Nice Cars! 

Every so often, great cars find their way into non-automotive museums. The Museum of Modern Art in New York, for example, has three in its collection, including a Cisitalia and a Jaguar E-Type. Art museums around the world have showcased significant cars owned by wealthy individuals. Heck, even the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville has Elvis Presley's 1960 Series 75 Fleetwood Limousine on display. This sort of thing is not uncommon.

Be that as it may, the cars you see here are special. Fashion designer and noted car collector Ralph Lauren has agreed to display a portion of his collection at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. Each was selected by the museum's curator, Rodolphe Rapetti, and they are historically significant, every one. All of them are gorgeous, though not all fall under the traditional definition of beauty. All have been restored to a standard far exceeding the state under which they left the factory, but that's OK, because it's Ralph Lauren, and his bank accounts are large enough to allow him to do whatever he likes.

1930 Mercedes-Benz SSK "Count Trossi"

This is the one and only 1930 Mercedes-Benz SSK "Count Trossi," a custom-bodied version of an already pretty supercharged sports car. It was specially bodied for Count Carlo Felice Trossi, an Italian race car driver and car constructor. It looks the business.

1933 Bugatti Type 59 Grand Prix
Ettore Bugatti built many things: railway cars, road cars, engines, impossibly beautiful and well-organized factories. But he forever will be remembered for his racing cars. They were small, light and powered by engines that sounded like nothing so much as ripping calico. His machines largely defined the prewar motorsport designer's art. Nothing before or since has looked as gorgeous. Few cars of the era were so all-conquering, so successful at Bugatti's.
With few exceptions, Bugatti named his cars with simple "type" numbers. The Type 59 was his last Grand-Prix effort, essentially a modified version of the earlier Type 54. Most consider it the prettiest of Bugatti's GP cars, with the most elegant proportions. A crackling, rip-snorting, 3.3-liter straight eight sits beneath that long, elegant hood; it produced around 250 horsepower and was finished like a piece of fine jewelry. The engine case — that massive engine case! — was painstakingly machine-turned, like the inside of a fine pocket watch.
Lauren's 59 is chassis 59122, the first of the eight built. It finished second in the 1934 Belgian GP at the hands of Antonio Brivio, third at the '34 Coppa Acerbo and Spanish Grand Prix. Crazy-legend names like Achille Varzi, Tazio Nuvolari and Jean-Pierre Wilmille drove this car.
Chrysler would kill to build something so precise, so pretty, as this carb linkage, but it's pedestrian work for Bugatti.
1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900MM

This is the engine bay of an Alfa Romeo 8C 2900MM. It contains a 225-horsepower twin-supercharged straight eight designed for Grand Prix racing — essentially prewar 
Formula 1. This beautiful aluminum bauble is the work of an Italian genius named Vittorio Jano -- pronounced "yah-no" -- the brain behind much of Alfa's prewar motorsport success. It also powered the marque's Le Mans-winning 2300 sports car and the P3 Grand Prix car.
Let us leave you with this thought as you take in its beauty: Can you imagine someone building a modern Formula 1 car, then stuffing its engine into both a sports car and a grand tourer?
1938 Bugatti 57S Atlantic

A Bugatti again, but who's complaining? This is an Atlantic, one of just four built. Each had distinctive "spine" seam in the elegant, liquid bodywork. The 57 was a touring car designed by Jean Bugatti, Ettore Bugatti's son. The Atlantic was a specially bodied version based on Bugatti's 
Aérolithe concept of 1935. Because the Aérolithe was bodied in magnesium, its panels could not be welded or brazed and thus were riveted, hence the seam. All 57 Atlantics had aluminum bodies, but the seam was retained for style.
Interesting trivia: The S stood for 
surbaissé, which means "lowered" in French. Most people think it stood for "sport," as the 57 could be lowered only by using a purpose-built rear frame (the differential passed through it, rather than riding underneath) and a dry-sump lubrication system for the engine.
1955 Porsche 550 Spyder

Meet the Porsche 550 Spyder: It's small. It's silver. It's German, made of aluminum and weighs 1,500 pounds. 
James Dean died in one. The engine, a 110-horsepower 1.5-liter four-cam flat four designed by Dr. Ernst Fuhrmann, is legendary for its complexity. Setting the cam timing alone, a job that takes minutes on modern engines, takes hours on a Furhmann four-cam.
Just 90 of these 550 Spyders were built. That's a tiny number, but huge in this context. Most cars in this gallery had single-digit production runs. This is 550 number 5500061, the 61st Spyder built.
1957 Jaguar XKSS

In 1956, Jaguar suspended its factory racing efforts. Although the company had spent the better part of the last decade winning races with cars like the XK-120, 
C-Type and D-Type, it decided to cease official sanctioned competition following a tragic accident at the 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans. The brand's 250-horsepower, 150-mph D-Type, its most successful product to date, was left out in the cold, with no factory support.
Twenty-five sat in Coventry, already built, with no customers.
The XKSS was the answer. Here was a 
D-Type with a windshield, taillights, a passenger seat and not a whole lot else. When the car was unveiled at the New York auto show, the world went nuts. Unfortunately, a fire at the Jaguar factory stopped production when just 16 had been built. The car's tooling was destroyed, its future demolished. Each of those 16 still exists. Two were built after the fire, converted from D-Types already sold to customers. The car you see here, XKD33, is one of those.
Steve McQueen used one as a daily driver. So, you know, there's that, too.

1954 Ferrari 375 Plus

This 375 Plus is the first of many 
Ferraris in this gallery, a fact not lost on us. If you were possessed of Ralph Lauren's wherewithal, you would own a great many Ferraris, would you not? Of course you would
This one, a 375 Plus built in 1954, epitomizes the marque's early- to mid-1950s philosophy: simple chassis, simple bodywork, relatively large V12 It boasts a 4.9-liter version of Ferrari's so-called Lampredi V12 producing around 330 horsepower. Bodywork, predictably, is by Pinin Farina; the 375 Plus came early enough in the design house's lifetime that its two names had not yet merged into "
Five 375 Pluses were built. Lauren's is the fifth, chassis No. 0398. It was bought new by an Argentinean named Enrique Saenz Valiente, who used it to win the 1955 1000-km Buenos Aires endurance race
1958 Ferrari 250 TR

This is a 250 Testa Rossa. Perhaps you know what it is. Perhaps you know that "Testa Rossa" is Italian for "red head," and perhaps you are aware that the fenders are shaped like pontoons, or torpedoes, or the legs of a particularly attractive woman. Perhaps you are aware that it was born in Maranello.
Who are we kidding? Anyone with a pulse can tell this is a Ferrari. The specifics are unimportant. The 1957-58 250 TR (the name carried on with cars that were mechanically similar but looked quite different) is quite possibly the most recognizable vintage Ferrari. It was created for endurance and sports-car races the world over, most specifically the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The gorgeous bodywork was by Scaglietti. These days, even crappy ones are worth millions of dollars.
The "red head" bit refers to the 
valve covers on the car's V12, which were painted in crinkle-finish red paint. But you probably knew that.
1960 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta Scaglietti

Take a good look at this car. Then flip back a page and look at the Testa Rossa. Notice how the basic stance, the proportions, are similar? That's because, under the surface, they're the same car. This, the TR, the famed 
250 GTO — they all used a version of the same engine and chassis. (The 250 moniker described the capacity of a single cylinder, in this case for a 3.0-liter V12, in cubic centimeters.)
The SWB (short-wheelbase Berlinetta) variant of the 250 featured a nimble, shorter chassis and Pininfarina body executed by Sergio Scaglietti. Bodywork was either steel or aluminum and the V12 produced between 220 and 275 horsepower, depending on trim and intended use. Lauren's SWB, chassis No. 2035 GT, is an aluminum-bodied car raced in Portugal by Horácio Macedo. He acquired it in 1986.
1996 McLaren F1 LM

McLaren F1 is a legend. More than a decade after the last example rolled off the line — production took place from 1992 to 1998 — it remains the fastest naturally aspirated production car in history. Just 106 were built, and just five were LMs. The LM moniker stands for Le Mans, a designation honoring the company's unexpected success (1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 13th) at the 1995 running of the storied 24-hour French endurance race.
The LM was a celebration special, essentially McLaren's F1 GTR Le Mans racer made street legal. The ordinary — Ha! As if there were such a thing as an "ordinary" McLaren! — F1's stereo system and soundproofing were canned and the driver and passenger communicated through noise-canceling headphones. Seriously. Rubber suspension bushings were replaced with race-spec aluminum. The weight dropped to a bantamweight 2,300 pounds. The drivetrain, rear-mounted wing, brake cooling system and aerodynamic fripperies came from the GTR. Five were built, all of them painted papaya orange, McLaren's traditional racing hue.
Maybe that turns you on, maybe it doesn't. Regardless, one thing remains: At 691 hp — the LM features the GTR's competition-spec V12, but without the rules-mandated intake restrictors — the F1 LM was the most powerful F1 built Just over 2,000 pounds and almost 700 horsepower. This, folks, is what dreams are made of.