It is perhaps inevitable that Ralph Lauren's collection at The Boston Museum of Fine Arts (opening March 6) would contain a 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe. The automobile suits the designer's sense of aristocractic style like a perfectly tailored tweed jacket with leather elbow patches. Well, almost. As we continue our tour of Mr. Lauren's collection with some German metal, it's interesting to note that the Gullwing is the only car in the exhibit that's been modified at Mr. Lauren's behest. Click through to find out what simply had to go.
The 300SL Gullwing is famous for its elegant yet purposeful lines, tubular, geodetic space frame chassis; roof-hinged doors (a result of the construction technique), racing pedigree and vicious on-the-limit oversteer. Less well known is the fact that the Germans gave the post-war supercar a plaid interior. Despite Mr. Lauren?s penchant for historically accurate restorations, despite criticism in some quarters for over-restoration, the designer simply couldn?t live with the fabric. He?s replaced it with the finest hand sewn, pre-aged cowhide known to man. Looking at this picture, you gotta say it was the right thing to do.
Let?s talk about roll bars. As you can see (keep your eyes on the car in front please), the 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder didn?t have one. By all acounts, the 1550lbs., 1500cc Spyder was extremely easy to drive very, very fast. The roll bar issue proved fatal for actor James Dean, when his newly purchased Spyder, nicknamed ?Little Bastard?, rolled over in ?Dead Man?s Curve?. Even so, it?s hard to imagine this sublime form interrupted by metal hoops.
Of all the cars in the Ralph Lauren collection in the MFA, the 1988 Porsche 959 doesn?t quite fit. Although there?s no doubting the car?s importance as a technological tour de force, or its rarity (337 were built), it lacks any hint of the glamour of its gallery mates. In fact, the 959 looks more than a little like a 911 that got trapped in aftermarket hell. Even so, it?s a rare treat to see one up close and personal on American soil; the 959 was never US street legal.