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Visual Arts

Drive, they said

Early automobiles rumble into the Oklahoma History Center to show off their artistry, ingenuity and importance to the state.

Charles Martin May 11th, 2011

Oklahoma Driven: Cars, Collectors and the Birth of the Oklahoma Highway Commission
through March 2012
Oklahoma History Center
800 Nazih Zuhdi, 522-5248

Long before wind tunnels and fuel-efficiency standards whittled away the artistry of the auto industry, pioneers produced models that were more pieces of art than practical family sedans.

To celebrate the ingenuity of the automobile’s infancy, the Oklahoma History Center has unveiled “Oklahoma Driven,” an exhibit running through March 2012 that features a rotating gallery of early vehicles.

“In late December of 1902, there were only a couple blocks of paved streets in Oklahoma City,” said Michael Dean, public relations director. “It seems so incongruous to Oklahoma City today, and that was just over 100 years ago.”

An offshoot of a permanent exhibit on the state’s importance as a transportation hub, “Driven” focuses on the first steps away from horses and hay to steel and gasoline.

And it didn’t take long. According to Dean, photos of Oklahoma City as a horse-and-buggy society in 1914 gave way to highways and the world’s first parking meter by 1935.

Cars will be switched out periodically, showcasing the variety of brassera automobiles that started out with lamps for headlights, and sticks instead of steering wheels.

“The interesting thing is some of those early car companies actually started out making buggies and carried that kind of style over to motorized vehicles when they moved away from horse buggies,” Dean said. “They carried a lot of that design over into those early vehicles, and I think they are stunning. They are almost works of art.”

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