GIVE THANKS TO TED PIETSCH, GET INTO MY CAR: OR, AUTOMOBILES OF DREAMS FROM THE WOLFSONIAN-FIU LIBRARY
My usual route to The Wolfsonian museum was blocked this week when Miami Beach’s Convention Center Drive was closed off to local traffic as the Miami International Auto Show came to town. Outside the convention center is a miniature roller coaster-like structure designed to allow a fleet of Jeeps to demonstrate their prowess at climbing and descending the steepest of hills. Inside the convention hall are an array of automobiles, SUVs, trucks, and crossovers. This year, for the first time in the auto show’s history, the event features a unique attraction inspired by urban “street” art from the historic Wynwood District. In Cars Meet Art, famous graffiti artists have painted a variety of cars and matching murals. In Ally Auto Alley, auto show attendees will have the opportunity to paint on a virtual car, and to share their own visions via social media. Sharf Associate Librarian Rochelle Pienn had the opportunity this morning to “rummage” through the Wolfsonian library’s collection of automobile-design materials with the aim of showcasing some examples of exotic car design from the mid-to-late twentieth century. Here is her report:
On any ordinary day in South Beach, cars of every origin and style zip along Washington Avenue and Ocean Drive, creating a moving tourist attraction. This week, the Miami Auto Show descends upon the city, replete with cars of cutting edge technology, out-of-this-world design, and yes, even a Maserati parade.
The love affair with all things automotive did not begin with the retro-psychedelic roadster shown here at the Miami Beach Convention Center. The symbiotic relationship between man, woman, and driving machine is evidenced by innovations sprung from imaginations gone by. The Theodore W. Pietsch collection, an extensive archive maintained by his son and namesake, Theodore W. Pietsch III, was gifted to The Wolfsonian-FIU. The collection features advertisements, illustrations, and sketchbooks of motor vehicles from the 1930s through the post-World War II era.
A prolific car artist, Ted Pietsch hand drew all types and classes of luxury automobiles. This illustration, circa 1947, comes from an original sketchbook.
This pencil drawing shows the sharp lines of the Packard dashboard. The Packard Motor Car Company in Detroit, founded in 1899, was one of the premier American luxury auto-making firms for nearly sixty years.
This futuristic image comes from an untitled sketchbook. Pietsch labeled the car “Wraith.” While Pietsch designed cars for most American factories, his fantasy creations also extended to the international scene.
This 1949 drawing of a “Ghost” almost begs for a place at the 2014 Miami Auto Show.
This pastel of a Plymouth shows a sportier side of the brand.
A 1945 pencil outline expresses the generous size and comfort of the Chrysler, without sacrificing artistic elements of the outer form.
This low-profile convertible was designed for Mercedes-Benz in 1943. A lull in production for the brand occurred around this time until after the Second World War.
Dated 1950, the “Banshee” is a hard-topped two-door roadster, poised to race.
The huge shadow cast by this 1946 orange four-door sedan indicates its significant breadth and girth. Its pointed tail lights and column support between roof and rear hatch give it a futuristic flair.
Aerodynamic construction required careful measurements. Pietsch drew this top-diagonal front and side view of an experimental design with aerodynamic rear wheel wells, rear fin, and bulbous glass top on a grid.
These views of a racecar are drawn to scale.
Pietsch also sketched car ornaments. In 1940, the Studebaker was still a hallmark of automobile quality and reliability.
The Theodore W. Pietsch collection also contains promotional materials and advertisements. This cross section is of the Auburn Twelve Salon Chassis, circa 1935.
The La Salle of the day, as seen in GMC’s customer brochure.
The brand new Graham shows an elegant couple enjoying the ride.
An earlier image of the Buick keeps with the theme of fun for the two of you.
To see more original sketches and rare brochures and advertisements from the Theodore W. Pietsch collection, (a gift facilitated by our generous Wolfsonian-FIU library donor Frederic A. Sharf), peruse our digital catalog online or visit us on 10th Street and Washington Avenue, on your way to the Miami Auto Show. Once upon a time, the Wolfsonian-FIU building actually stored marvelous antique cars on the 3rd floor, where the library is today. But that is another story …