The question came up recently asking what are the most beautiful machines ever made by man.  So, I thought I would post my list.  I did not chose these machines because they are the fastest, strongest or best performers in their fields.  I chose them because they spark an emotional, sensual, visceral reaction at the base of my brain — They are beautiful.

You will notice that the list is skewed toward transportation.  My personal aesthetic sensibilites undoubtedly contribute to this bias, but I also think that vehicles occupy a sweet-spot in industrial design.  They are durable enough that the effort to make them beautiful is worthwhile and yet not so expensive or purpose built that utility completely overides other considerations.  This list also specifically includes machines and not man’s other creations such as clothing, architecture or purely artistic works.  Those may have to be the subject of another list sometime.

Think I missed something?  I’m sure you’ll let me know.

10.  Bugatti Type 57S Atlantic

We start the list with a pretty exclusive beauty.  Only four were made, and only two survive today.

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9.  Oil Refinery at Night

There are a number of refineries along I-15 in North Salt Lake.  I use to drive past them every day on my way to work.  In the early morning with the fog rolling in off of the Lake and the waste gas flaring, they were amazingly beautiful.

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8.  Beechcraft Model 17 Staggerwing

The potent radial engine out front combined with the smooth curves and delicate lines so ably capture the strength and elegance of the Art Deco aesthetic.

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7.  J Class Yachts

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face and a grey dawn breaking.

– John Masefield

There is just something about the image of a ship, sails taught and running before the wind, that captures the imagination.  And I don’t think any other ship comes as close to the pure expression of the ideal.

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6.  Macbook Air

Pictures do not do justice to any of these machines, but especially this one.  The smooth lines and simplicity are compelling.  I still have to fondle it everytime I go into an Apple store.

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5.  Supermarine Spitfire

The inclusion of this most iconic of aircraft needs no justification.  However, (because I know it will come up if more than one person ever reads this) I considered and intentially left our the P-51 Mustang.  While the Mustang is undoubtedly a more capable aircraft, it is nowhere near as beautiful.

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4.  Mac Motorcycles Peashooter

I love motorcycles, and there a lot of them that could have made it onto this list.  But this offering from Mac Motorcycles so perfectly reflects an elemental motorcycleness that it had to be at the top (even though it hasn’t actually been made yet).

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3.  Harry Winston Opus X

This watch is exquisite even in these still photos, but you really must see the movement in motion to appreciate the true genius of the design.

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2.  Nemesis NXT

An aeronautical siren — a creature so beautiful and so sinister that even though you know it wants to kill you, you can’t help yearning to touch it.

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1.  Astin Martin DB9

This car balances a sublime harmony between elegance and animal athleticism.  Plenty of sports cars look fast, but this one exudes power and sensuality like the love child of Mac Truck and a Lotus Elise.

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Honorable Mentions — because 10 is never enough.

1934 Chrysler Airflow

(I had this at number 10, but the curves on that Bugatti . . . )  We like to romanticize beauty as universal and enduring, but it sometimes shows itself to be driven by cultural norms.  The flowing lines of the Chrysler Airflow push all the right buttons for me, but its initial reception generated all the enthusiam of a Milli Vanilli reunion tour.

I love this picture of the Airflow next to a Union Pacific M10000 streamliner

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General Dynamics F-16 Falcon

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Louis XIII Fowling Piece

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“Mallard” LNER Class A4 4468 Steam Locomotive

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It is a little hard to see in the photos, but all the black surfaces on this motorcycle are coated with truck bed liner.

It might be ugly as @#$%, but there is no damage when you load your bike with a pallet of bricks!

I can just see the Craig’s List ad now.  “For sale, Serious Motorcycle Trunk, includes attached BMW R1200ST.  Great for hauling the keg up the Dragon’s Tail.”

LurrayLoopI took a ride Saturday morning up through Luray, including Fort Valley Road. One of the hairpin turns on this road is realistically posted at 5 mph. I think it safe to say that the road qualifies as technical when the speed limit is in the single digits.

Fort Valley Road is like this pretty much all the way from Front Royal to Luray. A wonderful drive that would have been even better if huge swaths of the road had not been recently graveled.

Tight right hander into the shade, front tire slipping on unseen gravel, tire catching again and inducing tank slapping front end wobble . . . pulling it out and not having to clean one’s undergarments — priceless.


Highway 211 from Luray to Sperryville – simply brilliant motorcycle road, “high crash area” notwithstanding.


Good to see that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Sperryville, Virginia.


I am watching the Valencia round of the 2009 World Superbike championship.  Ben Spies, the only American in the series, has just crashed out of race 1 after winning three of the four races already run this year.  In honor of this tragedy.  I bring you the most impressive motorcycle crash I have ever seen.

Under no circumstances should you show this to your non-motorcycling significant other — at least not if you ever want to ride a motorcycle again.

Akira Yanagawa at Monza in 1998.

Harley Davidson today announced that it will begin production on a more environmentally friendly motorcycle.  


Citing Harley’s already impressive mileage figures, a spokesman for the American icon said that Harley felt they could “make the most impact by using renewable resources in the construction of the motorcycle itself.”

The spokesman went on to describe the bike as a fusion of San Francisco sensibilities with Alabama know how.

Asked about the inspiration for the design, the spokesman said, “Well, we had some old pallets lying around, and one of the boys says, ‘Hey, wood comes from the environment.'”

(ht commentator Top Gear)