One magic moment with a Ralph Lauren car

On an April evening four years ago I wandered into an underground parking garage and happened upon the Mercedes–Benz pictured above: one of Ralph Lauren’s cars to be exhibited in Paris this coming summer.

It wasn’t any old parking garage. Set multiple levels beneath Villa d’Este on the shores of Lake Como in northern Italy, it was used to store the cars after they’d finished competing at the 2007 Concorso d’Eleganza. Ralph Lauren’s Mercedes had just won one of the main prizes, the “Trofeo BMW Group - Primo Premio della Giuria”.

The space was a full-on Batman’s Cave trip, an illusion enhanced by the raw concrete walls and the completely ludicrous variety of machinery on unguarded display. The evil black 1930 Mercedes-Benz Count Trossi SSK was just one, its 7-liter straight-six cooling below the red water pipes on the ceiling. There was a Bizzarrini in one corner. A Ferrari 250 GT SWB in another. Jim Glickenhaus’s Ferrari P4/5 at the bottom of the ramp. And so on.

While the exhibit at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs may lack such moments of vehicular intimacy, it comes highly recommended if you’re in Paris between April 28 and August 28. To get a sense of what you’ll see, acquire a copy of Speed, Style, and Beauty, a coffee table book with 210 pages of excellent photos of Ralph Lauren’s cars. It was produced in 2005, when the cars were exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.