“Wonders in Wood, on Land and by Sea,” the Audrain Automobile Museum’s newest exhibit, opens on Saturday, March 18th. The exhibit will showcase the finest examples of wooden-bodied cars created by American, Italian and English manufacturers from the 1920s through the 1960s, along with examples of wooden boats built in New England. The exhibit runs from March 18 through June 11, 2023.
Wood was the material of choice in boat building and the carriage makers’ trade for hundreds of years. Early automobiles followed suit. The wooden-bodied station wagons created by American, Italian and English manufacturers from the 1920s through the 1960s also served as a canvas for the craftsman’s art in an era when coachbuilding was fading from prominence.
Wooden boats and automobiles soon became fashionable luxury items in the early 20th Century. The “woody” station wagon, which was created in many iterations, evokes nostalgia for many of us.
Ten cars, seven boats and a horse-drawn coach will be on display in the museum’s intimate gallery, with examples ranging from a grand 1892 Brewster Park Drag Coach and 1914 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost boat tail skiff to a 1948 Chrysler Town & Country convertible.
The 1892 Brewster Park Drag Coach represents the highest form of transportation in the early 1890s. Built by Brewster to the highest standards, this four-horse-drawn coach was ordered by New York business executive Hamilton McKown Twombly, who married Florence Adele Vanderbilt after the two met in Newport. Constructed from wood to the highest standards, the coach was finished in the Vanderbilt family colors, “A dash of burgundy mixed with plum.”
The 1914 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost boat tail skiff wears one of the most impressive and attractive bodies of all time, exemplifying the high level of detail a coachbuilder would achieve to satisfy a customer’s request. It is a truly unique open sporting car of its day.
Remarkably, this Silver Ghost Skiff is said to have retained its original metalwork and Cuban Mahogany woodwork. While this Silver Ghost was restored in recent years, the restoration was carefully completed to preserve the original wood, and it has since received First in Class awards at both the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.
This 1952 Lancia Aurelia Giardinetta by Viotti is a coachbuilt ‘woody’ station wagon built for the adventurous and tasteful Italian family. While the Aurelia is arguably Lancia’s most popular model of all time, only about 50 Giardinetta wagons were produced, and this car on display is possibly one of two that still exist.
The 1948 Chris-Craft 17ft Deluxe Runabout model is an icon of recreational boating in the post-war era. The model’s mahogany planks and frames were commonly fitted with a 130-hp inboard gasoline engine and had sporty styling that carried over from pre-war racing boats. With its shiny varnish highlighting flared forward hull sections that gracefully transition to a sweeping tumblehome as the lines go aft, this premium cruising boat still looks fast and sleek even on the trailer.
These are only a few examples of the cars and boats that will be on display. See more here.
“In the early 20th century, the wooden boat and automobile were among the most fashionable luxury item and display of wealth,” said Donald Osborne, Audrain’s CEO. “The word ‘woody’ even evokes nostalgia in its many iterations for many enthusiasts. The iconic cars and boats that we have chosen to showcase in the exhibit are truly marvels of the land and sea.”
“Newport is a hub for classic automobiles and yachting, rich in history,” said David de Muzio, Audrain’s Executive Director and Chief Curator. “This exhibition was a great opportunity to collaborate with our local maritime non-profits, including IYRS School of Technology & Trades, Herreshoff Marine Museum, Mystic Seaport Museum, and the Sailing Museum.”
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