Rain-filled Rolls-Royce greets Dali museum visitors

Car collector provides the weather-proof 1933 Rolls
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Car collector Alain Cerf kept this Rolls-Royce limousine on display in his auto museum while he devised a way to make it “rain” inside the passenger compartment. The Rainy Taxi will now be exhibited at the new Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Fla.

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St. Petersburg, Fla., has always promoted itself as the “Sunshine City,” but now at the new Salvador Dali Museum, visitors are greeted by a rain-filled vintage limo.

The “Rainy Taxi” is a 1933 Rolls-Royce Sedanca Limousine, specially restored and outfitted by the Tampa Bay Automobile Museum to recreate a 1938 Paris exhibit by the master surrealist. As one might expect with Dali, the artist had it raining inside the taxi.

That show was so successful Dali repeated the concept the following year in his hometown of Figueras, Spain, using his own personal Cadillac. But technology wasn’t what it is today and the water-logged cars were ultimately ruined.

The original Dali museum, formerly a St. Pete municipal warehouse, had only some photos and news clippings about the original unusual auto display. But relocating to a new eye-catching $36-million facility resurrected the idea of the Rainy Taxi.

The Dali folks asked car collector Alain A. Cerf, owner of the Tampa Bay Auto Museum, to provide a more substantial and water-proof version for an exhibit in their new digs. According to Cerf, the simulated rain will have spectators believing that the mannequins inside the vintage taxi are being soaked, “but not a drop of water will get inside the car.”

Cerf said the 1933 Rolls was selected from his personal collection because the windows of the pre-war limo are nearly vertical making the rain effect very visible; plus, “the driver is outside basking in the Florida sun.”

This right-hand drive limousine is a good example of how the recession following the First World War influenced a down-sizing effort by Rolls-Royce. The four-speed manual gearbox with synchromesh between third and fourth, coupled to a six cylinder overhead valve engine with detachable cylinder heads, set the standard for all six cylinder cars throughout the 1940’s. The coachwork includes all the burl wood trim, leather, and body panel fit expected from the marque.

See www.salvadordalimuseum.org for ticket and event information. The Tampa Bay Automobile Museum, located in Pinellas Park, features a unique collection of about 50 vintage vehicles that demonstrate special creativity and engineering imagination. Go to www.tbauto.org for more information.

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