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The Gilmore Car Museum celebrates “The Golden Age of Sports Cars”

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From Porsche to Lotus to Chevrolet, the exhibit promises something for fans of all sports cars. Photo by John Lacko, courtesy Gilmore Car Museum.

Blame it on a combination of zeitgeist and disposable income, but sports cars grew in popularity among American buyers in the years following World War II. By the early 1950s, even American automakers were getting in on the action, launching cars like the Ford Thunderbird and the Chevrolet Corvette, while previously unknown foreign brands like Porsche and Ferrari established a foothold on these shores. Opened on October 1, a new exhibit at the Gilmore Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan, will examine The Golden Age of Sports Cars, 1949-1967 by highlighting over two dozen significant examples of the breed.

Gilmore Golden Age of Sports Cars

A pair of Mercedes-Benz 300SLs. Photo by John Lacko, courtesy Gilmore Car Museum.

The popularity of sports cars was further enhanced by the formation of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), founded in 1944. In 1948, the SCCA began sanctioning amateur road racing events, and three years later the organization announced its first National Championship, contested at tracks around the country. Thanks to the help of Air Force General Curtis LeMay, many SCCA events were held at Strategic Air Command bases, making the sport even more accessible to those wishing to participate.

Gilmore Golden Age of Sports Cars

A 1947 Alfa Romeo Superleggera shares the spotlight with a 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4. Photo courtesy Gilmore Car Museum.

The Gilmore exhibit covers all sports car bases, stretching from the affordable (like a 1949 MG TC EXU, or a 1958 Triumph TR3) to the nearly unattainable (like the 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 once owned by actor Nicholas Cage, or a 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL “gullwing,” or a 1957 Jaguar XKSS). In between are plenty of cars that were affordable in the day (like a 1953 Corvette, or a 1966 Shelby G.T.350), but now top the “win the lottery wish list” for many collectors. Janis Joplin’s psychedelic Porsche 356, which sold at auction in 2015 for a record-setting $1.76 million, was temporarily on display, but only through October 10.

Janis Joplin Porsche 356

Janis Joplin’s 1964 Porsche 356C SC cabriolet, displayed in the exhibit until October 10. Photo courtesy Gilmore Car Museum.

The exhibit was curated by Tom Kayser, who spent a decade as director of the Gilmore Car Museum; and John Lacko, a photojournalist who began his career covering races at the Martin US-131 Dragway in Western Michigan. Other cars on display include a 1947 Alfa Romeo Superleggera; a 1953 Jaguar XK120 OTS; a 1954 Porsche Speedster; a 1957 Mercedes 300SL roadster; a 1956 Austin-Healey 100 LeMans; a 1956 Jaguar XK140 FHC; a 1958 Morgan Plus 4; a 1959 MG Twin Cam Roadster; a 1960 Austin-Healey Sprite Mark I; a 1961 Jaguar XKE; a 1962 Lotus Elite Series II; a 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Split Window; a 1964 Alfa Romeo Guilia; a 1967 Shelby 427 Cobra; and a 1967 Porsche 911S.

The Golden Age of Sports Cars, 1949-1967 runs through March of 2017. For more information on the exhibit or on the museum itself, visit