Salisbury Concours to feature cars of Frank Lloyd Wright

At first glance, elegant automobiles and stunning architecture appear to have little in common. Yet, some of the most breathtaking examples of each will come together on Sept. 12 when “The Cars of Frank Lloyd Wright*” gather at the Salisbury House and Gardens, in Des Moines, Iowa.

Wright, one of the most influential architects of the 20th Century, was as discerning about the cars that carried him as he was about the blueprints that bore his name. His stable of automotive thoroughbreds reflected his appreciation of quality design. Today, similar examples sell for a million dollars and more.

On the other hand, Wright put his architectural apprentices behind the wheels of America’s less expensive “orphan babies,” America’s forgotten economy cars.

Fine examples of both will be features of the 2010 Salisbury Concours d’Elegance, regarded as Iowa’s most prestigious annual automobile display.

1932 Cord L-29

This L29 Cord, an early front wheel drive car introduced in 1929, will be presented in “The Cars of Frank Lloyd Wright Class” at the 2010 Salisbury Concours d’Elegance.  Wright, who owned an L29, described his interest and ownership experience as follows:  “I believe the principle of the front drive to be logical and scientific, therefore, inevitable for all cars. The proportion and lines of the Cord come nearer to expressing the beauty of both science and logic than any car I have ever seen.” (Photo courtesy of Nancy Friday)

The Cars of Frank Lloyd Wright

Twice each year between the late 1930s and 1950s, the old master led his young prodigies on semi-annual treks between Taliesin in Spring Green, Wis., and Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Ariz. Wright traveled in the comfort of an opulent classic. His favorites included the front-wheel-drive 1929 Cord L29 and the first Lincoln Continentals of 1940.  Wright’s apprentices followed in their miniature Bantam and Crosley roadsters.

Most of Wright’s automotive fleet has been lost to time. But the same makes and models will be highlighted in the elegant courtyard and restored garage of the palatial Salisbury House. In addition, the lawn and gardens will be filled with more than 100 valuable vintage classics. Each car has been individually selected for its superior styling, innovative engineering, and/or relative scarcity. Classes include British and European Luxury, Sports and Racing, Classic and Antique, Supercars, Early Economy Cars and a special class for Mitchell-brand automobiles.

The Art of Frank Lloyd Wright

No Frank Lloyd Wright exhibit would be complete without examples of his architectural drawings. Additional presentations will feature Wright’s architectural genius.

The John E. Christian House — a Wright-designed home in West Lafayette, Ind. — is home to a collection of Wright memorabilia including the superb Japanese portfolio of reproduction renderings covering the span of his career. A portion of the home’s collection has been loaned exclusively to the Salisbury House for this event. Selected  prints include “The Automobile Objective and Planetarium” (a spiral design idea that evolved into New York City’s iconic Guggenheim Museum) as well as drawings of Fallingwater (Wright’s most stunning private home) and the Historic Park Inn Hotel and City National Bank.

Presentations about Frank Lloyd Wright will be offered beginning at 1 p.m.  Noted automotive author and collector, Robert D. Cunningham, will share details about Wright’s lifelong love affair with the automobile. Other talks will include “Living in a Frank Lloyd Wright Home” and “The Restoration and 100th Anniversary of the Historic Park Inn Hotel & City National Bank.” The landmark inn was completed in 1910 and is the only remaining hotel designed by Wright. One lucky couple attending the Salisbury Concours d’Elegance will win a 2011 weekend stay in this boutique hotel, located in Mason City, Iowa. Raffle tickets will be for sale on the grounds.

The 2010 Salisbury Concours d’Elegance will take place on Sunday, Sept. 12, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Adult admission: $15; Students age 13 through college: $5; Children 12 and under: free.  For more information about the event, visit or call 515-274-1777.

*Editor’s note: Use of the publicity rights of the name Frank Lloyd Wright is with the permission of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Taliesin West, Scottsdale, Arizona. Additional information about Frank Lloyd Wright can be seen on the Foundation’s website:

1956 Mercedes

Frank Lloyd Wright, who owned a Mercedes 300 SL, was commissioned to design the Max Hoffman Mercedes dealership showroom on Park Avenue in New York City.  The building incorporated an unusual spiral design.  The 1956 Mercedes 300 SL to be presented at the 2010 Salisbury Concours is owned by Cooper Weeks, the great grandson of Carl Weeks, the man responsible for building the palatial Salisbury House and Gardens, a featured home in the A&E Channel’s program “Americas Greatest Castles.” (Photo courtesy of Cooper Weeks)

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