Four auto aficionados open up their garages and show us some of the most stunning machines ever made.
Some say New England’s back roads are perfectly designed for the vintage roadster: Ocean breezes hum along to the powerful purr of a handbuilt European engine, while every bend in the road offers a chance to revel in solid midcentury engineering. Perhaps that’s why Massachusetts is a hub for auto enthusiasts. In fact, the North Shore’s Paul Russell and Company services the prized possessions of world-class collectors like Ralph Lauren, while Brookline’s own Larz Anderson Auto Museum—which boasts the oldest privately owned collection of motor cars in America—has become a veritable classic-car owners’ country club.
To capture this area’s passion for the vintage auto, we asked four Boston-area aficionados to open up their garages and show us some of the most stunning machines ever made. Ahead, they share the stories behind their all-time favorite wheels.
“Collecting is a bit of a disease…it is never enough,” says Tom Larsen, who’s acquired 16 classic cars over the past 13 years, including an impeccable Gullwing and a rare 1962 Ferrari 250 GTL Lusso. “The real collecting started after I retired, but I never thought it would amount to this.”
Larsen considers this 1957 Porsche 356 Speedster, however, essential to his stable. “It is the Porsche to own from a collecting standpoint, and it is a simple car to drive,” he says. “The mechanicals are actually similar to that of a Volkswagen Beetle, just faster. Plus, it’s a beautiful car to look at.”
After searching for more than a year, Larsen found this stellar model at a 2004 Bonham’s auction at the Larz Anderson Museum. While deciding how much he’d be willing to bid for it, Larsen overheard a phone conversation between a car expert and a potential buyer. “He was going through the car and reporting everything that he saw. I liked what I heard,” he says.
Though Larsen usually drives his Speedster close to home, he fondly recalls one memorable rally to Cohasset with the New England Porsche club. “There is no place I’d rather be than driving along Jerusalem Road on a sunny Sunday in July with 20 other 356s,” he says.
John “J” Geils has a penchant for everything Italian. In his garage northwest of the city, an Alfa Romeo, a Maserati, a Lancia, and a Fiat Dino are lorded over by this rare 1961 Ferrari 250 GTE—one of only 950 produced. “The big deal is that this was Ferrari’s first mass-produced car,” Geils says. “It has the same basic engine layout as the 250 GTO racecar, and those sell for $40 million.”
Geils’s infatuation with Ferraris started at a young age: “When I was 10, my father brought me to a race and I asked him, ‘What are those red cars that look the best, sound the best, and keep on winning?’” Geils would end up buying and selling a number of Ferrari 250s in the ’70s and ’80s, many of which are now easily worth seven figures.
While some collectors value originality, Geils reconfigured this GTE to suit himself, swapping out the original automatic transmission for a manual five-speed with electric overdrive from a newer Ferrari. And after toying with painting the car red, he decided to finish it in a quieter two-tone blue and silver, opting for a rich scarlet interior instead.
“I’ll admit it is not the best handling car,” Geils says, “but the experience is so rewarding. Every time that I hop behind the wheel, I smell the leather, see the ‘prancing horse’ on the hood, and the vibration and sound of the V12, and I realize that this is exactly where I want to be.”
Bruce Male wasn’t looking for an addition to his sizable car collection when he first laid eyes on this 1948 Delahaye 135M. “I saw it in the window of the Coys of Kensington auction house, in London. I had no idea what it was, but I was instantly blown away,” he says.
The French-made convertible, featuring a custom coach-built body by the Italian designers Figoni et Falaschi, was truly one of a kind—and Male couldn’t resist its allure. “I set the reserve so high that no one would buy it, but to my surprise, bids came close,” he says.
So seductive was the Delahaye’s shape that it would later inspire the look of Male’s own North Shore home, designed by the Boston-based firm Schwartz/Silver Architects. “The car’s curves played a huge role in the architecture—there is not a single straight line in the entire house,” Male says.
Though he garages the Delahaye near his house in the winter, Male enjoys taking it out around town when the weather gets warm. “Part of the fun and enjoyment in classic car collecting is sharing this beauty with the world,” he says.
Even as a young boy in pre-revolution Cuba, Arthur Gutierrez admired how the Mercedes-Benz SL300’s winglike doors and throaty race-bred engine stood out among the American cruisers rumbling down Havana’s boulevards.
He left Cuba in 1961, “the day that diplomatic relations broke,” he says, but the vision of that elegant Mercedes, known as the Gullwing, stuck with him. Twenty years later, he bought a 1955 model from Alex Dearborn, the owner of Dearborn Auto, which is now based in Kittery Point, Maine. “This particular car was actually sitting in the living room of Alex’s residence,” Gutierrez says.
Time hasn’t affected the SL300’s performance much. “It handles incredibly well for a car of its age,” Gutierrez says. “If you are on 128, doing 60, you can step on the throttle, and there is plenty more power on tap. That’s what I love about driving this car.”
In the print version of this story, Tom Larsen's name was misspelled. We regret the error.
Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/property/article/2013/06/04/vintage-cars-boston/