Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Dinner at the Bristol Hotel, Warsaw Monday 2nd December 2013

There was an excellent turnout of 16 for this dinner and lecture at the historic Bristol Hotel in Warsaw. It was to be the last CCC meeting of 2013 before Christmas. We had 4 new members attending (Sean Dowsey, Eric Hallgren, Przemyslaw and Mietek Godzisz) which was most encouraging. Hope they return! 

As for classic conveyances on the night I took the 1949 MG TC (yes brass monkey temperatures for Mr. Toad at -5C beep! beep!) and David O'Driscoll his TVR Griffith. Pity there were not more but force majeur prevented some...

The assembled crew in the Moniuszko Salon on the night
After a welcome for the new members and the usual 45 minute introductions 'Me and Me Cars' (this trial of strength must be logistically altered in someway with a book or website coverage) we set to work on the 'Smoked goose breast carpaccio style, honey dressing, nuts' and wine which began the meal. Excellent service on this occasion with four dedicated staff - the Bristol did us proud.

A marvellous parade of rare photographs of Italian carrosserie provided by the speaker Grzegorz Gratkowski accompanied the meal. 

All we needed was a soundtrack of Monza circa 1935!

There was a brief agenda discussed before pudding: 
  • Club activities, dinners and event suggestions for 2014
      Quite a few interesting and generous suggestions were put forward which I hope will be followed up either on Linked-In or by a bulk email to the membership from the proposer himself using the Doodle facility. We all now have the current list of CCC members and email lists and await suggestions.
  • Financing and design of regalia (if desired) to be discussed  
    Being a casual club we decided that official regalia was really unnecessary except Andy Fincham who suggested a small lapel badge which was received with rather lackluster enthusiasm. I quite like the idea of a tie with a logo but there was vociferous resistance to tie-wearing in 2013. I have never understood this myself but then I feel warmer wearing a tie or cravat in the MG and it conceals various aging features associated with the bird traditionally served at Christmas dinner - something no-one in the present membership age group need worry about just yet.


We then came to the remarkably humorous, intellectually stimulating, illustrated talk courageously and brilliantly in English mind you given by Grzegorz Gratkowski entitled enticingly
      Eppur si muove   or   Here Comes the Speed  

He began:

I am honoured to have an opportunity to speak to you today. If I fail completely I might as well not have another one. At least, though, this is not the first time. Last year I was invited to lecture in the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw on Italian car design. What I am about to deliver today is based upon my series of lectures for students of industrial design and interior design. In fact, this is only a tiny excerpt of that thing, short enough not to make a dormitory out of this nice room. 

Michael was right in calling this title an enticement. It might also sound like a... Evolution of car design morphology – tracking the roots of modern sports car form – although this wouldn’t sound nearly as attractive and who knows whether the smoked goose would suffice to bring you here today. Still, I am going to explain how did the forms evolve from what we have here - to here [a picture of a horse and a picture of a futuristic sports car compared], using mostly Italian examples, because this is the field I’m most into. Actually, the history until late Thirties might be illustrated with French, English or German examples just as well, but later on Italian car design becomes so clever and prevailing that this approach seems about justified. 

We were then treated to a most marvellous exposition of the social and aesthetic theory behind Italian sports car design from the static boxes called horseless carriages to streamlined conceptions of aching beauty giving the feeling of  'speed' - even at rest. 

It was a most enlightening journey of tremendous intellectual refinement from this art historian who harbours the secret vice of a classic car obsession.

I give you a very few of the many illustrations from his lecture to mull over:

"Still, vertical form persisted, to become horizontalised slowly and gradually. Of course, it stemmed from verticality of a horse, of a sitting man, from narrow streets, and from aesthetic convention – even from traditional association of height with grandeur as we may see in towers or even tall hats. Here’s how a competent use of a cap enabled Italians to be taller than Germans which is quite something – Vittorio Emmanuele the 3rd looming over Wilhelm the 2nd. "

The notion of speed begins its inexorable progress (but here still ‘vertical’ in design)

         "In this Isotta Fraschini the front fender, rather than closely surrounding the wheel, whiffs rearward like a wake, blurring the separation to capsule and platform, divided by the step. The lower door line also evades the horizontal, as forms take on curves, tending to soften and unify." 

The development of the elements of  'The Face' - symmetry was the byword


"The same year 1936 sees the birth of Fiat 500A Topolino. The world’s smallest production car, painfully simple and cheap, brought plenty of novelty"

"In coupé body, instead, the form consisted of two wing profiles superimposed one upon another Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 coupé Touring "

                                       Grzegorz concluded his lecture by summing up: 

      For the speed to arrive, several steps had to be made since the early motor cars:

-          vertical forms had to turn into horizontal lines;
-          those fit for standing still into forms that acknowledged a movement. A feature in design, obvious nowadays, we know as linea spinta which means the pressed or thrust line, develops over the period in question – and this is when designers seem to say Eppur si muoveit’s moving, after all – this is how a car becomes aware of struggling through the air rather than standing still. The speed becomes expressed in design;
-          cabin, once separated from the chassis by the dividing line, merges with it,
-          additive forms turn into unified ones;
-          a devilish figure of smeared, smoked, gravel-battered and fiery chauffeur – into a gentleman driver;
-          as we see half-done in this achingly beautiful Auto Avio Costruzioni 815, the former step moves up, until it will soon reach the shoulder line;
-          wheels go all the way from wooden, large, protruding outside, to smaller, wider, hidden within the body shell, and accessories from externally attached to merged within shapes;
-          the rear, once utilitarian and unadorned, becomes about as important as the front;
-          the car body evolved from forms of a horse carriage, absurd considering the new needs, to egg-shaped and soon after to wing-profiled. 

     Interestingly he mentioned that the Cisitalia 202 found its place in the seminal 
1951 New York  Museum of Modern Art   8 Cars Exhibition. 

The 1948 MG TC was chosen as one of the eight select cars for this first exhibition of its type. It was considered a fine example of the 'rolling sculpture' concept conceived by the curator.  

In outlining the purpose of the exhibition, Mr. Johnson says:

"An automobile is a familiar 20th-century artifact, and is
no less worthy of being judged for its visual,appeal than
a building or a chair. Automobiles are hollow, rolling
sculpture, and the refinements of their design are fascinating.
We have selected cars whose details and basic
design suggest that automobiles, besides being America's
most useful Useful Objects, could be a source of visual
experience more enjoyable than they now are."

The exhibition catalogue describes the 1948 MG TC selected thus:

"The MG gives the illusion of being the unenhanced piece of machinery
which the Jeep actually is, but unlike the Jeep, its stylistic understatement
is the result of careful attention to appearance itself.
The tight, downward curve of the back is complemented by the long
rising arabesque of the front fender. Both lines are related by a
door the top of which is curved to form an elbow rest. As in the
Mercedes, chromium plating is applied to individual parts of the
machine which naturally lend themselves to this kind of decorative
treatment, such as the radiator cap and frame of the folding windshield
instead of as additions superimposed in the form of meaningless
decorative strips"

An excellent photograph of my 1949 MG TC at speed taken in Bielany Forest near Warsaw by our brilliant photographer and CCC member Blazej Zulawski which perfectly illustrates the above points

All in all an excellent dinner and an uplifting lecture! May it continue thus...
Those present at dinner were:

Paul Ayre                                                                   
Iain Batty
Ian Booth
Neil Crook
Mietek Godzisz 
Błażej Żuławski
Marcin  Zientara
Grzegorz Grątkowski
Sean Dowsey
Eric Hallgren
Andy Fincham
Marek  Kuryłowicz
Michael Moran
Michael Motz
David O’Driscoll

Oh...the Pork Tenderloin stuffed with Plums, Porto sauce, red cabbage with ginger and fried potatoes (my choice) sounded great but was decidedly underwhelming and the Pike Perch, Stewed potatoes with Forest Mushrooms was only just 'alright'. Good wine.

Must have a little chat to the powers that be...the remainder of the menu seemed fine.

If you have a classic car in Poland or are simply an enthusiast and wish to join the CCC contact:

                                                                                                                                  Michael Moran

                                                                                                                                  CCC Club Chairman