Saturday, August 8, five vintage cars will grace the Dunn for the day and be featured in a garden party to celebrate the Gardens’ Centennial. They come to us from the LeMay Collection, and are the epitome of style. All have been caressed back to their initial splendor with great affection.
It’s impossible to be anything else but transported when looking at these symbols of another time. From experience, for these cars have visited the Dunn Gardens before, I have seem them effortlessly conjure up a giggle in both sexes. Women imagine a man in tweed at the wheel and his lady companion in a wide brimmed hat secured with a tulle bow. Men gaze at the engineering and place themselves in the front of the car, bent over, both hands on the crank. Everyone wants to sit in them and drive one home.
The oldest is a shiny 1913 White Model 30, a car with one of the first electric starters, a gas-powered engine, and a predictably high price tag. Purchase price was $2,500 (about $59,000 today). The white paint and wide, expansive body makes it feel like a summer vehicle that one took out for a spin ending in a white-wine picnic. A shiny, red, 1917 Cadillac Type 55 Club has a manlier feel but provides the same ambience. So a tartan blanket flung on the back seat would not look out of place.
The 1914 Detroit Electric Priscilla is perhaps the vehicle that evokes the largest number of nods—possibly it is the name appended to the model but its shape is far from female sensuous. This little vehicle looks like a china cabinet on wheels. It boasts a top speed of 20 miles an hour and an ability to run for about 80 miles on a single charge. (So much for the cutting edge electric cars of the 21st century.) A person would have had to produce, like the 1913 White Model 30, a little over $59,000 in current dollars to own one. Having done so he would not have many places he could drive his fine auto.
This car was marketed particularly toward women and doctors since it did not require cranking. (The assumption being, of course, that neither could master the art.) The sales pitch included the slogan, " it...will take you anywhere that an automobile may go with a mileage radius farther than you will ever care to travel in a day."
A Packard, black, somber, and sensible looking, despite its luxury reputation will also be on show, along with the one I would drive home if I could: the golden 1926 Pierce-Arrow Model 80. Its shiny, streamlined, daring look is a summary of the roaring decade that was to follow the inception of the Dunn Gardens—although, it should be pointed out that the latter was not caused by the former.
For the moment of thinking about and looking at such cars such slips in logic are to be forgiven. Even encouraged. Better yet, indulged. It is expected the guests at the Dunnton Abbey Garden Party will enjoy themselves in such a fashion.