Automobile Design History Told Through Three Cars

1905 Cadillac Model F. Image courtesy of Snite Museum of Art

1905 Cadillac Model F is an automobile  with exquisite design. Image courtesy of Snite Museum of Art

ART REVIEW: Three automobiles on display at Snite Museum of Art show the achievement of automobile design.


1933 Packard Twelve Grey. Image courtesy of Snite Museum of Art

NOTRE DAME, INDIANA — The history of automobile is filled with outstanding achievements and daring innovations. From splendid designs to  turbo engines, automobile designs have gone through so much development that  there are now self-driving cars. While automobiles like Google driverless car and Elon Musk self-driving Tesla cars continue to make front pages, it is always important to look back in time as a way of understanding and bringing context to the progress made  in car designs and engineering.

Looking back is what the Snite Museum of Art is doing with the show Over One Hundred Years of Automobile Design. The show features three important cars that combine amazing style with remarkable engineering   and dexterity.  From the collection of  the Jack B. Smith, Jr. Collection, the cars exemplify the quest of automobile designers to create the perfect car design.

One of the cars on display at the exhibition is the 1905 Cadillac Model F. The car allows an insight into the past of automobile design, and how the 1905 Cadillac Model F evolved from a horse-drawn vehicle to a “horseless carriage.” Capable of 25 mph, the 1905 Cadillac Model F features a 9-horsepower single-cylinder engine; two-speed transmission and chain drive. With frame, body, and wheels constructed from wood, the 1905 Cadillac Model F is   beautiful and elegant. At $950, the car which comes fully loaded with all available 1905 options, including oil lanterns and bulb horn still carries on in glory.

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Also on display is the 1933 Packard Twelve. Built between 1925 and 1948, this is a true “classic” car. Distinguished by its fine design, innovative engineering, and superior workmanship, this automobile would have cost approximately $4,500 in 1933. One of the only five ever produced, this Model 1005 Coupe combines beauty with speed.

With a 445-cubic-inch, twelve-cylinder engine producing 160 horsepower, the 1933 Packard Twelve is capable of 101 mph. It was one of the fastest cars of its era. After receiving a complete frame-off restoration at LaVine Restoration, Inc., Nappanee, Indiana, this automobile went on to compete in important car races. In 2015, it took first place at the 2015 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance and second-place at the prestigious 2014 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

2014 Ferrari F12 Berlinetta. Image courtesy of Snite Museum of Art

Fast, sturdy and dynamic, the 2014 Ferrari F12 Berlinetta is an automobile with absolute integrity. With a 730-horsepower, V-12 engine coupled to a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission, the Berlinetta has the power to travel up to 211 mph. At top speed, the air channels sculpted into front fenders of the automobile increase downward pressure on tires to keep the Ferrari connected to roadway and balanced

Unlike the Cadillac or the Packard that are stylish, the Berlinetta has an exotic body styling that accentuates its ruggedness. The aluminum chassis and body fabricated from seven distinct alloys are part of the automobile’s distinct identity. Noted as the most powerful Ferrari ever conceived, the braking, traction, stability, suspension, and differential of this automobile are computer monitored and controlled. Besides the endless possibilities, the Ferrari computer also assist the driver in managing this powerful machine.

The three automobiles on display at the Snite Museum of Art bring to the for the history of the automobile design. From the 1905 Cadillac Model F to the 1933 Packard Twelve and 2014 Ferrari F12 Berlinetta, it is easy to follow the progression of automobile design and engineering through the years. The cumulation of that automobile history is the use of computer in new cars. Although there has been a progression to self-driving automobiles like Google driverless car and Elon Musk self-driving Tesla cars, the automobiles on display at Snite Museum of Art touch on important aspects of the automobile design history.

Over One Hundred Years of Automobile Design, through November 15, 2015, at the Snite Museum of Art, 100 Moose Krause Circle, Notre Dame, IN 46556