The 1929 orange and cream-colored Cord Cabriolet convertible, once owned by Frank Lloyd Wright, drew oohs and ahhs like the Wright-designed filling station that was unveiled Friday in the Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum.
The flashy automobile suggested a gleaming Creamsicle on wheels.
Hundreds of invited guests showed their approval of the automobile on loan from the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum in Auburn, Ind., and for Buffalo’s newest Wright attraction, the filling station housed in a new, 40,000-square-foot glass-and-steel atrium.
“The car is just amazing, underneath this unbelievable gas station Frank Lloyd Wright designed,” said Christopher Goshkarian of Washington, D.C., who timed a local visit for the occasion.
“I love the 1920s and ’30s cars, and this one fits perfectly with the station. I am impressed by the whole thing Jim and Mary Ann have done here,” Terry Sprague of West Falls said of museum owners James T. and Mary Ann Sandoro.
The car was America’s first front-wheel drive automobile, according to museum docent Tim Green. Features include curvy fenders that slope into running boards and a rumble seat in the back rather than a trunk, with two steps on the outside to climb in.
“When the weather’s nice, it’s awesome, and when the weather’s lousy, it’s horrible,” Green said of the exposed area.
Wright is believed to have bought the automobile in the early 1950s.
The gas station addition was years in the making.
Political dignitaries were on hand to usher in a new era for the car museum. So was movie actor William Fichner, a Cheektowaga native and car enthusiast with a 1970 roadrunner in Los Angeles, where he lives. He was immediately struck by the car’s color.
“Most cars back then were made black. The orange and the obvious detailing on it is, well, wow,” Fichner said.
Wright was known to favor cars painted a Cherokee red, and James Sandoro said that may have been the color when he drove it.
“As far as we know, when the car was donated 15 or 20 years ago, it was sent to a restoration shop, and the wrong color was painted. But this color has sort of grown on everybody,” Sandoro laughed.
The filling station drew raves from the crowd, providing just the latest reason for Wright fans and car buffs to come to Buffalo.
John Conlan, former editor of WNY Heritage magazine, said he appreciated the chance for people to see the filling station Wright once imagined for the corner of Cherry Street and Michigan Avenue, about a mile from the museum at 201 Seneca St. and Michigan Avenue. Wright designed it in 1927.
Sandoro acquired the licensing and building rights to the filling station in 2002 from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.
“I like to have Frank Lloyd Wright’s design speak for itself, and that is what Jim has done here. He has let people just look and enjoy the intricacies of this design,” Conlan said.
Buffalo resident Ed Hennessy was also thrilled.
“Wright was a genious – a raving lunatic, but a genius,” Hennessy said. “The gas station was always meant to be here, so it’s like it came home.”