Automotive Art at the Museum

Sometimes I get to write articles with fascinating story lines, long-ish word counts, and fantastic pictures. Like this one for the New York Times Autos section, on the Allure of the Automobile at Portland Art Museum.

The cars themselves were great, beautiful, worthy of art museum treatment. But the really interesting part came in talking to Don Urquhart. He was in charge of the logistics of bringing in some of the largest, heaviest passenger cars ever built. These are also some of the most rare and expensive vehicles on the planet.

I got to report this story in the way I like best. First came the preliminary research and interviews to make sure I knew what I was talking about. Then I spent about seven hours at the museum the day the first several cars were moved in. Steve McQueen’s racing Jag dripped oil onto the cardboard placed on the museum floor. I heard the Le Mans-winning Ferrari get fired up. I watched a guy’s hand get pinched between an expensive outdoor statue and a more expensive 70-year-old tank of a car. I heard his friend make fun of him.

The week before, I had written a draft with 400 words too many. When I got home that night, I had to add the precise details I had witnessed that day and cut lots of extraneous bits. I turned it in that night (only 200 words over my assigned count). It was was on my editor’s desk in New York the next morning, and by Friday it was online — along with a gorgeous slide show by Leah Nash.