A visit to the Larz Anderson Automotive Museum
Being in Boston with a few hours to spare, I went to visit the Larz Anderson Museum. Larz was a very wealthy guy inthe early 1900s, and was a car guy when cars were just invented. He had some of the first cars running around the USA, and paid some princely sums of money at the time for some coachbuilt beauties. He was also partial to French machines as they were generally ahead of the world in the budding automobile industry.
On a weekday morning, I had the museum virtually to myself so I had time to consider the exhibits. It is not a big museum, so you don't need to plan a day (or even half) for the visit. Upstairs were some examples of postwar american iron. It reminded me of how huge the behemoths of the 40s through 60s were. Today's SUVs may be taller, but not longer or wider ! The Indy 500 Racer was fascinating. 200+mph in 1976 using aerodynamics, points out that IMHO we haven't really made much progress in racing other than in safety. Last weekend, the F1 race in Abu Dhabi had speeds on one of the longest straights in F1 at just over 200 mph. Leaf springs seen on the pre-1900 Winton are still used on some new vehicles today.
Downstairs was more fascinating. The turn of the century cars (19th to 20th, that is) cars in this small museum were again indicative of how little progress we have made, and how much of our current thinking is simply recycled stuff from long ago. An electric work vehicle, innovative cooling systems, aerodynamics, hybrid propulsion, fuel rails, leaf spring suspension, racing slicks, variable timing, etc were all in evidence on cars made before 1910 !
Another revelation was a poster which showed a listing of the US auto manufacturers no longer around. There are hundreds, and most are names I have never seen before. In the current environment when we rescue ailing manufacturer's, it was interesting to be reminded of a time when innovation and survival of the fittest was perhaps at its' zenith in the automotive world.
I am hardly a proponent of technology applied for its own sake, after all, in most cases I prefer 40 year old vehicles to the current ones. However, when you look back at where we were 30, 50, 100 years ago, it seems we should at least have the stuff from the Jetsons by now......