Last Days of the Automobile celebrates a bygone golden era in car culture
After 30 years in advertising, David Wilson needed a change. Jealous of those who combined their job with their passion, the time had come to prioritise what was important in life.
“I’d come to barely recognise the industry and I certainly wasn’t looking forward to going into work, which was surprising as it was my company. So, I sat down and wrote a list of the things I actually enjoyed doing.”
Having worked on projects for the likes of Gucci and Manolo Blahnik, conceiving and art directing photoshoots, David wanted to channel that creative process alongside his love for classic cars, and in particular an era that encapsulated iconic design.
“When browsing for prints I noticed there were lots of racing posters and beautiful pictures of cars available, but little in the way of individualistic interpretations. I was particularly inspired by photographers such as Guy Bourdin and avant-garde automotive advertising from the 70s and 80s, so I decided to create something more remarkable, reflecting an era that was driven by art, sex, fashion, dreams and freedom.”
The title 'Last Days of the Automobile' (LDOTA) was inspired by the foreseen end of days for the car as a symbol of individual expression.
“There’s been a lot of talk about the rise of electric vehicles, accelerating the end of the automobile as we’ve come to know it.
So the name is an expression of this sentiment. Admittedly, it did sound a bit of a mouthful - but then I thought so is ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter’, and that did pretty well!”
Given that the 70s and 80s provide such a rich pool of automotive inspiration, key marques are reimagined, though one particular manufacturer stood out from an early age.
“You could pin that initial epiphany on the 928 in the Tom Cruise film Risky Business (1983). It looked so ahead of its time. There were plenty of angular designs about, with the likes of the Countach, Esprit and the TR7 - well, I was bought up in Northampton so the TR7 was considered exotic. So the 928 was super smooth, round and sexy in comparison, and I think the film helped!”
Porsche ownership followed, inspired once again by the big screen. “After seeing Steve McQueen wind down those French roads in his 911 in Le Mans, I simply had to have one!” So out went David’s 80’s Mercedes SL and in came a 1969 912 from Tower Porsche for £8K… “Well this was the early 2000s!” Further along the road there was a 1972 911T from Chelsea Cars, an impulse purchase designed to alleviate a hangover set him back a reasonable £17K.
“To this day I would still say this was the best car I’ve ever owned.”
This appreciation for classic automotive design drives the creative process for LDOTA, coupled with a desire to create something individual.
“I’m trying to create something that sums up a mood around the car. I love contrasting colours, like in the Countach print or the decadence of having a Testarossa room. The Porsche print feels like it could be an old ad. Interiors now all look the same, so I really wanted to include a Porsche in my first series to celebrate those striking cockpits,” says David.
“A couple of years ago I’d bought a gold 3.2 Carrera with Pinstripe cloth. So my own car was the inspiration for the 'Inside Out’ print. I love those deep browns and golds, those old fabrics have such a lush 70s feel.”
Despite the headlines, the show isn’t over just yet for the automobile as a statement of good taste. A resurgence in appreciation via a new-generation of enthusiasts is rightly re-evaluating those 80s icons.
“Just when I was worried about younger types not experiencing what we’ve all known for years, I’ve began noticing young drivers in Mk1 and Mk2 Golfs, classic BMWs, 924s and 944s. They’re all achingly cool, cheaper than an EV and better looking than affordable new cars. It gives me faith for the future!”
That future includes further creative reimagining of the Porsche legend, yet the next interpretation may not include a car as we know it. “But when you see it, it will undeniably be Porsche and very 80s.”
Photo - John Mac Photography