Wed Feb 26 2014 15:55:08 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)
Found among the holdings of collectors — any of the millions of enthusiasts who accumulate stamps, coins, autographed baseballs, ticket stubs, anything from bottle caps to Rembrandts — are both the detritus of civilization and the objects that recall its finest hours.
Whether automobiles are to be categorized with the former or the latter can be debated, but there is little doubt that collecting them has become a growth industry — or that the New Jersey industrial designer Sam Mann has some of the most fascinating examples.
This 1958 Ferrari 335S went through several owners before landing in the hands of a Seattle collector, who sold it last year.Collecting: Cost $1,000, Sold for $21 Million FEB. 21, 2014
Mr. Mann’s collection includes rarities like a 1910 Kline Kar — only two are known to still exist — to mass production models like a 1964 Buick Riviera, a car that he considers one of the finest post-World War II designs. At present the population of his garages is 46 — “down from 50,” he said with a smile — including vehicles sufficiently special to have taken Best in Show honors at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Élégance four times, the automotive equivalent of winning four World Series.
First staged in 1950, the Pebble Beach concours, which takes place on the Monterey Peninsula of California each August, has attracted entries from as many as 19 countries. Its entry list has included, in different years, all six Bugatti Royales produced, 23 of the 36 Ferrari 250 GTOs and what is considered the world’s oldest car, the 1886 Benz.
Repeat winners of the best-in-show honors are not unknown, most notably by large organizations. The concours has been won six times by the Nethercutt family, whose museum in Sylmar, Calif., has about 250 automobiles, and cars from the Harrah collection in Reno have won four times, the last in 1976.
Mr. Mann’s four winners were a 1932 Chrysler LeBaron-body Speedster (in 1991), a 1938 Delage D8-120 de Villars cabriolet (1996), a 1934 Voisin C15 ETS Saliot Roadster (2002) and a 1938 Delage Portout Aerodynamic Coupe (2005).
Those brands may be largely unfamiliar to casual observers, but some of Mr. Mann’s other cars are more widely recognized makes. They include a 1956 Ferrari Tour de France coupe, three Duesenbergs — one previously owned by Clark Gable — and a 1939 Alfa Romeo 8c 2900 roadster, of which just 16 were built.
While a number of Mr. Mann’s museum-quality prewar models are displayed in a gallerylike space at his home, there is no velvet-rope mentality in evidence. A second garage holds models like a Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing and a 1955 Chrysler 300, both regularly driven on local roads. Nor is he immune to nostalgia; there is the 1934 Ford cabriolet he restored just after he and his wife, Emily, were married.
Among several open-wheel racecars are a 1926 Miller on a Locomobile chassis and prewar Indianapolis 500 cars powered by Chrysler and Duesenberg engines.
The weakness for racecars and vintage racing may be a result of growing up in the Northern New Jersey city of Paterson. There, he lived just around the corner, as he puts it, from what was known as Gasoline Alley East, where Midwestern drivers spending the summer in the Northeast rented garages during the Depression.
Mr. Mann learned how to handle a paint gun from one of them, and when he restored his first car, a 1941 Ford convertible acquired as a college junior, he spent a full day applying 21 coats of lacquer, he said.
Mr. Mann has been restoring cars ever since, and as is the case with many of the owners of rare automobiles, winning at Pebble Beach is an annual goal. The only other concours he has entered in recent years is at Amelia Island, in Florida.
Some collectors specialize in specific marques or eras; Mr. Mann’s cars are reflective of his background, both professional and personal, and despite the apparently wide range of machinery, there is a definite focus. His career as an engineer and designer accounts for the variety: early classics for their elegant style, open-wheel single seaters serving as reminders of the dirt-track competitors of his youth.
Mr. Mann’s career includes time spent working with Eliot Noyes, who studied under the Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius and who managed the landmark project of giving IBM its corporate look. It has also resulted in 81 patents of his own, ranging from some involving women’s personal care products to others for improved sailboat winches. He is a trustee of the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif.
Many people who own one or two collectible cars do their own work — the enthusiast restoring an old Volkswagen in the back of the barn — but most owners of large, important collections, who are often too busy or lacking in the mechanical ability to do the work themselves, pay professionals for their skills. (After all, you don’t have to paint like Picasso in order to own one.)
That mind-set was evident in the 1,433-vehicle collection of William Harrah — all of them either perfectly restored or in the process, complete with a research library — which in its day was arguably the world’s best. After Mr. Harrah died in 1978, his collection was broken up and the residue, about 200 cars, is in a Reno museum.
Shops staffed by skilled people with deep historical resources do the restoration and the maintenance — and thorough restorations, down to the last nut and bolt, can start at $500,000 and go into the millions.
Mr. Mann takes a different approach. “I’ve restored them myself when I was younger, a ’41 Cadillac, an Austin-Healey, a ’34 Ford,” he said. As a consequence he likes to be there when the work is done. He has used outside restorers, and there have been times when he has had a full-time restoration staff.
“It is easier to make the decisions when you’re right there and you can see the problem,” he said.
One of Mr. Mann’s most interesting cars is a 1937 Bugatti Type 57SC cabriolet he has owned for 14 years. It was once the property of a General Motors vice president for engineering, Charles Chayne, who used it in the 1950s as the basis for an engineering study and as the test bed for a new Buick aluminum-block V8 and automatic transmission.
When Mr. Mann bought the car, the Buick engine and transmission were installed, and it also came with a Bugatti engine as well as a complete set of engineering drawings done by G.M.
Mr. Mann does not discuss prices, except to note that a number of years ago he was able to pick up a Jaguar XK150 for $125, and that included a parts car. It is a matter of record, however, that he paid $1.3 million when he bought the Bugatti in 1999, and when he sold his 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster at a 2011 auction in Monterey, Calif., it brought $9.7 million.
Auctions have taken away much of the enjoyment of collecting, Mr. Mann said.
“I get to thinking about those years I spent seeking out cars all over the world, from ads, dealer calls and other leads and how much fun and adventure it was, as well as all the research I had to do,” he said. “Now you open up an auction catalog and sit there, bored, in the hope that someone won’t outbid you. No travel to new places, no real childish anticipation, no new friends, no test drives through wonderful French, or British or American countryside.
“Nothing but commerce,” he said.
As if the shows and restorations were not enough to keep him busy, Mr. Mann is also working on a book, the subject being the automobile as fine art. But progress has slowed of late — he’s working on more patents.
Sat Nov 30 2013 20:58:24 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)
The French film daredevil and star of 'Breathless' was known for his action hero adventures; but it's less well known that Jean-Paul Belmondo also loved cars. No wonder he looks so pleased to be slipping into the driver's seat of a Renault Alpine A220...
An article for the French magazine 'Paris Match' brought together two of the nation's heroes: the photographer Philippe le Tellier and Jean-Paul Belmondo who, in the course of his acting life, would appear in some 85 films. The article gave the movie star and self-confessed car enthusiast the chance to taste the thrill of driving the prototype Alpine A220 which – with its 3.0-litre V8 Gordini engine – was set to uphold national honour in the 1968 Le Mans 24 Hours. Yet, in the end, only one of the four A220s survived to reach the finish line of the great French race. Unlike his American alter ego Steve McQueen, Jean-Paul Belmondo never actually raced, leaving that to his son Paul, who drove in Formula 1 in the 1990s. But among the treasures in his garage were a Ferrari 250 GT Cabriolet, a Maserati Ghibli and even a Morgan 4/4. On Bebel's wrist (as the French affectionately nicknamed their action hero) was always a Rolex Daytona (recently sold at auction in Geneva). But what particularly impressed us was that, for his Alpine A220 experience, the star chose to wear not jeans and a leather jacket, but the outfit of a rather stylish gentleman with petrol in his blood.
Wed May 29 2013 01:27:20 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)
1954 Cadillac owned by Liberace. Most of the restyling featured on Liberace's car was found in the piano-keyboard interior upholstery designed by Sam Barris of Barris Kustoms. The interior was assembled by Bob Hauser of Carson Top Shop. The black and white Naugahyde keys were individually sewn as were the initial "L" and Liberace's famous candelabra sewn in the back arm panels. Bottom parts of the front and rear seat were covered with parts of the score from his theme song "I'll be seeing you". Liberace's car won the interior design award from Motor Trend Magazine in 1954.
Thu Mar 21 2013 14:15:37 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)
The last car Ernest Hemingway ever owned was a 1955 Chrysler New Yorker Convertible. After the legendary writer shot himself in 1961, the car effectively vanished from public view. Unbeknownst to the rest of the world, the convertible was in Cuba, getting passed around between the members of one family. Some 50 years after Hemingway died, a determined writer unearthed the car and began the laborious process of restoring it to its former glory. Here in the States, that would be as simple as calling up the local parts store and doing some quick ordering, but the US trade embargo against Cuba put a crimp in that plan.
The documentary Cuban Soul follows writer David Soul as he attempts to overcome the embargo and get the car back on the road with more than a little help from the ingenious craftsmen on the island. You can check out the trailer for the film below. The project is in need of generous supporters, so head over to the Red Earth Studio site to learn how you can lend a hand.
Tue Jan 29 2013 16:01:04 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)
In March 1959, Sports Illustrated put Phil Hill on its cover with the tagline, “Sports Car Driver Of the Year.” He was photographed leaning against the hood of a 250 Testa Rossa with his legs crossed and a smile on his tanned face. After years of anguish he looked happy and confident. “I’m always afraid when I race,” he told the magazine, but he persisted “because I do it well.” That was Hill’s career in distillate—a debilitating apprehension overcome by the draw of automotive refinement. He was ready for a summer long push to prove that an American, an outsider and misfit once relegated to sports cars, could earn the highest laurel of a European sport.
Hill had become a star, in spite of himself. At one of the many cocktail parties preceding the races a pretty girl sidled up to Graham Hill, a British driver with a David Niven pencil mustache. “Oh, I’m sorry,” she said, blushing when she realized her mistake. “I thought you were the famous Mr. Hill.” - Michael Cannell at
Sun Dec 23 2012 01:45:14 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)
Nicky Bobby goes NASCAR!! Thanks to a gift from beloved son Alex Candee, I channeled my inner Will Farrell of TALLADEGA NIGHTS at Rusty Wallace Racing Experience at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway -- yeee haaa!!! I was first in the 12-lap shootout (yes, there WERE other cars, 6 I think) and I'm just waitin' for that call from Hendrick Motorsports.... quite different technique than my last drive on the NH road course in the DB4GT in the early 1990s! My long time Aston buddy, Nick Candee.
Sat Dec 01 2012 03:50:12 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)
The history of ‘Lamborghini Automobili’ officially starts in 1963. Nevertheless, we must consider the far-off roots of this event, and they are the roots of Ferruccio Lamborghini. Born in 1916, this capable, impetuous, strong-willed Taurus was the leading character in the foundation of the company and the early phases of its extraordinary history.
By the time he decided to build a factory of luxury sports cars, Ferruccio was already a very wealthy man. In the period following World War II, he founded his tractor factory, which he launched with energy and determination, creating a major point of reference in this industry. Other business followed, and he amassed his fortune at the perfect time, before his fiftieth birthday. By the early Sixties, Lamborghini was a powerful and successful man who knew exactly what he wanted, but when he said he would build the best super sports car ever, many people thought he was mad. Constructing that kind of car was viewed as an unexplainable extravagance, a hazardous leap in the dark, and something that would squander his fortune without ever turning a profit.
He started working on this project in late 1962, and by May 1963 he had already founded ‘Automobili Ferruccio Lamborghini’, buying a large plot of land in Sant’Agata Bolognese, about 25 kilometres from Bologna, to build a new large and ultramodern factory. Because of the experience he had gained with his other companies, he was in a position to set up the best facilities for his purpose: a very functional structure that, at the time, was unrivalled in its field. The enormous and well-lit central building was adjacent to the office building, so that the management could constantly monitor the production situation. This was ideal for Lamborghini, who would often roll up his shirtsleeves and go to work on the cars personally when he saw something that wasn’t done just the way he wanted.
Thu Nov 29 2012 01:44:41 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)
Wolfgang von Trips was never one to languish in a hotel. He had not entirely outgrown his sickly childhood, but workouts and weightlifting gave him a robust, barrel-chested presence. No racer of the time looked more handsome in a polo shirt and goggles, his cheeks colored by sun and smudged with exhaust. Hearts fluttered. Women gravitated to him, and he returned their flirtations in gentlemanly fashion. “If he saw a girl he liked he really zeroed in on her,” Louise King said. “He was good looking, glamorous and, of course, he was a count.”
One evening Louise King was having drinks on the aft deck of a yacht docked in Monte Carlo with von Trips and a couple of girls. With barely a parting word von Trips slipped off with a redhead named Zoe. “He always went off to some quiet place with them to make out,” King said. “He always kept them away from us.”
Von Trips had a wealth of affairs, none of them serious. As if to capture everything about his new life—as if to savor it with a survivor’s relish—von Trips traveled with a 16 mm movie camera. Viewed years later, his homemade movies are a montage of preposterously beautiful women in bathing suits and ski outfits, all of them laughing and turning fond eyes on the cameraman. More at
Tue Aug 28 2012 20:18:55 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)
The TV psychologist Dr. Phil, 61, is short one classic car after his 1957 Chevrolet convertible was stolen from a Burbank, Calif. auto repair shop.
TMZ reports that the star and classic car collector (full name: Phillip McGraw) had been attempting to start the beloved vehicle, suffering transmission problems, at his Beverly Hills home. He finally had the car transported via flatbed to the repair shop. Hours later, the shop informed McGraw that the convertible, worth $100,000, had been stolen. Law enforcement sources told TMZ that the thiefs smashed a roll-up door at the repair shop in order to swipe the classic car.
In 1972, Paul Newman drove a Lotus Elan to victory at a track in Thompson, Connecticut; In 1976 Paul won the first Sports Car Club of America national title and SCCA's President's Cup (the Top Honor); he turned professional in 1977. Then, get this one: In 1979, he raced the 24 Hours of LeMans, the most prestigious endurance race in the world. He captured second place, then won four SCAA titles that year! Steve McQueen would have been proud of Paul's win as a co-driver of "24 Hours of Daytona" driving a Ford Mustang GTS-class victory---becoming the oldest driver to win the race! Last year, his car caught fire at that same race and he escaped the burning car only to belt himself into the team's prototype car finishing 51st (due to mechanical trouble). At 80, he was the oldest to compete.
Steve McQueen in his Jaguar XK-SS. This was Jaguar's street version of the racing D-Type which won at LeMans and throughout Europe during the 1950s. Barely enough creature comforts to qualify for the road and the power was off-the-charts. McQueen and his SS were the perfect soul mates.
Sun Jul 22 2012 02:58:58 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)
Cockpit of the "Most Famous Car in the World," James Bond's 1964 Aston Martin. Often referred to as a model DB5, it is in fact a late series DB4. Sold at a London auction in 2011 for $4.5M, the iconic film vehicle now resides with a Cincinnati, Ohio collector.