Some classic car collections are so good they have to be featured in a museum, and that’s the case with fashion designer Ralph Lauren’s collection. In 2011, Lauren agreed to have 17 of his cars exhibited in the Louvre for four months, showcasing vehicles like a 1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 Mille Miglia and 1955 Mercedes Gullwing. Lauren owns more than 70 cars, which together have an estimated value of £240 million.
Lauren’s cars are a mixture of vintage and modern. In an interview he’s said “I’ve always seen cars as art. Moving art. While friends of mine were into paintings, I somehow felt that the real beauty of owning a rare and magnificently designed car was the fact that you can use it.”
Here are some of the most beautiful motors in the fashion icon’s collection.
1956 Jaguar XKSS
Lauren’s Jaguar XKSS is a gorgeous machine that started off as an XKD model. In 1958, it was converted into an XKSS. Many XKSS’ were based on the basic Jaguar D-type structure, with the addition of a passenger side door. The car features a chrome-tinted windscreen and folding, fabric roof.
1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL
Best known for its unique gullwing doors, the 300 SL was billed as a race car for the streets. The car’s streamlined body made it popular with the public as soon as it was revealed. Rather than a stylistic choice, the gullwing doors were crucial to the design. The SL’s aluminium skin was stretched over a tubular frame, which meant it rose further up the sides of the car, making it impossible to fit traditional doors. Engineers addressed the issue by creating doors that opened vertically.
1938 Bugatti Atlantic
Perhaps the most valuable car in Lauren’s collection, his 1938 Bugatti Atlantic is one of only two in the world. Designed by Jean Bugatti, the Atlantic is made of Elecktron, an alloy of magnesium and aluminium. Despite it being stronger and lighter than aluminium, Electron is highly flammable. Bugatti solved the problem by making sure every panel was riveted and incorporated it into the overall design. The result was an aerodynamic vehicle that Lauren has called “the most beautiful car in the world.”
1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 MM
The Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 was built for speed, especially the Mille Miglia version. Lauren’s model, Chassis 412030, finished second in the Mille Miglia after being driven by Carlo Pintacuda. The car went on to win various races in 1938, as well as claiming victory in the 1951 Del Monte Handicap.
1929 Birkin Blower Bentley
Designed by Henry ‘Tim’ Birkin, the Blower Bentley is a powerful machine that was made for the race track. Birkin himself drove the car to a second-place finish at the 1930 French Grand Prix. Lauren has said “some of my cars are a little more complicated and require a little more patience. A Bentley Blower, for example, is a big, monstrous automobile. I might not drive that as much as some of the other cars. It’s a little more temperamental, and it takes a little more thought.”