Written by By Elizabeth Gregg, CNN
Photographer Chris Moukarbel has spent much of his life ‘back in the day.’ So it’s fitting that the collection of photographs he will debut at the newest gallery in New York this month features images from before mass production has changed the way we buy and sell cars.
“The Cars We Love” comprises images of vintage cars, more than 600 of them, from 1964 to 1984. All are courtesy of Ford Motor Company and their Museum of American History in Detroit, Michigan.
Moukarbel, in between trips to the United States from Paris to set up his show (as well as shooting old films for the U.S. Postal Service, and running his own record label, Octane), tells CNN, “Even though all of these are vintage, there is a lot of innovation too.”
Case in point: The 100th anniversary of America’s first automobile sold. The Ford Model A, made in 1903 and based on German design, is featured in many of the photos, and its 8-cylinder gas-powered engine set off a motor craze that would last for nearly a century.
“These vehicles were manufactured by Ford Motor Company, and they were there for only a few years,” Moukarbel explained. “The Model A is very popular and people love them because they are cheap.”
The same’s true for the 1941 Ford Aviator, which like other Ford vehicles features a second engine mounted in the chassis to “wing” it like a helicopter. It’s clear from seeing it that despite its dramatically exterior design, an Aviator was actually a rather traditional-looking car.
Unfortunately for car aficionados, the Aviator’s trade secrets are lost, having been classified as “Sensitive National Security Information” (only three photos are available on the Ford website).
“As the photos are made out of film, they were made on certain Ford production systems that were involved in the film,” Moukarbel said. “So they lose their authenticity because of the technology.”
For the most part, however, the images maintain their historical significance. One such example is a decade-old photograph of a Ford Bronco-based platform in Puerto Rico, that and others in the show provide an accurate depiction of the car’s development and development of performance in the 1950s.
A ‘bond’ between model
Another standout is an image of a Model A convertible, taken shortly after the model was redesigned to accommodate its twin 8-cylinder engines (the first of a kind in the U.S.) and other changes implemented as part of the “Savage Mustang,” the 1978 Ford Mustang that won the Academy Award for best car in 1985.
Although the original car is in the restoration shop in Ford’s vehicle museum, its design is reproduced on nearly all of the rest of the collection’s vintage cars — in an attempt to retain and remind people of how the original Mustang came to be.
“It’s the spirit of the car,” Moukarbel said. “There’s this icon of American pleasure.”