08 Dec

1st Experimental Safety Vehicle Built in Branford, Connecticut in 1957

Aurora prototype unveiled in Manhattan, November 11, 1957

Aurora prototype unveiled in Manhattan, November 11, 1957

Branford, Conn. – Dubbed by quite a few writers as one of the ugliest cars ever built, the 1957 Aurora prototype was designed by Father Alfred Juliano, a Catholic priest, in Branford. Not necessarily the product of divine intervention, Juliano’s purpose was to create the world’s safest automobile. With money contributed by his Connecticut congregation, Fr. Juliano wanted to build the car and make it available to American automakers to put into production. As it turns out, the gods were not with him and the project went bankrupt after creating just a single prototype.

Father Alfred Juliano with the Aurora Safety Car he designed and built

Father Alfred Juliano with the Aurora Safety Car he designed and built

The Aurora prototype was built on a 1953 Buick frame from a wrecked car using fiberglass over a plywood superstructure with plastic windows. The body would therefore be corrosion and dent proof. On the safety side, the car had a built-in roll cage, seat belts, a padded instrument panel, a collapsible steering wheel, and side-impact bars. Even the spare tire was housed under the front end of the vehicle to help absorb impacts. The front end had a “cow catcher” sort of design, filled with foam, to scoop up pedestrians instead of running them over. Perhaps most innovative was that the seats were designed to swivel 180 degrees and face backwards should a collision be imminent.

Styling buck used to form the Aurora’s fiberglass body

Styling buck used to form the Aurora’s fiberglass body

Apparently, when Fr. Juliano brought the car to New York City in 1957 for its reveal, he didn’t consider that the Buick engine hadn’t been started for more than four years and the car broke down multiple ties during the journey. The company’s finances were called into question but in fact Fr. Juliano had gone deeply into personal debt financing the company, and eventually declaring bankruptcy, forfeiting the prototype to a repair shop as collateral for unpaid repair bills. It passed through several hands before finally being abandoned behind a Cheshire auto body shop in 1967. Juliano died of a brain hemorrhage in 1989 in Philadelphia.

The Aurora today as restored by Andy Saunders in the UK

The Aurora today as restored by Andy Saunders in the UK


In 1993, the car was discovered by British car enthusiast Andy Saunders of Poole, Dorset, in a sketch in a book about dream cars; “It was so ugly it was unreal. I said straightaway, ‘I’ve got to own that.'” After several years of searching, he eventually tracked the car down by the name of the garage in the background of a photograph of the car, purchased it sight unseen for $1,500, and had it shipped to Britain for another $2,000. The fiberglass and wood structure of the car proved to have deteriorated terribly from exposure, as well as the interior and plastic windshield. Restoration was further complicated by a lack of adequate documentation or even photographs of the car, the absence of the late Father Juliano to assist as a consultant, and the lack of replacement parts for a prototype vehicle. However, restoration was completed in early 2005, and the car was unveiled to a newly re-astounded public at the Goodwood Festival of Speed and is now on display in the Beaulieu Motor Museum, Hampshire, England. The Aurora is arguably the first Experimental Safety Vehicle ever made, even before the coinage of the ESV acronym.

Article and photos courtesy Kenny Hoeschen 95octane.com

Magazine featuring the Aurora in April 1958

Magazine featuring the Aurora in April 1958

23 Nov

First Connecticut Auto Race: 1899 or 1900? Historians Disagree

Hiram Percy Maxim driving a gasoline powered Columbia Mark VIII with designer Fred Law

Hiram Percy Maxim driving a gasoline powered Columbia Mark VIII with designer Fred Law

New Haven, Conn. – There seems to be general agreement among auto historians that the first closed course auto race in Connecticut was held at Branford Park in New Haven, a half-mile dirt track built for horse racing. The race meeting had two feature events, one for three-wheeled vehicles and one for four-wheeled vehicles, both being run in three heats. The date of the race meeting is generally cited as July 25, 1899. This date is reflected in several sources including Charles Betts’ Auto Racing Winners, 1895-1947: An Historical Reference Manual of American Automobile Racing (1948) and Allan Brown’s The History of America’s Speedways, Past and Present (2003).

In a 2008 article focusing on Connecticut race tracks, Brown clearly stated that, “Connecticut’s first recorded auto race was at Branford Park, a horse-racing track in New Haven, on July 25, 1899.” This would seem to indicate that Brown was very confident regarding the date.

However, more recent research has turned up evidence that this date may be off by a full year and in fact the Branford Park race more likely took place on July 25, 1900. This possibility was recently discovered by Donald Capps who is chairman of the Society of Automotive Historians Motor Sports History Section. Capps was digging into the very early automotive competitions in the United States for a possible paper on these events during the Late Victorian Era, 1895 to 1901, and sensed that there might be a problem with the date of the Branford Park race.

During his research, Capps discovered contemporary articles in The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune on an event held at Branford Park in 1900. Initially, he thought this was a later event, but the winner listed by Betts was Hiram Percy Maxim in a Columbia — who was also listed as the winner of the first five-mile heat for four-wheeled vehicles in both the New York and Chicago papers.

In his article on the subject Capps states “This would strongly suggest that the Branford Park event took place on 25 July 1900 – and not in 1899 as the Betts and Brown dated the event. I am at a loss as how to explain that both Brown and the Betts getting the date wrong by an entire year, although Brown seemed to sense, at least at one point, either some doubt or at least ambivalence regarding the date.”

It is interesting to note that both the Times and the Tribune articles state that the Branford Park meeting was, “The first automobile race meet ever held on a race track in this country,” as the Times stated it. The Tribune article had the sub-heading, “Track Racing for Motor Vehicles Inaugurated in America,” making the same claim as the Times. Capps goes on to state “Of course, there is the awkward problem of the race meeting held at Narragansett Park in Cranston, Rhode Island – another horse-racing track – in September 1896, which would tend to cast doubt on this claim. The race featured 7 entrants and was won by a Riker Electric car. In addition, there was also the event run in October 1899 on a circular dirt horse track at Galesburg Illinois District Fair Grounds, which was essentially a match race scheduled for 50 miles. The race between F.B. Snow in a Duryea and E.V.D. Morris in a Winton was halted at 15 miles when Snow’s vehicle dropped out with ignition problems.”

First U.S. auto race on a track at Narragansett Park, Cranston, RI September 1896

First U.S. auto race on a track at Narragansett Park, Cranston, RI September 1896

In any case, there seems to be no doubt that the Branford Park race was the first closed course auto race in Connecticut but historians should note, thanks to Don Capps’ research, the actual date of the race was July 25, 1900.

According to historian Allen Brown, the second auto racing venue in Connecticut also began as an active horse track, Charter Oak Park in Hartford. It was larger than Branford Park, a one-mile dirt oval. Charter Oak Park featured auto and horse racing from 1904 to 1929.

Connecticut has had 31 oval tracks. Only 3 are still in operation. Stafford Motor Speedway, the oldest, is located at the Stafford Springs Fairgrounds. The half-mile dirt oval was built as a horse track in 1892, and the first auto race ran in October 1934. There is no record of any auto racing at Stafford again until weekly stock car racing started there in 1948. The original dirt track was paved with asphalt in 1967 and it has remained in operation ever since featuring NASCAR Modified racing.

The second-oldest active oval track is Thompson International Speedway in the state’s northeast corner. Built in 1940 as a 5/8-mile asphalt track, it was one of the first in the country to be built as a paved track. Most paved tracks built before 1945, including the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, started out as dirt tracks. Thompson Speedway also had different configurations of road courses—the first known in the state—in operation from 1952 to about 1978. Part of one of the old road courses is still visible as part of the pit area. A little-known fact about Thompson is that it is the only Connecticut track ever to host what is now known as NASCAR Sprint Cup races (originally called NASCAR Grand National). The third active oval track is Waterford Speedbowl, built as a dirt track in 1951 and converted to a paved track a month later.

Opening day at Thompson Speedway May 26, 1940

Opening day at Thompson Speedway May 26, 1940

Lime Rock Park in northwest Connecticut is the only active road course left in the state. Lime Rock is a 1.53-mile paved road course with eight turns. The track, which opened 58 years ago, on April 18, 1957, has been the site of numerous major road-racing events and was the favorite track of late actor and Westport resident Paul Newman.
Sources: Donald Capps, Society of Automotive Historians
Allen E. Brown, “A Short History of Connecticut Race Tracks” www.ctvisit.com
Archived Photos

Early American license plate featuring Hiram Maxim & the Columbia Mark VIII

Early American license plate featuring Hiram Maxim & the Columbia Mark VIII

08 Sep

Lime Rock Sunday in the Park Concours Honors led by “Count Trossi” Mercedes-Benz SSK Winning Best of Show

With Honored Guests Sir Stirling Moss and Jochen Mass looking on (left), the Ralph Lauren-owned 1930 "Count Trossi" Mercedes SSK is awarded Best of Show honors (Photo by Casey Keil/Lime Rock Park)

With Honored Guests Sir Stirling Moss and Jochen Mass looking on (left), the Ralph Lauren-owned 1930 “Count Trossi” Mercedes SSK is awarded Best of Show honors (Photo by Casey Keil/Lime Rock Park)

Lakeville, Conn. – At Lime Rock Park’s Historic Festival 33, its Sunday in the Park Concours d’Elegance saw 264 entrants in 29 classes vying for Best of Show honors. The not-surprising but certainly deserving 1930 Mercedes-Benz SSK “Count Trossi” was judged the winner. The custom-bodied SSK is owned by Ralph Lauren.

Photo by Greg Clark/Lime Rock Park

Photo by Greg Clark/Lime Rock Park

Originally built with a competition “spyder” body by Carrozzeria Touring, between 1931 and 1933, this SSK was campaigned in the Mille Miglia, various hill climbs and other local events by original owner Trossi and following owners. The Italian count re-purchased the car and commissioned new bodywork in 1934. Willy White, an unknown American coachbuilder, is presumed to be the designer of the spectacular coachwork but that’s never been confirmed.

“The Trossi SSK is truly a work of art,” said Festival organizer Murray Smith. “This car is so rarely in public, I can’t thank Ralph enough for entering it in our concours for everyone to enjoy.” The Lauren SSK previously won Best of Show at the 1993 Pebble Beach concours and Italy’s Villa d’Este concours in 2007.

Appropriately, the SSK was shown alongside five other spectacularly important Mercedes competition cars; two from the Mercedes Classic Center in Germany (the 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR “722” and a 1955 Mercedes-Benz W196 Grand Prix Silver Arrow), two from The Revs Institute of Naples, Fla. (1939 Mercedes-Benz W154 and 1914 Mercedes Grand Prix car), and one from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum (1908 Mercedes Brooklands).

Class Winners, 2015 Sunday in the Park Concours d’Elegance at Historic Festival 33

Group A, Our Distinguished Seniors

Class A1, “And So We Begin,” special class for the machines that started it all, pre-1915
1911 Packard 30 7-Passenger Touring, Michael DeAngelis, Stamford, Conn.

Class A2, “The World’s First Wheels,” basic transportation 1915 to 1939, open and closed cars
1932 Plymouth PB Sport Roadster, Kevin Biebel, Stamford, Conn.

Class A3, “Gatsby’s Delights pres. by Castle Cadillacs,” luxury and speed; coachbuilt and special cars from an elegant era, pre-WWII
1938 Lincoln Model K LeBaron Convertible, John Winslett & Sheri St. Germain, Bristol, R.I.

Group B, Practical Machines for Practical Purposes

Class B1, “Off to Work,” post-War transportation machinery; those workhorses we depended on daily
1941 Tatra T87 Diplomat, Barney Hallingby, Sharon, Conn.

Class B2, “Carry Your Weight,” trucks and commercial vehicles up to 1975; machines that earn their keep
1975 Land Rover Series III 3-door truck, Thomas & Kristin Zarrella, Gloucester, Mass.

Group C, Sports and Performance Machines on Display and on Track

Class C1, “Risky and Racy,” racing, competitive specials and speed-record machines
1965 Alfa Romeo GTA, Jon Goodman, Philadelphia, Pa.

Class C2, “The Rallyist’s Revenge,” rallying function in a variety of forms
1985 Audi Quattro, Ed Torres, Norwalk, Conn.

Class C3, “Speed and Agility,” early sports cars to 1954
1952 MG TD Roadster, Hal Kramer, Pittsfield, Mass.

Class C4, “Dashing Between the Drops,” mid-sports car era roadsters, 1955 to 1961
1960 MGA, Phil Brown, Bloomfield, Conn.

Class C5, “Racers are Rewarded,” race on Saturday, show on Sunday (Saturday’s winners on exhibit)
1959 Volvo PV-544, Ronald Polimeni, Capon Bridge, W.Va.

Class C6, “Shiny Side Up,” Sports cars, 1962 to 1967
1962 Austin-Healey 3000 MK II, Donald E. Schneider, Lititz, Pa.

Class C7, “For the Fun of the Drive,” sports cars, 1968 to 1975
1970 Lotus Elan S4 SE/Sprint, David Porter, Darien, Conn.

Class C8, “Speed, Sport and Spirit,” sports cars, 1976 to 1990
1983 Lancia Beta Zagato, Jane & Jerome Roth, W. Cornwall, Conn.

Group D, Grand Touring Greatness

Class D1, “Style, Comfort and Pace,” GT cars, 1955 to 1961
1961 Porsche 356B T5, Mark Reich, North Andover, Mass.

Class D2, “A Businessman’s Express,” GT cars, 1962 to 1967
1964 Chevrolet Corvette, Mike Lombardi, Watertown, Conn.

Class D3, “Speed Breeds Success,” GT cars, 1968 to 1975
1968 Lamborghini Miura, Michael Schwartz, Sharon, Conn.

Class D4, “Outrunning the Wind,” open-air GT-caliber cars, 1955 to 1980
1962 Austin-Healey 3000 BN7 MKII, Roger Hamblin, Sandwich, N.H.

Class D5, “Simply Exceptional,” super-cars and special road cars, 1975 to present
1979 Porsche 930, Bud Szurek, Hebron, Conn.

Group E, Comfort, Style and More – Luxury Transport in a Post-War World

Class E1, “Comfort and Class and Wind in the Hair,” open-air motoring elegance, 1945 to 1985
1960 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz convertible, John E. Haverty, Pleasant Valley, N.Y.

Class E2, “In the Lap of Luxury,” exceptional luxury in coupe and sedan form, 1945 to 1959
1958 Cadillac Eldorado Seville, Frank Nicodemus, Jr., Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Class E3, “Life at the Top in Style and Comfort,” luxurious transportation coupes and saloons, 1960 to 1985
1977 Jaguar XK6-C Coupe, Richard Sementilli, New York, N.Y.

Group S, Our Special Feature Classes

Class S1, “Mercedes-Benz: The Legacy of Excellence,” stars of the three-pointed star: track machines
1939 Mercedes-Benz W154 “Silver Arrow,” The Revs Institute, Naples, Fla.

Class S2, “Mercedes-Benz: Practical Excellence on the Road,” stars of the three-pointed star: road machines
1957 Mercedes-Benz 300SC Roadster, Old Timer Restoration/Off Bros., Harvard, Mass.

Assorted Groups, Special Interest

Class F1, “Just as we Found it,” untouched originals to 1975
1962 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster, Ann M. Fagan, Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.

Class F2, “A Fresh Approach,” creative machines and “Euro rods” that fall between classing cracks, all years
1976 BMW 3.5 CSL Tribute Car, Joseph Rodriguez, Mahwah, N.J.

Class F3, “Hot Rod,” our tribute to garage-built American
greatness, all years
1956 Chevrolet Suburban, Shaun Nettleton, Washington, Conn.

Class F4, “Mercedes in Motion,” Mercedes-enthusiast passion through the years, all years
1962 Mercedes-Benz 300 D, Jeri & Mary Ann Barrett, Easton, Conn.

Class F5, “Up on Two Wheels,” the lighter side of getting going; legendary motorcycles through 1995
1937 BMW R6, Philip Richter, Ridgefield, Conn.

Class F6, “Domestic Dynamite,” reflections of a golden age of American Muscle, 1955 to 1980
1967 Pontiac GTO, Thomas & Kristin Zarrella, Gloucester, Mass.

Class F7, “Arnolts Abound!” A reunion of Arnolt-Bristols
1957 Arnolt-Bristol Deluxe Roadster, Michael Arnolt, Indianapolis, Ind.

Jochen’s Selection
1966 Jaguar XKE OTS, Thomas V.G. Brown, Norwalk, Conn.

Stirling’s Selection
1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR “722,” Mercedes Classic, Stuttgart, Ger.

Sir Stirling Moss' favorite car at Sunday in the Park! The 300 SLR he and Denis Jenkinson drove to victory in the 1955 Mille Miglia (Photo by Greg Clark/Lime Rock Park)

Sir Stirling Moss’ favorite car at Sunday in the Park! The 300 SLR he and Denis Jenkinson drove to victory in the 1955 Mille Miglia (Photo by Greg Clark/Lime Rock Park)

Posting Courtesy Lime Rock Park

27 Aug

House of Cars: Curated Garage Tour and Gala Celebration in New Canaan September 12

TV Star & Race Car Driver Patrick Dempsey

TV Star & Race Car Driver Patrick Dempsey

The New Canaan Historical Society honors its 125th anniversary with an auto event featuring rare, vintage and exotic cars & motorcycles.

New Canaan, CT – With a twist on its tag line, ‘History That Moves You,’ the New Canaan Historical Society is honoring its 125th anniversary with a unique and exciting auto event called House of Cars: Curated Garage Tour and Gala Celebration. On Saturday September 12, car collectors, automotive enthusiasts and the local community will be treated to a remarkable experience with a hand-picked selection of some of the world’s finest cars and motorcycles. The day starts with a ‘Fuel-up Breakfast’ amid a collection of exotic cars, followed by a curated tour of select private collections of cars and motorcycles into the afternoon. The event culminates with an evening gala celebration amongst an extensive collection of rare, vintage and unique cars. Master car restorer Wayne Carini and accomplished racers David Hobbs, and Patrick Dempsey (‘Dr. McDreamy’ of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy) are featured speakers throughout the event. Limited House of Cars Curated Garage Tour tickets are available, beginning at $1,500. House of Cars Gala tickets may be purchased separately, beginning at $1,000. To learn more, or to purchase tickets to this unique event, visit www.nchistory.org or call 203.966.1776.

“This is one of the few area events where you can experience some of the finest examples of motorized works of art, visit unique private garages and mingle with highly-acclaimed car experts and racing aficionados,” said event co-chair Susan Bishop. “Celebrating the Society’s 125th anniversary requires a truly special event, and we’ve created an extraordinary experience where people can surround themselves with automotive inspiration, excellence and unparalleled style.”

Guests will ‘start their engines’ by beginning their day at Miller Motorcars’ Stamford, CT garage, where a House of Cars ‘Fuel Up Breakfast’ will be served amid a collection of exotic cars, including a Rolls-Royce Wraith, McLaren 650S Spider, Aston Martin V12S, Ferrari California T, Maserati Ghibli S Q4, Pagani Huayra and an Alfa Romeo 4C. Wayne Carini of Velocity Channel’s Chasing Classic Cars will be the morning’s host, sharing insights from his lifetime of experience as a master car restorer and collection manager for clients worldwide. Swapping stories and genuine camaraderie are the spirit of the morning as guests share their passions for special and exclusive cars in this exciting setting.

Wayne Carini of Chasing Classic Cars on Velocity TV

Wayne Carini of Chasing Classic Cars on Velocity TV

Attendees will then be directed, in limited groups, to the House of Cars curated tour locations for an intimate and memorable experience. Custom automobiles and motorcycles that are equal parts art and power will be on display, set in some of Fairfield County’s most remarkable private garages. Guests will have a chance to speak with owners and mingle among these enviable collectables, while taking in the stylish backdrops for each ‘House of Cars.’

An elegant evening closes the day with a gala celebration at Collectors’ Car Garage in Bedford Hills, NY. Guests will enjoy cocktails and a seated dinner amongst an extensive collection of exotic, vintage and rare cars. House of Cars gala attendees will have an opportunity to bid on exceptional packages in a limited live auction. Patrick Dempsey, well known for his award-winning role on ABC’s series Grey’s Anatomy, is a noted Porsche racer, and will be the evening’s keynote speaker. For nearly a decade Dempsey’s great passion for motorsports propelled him to drive competitively and create the championship winning Dempsey Racing Team. Dempsey’s most recent racing achievement is a second place finish in the GTE Am class in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world’s oldest automotive endurance race. Dempsey will be interviewed by emcee David Hobbs, a multi-champion road racer, who over the course of three decades has raced in four Indianapolis 500 races and had three third place finishes at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Hobbs recently joined NBC Sports, co-hosting live coverage of Formula One races.


David Hobbs NBC Sports Formula 1 Co-host


“It’s an honor to host car collectors and motorsports enthusiasts throughout the tristate area as they gather together in this spectacular experience that celebrates the automobile,” said Evan Cygler, Miller Motorcars Director of Marketing. “Guests will leave this memorable House of Cars event feeling exhilarated.”

Tickets for the House of Cars Curated Garage Tour and Gala Celebration begin at $1,500 and are very limited. Individual gala tickets may be purchased for $1,000. To reserve your tickets, please send payment to the New Canaan Historical Society, 13 Oenoke Ridge, New Canaan, CT 06840. For additional details, including advertising and sponsorship opportunities, please visit www.nchistory.org or call 203.966.1776.

Proceeds from the House of Cars Curated Garage Tour and Gala Celebration will directly benefit the New Canaan Historical Society, which seeks to educate and enlighten the public in an atmosphere that is welcoming, friendly and fun by offering innovative educational exhibitions and programs for adults, children and families. The New Canaan Historical Society is a not-for-profit, privately supported, educational facility.

The New Canaan Historical Society is especially grateful to the House of Cars event sponsors. They include: Miller Motorcars of Greenwich, purveyor of Fairfield County’s finest motorcars; Chubb Insurance in partnership with Brown Thayer Shedd, provider of exceptional insurance for exceptional cars; CharlesDEAN New York, modern bespoke suits for discerning customers; Jonathan M. Wainwright Esq. of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLC, one of the world’s most prominent financial services law firms; Collectors Car Garage, a country club for car people; and media sponsor, Moffly Media, the leading authority on Fairfield County’s lifestyle resources, information and insights.

By Laura Roberts (Open Post on Patch)

14 Aug

Make It Six: Historic Festival 33 adds Lauren’s ‘Count Trossi’ SSK to Special Mercedes Collection at Lime Rock Sept. 6

Photo by Michael Furman

Photo by Michael Furman

LAKEVILLE, CT – Lime Rock Park Historic Festival 33 Chairman Murray Smith scored another coup by securing yet another historic Mercedes competition car to join the five already confirmed; he’s arranged for one of the very few remaining 1928-1932 Mercedes-Benz SSKs to join the already outstanding display.

In particular, it’s the streamlined SSK built for Count Carlo Felice Trossi. The spectacular “Trossi SSK,” owned by Ralph Lauren, won best of show at the 1993 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and the 2007 Concorso D’Eleganza Villa d’Este.

The SSK’s extreme performance and numerous competitive successes made it one of the most highly regarded sports cars of its era. Fewer than six entirely original SSK models remain. The SSK was the last Mercedes-Benz designed by Ferdinand Porsche before he left to found his own car company.

As of today, here’s the outstanding collection of Mercedes competition cars that will be at Historic Festival 33, September 4-7…

  • The “722” 300 SLR driven to victory by Stirling Moss and co-driver Denis Jenkinson in the 1955 Mille Miglia
  • 1954/55 W196 Grand Prix Silver Arrow
  • 1939 W154 Grand Prix Silver Arrow
  • 1930 Mercedes Trossi SSK
  • 1914 Mercedes Grand Prix car (French G.P.)
  • The 1908 Mercedes “Brooklands”
Photo  by IMS

Photo by IMS

The 1908 Mercedes Brooklands, is the sole survivor of only three produced. A Mercedes Brooklands finished fourth in the inaugural 1911 Indy 500 driven by Spencer Wishart, just 10 seconds behind Ray Harroun’s winning Marmon Wasp.

In the 1912 Indy 500, two Brooklands started – one by Wishart and one by Ralph De Palma – and De Palma very nearly won. In the car he nicknamed the Gray Ghost, he led 195 laps, but then a connecting rod broke. De Palma was able to coast one more lap but in the end he was classified 11th, behind winner Joe Dawson. (Wishart completed 82 laps and finished 15th.) These Brooklands were fitted with 583 cubic inch 4 cylinder engines.

The records of the individual Brooklands cars are difficult to distinguish from each other; the racers were leased and loaned to many owners and drivers. De Palma’s Brooklands was later lost in a fire. The Mercedes Brooklands has been kindly lent to Lime Rock by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum.

“It was the Brooklands models that built the very foundation of Mercedes racing success from the early 1900s onward,” Smith says. “A spectacular grouping, all of these very rare, very special Mercedes in one place at one time? Well, that pretty much speaks for itself, doesn’t it? I can’t tell you how pleased Lime Rock is to bring these cars to its fans and the media in such an intimate, beautiful and historic setting. Having Sir Stirling Moss and Jochen Mass as the weekend’s Honored Guests will add immensely to the Mercedes celebration, of course.”

About the Historic Festival: Since 1983, the East Coast’s premier vintage racing and concours event has been the Historic Festival at Lime Rock Park, held annually over Labor Day weekend. No other venue in the U.S. has three days of on-track racing sandwiching a prestigious concours event all on the same property, all at the same time. Historic Festival 33 is Thursday, September 3 (17-mile Vintage Race & Sports Car Parade) through Monday, September 7, while the Sunday in the Park Concours d’Elegance & Gathering of the Marques is September 6. Historic Festival 33 features Honored Guests Sir Stirling Moss and Jochen Mass, and one of the most distinctive gatherings of Mercedes-Benz competition cars in recent memory. Schedule: Thursday, Vintage Race Car Parade; Friday, Practice & Qualifying; Saturday, 18 races and demonstration laps; Sunday in the Park Concours; Monday, 18 races and demonstration laps. Ticket and other information at limerockhistorics.com & limerock.com


27 Jul

Four significant M-B competition cars confirmed for Historic Festival 33 at Lime Rock Sept. 3-7


Lakeville, CT – Competition cars from Mercedes-Benz will be the stars of Lime Rock Park’s Historic Festival 33, September 3-7, 2015. Event Chairman Murray Smith has confirmed the presence of four outstanding race cars:

From the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center in Stuttgart, Germany

  • The “722” 300 SLR driven to victory by Stirling Moss and co-driver Denis Jenkinson in the 1955 Mille Miglia
  • A 1954/55 W196 Silver Arrow grand prix car

From The Revs Institute, Naples, Fla.

  • 1939 W154 Silver Arrow grand prix car
  • 1914 Mercedes grand prix car (French G.P.)

Smith is currently in conversation with additional entities regarding other rare and significant Mercedes-Benz competition cars; announcements to follow.

• Historic Festival 33’s Honored Guests are Sir Stirling Moss and racing legend Jochen Mass, Mercedes-Benz Classic Center driver

• The Honored Collector for Sunday in the Park 2015 is Jim Taylor, of Gloversville, N.Y. Jim’s unique perspective focuses heavily on collecting “survivors” – cars that show their history and wear it proudly, and aren’t always washed much less restored – as well as eclectic, special cars with significant character. Among the cars Mr. Taylor is bringing to Historic Festival 33 are:

  • “The Evangel,” a 1935 Ford V8 “gospel truck”
  • 1937 Horch 853A Cabriolet
  • 1953 Allard J2X Le Mans
  • 1964 AC Cobra (289 – CSX 2171)
  • 1958 AC Ace Bristol
  • 1962 Chevrolet Corvair wagon (with special factory 4-speed manual transmission)
  • 1932 Ford hot rod

• The Honored Motorcycle Collector for Sunday in the Park 2015 is Rob Iannucci – Team Obsolete – of Brooklyn, N.Y. Rob Iannucci is one of the great stewards of the vintage motorcycle racing community in North America and internationally. Through his racing organization, Team Obsolete, he has participated in and won most of the important vintage motorcycle racing events in the world. Mr. Iannucci’s collection primarily focuses on bikes from Matchless and AJS, with a sprinkling of racing Harleys and other two-wheeled masterpieces. Not just any bikes, these are some of the most famous racing bikes in the world coming to Lime Rock Park.

  • 1954 AJS 7R3 “Triple Knocker,” ex-Rod Coleman, 1954 Isle of Man TT winner
  • 1959 Matchless G-50 #1709, ex-Al Gunter
  • 1969 Arter G-50 “Wagon Wheels”
  • 1967 MV Agusta 500/3; this is one of the legendary “triples” used by Giacomo Agostini to win 13 of his 15 F.I.M. World Championships… The Ultimate!
  • 1972 Harley Davidson 750 XRTT – Cal Rayborn’s last and best XR750TT… The Holy Grail of all the XR 750TT Harleys

New... Sunday in the Park is now accepting post-1985 cars in select classes to spotlight modern marvels (click here) to see the complete class list, some of which have post-1985 divisions)

• Lime Rock Park has made a multi-million dollar investment in its infrastructure as part of the Road to 60 Project. The facility is now substantially improved as compared to 2014 and prior. Rebuilt and/or all-new include: Paddocks, restrooms, viewing areas, walkways, landscaping, Wi-Fi system, PA system and more.


Find more information at www.limerockhistorics.com


14 Jun

New England Auto Museum eyeing Riverview Plaza as home

Hour File Photo/Alex von Kleydorff. Press conference in March of 2014 at Dragone Classic Automibiles in Wesport to announce Norwalk's New England Auto Museum

Hour File Photo/Alex von Kleydorff. Press conference in March of 2014 at Dragone Classic Automobiles in Wesport to announce Norwalk’s New England Auto Museum

Hour Staff Writer | Posted: Saturday, June 13, 2015 3:30 pm

NORWALK –Riverview Plaza on Belden Avenue could become the home of the New England Auto Museum.

New England Auto Museum (NEAM), a nonprofit organization founded to preserve, interpret and exhibit automobiles and automotive artifacts, has selected Norwalk as the future home of a museum and educational facility, according to its website. And at this point, the organization has its sights set on Riverview Plaza at 24 Belden Ave.

“We’re hoping we could renovate it,” NEAM marketing director Nick Ord told The Hour. “We want the display space to be where the mall was, which is ground floor, and then the upstairs five floors would be educational.”

The New England Auto Museum would feature 100 automobiles, an education center and automotive academy co-sponsored by Norwalk Community College and the Norwalk Public Schools P-Tech Program, and draw 100,000 to 150,000 visitors annually, according to NEAM.

Ord’s comments came at City Hall on Tuesday evening after the Norwalk Redevelopment Commission approved a $13,000 grant toward an assessment to determine whether such a museum would be viable in the Norwalk area.

“It’s not so much location but to verify that we have economic rationale to proceed,” Ord told commissioners. Commissioners approved thegrant after requesting that Norwalk be the focus of the assessment.

Ord said NEAM has explored East Hartford, Bristol, Southington as possible locations for the auto museum but all fell through. In Norwalk, the organization earlier eyed Loehmann’s Plaza on West Avenue. White Oak Associates Museum Planners and Producers will perform the assessment at a cost of $65,000.

Ord said NEAM has applied for $32,500 in funding from the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development and will attempt to raise $19,500 in private donations to cover the balance of the assessment cost. NEAM has until Feb. 2, 2016, to secure all funding.

Riverview Plaza was once home to a Pathmark Supermarket and the Norwalk Social Security office. The building is now vacant, Ord said. According to NEAM, Riverview Plaza offers an “easy access to major arteries as well as convenient bus transportation for visitors to all areas of Norwalk.”

NEAM was founded in 2007 by Michael and Christine Scheidel to “celebrate the automobile and its significant impact on our culture through the preservation and exhibition of automobiles and historical artifacts,” according to its website.

According to NEAM, Norwalk is the ideal location for an auto museum: the city is at the crossroads of Interstate 95, Route 7 and Metro-North Railroad, lies an hour from Manhattan at the gateway to New England, and has other museums (The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk and Stepping Stones Museum for Children) that attract more than 1.3 million visitors annually.

In addition, Norwalk is surrounded by the nation’s wealthiest zip codes.
“Norwalk’s New England location will draw current and future automobile enthusiasts from a wide area and provide a gathering spot for the region’s extensive and active automotive community,” according to NEAM.

The conceptual plan has received endorsements from, among others, Mayor Harry W. Rilling and Norwalk Community College President David L. Levinson.

“The museum’s presence in Norwalk will not only be a major tourist attraction in its own right, but will provide a venue for an automotive technology program that we will offer in tandem with the Norwalk Public Schools,” Levinson wrote.

Rilling, in a letter this month, congratulated NEAM in advance for its 10th annual Darien Collectors Car Show, which is scheduled for Sunday, June 21, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at Mathews Park in Norwalk. The event is expected to bring more than 100 collector cars.

The mayor welcomed the prospect of Norwalk becoming the home of NEAM’s automotive museum. “It will serve both as an educational center as well as display center to highlight an ever changing evolution of car history and technological development,” he wrote.

Hour Photo/Alex von Kleydorff. New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame member and national champion driver, Connecticut's Bob Sharp speaks as New England Auto Museum Founder and CEO Mike Scheidel holds a press conference at Dragone Classic Automobiles in Westport in March 2014.

Hour Photo/Alex von Kleydorff. New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame member and national champion driver, Connecticut’s Bob Sharp speaks as New England Auto Museum Founder and CEO Mike Scheidel holds a press conference at Dragone Classic Automobiles in Westport in March 2014.

Link to actual article


14 May

Ultra-Rare 1964 Pontiac Banshee Concept Headed to Dragone Spring Auction May 30


Westport, CT – Intended as a shot across Ford’s bow, Pontiac’s Banshee XP-833 coupe was an answer to Ford’s Cougar II show car, and Pontiac brass felt confident they could bring the Banshee to market before Ford launched its own two-seater. History tells us that neither car saw production, but a glimpse at the Banshee gives us a look at design cues that would later appear on the third-generation Corvette and the first-generation Firebird. One of two first-generation Banshees built (the other a white convertible that’s long been a part of Joe Bortz’s collection), the silver coupe will head to auction later this month as part of the Dragone Spring Auction in Westport, Connecticut.

The initial success of Ford’s Mustang left GM scrambling to offer a counterpoint, and it would take until 1967 before the Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird hit dealerships. Determined not to make the same mistake twice, Pontiac head John DeLorean asked his designers to come up with a lightweight two-seat sports car, one that could be brought to market for the 1967 model year, potentially ahead of the Ford Cougar II that was rumored to be bound for production. Two first-generation Banshees were put together, using an A-body chassis and fiberglass-reinforced plastic body panels. The convertible was built with a V-8, but GM management reportedly felt that such a car would be too close in positioning to the Corvette.


The coupe was powered by an overhead camshaft inline six-cylinder, fitted with a crossflow head and reportedly good for 155 horsepower. Given the Banshee’s curb weight below 2,300 pounds, even such a modest engine would have produced spirited performance, while delivering exceptional handling. The Banshee, at least in the eyes of Pontiac executives, would complement the Corvette, offering buyers of more modest means another GM two-seat sports car to choose from.


As Bob Hovorka wrote in the February 1989 issue of Special Interest Autos, production of the Banshee was never seriously considered by GM management. Perhaps any challenge to the Corvette as GM’s sole two-seat sports car was seen as too much, or perhaps the Ford Cougar II was never seen as a serious candidate for production, but in 1966 the first Banshee project was scrapped. The cars should have been as well, but rumor has it they escaped the crusher by being secreted away and later sold to employees close to the project. Both coupe and convertible are semi-functional drivers, minus key details like functional headlamps.

The coupe remained with its original owner until 2006, when it sold at a Barrett-Jackson auction for $214,500. Since then, it’s been offered for sale numerous times, including a trip across the stage at RM’s 2010 Amelia Island sale, where it bid to $325,000 but failed to meet reserve, and at Mecum’s 2010 Monterey sale, where it bid to $400,000 without changing hands. It’s twice been featured as a Find of the Day in the Hemmings Daily, but neither running included a price in the listing.


Officially, the third-generation Corvette was inspired by the 1965 Mako Shark II concept, but one has to wonder how much the concept was itself inspired by the Banshee. Even if the answer is “not at all,” it’s impossible not to see the Banshee’s influence on the first generation Firebird’s rear and on the production Opel GT, which seems to duplicate the Banshee’s pop-up headlamps, sloping nose, fastback roof and Kamm tail in slightly smaller scale. Perhaps John DeLorean and his designers were onto something after all.

Dragone Auctions is predicting a selling price between $600,000 and $650,000 when the 1964 Pontiac Banshee XP-833 crosses the stage on Saturday, May 30 as part of its 2015 Greenwich Concours Car Event Weekend auction. For complete details, visit DragoneClassic.com.

Courtesy Kurt Ernst, Hemmings Daily
Photos Dragone Auctions

21 Apr

Fiberglass for First Plastic Sports Car Developed in Connecticut 65 Years Ago

Images courtesy Geoff Hacker

Images courtesy Geoff Hacker

Naugatuck, CT – Bill Tritt and his company Glasspar were growing in the fiberglass boat business by leaps and bounds, and while the bulk of their business was always boats and ships, in late 1949 he had started working with Ken Brooks to produce a fiberglass sports car body. By early 1950, Bill was looking to expand and take on new business, and in that year Tritt brought on investors that would allow his company to grow.

Things were looking good for Glasspar, and Tritt wanted to add sports car bodies to Glasspar’s product list, but there was a problem. Lots of companies needed supplies, but none more so than the U.S. government. The summer of 1950, when Glasspar began its expansion plans, was also the same time that the Korean War started (Korean forces invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950), and this war continued through the summer of 1953.

Resources were in scant supply, and everyone wanted what was available. It was in that setting that Tritt pressed forward to find more supplies – polyester resin and fiberglass mat – in Southern California. At every corner he turned, supplies were being dedicated to the war effort. Glasspar’s dreams of expanding were suddenly in a precarious position.

In 2000, Daniel Spurr interviewed Bill Tritt about this very moment in time for his book Heart of Glass, a terrific story on the birth of the fiberglass industry in postwar America and how it revolutionized the boat industry. Here’s what Tritt had to say:

“At this critical point in Glasspar’s growth, the story becomes one of great serendipity and plain luck. The Korean War dealt us a near mortal blow. We suddenly were unable to obtain polyester resin because it was all going to aircraft and other military products. Our purchasing history was laughable, as was I in my fruitless search for suppliers.”

“Then, strictly by chance, I saw a notice of the opening of a new chemical company in a warehouse in South Los Angeles. I had never heard of the company, Naugatuck Chemical, although it turned out to be a division of U.S. Rubber. I didn’t know what the warehouse was to house, but with nothing building in the shop, on a nice day, I borrowed the Boxer from Ken Brooks and drove to the warehouse.”

“It was large and appeared empty, but I went inside and found a little office. In the office was a personable young man named Bud Crawford, who informed me that the warehouse primarily handled shipments of polyester resin from Connecticut, headed then to the big boys.”

“He was most sympathetic to our problems, but he had no way to divert any of the resin without an order from the War Department. We concluded there was no way I could get even a drum of our lifeblood’s chemical equivalent from Naugatuck. We walked out to the loading dock to bid farewell and, when Crawford saw the Boxer, he asked, “Hey, what’s that?”

“Less than twenty-four hours later, Earl Ebers, head of Naugatuck, a chemist and devoted proponent of Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic, arrived in California, came to the (Glasspar) plant, and committed Naugatuck Chemical to sending us an immediate (air freight) supply of resin (trade name Vibrin).”

This historic moment was captured by more than one person. Back in 1951, Bert McNomee was in the operations area of the public relations department for Naugatuck Chemical. From 1968 to 1976, Bert was the director of public relations for U.S. Rubber, but during 1951, he was at ground zero of what was about to happen with Glasspar and fiberglass sports cars.

Bert reviewed his memory of these early years back in Shark Quarterly, a magazine about Corvette history, in the summer of 1997. Here’s what Bert had to share:

“In 1950, Bill Tritt had designed and Glasspar built a custom body to update a friend’s wife’s jeep chassis (note: see previous story on Glasspar for correct reference to a 1940s Willys). This work caught the attention of our West Coast man, Bud Crawford, and he told Mr. Ebers about it. When he heard about Tritt’s work he decided we would go out there.”

“We arrived on a Saturday and, I remember, checked into a little known place called the Mayfair Hotel. Then on Monday, Bill Tritt took us out to Costa Mesa to see this car. I thought, “Holy Mackerel look at this car!” It looked like an early Jaguar. They asked me if I wanted to take a ride in it. I surely did. So off we went. It was amazing; it cornered well, and with the light body it was peppy.”

“Mr. Ebers asked me, “So Bert, what do you think?” I said that I thought we had a chance to get it into LIFE Magazine, like he wanted. But first we need some good pictures of the car. Now a lot of things happened pretty much at the same time. My job was to get busy on the press coverage.”

“For my part, I hired Tom King of the Blackstar Association, locally, to take some pictures. These were just the preliminary photos so I could get some interest going at LIFE Magazine. When we got back to New York, I called Bill Payne of the “new products” section at LIFE and showed him these preliminary photos.”

“Bill was also a car buff so he was quite interested in the idea of a fiberglass car for his section. We met for lunch with Earl Ebers and talked about how the car body could be presented to make a really interesting story.”


“We had to make it clear, pictorially; that this was a car body that was different from any other car body you had ever seen. I told him that before the car was painted, the body was actually translucent. That did it. It lit up all kinds of ideas in Bill’s mind. He started talking about how we could lower the body over the car and light it from underneath. The ideas came together and he sold the story to his editors.”


At this time, Earl Ebers went up to Naugatuck to meet with George Vila, who was the General Sales Manager, and John Coe, who was the Vice President. They both agreed that Naugatuck Chemical would subsidize the construction of four prototype cars, which was the amount Tritt wanted to justify setting up the bucks and molds.

They also agreed to send Earle out to Costa Mesa to work on the first four models and to oversee the operation. And so Glasspar and Naugatuck were joined at the hip in terms or making fiberglass sports cars a reality, and no small job was laid out in front of them to make this dream a reality. In fact, in just a few short months Bill Tritt would have to:

  • update the plaster buck so a new mold could be produced (changes in the grill design occurred at this step)
  • create a new mold that could stand the rigors of production
  • debut the Brooks Boxer at the Petersen Motorama in November 1951
  • and finish at least one full sports car that Naugatuck had paid for, preferably by the end of 1951

Bill Tritt commented in Heart of Glass about the meeting in late summer as follows:

“We had unbelievable credit and an order for a car to show at Philadelphia Plastics Exhibit in (March) 1952. Life magazine was set to do a feature story; one hundred eighty degrees from a few days before.”

In the fall of 1951, the team from Naugatuck Chemical returned with Life Magazine photographer J. R. Eyerman. During this time, they photographed the Brooks Boxer in action shots for the magazine, captured Bill Tritt working on the plaster buck for the G2 sports car, showed the steps in making a fiberglass body, and more.


In fact, in photographing the sports car body being built, they would be capturing the very first body being built from the production molds. This would become the second Glasspar sports car built – the Alembic I.

In preparation for today’s story, I called Bert McNomee (he’s doing great and has been a constant source of support and information for the history of these times), and asked him about how the name Alembic I came to be for the second sports car built by Glasspar.

Bert reminded me that Naugatuck Chemical was a chemical company first, and in chemistry, Alembic has its origin in equipment involved in the distillation process. According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of Alembic is either an apparatus used in distillation or something that refines or transmutes as if by distillation.


And so, with great excitement, enthusiasm, and the backing of a large company, the second Glasspar sports car was born, the Alembic I. Bill Tritt, Glasspar, and Naugatuck Chemical pressed forth, and to the delight of all, Life Magazine published the article in February 1952 and the world of fiberglass sports cars was never the same.

Article Courtesy Hemming’s Daily
Geoff Hacker is a Tampa, Florida-based automotive historian who specializes in tracking down bizarre, off-beat, and undocumented automobiles. His favorites are Fifties American fiberglass-bodied cars, and he shares his research into those cars at ForgottenFiberglass.com.

Glasspar Cars are featured on Ray Evernham’s Americarna episode “Forgotten Fiberglass” on VelocityTV; Check your local listings for date and time.



17 Feb

Automobile Industry Started in Hartford in 1891


New Britain, CT – “Hartford does not claim to have made the first automobile but does claim to have started the automotive industry,” This statement was made by pioneer auto designer and engineer, Henry Cave, who worked with Daimler Motor Company, Locomobile and with George B. Seldon to design, develop and demonstrate the first Seldon patent car.

The very first Hartford-based company to work in the automobile industry was the National Machine Company in 1891. Located at Capital Ave and Woodbine Street, they made motors for Steinway-Daimler, the engine that established the auto industry in Europe. But five years later in 1895, the Pope Manufacturing Company established the Motor Carriage Department and experimented with gas powered automobiles. Their conclusion was that these cars were very noisy, vibrating, greasy and complicated to operate. They also believed that the wealthiest citizens, the only ones who could afford such a vehicle, would not be interested in such a car.

The Pope Manufacturing Company concentrated their efforts into designing and developing electric engines and in 1897 formally offered to the public the Columbia Electric Phaeton for a price of $3,000. Henry Cave reports, “Under the direction of the production experts, these handsome vehicles were the first to be made in this country on anything like a substantial basis.’ The Hartford Times wrote,” Its cost of maintenance and operation should be much less than that of a pair of horses…never found anyone so stupid that they could not run the carriage but there are many who can’t handle a horse…6 or 8 inches of snow “no obvious obstacle”.

The Hartford Courant wrote under the title, ” HORSELESS ERA COMES”, the electric vehicle was managed and turned about with as much comfort and success as you would have in driving the gentlest horse…The idea of sitting in a rolling carriage, nothing in front of the dashboard but space…is something exhilarating and fascinating.”

The first vehicles made were made under the Columbia name. Pictured here is a Columbia Mark III Stanhope, an advertising post card produced by the Pope Manufacturing Company. The vehicle was quite simple with four bicycle wheels and seating for two. It had a gong (forerunner to the horn) and four electric lights to illuminate the way at night. One of the first well known owners was Andrew Carnegie.

The Klingberg Vintage Motorcar Festival in New Britain, CT on June 20th, 2015, will feature many automobiles manufactured in Connecticut including examples from Pope Hartford, Columbia, Corbin and Locomobile and is in fact the largest gathering of these early “brass era” cars in the country.

Source: Klingberg Vintage Motorcar Festival

Pope-Hartford back in the day

Pope-Hartford back in the day

1908 Air-Cooled Corbin

1908 Air-Cooled Corbin