Whether a car buff or admirer of fine visuals, the Westport Library's new exhibit, "Art of the Automobile," is worth more than a driveby.

The exhibit of photo-realistic works by Ken Scaglia opened Friday evening at the library, and among the attendees were Ann Sheffer, wife of race car enthusiast Bill Scheffler; area artists like Leonard Everett Fisher and Roe Halper, and a young racer from Stamford named Sarah Edwards.

Edwards drives a 1,000-horsepower dragster called "Queen Bee," which Scaglia features in a painting featured in the exhibit. Edwards drives on the National Hot Rod Association circuit.

Scaglia has lived with his family in Weston more than 20 years, but he grew up in farmland Indiana. He was influenced by the excitement surrounding the Indianapolis 500 race, as well as a local gas station that housed a dragster. The streets of his childhood were filled by many of the classic cars collected today, and as a kid he endlessly drew muscle cars of every make.

"As a kid, I had a ride in a dune buggy, and it was great," he recalled Friday.

Regarding his initial paintings, Scaglia said, "I first copied the style of the artists I admired. Then I thought, `I can do this.' "

Scaglia's first work depicted a motorcycle -- a 1938 Harley Davidson. "It struck a chord," he said. "I started looking at cars and engines in a different way -- their design, craftsmanship. I was amazed at all the parts that move a car forward. I like the details and, if my work gets others, that's the gravy."

The artist favors cars made prior to 1970. "They have curves and chrome," he said. "After 1970, they got too smoothed out."

Asked about his own current "ride," Scaglia chuckled, "I drive a fuel-efficient Honda CRV," adding quickly, "but I used to drive a Triumph TR-6."

Scaglia also owned a 1971 Carmen Ghia, which he described as "pristine" but had to sell to be able to attend college.

The artist described his approach to art: "I love acrylic because it dries fast. I also hate acrylic because it dries fast," he said.

He begins with a photo and then creates a composition, which he builds on. Each painting takes a minimum of 15 hours to create, with some taking as long as 80 hours. "The more details and reflections, the more time it takes," he said.

Scaglia's wife, Jan, a graphic designer who met Ken in grad school, remarked: "He does most of his painting in the summer, often morning to night," she said. "Despite that, we are very proud of him."

Scaglia says he keeps finding new cars that inspire him to paint "I go to the Caffeine & Carburetors Sunday meet in New Canaan," he said. "I saw a Corvette there that has interest."

"Art of the Automobile" runs through Jan. 8 in the Great Hall of the Westport Library. For information, check: http://bit.ly/1gegZXm