The beauty of having a passion like cars is how you instantly can find connections with people through that common interest. Lately, a round of incredible shots and stories have come from one such connection I was fortunate enough to make back in my home state of Tennessee this past year. Ben Battles has been a staple in our blog as a featured contributor for his tenacious drive to find engaging stories and supply some of his creative shots that display both his passion and his subjects’ passions for our shared interest in quirky European cars. This past week, Ben made a trip to the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville where he was given the chance to get up close and personal with this gorgeous piece of automotive history: the Alfa Romeo SZ Coupe.
While the SZ itself deserves attention, the car has had its fair share of articles and coverage over the years. It’s a raw, experimental, and defiantly Italian sports car. Not much more could be added by what a late-twenty-something writer could provide. However, the emotions and meaning behind the cars, and those like it at Lane, are something we can certainly speak to.
Ben was invited by his friend Chris, an employee of the museum, to shoot some behind the scenes footage and take an in-depth look at the SZ, among other interesting cars collected by the folks at Lane. With a penchant for oddballs, significant pieces of history, and technologic turning points, the museum and folks like Ben and myself have common interests in these automotive black sheep. The geeky interest we take in pieces of engineering like this is where Ben and I found common ground over his photography, which makes his coverage a perfect pairing with the attitude held by the museum.
The striking design, angular shape, high-performance V6, and strikingly Italian functionality of the SZ has drawn a certain kind of enthusiast to their fanbase. The car becomes more art than functional transportation, as it demands an unconditional love for all its not so subtle engineering oversights. It could be described as uncomfortable, overpriced, underproduced, under-engineered, and poorly wired, but it still demands a certain kind of interest.
Why? Like a girlfriend you can’t do more than defend despite a poor attitude and lack of reciprocity, the SZ is unapologetic but still tantalizing. During the drive Ben took, the windshield wipers developed a mind of their own (something I have some experience with in my E30), the blinkers decided when and how they would work, and the iconic brake lights didn’t show up for work that day. Regardless, anyone lucky enough to see the car can’t help but gawk and remember a time when to be a car enthusiast, it meant you had to own an Alfa.
Nothing but love for these cars is what they experience in the care of Lane Motor Museum. Where most places lock up their cars on display, handle them with white gloves, and an undeserved caution, Lane actually drives their cars. You can find their Citroen 2CV regularly parked in the gravel lot outside Clawson’s deli picking up sandwiches for the crew, see their priceless showpieces running around Nashville, or catch up with the approachable folks that represent the museum on the first of each month at the Cool Springs Cars and Coffee. What makes them special is their appreciation for cars as cars, something Ben and I agree is important when it comes to preserving the legacy of something designed to impress not just as a visual representation of achievement, but one you can experience firsthand behind the MOMO harlequin wheel with your hand on the matching shift knob, rowing through the gears, and listening to the Italian V6 sing its incredible note. If you find yourself in Nashville, be sure to stop in and see the eclectic collection of vehicles at the Lane Motor Museum for a walk through automotive history.