Two instances of a behavior may not count as a rigorously observed pattern, but it appears as though high-profile conductors have a thing for high-powered automobiles.
First there was the great Austrian Herbert von Karajan and his penchant for Ferraris, especially the sound of their V12 engines, which he considered superior to anything he could make a symphonic orchestra deliver. Von Karajan owned a Ferrari 250 GT Lusso, which you could observe first-hand at the Chromjuwelen exhibition in Vienna last year if you were lucky. I was lucky:
(This is the same car which was owned in chestnut brown by Steve McQueen and was featured a few months ago in Jalopnik.)
Then there’s Carlos Kleiber, also of Austrian origin, with his disdain for written contracts and the public eye. A 1996 story from the magazine Culture Kiosque describes his conducting the Bavarian State Orchestra in Inglostadt in exchange for an Audi A8, “a four-wheel-drive sportscar fitted out with an 8 cylinder engine, worth more than $100,000” as described by Culture Kiosque, somewhat blurring the line between all-aluminum executive sedans and sports cars.
While fully researching this would consume years of library time, I would not be surprised if this proto-pattern was the ground zero of the Ferrari-symphony metaphor.
If you’re aware of any more examples, whether it’s Harnoncourt in love with a Testa Rossa, Furtwängler racing a 750 Monza or Fricsay motoring about in a Superamerica, do let us know.