Some famous names recently picked the world's greatest sports coupes for an exhibition at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. The cars will be on display from April to October.
The Petersen polled a wide-ranging group of celebrities, including actor Patrick Dempsey, filmmakers Francis Ford Coppola and John Lasseter, musicians James Hetfield and Brian Johnson, and even racers Tanner Foust and Bobby Rahal. The museum rounded up the cars, and Jaguar North America paid the bills.
Ian Callum, Jaguar design director, came from Britain to celebrate the opening of the exhibition and then walked us through the gallery. "The sports coupe is the ultimate expression of automotive design and performance," he says. "When you put a roof on a car, it tightens up the shape and completes the car."
IT'S ALL A MATTER OF TASTEAs we looked over the exhibit, it was more apparent than ever that cars speak to enthusiasts in surprisingly different ways. Each of the cars has a placard with the comments made by the celebrity who selected it. As Callum surveyed the choices made by the various personalities, he talked about how each of the cars speaks to him as a car designer.
Adam Carolla, comedian: 1963 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Lusso
Carolla comments: "I love the aesthetics. With classic race cars, I drive them and try to break them. With classic street cars, I just love looking at them."
Ian Callum comments: "Such a gorgeous, elegant Ferrari, like nothing else from them. Styled by Pininfarina, of course. The tail droops down distinctively."
Ian Callum, designer, Jaguar: 1961 Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato
Ian Callum comments: "Like the Ferrari 250 GT SWB, it has muscular elegance, so tucked in and sleek like an animal. Zagato never designed anything as good either before or since. Only nineteen cars were made, and every one was slightly different."
Francis Ford Coppola, filmmaker: 1954 Plymouth Explorer (concept)
Coppola comments: "It's breathtaking. I'd love to have one."
Ian Callum comments: "One of the dream cars that Ghia designed in Italy for Virgil Exner at Chrysler. So elegant in an early 1950s way. Coppola must love that era, since he produced American Graffiti for his friend George Lucas and then made a movie about Preston Tucker."
Patrick Dempsey, actor: 1964 Porsche 356C
Dempsey comments: The drivability of it is fantastic – very comfortable for the driver. Some sports cars alienate you; this one doesn't."
Ian Callum comments: "When I was just three years old, I remember walking with my grandfather in Glasgow, Scotland, and seeing a Porsche 356. Compared to British cars, it looked like it was from outer space. I remember saying to my grandfather, 'You know, I would quite like to draw cars like that.' "
COUPES CAN EXPRESS PURE ART
Tanner Foust, Adam Ferrara, Rutledge Wood, Top Gear USA: 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
Foust comments: "A really important car to this country in what it represented, and just pretty, too."
Ian Callum comments: "For me, it's the best-looking Corvette ever. Zora Arkus-Duntov might not have liked the split-window rear glass, but I do. Overall, there's a horizontal line that circles the top of the car that is quite distinctive of the GM cars of that era."
James Hetfield, musician, Metallica: Black Pearl custom
Hetfield comments: "It's got a fast look to it. Graceful, classy, no frills."
Ian Callum comments: "It's a custom car made from a 1948 Jaguar Mk V, and it belongs to Hetfield. Maybe I would have left the original Jaguar grille in place as a point of departure to show where the rest of the car came from."
Brian Johnson, musician, AC/DC: 1970 Iso Grifo Series II
Johnson comments: "It's brutally beautiful, and you know it's not kidding, because it has the grunt to back up the beauty."
Ian Callum: "Designed in the early 1960s by Giorgetto Giugiaro when he was working for Bertone, this later car has a big-block Chevrolet V-8, not a small block. The vertical element in the front quarter-panel is like an architectural detail, and we see it on many cars today."
COUPES CAN EXPRESS PURE PERFORMANCE
John Lasseter, filmmaker, Pixar Studios: 1968 Ford GT40 Mark III
Lasseter comments: "If you don't think the GT40 is a beautiful car, you need to check your pulse."
Ian Callum comments: "The first 1964 Ford GT40 was styled by a couple of British designers in a little studio at Ford Dunton down in Essex. Later, Carroll Shelby's people added a new front end to keep the car from flying into the air. This is the last GT40, which was made for the street."
Nick Mason, musician, Pink Floyd: 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO (replica)
Mason comments: "It looks fantastic, is a race winner, and yet is also a car that is very well suited to the amateur driver."
Ian Callum comments: "We think of it as beautifully styled by the Scaglietti body shop, but it was more like engineering, since Ferrari's Giotto Bizzarrini was making a more aerodynamic racing car by testing things on the highway and at the track."
Angus MacKenzie, editor, Motor Trend: 1991 Acura NSX
MacKenzie comments: "I picked a car that made a contribution, which changed the sports car world. The Ferrari 458 Italia is great because the Acura NSX came along all those years ago."
Ian Callum comments: "It gives you a strong feeling of a mid-engine car in the way the front of the car dives down between the fenders and in the way the cockpit glass sweeps up and over your head."
Bruce Meyer, car collector: 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing
Myer comments: "It defines spectacular design, innovative mechanics, and performance. It's an icon."
Ian Callum comments: "Such a Teutonic shape, just so strong and direct. And yet there are interesting details, like the chrome streamlines. It's so confident."
Bobby Rahal, racing driver: 1967 Jaguar E-type
Rahal comments: "It really set the tone for the 1960s and forced other manufacturers to extend themselves and build cars that were both creative and beautiful."
Ian Callum comments: "Such a classic now, but back then it was a real bad boy's car. With the F-type coupe, we've tried to get back some of that same feeling."
World's Greatest Sports Coupes will be on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum from April 10 – October 18, 2014.