People mark the start of summer in different ways. Maybe it’s by the first ice cream cone they get to eat that slowly melts down the fresh waffle cone. It could be the first beach trip where you get to start working on your golden tan. Or maybe it’s gathering together for cookouts, complete with hamburgers, colds beers, and games with friends.
But for others, it may start with the deep purr of Vroom! Vrooooom!
Cars are a staple of many summer memories; especially in New England when the temperature is finally warm enough to take the top down on the convertible, unroll the windows, and enjoy the car trips as the sun shines through the windshield.
“Everyone has car memories. Whether it’s your first car, your car from college, family road trips, or working on a car,” said David de Muzio. “I know one of mine is fixing up cars with my dad.”
De Muzio is the executive director of Audrain Automobile Museum in Newport, Rhode Island. The museum, which opened in 2014, has hosted over 200 of some of the most rare and extraordinary cars for people to see.
“Our current exhibit is Classic and Fantastic,” said de Muzio. The exhibits range anywhere from 15-20 cars. This one happens to focus on “summery” cars from the 40s-60s that you could find in Newport. The exhibit runs from July to October.
“These are cars that you may have seen if you were walking down the street (Bellevue Avenue) in 1955,” said de Muzio. “There are big convertibles, Cadillacs, Chevys, Fords, and even a 1948 Tucker Model 48.”
The cars are all colors—light pink, baby blue, black, and deep red. They have been shined until you can see your reflection and look as if they are brand new waiting to cruise down the coast.
Although the museum only opened up less than two years ago, it has already found success, drawing in people not only from Newport, but across Rhode Island and New England. De Muzio said this year, they are on track to have over 30,000 visitors.
“Our exhibits are important, but the other half of our mission is participating in the car community of Southern New England. We hope to become a hub for car enthusiasts,” said de Muzio, who aims to bring enthusiasts together to enjoy their interest of cars.
The museum is located in the infamous Audrain Building on Bellevue Avenue, and although the inside of the building is filled with unique cars, the outside of the building is also incredible, said de Muzio. With its elongated windows covering the red brick walls on front, it attracts people who are just walking along the street. It has proven to be a respectable “garage” for the visiting cars.
“Here we really are about collecting cars that have Newport or Rhode Island history associated with them,” de Muzio explained. “We use the cars to tell a story.”
For a dose of summer memories, or just to reminisce about history and culture through cars, visit the museum which is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission for an adult costs $12. For business hours and events, visit AudrainAutoMuseum.com.
by Sara Cline
Classic and Fantastic
The economic boom in postwar America fueled great advances in automotive technology and styling. The design influences of airplanes, rockets, and popular media became evident in futuristic-looking postwar cars.
Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler – the ”Big Three”, took advantage of advancing technology by producing and marketing different subdivisions of cars: Ford’s entry level was the basic Ford, then Mercury, followed by Lincoln. GM’s progression was Chevrolet, then Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick, and finally the luxurious Cadillac. Chrysler’s basic model was Dodge, moving up to Plymouth and then DeSoto. With each step up the ladder owners were afforded more chrome, more power, and upgraded interior options, along with increased social status.
The "Big Three" manufacturers' design leadership was challenged in 1948 by Preston Tucker, who took the world by storm with the radical new Tucker 48, a car well ahead of its time that would have revolutionized the industry. After 51 cars were produced, the Tucker Car Corporation folded due to negative publicity, an SEC investigation and a heavily publicized, but baseless, stock fraud trial. Speculation implicated politicians and automakers as having a role in demise of Tucker.
This exhibit offers a look at the development of the automobile in the years just before, during, and following World War II. Fanciful, innovative, and forward thinking, this period of automotive history is now seen as classic American design.