Auto columnist for The Herald-Palladium


The out-of-the-ordinary 1960 Corvair from Chevrolet was best known for its engine placement in the rear and for being safety crusader Ralph Nader’s punching bag. Yes, it did have quirky handling characteristics if you drove it like a dummy. But to Dar the first gen Corvair is an automotive design home run. GM made a compact car look attractive and desirable and the Corvair influenced the styling of numerous Euro small cars.

Recently there have been a spate of high-end auctions here in the U.S., but especially in Europe, that offered for sale a number of truly amazing looking automobiles. Some of the offerings were vehicles I had never seen before, and nearly all were limited edition luxury cars from automakers like Ferrari, Bentley, Aston Martin and the like. Many of the automobiles (calling them a car seems so plebeian), usually a low slung roadster or two-door hardtop, are breathtakingly beautiful. Most were built in very small numbers (explaining why they are seldom seen) and many were seemingly built by one of the Italian car body shops (carrozzeria) like Ghia, Bertone, Pininfarina or Italdesign. We have (or had) a number of coach-building firms here in the U.S. back in the early part of the 20th century and they include familiar names like Fleetwood, Derham, Dietrich and LeBaron. They too created some majestic looking automobile bodies built on the chassis of luxury brands like Packard, Cadillac, Chrysler and Lincoln.

I mention that these low-volume automobiles are breathtakingly beautiful. What is it about these vehicles that I find so attractive? Perhaps because the designers, mostly Italian but not all of them, seem to have an affinity to follow the golden rule of good design: Less is more. These rare, seldom seen beauties were created with perfect proportions (usually long hood, short deck), common design cliches like vents and body crease lines are avoided and all have smooth aerodynamic surfaces like Mother Nature herself held the pencil during the design phase.

Dar Davis founded the Lake Bluff Concours and chaired the event for many years. He has been writing this column since 1999. He can be reached at