In early 2020, veteran automotive writer Axel Catton and veteran automotive photographer Michele Zumbrun were looking for a project they could work on during the pandemic. With publisher TeenNews, they settled on the idea that became Lost Beauties: 50 Cars That Time Forgot, a new, lavishly illustrated coffee-table book that offers an in-depth look at impressive, outlandish, or just plain weird vintage vehicles that have disappeared from the (general) public imagination.
Starting with 300 images shot by Zumbrun over the past decade, Caton and his colleagues each made a list of 50 cars they wanted to include in the book. “About 45 were identical on all three lists,” Catton said. “We said, Wow, that’s something. That made our job a lot easier.”
Cars were selected based on certain criteria. “I wanted to look at the pictures and have them talk directly to me about something specific about the car. And I wanted people to figure out something they thought they knew, but didn’t, Caton said.
Catton said he loves every car included, but he was able to pick a few standouts that really represented the book’s core concept—clarifying forgotten, or unknown, automotive history.
“L’oeuf Electric from 1942- that totally impressed me. It is an electric-powered, egg-shaped car that looks like a combination of BMW Isetta and smart car. What is amazing is how futuristic it was, and it was built in World War II-occupied Paris, when all the materials that made it were rationed and electricity was not exactly common or standard,” Catton said. “He had to be there.”
He is also a big fan of the 1948 relay cover car. “He boasts a whole book. When they look at it, most people will say, ‘What is this?’ They’ll look at the grille and think that Alfa or Jag. But it was designed by a Swiss designer who built the bodies for Delahaye and other cars at the time,” Catton said. “But this is the car the designer built entirely for himself, and not as a commission for a customer. That’s why it’s so wacky.”
And then there’s the buccaneer TAV 8-32 Berlin Souchik from 1932, an impossible loach, front-wheel-drive French entry, sporting 24-inch wheels, powered by a V-16 engine, and powered by famed coachbuilder Souchik. “It’s an under-slung chassis, so it looks incredibly low for its time. It’s a front-drive car, but it doesn’t look the same, it has big fenders and running boards. The wheels are bigger than the car,” Catton said. “You could spend an entire day walking around it and being fascinated by it.”
youngest car in lost beautiesvery light venturi fetisho–Not 20 years old. When asked what vehicles he would include in a book like this 50 years in the future, Catan had some excellent answers. “There are fewer and fewer individual one-offs now, what with all the safety regulation and legislation. Maybe the two-door Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit converted by Hopper, the Sultan of Brunei’s car. Or maybe something of this Dutch guy Niels van Roij Cars that make bespoke cars,” said Catan. “Or an Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato. They are very cute, and extremely rare. As soon as they are 20 to 25 years old, they will become Pebble Beach cars. “
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