Art, Architecture and the Automobile, Presented by Gilmore Car Museum

by David O. Lyon


Beautifully produced and covering an incredible number of vehicles 1886 to 2016, this exquisitely illustrated book places each in the context of its time. What more superlatives might be added wouldn’t be nearly as attention-grabbing as its affordability!

As a work published in 2018, we’re long overdue to tell you about it. That said, this book is still very much available but from only one source, the museum whose vehicles and buildings are its subjects. Although it is structured around the vehicles on Gilmore grounds it is also—because of how it presents and its content—a fine resource/research tome especially when seeking to understand the cultural influences at the time each of the nearly 300 vehicles covered, one per page, was conceived and built.

Presentation is essentially chronological with vehicles grouped by named and described eras in Sections. Each section is made up of chapters with each chapter having its individual table of content listing the specific year and model cars on its pages.

Author David O. Lyon begins his survey of vehicles in the Gilmore’s various collections in 1498. If that date gives you pause it’s when Leonardo da Vinci so prophetically sketched a car which he envisioned; but even he couldn’t conceive of a gasoline engine so his car’s motivating force was a spring. But as its title suggests, this is not the usual nuts and bolts car book as the next page pair immediately below demonstrates.

Both of the 1928 Lincolns in the page pair above, the Dietrich Model L Convertible Sedan on the left and the Series 163 Double Cowl Touring on the right, are part of the chapter titled “Ready to take Flight” which is the last chapter in Section III titled “The Renaissance” and subtitled “Form is Function.” Today we realize that while all looked rosy in 1928, cataclysmic financial events would unfold before long. 

Each page presenting a vehicle has a consistent organization for its text, addressing what author Lyon describes as the criteria he considered. First is “Design & Style” followed by “Innovation,” then “Social Impact,” “Exhibit Potential” and, lastly, “Thematic Relevance.” Happily for this reviewer, Lyon chose to take note of the fabulous advertising art created by Winthrop Stark Davis (1885–1950) in his “Exhibit Potential” paragraphs along with featuring two of the just under a dozen advertising pieces Davis painted. 

The small type you can see beneath the second column on both pages lists the main references substantiating and supporting all that is above. At the back of the book is a comprehensive bibliography. Although there is no index per se, the Index of Illustrations suffices for it is organized in alphabetical order by make and model car with page numbers where each can be found.

Jumping ahead in pages and time, the above page pair appears in chapter 14 “Winds of War” of Section 4, “The Art Deco Era, Form follows Art.” It has a ’37 Pierce-Arrow Model 1702 Sedan facing a Series 1707 ’39 Packard coupe with rumble seat. What’s shared between them is each is featured with a travel trailer of the time when Americans were recovering from the Depression and longing to roam.

It would be grand to be able to show you everything because, as said at the outset, there are wonderful vehicles of every decade up to and including the twenty-teens. You really will need to acquire your own copy to see them all including the very special endpapers, different front and back with each attention-grabbing beauties.

The word vehicles has been used consistently as an indication the book includes some trucks and some race vehicles as well. And, to conclude here is a page pair from the single stand alone chapter titled “Special Collections II, The Motorcycle.”

On left, a 1929 Velocette KTT 350 originally developed to take on the Isle of Man races. It’s powerful and fast. Facing page is a 1931 Model DL Harley-Davidson and both pages also feature period images showing motorcycles’ place in society.

There are innumerable hours of reading, learning, and looking pleasure between the covers of this well-done and -illustrated book for any and all automotive enthusiasts. 

Art, Architecture and the Automobile, Presented by Gilmore Car Museum
by David O. Lyon
ArtBookPrinting division of InnerWorkings Inc, 2018
368 pages, 61 b/w & 487 color images, hardcover
index of illustrations (also functions as general index), bibliography.
List Price: $45
ISBN 13: 978 0 692 15862 3
Available exclusively from the Gilmore Museum’s gift shop or by calling 269.671.5089
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