July 17, 2012
The Blackhawk Museum
Over the weekend I visited the Blackhawk Museum in Danville, CA. Thus far I've only visited two auto museums, but it's a start. Blackhawk is located at the Blackhawk Plaza Shopping Center, cleverly tucked away near the back half of the plaza. It takes some doing to find it if you're not familiar with the area, but once you do, you're in for some very special treats.
Even before entering the museum itself, I was greeted by a rather handsome selection of corvettes from a local owners club. The museum allows various groups to put their cars on display out front from time to time, so who knows what might be there if you choose to go by.
There were twenty-five vettes in total, but this was the only one I was interested in. With its flared wheel arches, mean stance, and dark blue paint, how could I not gravitate to it? I wish I could've learned more about the build, but there was no plaque (or person) to help me out. Either way, HOLY CRAP.
Entering the lobby, my attention was immediately grabbed by this gorgeous 1960 Aston Martin DB4 GT. The "DB" series is named for David Brown, who purchased both Aston Martin and Lagonda Ltd. 1947, which were later joined to form Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd. The GT series of the car possesses a 3.7 liter engine with three Weber twin choke carburetors producing 302bhp. It makes 0-60mph in just over 6 seconds and has a top speed of 153mph. Thanks to Aston Martin, speed and class come together in perfect harmony.
After purchasing my ticket in the lobby, I headed into the gallery on the first floor (the museum is home to 90 cars, which occupy the first and third levels of the building). To my right upon entering the room, I saw this beauty: the 1963 Iso Grifo A3/L Prototype. It was born from the joint efforts of Renzo Rivolta and Giotto Bizzarrini. While Italian based, it's powered by a V8 327 Corvette engine, and pumps out 400bhp. The popularity of the design led to appearances at several major auto shows, including New York.
When it comes to classic American luxury automobiles, Packard is a name that many enthusiasts likely know. This 1937 745 Convertible Sedan was one of multiple to receive custom coachwork, which the 145in wheelbase made it perfect for. The work was done by designer Raymond Detrich, which increases its value substantially. As you can imagine, only the wealthy were able to afford such a fine automobile back in its heyday.
The first floor was dominated by Ferraris (most of which my pictures came out horribly -.- ), but I had particular interest in this 1956 625 Le Mans Spyder. Three examples were built, but they only raced twice in the Grand Prix. One of the cars collided with the other two in one of the races, causing all three cars to not finish. Despite the short racing career, the design had been quite successful.
I've mentioned before that I'm not the biggest Porsche fan, but there is no denying the strong racing pedigree of the brand. Pictured here is the 1977 Porsche 935 (chassis 0912), derived from the 911 Turbo for racing in Groups 4 and 5 of Formula One. This specific car was known as "X-Ray" because of the unique graphics, and it placed first in Class 5 at Le Mans in 1977. Look closely and you'll notice the rear tire is a little flat! A battle scar from races past left untouched for effect?
There were only a few Maseratis on hand at Blackhawk, but I have to say, they were unique. This is a 1963 5000GT Frua, one of only 2 Frua-bodied 5000GT models. Thirty-two 5000GT's were built in total, making it an extremely rare supercar of the time.
Next to the Frua was an Allemano, another version of the 5000GT. Twenty-two Allemanos were built, and the car was given the nickname "Indianapolis" for its victories in the Indy 500 in 1939 and 1940. This specific car won "Best In Class" at the 1997 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.
Before publishing this post, I put this car's photo on Facebook, asking if anybody knew what it was. Those who tried were stumped! The answer: the 1938 Bugatti Type 57SC Vanden Plas Tourer. Built by Vanden Plas of London, it's based from the original Type 57 but has a shorter wheelbase and a supercharger (known in Europe as a compressor). This is the only Type 57SC Vanden Plas ever built!
If you know anything about Ferrari, you know the classic ones are mainly red, so the fact this 1950 195 Sport Touring Berlinetta was blue made it seem pretty special. But it's special beyond the paint. The car is one of 5 Berlinetta 166's built. All of the cars were upgraded to 195 engines except for this one. What you see here is the only factory scratch built car, chassis #0060M. It has been showcased at many prestigious events, including the Geneva Motor Show and Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.
I've seen my fair share of Thunderbirds now, but none match the 1963 "Italien" Concept Car. Even after its warm reception at several auto shows, including the 1964 New York World's Fair, Ford had it on record the car was destined for the crusher. It was rescued and later fully restored to its original specifications in 2006. I shudder to think such a beautiful piece of automotive Americana narrowly escaped a gruesome fate.
Ever heard of a Bucciali? Probably not, because you're looking at what may be the only one in existence. Brothers Angelo and Paul-Albert Bucciali of France wished to produce the finest cars ever built, and the TAV 8 Roadster shown here was priced at $20,000 in 1930. The red stork on the sides of the hood represent the aviation squadron Groupe des Cigognes (The Storks) that Paul-Albert flew in World War II.
Hear the name of automaker Duesenberg, and you're likely to think it's European. However, Duesenberg was an American luxury automaker known for its extravagant vehicles. This is the 1929 Model J Torpedo Convertible Coupe, with an in-line eight cylinder engine producing 265hp and price tag of $16,000 brand new, "it's a Duesy."
Now that you've seen the Duesenberg, it shouldn't surprise you too much that the next two cars are also American made. With its over the top body lines, you might not believe this V-16 Series Hartmann Cabriolet is a Cadillac, but it is! It's one of only two ever built, and at 22ft, is also categorized as one of the largest cabriolets every built.
And this? It's a Dodge! The 1954 Firearrow IV to be precise. Designed by Virgil Exner and constructed by Ghia Coachbuilders of Turin, Italy, the Firearrow was meant to be something new and exciting to draw interest to the Dodge brand. Exner is partially responsible for the introduction of sleeker bodies and fins that were introduced on later 50's vehicles.
The museum had a good number of Rolls Royces in their galleries, but none were nearly as magnificent as this: the 1937 Rolls Royce Phantom III. Originally, the body was rather insignificant, but its owner had the car shipped to Freestone & Webb to have a new one designed. This unique creation, named "Copperkettle" for its many copper made and finished components, is one of the most extravagant Rolls Royce cars ever built. I don't even want to know how much it's worth.
Jaguar had some very interesting racing designs in the past. The 1950 Jaguar C-type Racer was a racing version of the XK-120 and possessed a lot of the same components, but was 1000lbs lighter. Its lightweight body ensured its victory at Le Mans 24 Hours both in 1951 and 1953.
The 1933 Pierce-Arrow V-12 Silver Arrow Sedan became insanely popular after its debut at the New York Automobile Show of 1933 and its showing at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair. Very much like an arrow, the V-12 had a streamlined body, designed by Phillip Wright. Despite the car's success, Pierce Arrow quickly went out of business, leaving only three V-12 Silver Arrows in the world today.
And now for some oddities. As mentioned earlier regarding the Dodge Firearrow IV, many automakers were obsessed with making more aerodynamic vehicles in the 50's; Alfa Romeo was one of them. This shark-like design is known as the B.A.T. 9 (Berlinetta Aerodynamica Technica), the last of three cars built in Alfa's aerodynamic study of the time. All three were based off the Alfa Romeo 1900 Sprint chassis but given much more radical body designs. Looks more amphibious than aerodynamic is you ask me.
Your eyes are not deceiving you: this car is made of wood. The 1924 Hispano-Suiza Model H6C "Tulipwood" Torpedo was commissioned by André Dubonnet of France, who contacted Nieuport Aviation Company to build a lightweight car suited for both racing and touring. The result was this 160lb vehicle whose body is made up of strips of Tulipwood fastened together with thousands of brass rivets. It contains a 46 gallon gas tank for long distance racing. We know engine fires are bad enough with metal-based cars, it's a good thing this never caught on fire!
Time to get funky with some crazy colorations. This 1919 Pierce Arrow Model 66-A-4 Touring belonged to famous American actor Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle. It was specially made to compliment his personality. With its royal purple paint, "artillery" style wheels pokes, and white tires, I'd say the car hits the mark for suiting Mr. Arbuckle.
Here's one of my personal favorites from the visit: the 1933 Delage D8SS Cabriolet. The elegant coach design of the France-based Delage D8 models inspired other automobile makers to build the most refined body styles they could come up with. The tip of the hood is graced with the glass head of a peacock, adding a little extra flare to this classy ride. You may not be a fan of the lavender, but you have to admit this is pretty fancy.
If you think the lavender on the Delage D8SS was quirky, check this out: it's a 1930 Ruxton Five Passenger Sedan. The layered body color scheme was created by a New York theater set designer, who came up with the idea of having eight colors applied to the body in overlapping horizontal bands designed to exaggerate the low profile of the car. A second color scheme was also available with shades of orange, brown, tan, and white.
These last three cars you'd have to see in real life to believe. This enormous contraption is an original 1911 Rolls Royce Model 40/50 Silver Ghost Tourer. Rolls Royce Ltd. was founded in 1904 by Charles Stewart Rolls and Frederick Henry Royce. The Silver Ghost model was first introduced at the London Motor Show in November of 1906, production lasted until 1925. The famed Spirit of Ecstasy radiator mascot was designed by Charles Sykes and debuted in 1911. Rumor has it, the Spirit was inspired by a mistress he was involved with.
Go back just a few years prior, and we have the 1906 Cadillac Model M Tulip Tourer. Cadillac was founded in 1902 by Henry M. Leland, the same year he created the Model A which landed him 2,300 more orders for the car after its appearance at the New York Automobile Show in just a week. Four years later he created the Model M, which produced 10hp from its single cylinder engine, yet was intentionally rated to have less by the company itself. Wonder if Cadillac still does that today?
Not a fantastic picture, but for what this is worth, I had to share it anyway. This is a working replica of the 1886 Benz Patent Motorwagen. It was the first commercially available automobile every offered. Kart Benz, the inventor, used his love of bicycles as inspiration for the design. He filed for the patent in 1886, listing his creation as an automobile fueled by gas. The motorwagen was capable of 8mph and 25mpg. This seemingly simple design was revolutionary for its time and is considered to be the father of automotive innovation.
It's my personal opinion that enthusiasts of the younger generations today really don't appreciate vehicles like these enough (or at all in some cases). It is absolutely fascinating to see where all of our beloved cars of today came from. You have to look to the past to understand the present, and envision the future. Do yourself a favor and get to a collector car museum. I promise you that it will be one of the greatest history lessons you ever learn.
All information about the vehicles listed in this post is provided by the Blackhawk Museum. Visit Blackhawk's Website for more on the collection and the facility.