Cavalcade of Cars

    There’s a darkly humorous cable television show titled, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”
    If I were to write a show set in this city, I’d call it: “There’s Always Fun Stuff Happening in Philadelphia.”

    Every week produces so many things do that I sometimes become paralyzed by the possibilities. Which is why I was extremely pleased to stumble upon “Driven Design,” a historical automobile design exhibition that was part of the 10-day DesignPhiladelphia event.

    For two blocks in Old City, roughly a dozen mostly European cars were roped off in the middle of Arch Street with placards identifying the owner and describing the significance of the vehicle.

    Suddenly I was transported into the world of Simone Signoret and Yves Montand with a cigarette dangling from his lips as I pictured him driving the very-French 1973 Citroen SM that was on display.

    A 1969 Aston Martin DB5 would have had Austin Powers joyously proclaiming, “Groovy, baby.”

    The only American-made car was a milk chocolate 1963 Studebaker Avanti RI, to which the man standing next to me volunteered, “You don’t see many of these.” Indeed, only 4,643 were produced.

    Even more rare was the 1979 Maserati Merak SS. Only 652 were made over six years.

    While admiring three Alfa Romeos, one red, one white and one green, notably the colors of the Italian flag, someone called my name. It was Thad Kirk, a WHYY engineer. He was showing off one of the four “toy cars” he owns: An orange and black 1971 Fiat 850 Racer. It was so shiny and beautiful that I imagined it arriving on a flatbed truck.

    “No, I drove it here on I-95,” he said with the sound of dread in his voice over having to drive it back the same way.

    Thad pointed out that several of the cars were styled by the Bertone Company’s automotive design engineer Giorgetto Giugiaro. The 1964 Porsche 356C silver coupe next to Thad’s Fiat was one example and a long, sleek 1975 Lamborghini Espada III was another.

    One of my favorites was the elegant 1974 red Jensen Interceptor Convertible, a fine example of the British GT cars of the 1960s, according to its placard.

    Many people smiled as they examined the gull wing doors left open on the 1981 DeLorean DMC-12 featured in the Michael J. Fox movie “Back to the Future.”

    When the exhibition ended, the owners got in their sophisticated automobiles and carefully drove away. Not the DeLorean. It peeled across Arch, revved its engine at the light at 5th Street, quickly rounded the corner and, in a flash, headed for the Ben Franklin Bridge and “Back to the Garden State.”

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.