Category archives: Commentary

A counting for America’s car museums

Some of the vehicles at the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum in Lansing, Michigan | Larry Edsall photos
Some of the vehicles at the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum in Lansing, Michigan | Larry Edsall photos

From Anchorage to Albany and from Kokomo to Kearney, from Naples to Nashville and from Owls Head to Oxnard, there are some 160 museums in the United States that have Automobile or Car as their middle name.

Those names and numbers come from the quarterly report of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, which The Washington Post reports is “an independent government agency that tallies the number and type of museums in this country,” which it shares four times a year in the form of massive spreadsheets (complete with GPS coordinates) — one of museums, one for libraries — that you can download to your handy laptop computer. Continue reading

A Vincent motorcycle rekindles memories of a past life

The Vincent Black Shadow at auction has been restored to original condition | Bonhams photos
The Vincent Black Shadow at auction has been restored to original condition | Bonhams photos

I caught motorcycle fever in a big way during the early 1970s, riding a motley succession of used bikes that now are classics. Back then, they were cheap enough on my part-time salary as I worked my way through college.

The favorites were a funky 1965 BMW R50 that just chugged along through whatever ordeal I subjected it to: rain, mud, even snow. After that came another 1965, a BSA 650 Lightning that was my dream bike and ran like an angry bull. Unlike the slow but sturdy German BMW, the more high-strung Britain needed lots of hands-on care.

That was all long ago, but I got a shock of nostalgia just the other day when I read about the top motorcycles being offered January 7 by Bonhams at its Las Vegas auction. Lo and behold, a racing motorcycle featured at the sale is one that I once knew well, though somewhat obliquely, as well as its famous rider. Continue reading

What I learned while wearing a blazer and straw hat and pretending to be a concours judge

My judging teammates (the real judges) approach  our cars | Larry Edsall photos
My judging teammates (the real judges) approach our cars | Larry Edsall photos

Judge not, lest you be judged. — Matthew 7:1

After all those childhood Sunday School lessons, it was with considerable trepidation, but also with a reporter’s considerable curiosity, that I accepted an invitation to serve as a guest judge at the Hilton Head Island Motoring Festival and Concours d’Elegance. Continue reading

Eye Candy: Leake Auction Company Dallas sale

A 1986 Mercedes-Benz 420SEL is on the block at Leake's Dallas auction | Larry Edsall photos
A 1986 Mercedes-Benz 420SEL is on the block at Leake’s Dallas auction | Larry Edsall photos

I’d never attended one of Leake Auction Company’s sales before, and excluding the night my flight itinerary included changing planes at DFW International, I’d only been to Dallas once before, and that was to cover a college football bowl game back in the mid-1970s. Yet I felt amazingly at home at Leake’s recent auction at Dallas Market Hall. Continue reading

Great automobiles as fine art: The time has come

The 1938 Bugatti Type 57C Atalante was first shown at the Paris World’s Fair | RM Sotheby’s
The 1938 Bugatti Type 57C Atalante was first shown at the Paris World’s Fair | RM Sotheby’s

For the vast bulk of us who actively take part in the classic car hobby, the landmark collector car auctions coming up in Manhattan, of all places, have no effect whatsoever on our lives. Some of the 70 or so exceptional race cars, sports cars and classics that sell at these exclusive events will go for more money than many of us will earn in our lifetimes, purchased by the top 0.1 percent of car collectors.

Besides big money, both of the auctions have something else in common: The elevation of vehicles into art objects sold in the fashion of New York art auctions. Continue reading

Eye Candy: Inaugural Auctions America sale at Hilton Head Island

A Porsche Carrera Turbo is on the block | Andy Reid photos
A Porsche Carrera Turbo is on the block | Andy Reid photos

The first time I attended an Auctions America sale it reminded me quite a bit of those big sales with lots of noise, fast-talking auctioneers, and bids from everywhere. To say that it was a bit confusing, especially for a first-time bidder, would be an understatement. As a result, I was a bit apprehensive about attending the Auctions America sale at Hilton Head Island.

To say that I was surprised at what I found is a serious understatement. I found a great many wonderful cars, well presented, and plenty of specialists on hand to answer questions during the preview. Continue reading

Jay Leno shares his garage fun in new cable TV show

Jay Leno and guest Tim Allen prepare for their burnout grudge match in 2016 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcats | CNBC
Jay Leno and guest Tim Allen prepare for their burnout grudge match in 2016 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcats | CNBC screen shots

Jay Leno is having way too much fun. That’s obvious from watching the premiere of Jay Leno’s Garage, which aired Wednesday night on the cable network CNBC. Continue reading

Vintage auto-show magazine draws us back to new cars of 1963

Motor Trend introduced the new ’63 Corvette Sting Ray with multiple full-page coverage
‘Motor Trend’ introduced the new ’63 Corvette Sting Ray with multiple full-page coverage

Surfing eBay one afternoon, I stumbled upon something unexpected that sparked my interest. It was a 52-year-old magazine, but one that brought memories rolling in like a fleet of wide-track Pontiacs.

The magazine is an automotive classic, in my humble opinion, the 1963 Auto Show edition of Motor Trend from November 1962 that presented the latest model year of 1963 American cars. In those days, my pre-pubescent automotive obsession was just awakening, and these were the cars that I first recall noticing, memorizing every contour, taillight and sparkle of trim. Continue reading

Death of ‘Route 66’ star rekindles blacktop memories

Martin Milner (right) as Tod and George Maharis as Bud with the Corvette driven in ‘Route 66’ | CBS TV
Martin Milner (right) as Tod and George Maharis as Bud with the Corvette driven in ‘Route 66’ | CBS TV

Martin Milner, who played Tod Stiles in the 1960s TV drama “Route 66” and helped raise the Mother Road to iconic status, died Sunday at 83 of heart failure at his home in Carlsbad, California.

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Monterey memories – concours and cars shows

A 1959 Porsche 356 Convertible D gleams at the Werks Reunion | Bob Golfen photos
A 1959 Porsche 356 Convertible D gleams at the Werks Reunion | Bob Golfen photos

So many events, so little time. That could be the marketing slogan for Monterey Classic Car Week, when a seemingly countless number of car shows, concours, exhibits, rallies, parties, dinners and, of course, auctions crowd the days leading up to the vaunted Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance on Sunday.

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