All posts by Howard Koby

Howard graduated with honors from the Art Center College of Design in California. He has been a photographer and automotive journalist for 35 years out of his Los Angeles studio. He has been published in Hot Rod, AutoWeek, Road & Track, Car and Driver, Jaguar Journal, Forza, Vintage Motorsport, Classic Motorsports, Robb Report, Motor Trend Classic, Hemmings Muscle Machines, and 50 Years of Road & Track (MBI Publishing). He has served on the Advisory Committee of the Transportation Design Department at Art Center College of Design. He is the author of the books Top Fuel Dragsters of the 1970s and Pro Stock Dragsters of the 1970s, both available on

Eye Candy: Shelby GT350 50th anniversary and reunion

Photos by Howard Koby

Willow Springs Raceway was built in 1953 as one of the first purpose-built road courses in the United States. Back in the day, people wondered why someone would build a racetrack on a barren so-called wasteland out in the desert well beyond Los Angeles.

The track was designed and built by California racer Bill Pollack, land-owner John Mathewson and John Hart, an actor who spent one season as the Lone Ranger in the television series when Clayton Moore was involved in a contract dispute.

Almost all of the track, which featured major elevation changes and very challenging corners, could be viewed from the pits.

In mid-February, the Los Angeles Shelby American Automobile Club rented Willow Springs to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Shelby Ford Mustang GT350’s first victory, recorded half a century earlier with Ken Miles driving at Green Valley Raceway in Texas.

The original 1965 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350R was conceived and designed by Peter Brock, though at the time Brock had limitations from Ford. Those limitations included “time to produce”and “cost to create” and led to concessions. Brock knew that while the car they build was great, it was not the best they might have done.

Fast forward several decades. The Original Venice Crew, as that Shelby American team came to be known, got back together for a reunion and decided to build the car they couldn’t so many years before, a car with an independent rear suspension like Brock wanted.

So Brock, Ted Sutton, Duane Carling, and Jim Marietta got two K-Code ’65 Mustang fastbacks and used them to create the Shelby Mustang Competition Model GT350”R” as Brock had originally designed them — without concessions.

But with a fiberglass hood, repositioned front suspension, Plexiglas rear window, Plexiglas door windows, roll bar and, as the team originally intended, an IRS (one car, the other got the old live axle).

This brilliant automotive endeavor was masterfully executed at Brock’s garage in Henderson, Nevada.

While completion of the project went down to the wire with many all nighters, the two iconic ponies where galloping around the Willow Springs racetrack bright and early on a Friday morning for test runs and looked fantastic challenging the 2.5-mile road course with beautiful rolling hills as a backdrop.

The picture perfect Shelby celebration weekend included a reunion of the original members of the Shelby American Team, open track time for Ford Mustangs and Ford-powered vehicles old and new, a Los Angeles Shelby American Auto Club car show featuring Mustangs, Cobras and Special Interest vehicles (with trophies awarded to all classes), and a banquet with the OVC discussing the 1965 Mustang project with Master of Ceremonies Randy Richardson, president of LASAAC, and joined by William Deary of The Carroll Collection, a museum which is a tribute to the automotive genius of Carroll Shelby.

Oh, and remember how Ford wouldn’t allow an IRS on the original GT350? Well, 50 years later, such a setup is a standard production on the 2015 Ford Mustang.

Eye Candy: 66th annual Grand National Roadster Show (part 2)

(Editor’s note: Howard came back from the Grand National Roadster Show with so many amazing photos that we’re doing two Eye Candy galleries, one ran yesterday and here’s another today.)

Photos by Howard Koby

For the 12th time, the annual O’Reilly Grand National Roadster Show presented by Meguiar’s was held at the Fairplex in Pomona, California late last month. More than 500 hot rods and customs were displayed in eight buildings.


Eye Candy: 66th annual Grand National Roadster Show (part 1)

(Editor’s note: Howard came back from the Grand National Roadster Show with so many amazing photos that we’re doing two Eye Candy galleries, one today and another tomorrow.)

Photos by Howard Koby

Founded in 1950 by Al Sloanaker in Oakland, California, the Grand National Roadster Show is among the world’s longest-running annual indoor car shows. For the last 12 years, the event has been staged within eight exhibit buildings at the Fairplex in Pomona, California, where it attracts more than 500 of the most exciting and creative works of automotive art including roadsters, customs, hot rods and motorcycles.

This year, Southern California car culture was celebrated in one building while another hall was dedicated to the 75th Anniversary of the 1940 Ford. The overall show theme was “The Great Gatsby,” so representative custom automobiles were strewn throughout the three-day beauty pageant of automotive excellence.

One creation that caught my attention was James Hetfield and Rick Dore’s “Aquarius,” which was a completely original hand-formed aluminum coachbuilt custom influenced by coachbuilders Figoni and Falashi and the ’38 Delahaye 165 Cabriolet. The creation sat on a ’34 Packard chassis and portrayed “a sinister elegance” born from American customizers of the ‘40s and early ’50s. “Truly a work of art.”

Another unusual custom vehicle was Ron Berry’s “Surf Seeker,” a concept VW Bus with a “cartoon flavor” based on a ’65 Van but with a 2175cc extreme blown engine all resting on 24-inch Panther wheels. Motorized side door, side window and sunroof structure completes this striking exhibit.

More than 250 vendors offered products and services, even Pinks world-famous chili dogs were sizzling on the grill.

Eighteen custom cars were vying for the coveted America’s Most Beautiful Roadster Award. The tension was high with a packed house late Sunday afternoon when the long and low 1933 Ford Roadster built by Bobby Alloway for Larry Olson of Sioux Falls, South Dakota was honored with the AMBR trophy.

Stunning scallop style yellow flames on a black steel body and brilliant chrome wheels almost set this roadster in a class by itself and was a fitting finale to a great show.


Eye Candy: More images from Arizona Auction Week

Photos by Howard Koby

The 2015 auction spectacle in Arizona’s Valley of the Sun concluded over the weekend with perfect weather and with car collectors ready to spend some cash on some amazing cars, and some, well, very unusual machines and other items.


Eye Candy: More images from the Arizona auctions

Photos by Howard Koby

It’s going, going, but not quite gone at the Arizona auctions…

Auction action shifted into a higher gear Friday with five auction houses running cherished machinery across the blocks (Bonham wrapped up its one-day sale on Thursday).

Friday, at Barrett-Jackson you could buy everything from hot rods on the pavement to hot dogs on a stick. Meanwhile, RM brought out some of its big guns — Ferrari 250 LM selling for over $8 million with buyer’s premium while Gooding hammered the ’59 Ferrari LWB California Spider for a stunning $7 million plus commission.

Russo and Steele’s auctions “in the round” gaveled out muscle, customs and American cars of the ‘50s and ‘60s as bidders gulping beer, hot dogs and candy apples. And things were quieter if just as exciting for those buying and selling out at Silver.

And now we enter the weekend, with sales continuing Saturday and, in some locations, Sunday as well.


Eye Candy: Images from the Arizona Auctions

Photos by Howard Koby

The more-than-week long auction extravaganza in Scottsdale and Phoenix began with chilly temperatures and even light rain, but all auction houses are ready for action. I went to previews at Bonhams, RM, Gooding and Barrett-Jackson and million-dollar machinery will be in full force on the blocks along with muscle, customs, exotics, race cars and American classics.

Vendors at Barrett-Jackson are, as usual, unbelievable, offering everything from new cars and trucks to leather cowboy boots and fine automotive paintings from noted artists.

We expect to see some record -etting prices set at all auction venues as the collector-car hobby is booming with bidders from all over the world descending on the southwest, which has become bathed, as usual, in brilliant sunshine that casts . The rain finally let up and today was a brilliant sunny day that casts a sparkling glow on the hundreds of vintage and classic cars.

Let the bidding begin!


Eye Candy: National Motor Museum, Beaulieu

Photos by Howard Koby

In the lush countryside about 90 miles south of London, in the New Forest between Bournemouth and Southampton, resides is a 7,000-acre Victorian estate called Beaulieu. It is the home of Lord Montagu of Beaulieu and family and includes their residence, the Palace House; the Beaulieu Abbey and Exhibition, a conserved ruin and church; the Victorian Flower and Kitchen Gardens; and the Secret Army Exhibition, a facility which served as a school for Special Operations Executive agents during World War Two.

Continue reading

Eye Candy: London to Brighton Veteran Car Run 2014

Photos by Howard Koby

On November 14, 1896, 30 motorcars participated in the Emancipation Run, a drive that celebrated the passage of Britain’s Highway Act, the law that raised the speed limit for “light locomotives” from 4 to 14 miles per hour and did away with the requirement that such motorcars be preceded by a man on foot holding a red flag.

Of the 30 motorcars that started that day, 14 were able to complete the 60-mile distance from London to Brighton.

Except for war years, the Royal Automobile Club has re-enacted the Emancipation Run annually since 1927, most recently with sponsorship from auction house Bonhams. This year, more than 400 pre-1905 motor cars were painstakingly prepared for the drive from London’s Hyde Park to the Brighton beach getaway in East Sussex on the south coast of Great Britain.

The event is open to all 3- and 4-wheeled vehicles constructed before January 1, 1905, but there sometimes are exceptions and slightly newer cars are accepted. The majority of the cars come from UK, but this year there also were entrants from the U.S., Canada, Hong Kong, Sweden, Denmark and Australia.

The London-to-Brighton run highlights a weekend of motoring nostalgia and is free to view along the 60-mile route that follows as closely as possible the original 1896 event, using the historic A23 with some routing changes needed because of safety or road construction.

With steam cars sprouting billows of mist, petrol cars igniting to a classic rumble, and electric cars whirring like a well-oiled sewing machine, the golden age of motoring comes to life with statuesque motor cars cruising out of Hyde Park, past Buckingham Palace and over the River Thames at Westminster Bridge down to Lambeth, Brixton, Streatham, Norbury, Croydon past Gatwick and into Crawley for the mid-way checkpoint.

Spectators are able to chat with the drivers and see the cars up close as they double check the running condition of their most valued treasures.

From Crawley the challenge for the veterans are a series of hill climbs, including the sometimes-dreaded Hammer Hill, which separates the men from the boys. Some have to be pulled up the long inclines by volunteers from the local All Wheel Drive Club before motoring on to the finish at Preston Park in Brighton.

All the cars that successfully finished the journey (360 of the 445 entered this year) are displayed in an exclusive paddock car presentation on the seafront at Madeira Drive.

Many British celebrities participated on the historic run, which was “reasonably dry and the second half was reasonably wet,” said five-time Olympic gold medalist rower Steve Redgrave, who drove with his wife Ann in a rare (one of 13 survivors) 1904 Thornycroft, an open four-seat tonneau-bodied car powered by a 20-horsepower, 3.5-liter hp four-cylinder engine.

As a very spoiled Californian, the only condition I had to get used to in UK was the “wet and cold,” but with the overpowering passion for cars, I quickly learned the British ways and enjoyed every second of the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run.

For more information, see the London-Brighton website.



Eye Candy: Bonhams’ London to Brighton auction

Photos by Howard Koby

Bonhams held its annual sale of veteran cars and related automobilia, this year comprising rare Emancipation Run photographs dated 1896 to brass oil-illuminating carriage lamps and four-note 6-volt electric brass trumpet horns.

The sale was held on the eve of the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run with 23 motorcars were offered to a packed sales room at the Bonhams Auction House headquarters on New Bond Street in London near Oxford Circus.

An international array of spirited bidders came to life when the immaculate antique motorcars appeared on a projection screen high above the auctioneer’s podium. Viewing of the cars was done at the preview and before the auction on the lower level of the auction house or with some of the cars right in the main auction room.

Proper English attire goes without saying as some of the most desirable pre-1905 veteran motorcars go on the block.

Some motorcars in the auction were even offered with an entry into the Veteran Run so if you won a bid you “bought on Friday and drove it on Sunday!”

The Bonhams Auction was a true step back in time.

Argent Archer photograph albums from early races sold for as much as $15,504 (1903 Gordon Bennett race, Phoenix Park Trials and Castlewellan Races)

The top sale was 109-year old steam car (1905 Gardner-Serpollet 18hp Type L Phaeton Steamer) originally bought by a Norfolk (UK) farmer for 450 British pounds but that sold in 2014 for $590,111 (371,100 pounds).

A turn of the century 1900 Cleveland Sperry System Electric Three-Seater Stanhope sold for £55,200 to a telephone bidder from Austria, who then hopped on a plane to London to participate in the run with his new treasure.

Other top sales included a 1901 Panhard et Levassor Twin-Cylinder 7hp Rear-Entrance Tonneau at $412,012, a 1903 Darracq Twin-Cylinder 12hp Rear-Entrance Tonneau for $196,120, and a 1903 Malicet et Blin 8hp Four-Seater Rear-Entrance Tonneau for $162,674.

Total sales were $2.385 million with 14 of 23 cars sold.

All prices reported include buyer’s premium.

Eye Candy: Art Center ‘Hollywood’ Car Classic

Photos by Howard Koby

Art Center has been at the forefront of art and design education for more than 80 years. Transportation design as a major at Art Center College of Design was born in 1948 with a creative faculty comprising George Jergenson (who worked with General Motors in the ‘30s and designed the Opel Kapitan), John Coleman (industrial designer) and Strother MacMinn (considered the founding father of automotive design education).

Transportation design alumni hold top positions at the Pininfarina Studios as well as Ferrari-Maserati, Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, BMW, Porsche, Audi, Volvo, Nissan, Aston Martin, Mazda, Toyota/Lexus and Volkswagen North America.

In 2003, the first Art Center Car Classic was organized in the east-lawn sculpture garden on the school’s hillside campus in Pasadena, California. The show was praised for the way it “captured the excitement of car design with a behind-the-scenes look at how vehicles make their way from concept to the highways, racetracks, and show rooms across the globe.”

In the forthcoming years, themes have highlighted Supercars; Legends; Coachbuilding; Dream Machines; By Air, Land and Sea; Freedom in Motion; California Design-Influencing Change; Inspired Design, Inspired by Nature, and for the most recent edition, Street to Screen.

The objective was to explore the impact transportation and entertainment design has on Hollywood and the entertainment industry — on camera, on the road and behind the scenes.

More than 2,500 car enthusiasts and parents thinking of Art Center for their children flocked to the Car Classic to admire a varied display of iconic, classic and contemporary vehicles including three Batmobiles (1966 George Barris Batmobile from the TV series, 1995 Val Kilmer Batman Forever, and 1997 George Clooney Batman & Robin), as well as the Scooby Doo-inspired VW “Mystery Machine,” the 1956 Lincoln Continental Mark II coupe once owned by movie legend Elizabeth Taylor, the 1930 Packard 7-45 dual cowl sport phaeton from movie classic Singin’ in the Rain, the full sized Hot Wheels vehicles Darth Vader and Deora II, and many more.

Jay Leno was on hand interviewing celebrity car builder and hot rod expert Chip Foose while panel discussions in the college’s Ahmanson Auditorium were conducted by guest alums Syd Mead, a visual futurist (Blade Runner, Tron, Aliens), Daniel Simon, vehicle concept designer (Captain America), George Barris, King of Kustomizers, and Art Center alumni Alex Shen, chief designer at Toyota’s Calty Design.

Some of the award recipients included:

  • Cars of Stars Award to Robert and Nancy Ratinoff for the ’56 Continental Mark II coupe formerly owned by Elizabeth Taylor;
  • Competition to Bruce Canepa for his important ’69 Porsche 917 racecar;
  • Movie Icons to George Barris with his ’66 Batmobile;
  • Sports & GT to David Sydorick with his ’61 Aston Martin DB4 Zagato;
  • Designer’s Choice Award goes to Aaron and Valerie Weiss for their superb ’58 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham V16;
  • Student’s Choice to Peter and Merle Mullin for their stunning ’37 Talbot-Lago Type 150-C-S Teardrop.

Throughout the day, Dave Kunz (KABC TV), Ed Justice Jr. (noted car expert and historian), and Barry Meguiar (Car Crazy TV and radio) provided informative interviews with car designers and exhibitors, keeping the spectators enthralled all afternoon.