Technological Marvels

Audrain Automobile Museum, Newport, RI, USA

From December 16, 2023 to March 10, 2024

With the exhibition Technological Marvels – A Story of Evolution, the Audrain Automobile Museum presents a sort of continuation of the previous exhibition of a year ago devoted to the first milestones of the automobile (and the motorcycle) from its origins to the 1930s. This time, the Audrain Museum explores the period from 1948 to 2020, with the technological acceleration benefiting from research during the 2nd World War. Increasingly sophisticated chassis and suspensions and less empirical aerodynamics led to changes in bodywork. The quest for performance and mechanical efficiency led to the development of engines with compressors, turbochargers, rotary engines and hybridization. Maximum speeds are soaring, giving rise to supercars and hypercars…

About fifteen cars and a few motorcycles are brought together in the temporary exhibition Technological Marvels – A Story of Evolution to represent a selection of these milestones. Let’s look at some of these “Technological Marvels “. Thus the Hudson Commodore, introduced before WWII, received in 1948 a new low-slung body and an improved chassis and is a symbol of the new post-war generation in the USA. In Europe, cars such as the Jaguar XK 120 or the Pegaso Z102 combine sophisticated mechanics, weight reduction and aerodynamics to achieve top-notch performance.

In 1962, the Chevrolet Corvair Monza combined innovative body styling with a rear-mounted inline-6 engine. It was one of the very first production cars to adopt turbocharging for power. Tricky to drive with the turbo delay and its rear engine, it was a limited success. BMW revived the use of the Turbo in 1973 with the unforgettable 2002 Turbo, the archetype of the high-energy saloons offered by many manufacturers, particularly German ones. It was also distinguished by its Turbo label written upside down on its front spoiler, so that it could be read in the rear-view mirror of the car in front of it.

At the same time in Italy and in the wake of the Lamborghini Miura, supercars adopted the mid-engined engine as in competition. Maserati presented the Bora with its powerful V8, a sublime design by Georgetto Giugiaro and an intensive use of hydraulics (Maserati belonged to Citroën at the time), while DeTomaso combined a modern and aggressive design with a Ford V8 in a central position also for the Pantera, which would be sold in more than 7000 units and would win many races. In an extremely different style, the Dune Buggy by Meyers Manx invented a new style of leisure car, symbol of an era with its VW Beetle base and an ultra-light fiberglass body.

The 2005 Porsche Carrera GT is one of those limited-edition supercars based on extreme solutions, such as its V10 directly derived from an F1 engine. In 2015, Porsche offered the 918 Spyder, a new supercar, still at the cutting edge of technology, but this time with a V8/electric hybrid architecture delivering nearly 900 hp. Still on the theme of supercars, The Ford GT is a direct homage to the GT 40 of the 1960s, a car developed for racing and then homologated for road use.

A few motorcycles are also on display, such as a 1953 Vincent 1000 Black Shadow, the fastest motorcycle of the 1950s, a 1975 Suzuki RE5, the only Japanese motorcycle to arrive in series production with a rotary engine (and one of the few in world production), or the 1979 Honda CBX with a powerful and sophisticated in-line 6-cylinder engine, 24 valves.

The photos on this page belong to the Audrain Automobile Museum, no right of reproduction without the express permission of the museum.