollar Ferrari is purely a high performance sports car. It’s not particularly comfortable or quiet, but it will go faster than most drivers wish to go. On the other hand, a 1927 Rolls-Royce Phantom has a unique and stately aura about it. It speaks of old wealth and sound judgment.
The same is true of the 1930’s era V-16 Cadillac, a beautiful car that was built with superior materials and quality workmanship. Even so, an automobile was meant to carry passengers from point A to point B, and these cars clearly did much more than that.
Luxury cars were immense compared to the simple machines of the day. The hood of a Packard was stretched over a straight-eight engine. The passenger compartment could comfortably seat seven. Parking space was of no concern at that time.
Owners of luxury cars of the time made no secret of their value. Everything about the cars spoke of wealth. The headlights could be 12 to 14 inches in diameter. An engine could run over 10 liters in displacement. The materials used in the interior were leather or the best of upholstery materials. The dashboards were often highly-polished rare woods. The 1935 Duesenberg Model SJ, for example, was supercharged producing 320 hp at a time when 60 hp was an impressive number. The Duesenbergs were big and extravagant with chromed exhaust pipes exiting the hood cowls. Although fast, they were not just about speed; image and style was the goal.
At various times in history the gap between the rich and those not so fortunate has widened. The Gilded Age of the late 1800’s and the Roaring 20’s are examples that compare with our current economy. But, in previous eras, the rich had flaunted their wealth and used their acquisitions to make a statement. The social divisions are still here, just not always apparent as they were in years past.
“Large luxury cars exude a mysterious majesty about them derived from their combination of massiveness and the ability to go like the wind with scarcely a trace of sound.”