No.149. CAR-ving. Last week, he had carved a vintage speedster from plaster and it had pleased him greatly--mostly because it took him back to the wondrous Popular Mechanics magazines of his childhood. This week, he hacked out another plaster car model. This time he was thinking about the General Motors "Dream Machines" of the 1950s, conceived under the supervision of designer Harley Earl, the Cecil B. De Mille of GM car design. As design historian Stephen Bayley writes in his amusing book, Harley Earl and the Dream Machine (Knopf, 1983), "Earl conducted the design process with a mixture of discretion, emotional violence and bizarrerie." One of Earl's design innovations was the use of clay to make models (before him, car models had been made of wood). The clay modeling made for more fluidity and complexity of contour in the proposed automobiles--resulting, almost inevitably in features like wraparound windshields and absurdly towering tail-fins, taken to airplane heights for example, in the 1951 Le Sabre (the flower on GM's buttonhole during what Bayley calls "the golden age of gorp"). His own Dream Car carving came to nothing. Initially he was going for morphological extravagance. As he worked, however, he got interested in the essential properties of car-ness, and ended by producing a sort of ur-car that sat heavily on his plinth and looked like a fat potato with eyes.

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