Art and the Automobile 2018

    A week ago, I ventured out to the Art and the Autmobile show in Palos Park, one of the southwest suburbs of Chicago.  The drive into the area is a surprising change of scenery.  Leaving the arrow straight roads of a mostly brick and concrete grid behind, you find yourself surrounded by greenery on roads that gently curve every so often.  The claustrophobic effect of a flat, dense, urban terrain, gives way to lush greenery, and some actual hills believe it or not.  It is certainly not Tail of the Dragon here by any means, but it’s enough of a change of scenery that you do feel like you’ve ventured much further from the city than you actually have.  The site of the Art and the Automobile show was the parks & rec facility in the heart of Palos Park.  Nestled among a multitude of nature preserves and parks, it was a heavily wooded and serene setting for a car show.  The show itself seemed to play to the theme of outdoors and nature perfectly, as it was held on the main lawn of the park, surrounded on all sides with dense forest.  It really was the perfect combination of elements, the natural beauty, the beautiful works of art on display in the various tents lining the park and of course the reason I was there, the cars.

   The notes of live music carried over the lawn, a duo of guitarists, an ensemble of classical musicians, the music reflecting the peaceful calm nature of the show and the venue.  This is not your typical bustling and loud car show.  It is instead a lovely stroll in the park to take in and perhaps purchase art work, in between admiring some amazing cars.  The effect of the event on me was palpable, as I noticed my pace of shooting the cars was slower, more deliberate; taking time to absorb the scene.  It was a stark contrast to Wekfest Chicago, which I would cover later that same weekend, where my pace of shooting was frenetic to keep pace with the hundreds of cars on hand.  I love the spectacle that shows like that provide, but personally Art and the Automobile represents the perfect kind of show for me; a limited but quality group of cars in a great setting that gives you time to actually appreciate and take in all the details.  I absolutely loved this show, and I’ll be looking forward to it again next year.  Here are a few of my favorite highlights.

     I had to start it off with this Alfa Romeo Duetto pictured below.  In short, this car is the kind of perfection that anyone looking to build, restore, modify, resto-mod, whatever label you want to give it, should strive for.  I had a chance to chat with the owner of this Duetto, Steve, who was happy to chat with me for a while about the car.  It took many years, and much effort for him to end up with the car you see today, and he is clearly proud and happy with the results.  Steve’s vision for the Duetto, was not necessarily an all original restoration, but instead something of a resto-mod.  His core concept was creating an Alfa Romeo GTA in convertible form.  The GTA was Alfa Romeo’s platform for racing in the 60’s and 70’s, with the sports coupe often being engineered with the best high performance equipment Alfa could muster.  In adhering to this simple concept, with a mix of OE Alfa parts from the GTA and period correct modifications, Steve really has succeeded in giving the Duetto the next level racing and performance enhancement it perhaps always deserved.  It is a GTA in an arguably more beautiful body, which has also been flawlessly restored and painted in a shade I’d call “sexy little black dress”.  The best, and maybe most remarkable part, is Steve drives this car often, taking every opportunity to enjoy the rewards of all the work put into the car.  

     The next highlight for me, was a model I admittedly knew little about.  The Maserati Merak strikes me as a car that is not entirely unlike the Lamborghini Jalpa.  Like the Jalpa, the Merak was overshadowed by a bigger, more ostentatious model, the Bora.  So just as the Jalpa always lived in the shadow of the outrageous and bigger engined Countach, so does the Merak live in the shadow of the bigger engined Bora.  The thing is, like I discovered in the Jalpa last summer, seeing it alongside the more valued Countach, I rather liked the Jalpa design better.  Here too, I like the “lesser” Maserati’s design better.  The Merak design, penned by one of the greats Giugiaro, is quite beautiful, and has aged remarkably.  The owner’s signage suggested it is one of possibly only five hundred survivors.  This is the first I’ve seen one in person, so I have no reason to doubt such scarcity, and I am glad I got to see it.

      The next car you might mistake for just another “old Mercedes” if you weren’t familiar with the car.  First clue to the contrary is the license plate proclaiming  “Rare” .  According to the signage being just 1 of 5 in the U.S., I’d say it certainly qualifies. I’m far from a Mercedes expert, but even I recognized the muscular frame of this bruiser as the Mercedes that Porsche built.  The 500e is the result of a 90’s joint venture between Mercedes Benz and Porsche, and when two powerhouse automakers like this get together, the results can be magical.  The outcome was this understated, handsome sedan that looks perfectly unassuming and business like…beige even.  However it came equipped with an athleticism that allowed it to run with some of the best performance coupes of it’s day.  With a big V8 engine in front, putting over 300 horsepower to the rear wheels, it was quite a formidable machine for the late 90’s, especially for something in sedan form.  If you need it to gobble up long stretches of autobahn/interstate cross country, you can do it with ease and comfort.  If you come across a Nordschleife or Tail of the Dragon, the Porsche blood in it’s veins will eagerly accept that challenge as well.  

     The Art and the Automobile show was a wonderful experience overall, I really can’t rave enough about it.  I wish we had a few more shows in the region more like it, and I will definitely be seeking shows like this more often.  It’s also the perfect kind of show to take significant other and/or friends who aren’t necessarily a bit crazy for cars.  You can gawk at the Lamborghini Diablo, while they peruse the selection of hand bags, paintings and pottery in a picturesque park, perfect!  So I highly recommend, if you missed it this year, be sure to follow Art and the Automobile for next year’s show date and make that drive into the wooded hills of Palos Park for a nice little retreat and some quiet time with your favorite cars.  Plenty more to see below, so keep scrolling, and thanks again as always for reading!

-photos and writing: Robert Sixto

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