The XX Factor

Book of the Week: “Sirens of Chrome”

At the start of this new decade, from the pulpit of his occasional, grandiose New York Times column , Bono called for the “return of the automobile as sexual object.” He was referring to the lines and curves of the cars themselves, but it’s no secret that car manufacturers have long relied on the marketing strategy of placing their wares in close proximity to beautiful women for a little borrowed allure. The pretty-girls-using-transportation motif may have moved elsewhere lately- bike blogs are filled with photos of cycling ingenues, in it for love rather than money -but for most of the 20 th century, it rested solidly with the auto. So a history of the women used to sell cars doubles as a shorthand history of the evolving tastes of consumers-in women and cars, and how best to objectify both. Margery Krevsky’s Sirens of Chrome: The Enduring Allure of Auto Show Models , a Mini Cooper-proportioned coffee-table book, is a visual romp that’s a bit short on narrative, context, and criticism but so seductively fun to look at, you won’t care. And that fact tells you about all you need to know about how the car-model thing works, right?

Click here for our bonus slide-show of auto-show models .

( Images courtesy of the Archives of the Chicago Automobile Trade Association and the National Automotive History Collection at Detroit Public Library , used with permission of the author. )