04 May

Award Winning Lotus Elan S4 Sprint will be displayed at the Father’s Day Car Show in Norwalk on June 19

David Porter’s 1971 Lotus Elan S4 Sprint (Photo David Porter)

David Porter’s 1971 Lotus Elan S4 Sprint (Photo David Porter)

Norwalk, Conn. – Renowned local car collector and vintage race car driver David Porter will be displaying his 1971 Lotus Elan S4 Sprint roadster in the Father’s Day Car Show at Mathews Park in Norwalk on June 19, 2016 from 10AM to 3PM. Porter, who resides in Darien, restored the car from virtually barn-find condition over a period of three years doing all the mechanical work himself. The car represents the last iteration of Colin Chapman’s Elan S4 series of cars originally introduced in 1968. The unique paint treatment on the Series 4 Sprint models was meant to evoke the Gold Leaf cigarettes livery of the company’s Grand Prix cars which had won multiple world championships. David Porter is well known at local car shows both for the Lotus and also his immaculate Jaguar XK-150S which won both the People’s Choice Award and the Coachmen Car Club trophy at last year’s NEAM Father’s Day show in Norwalk.

The S4 Elan was introduced in 1968 and can be distinguished from its predecessors by its slightly flared wheel arches, wider tires, and Jaguar tail lights. The S4 also had an aggressive-looking bulge in the bonnet to house the Stromberg carburetors. The much anticipated Sprint version was announced in 1970 at the Earls Court Motor Show, and promised more power for the 1971 cars. Ex-BRM engineer Tony Rudd was able to squeeze an incredible for the time 126 horsepower out of the little 1600 Twin Cam, labeled the ‘Big Valve’ engine. This gave the 1,500 pound Elan lively performance and demonstrated yet again the advantage of adding lightness. It bears repeating that the Elan is an extremely important car. The classic Ron Hickman design was actually the first Lotus to utilize the famous backbone chassis, and the way the car perfectly captured the essence of ’60s British motoring was recognized decades later by Mazda in their development of the original Miata. It also helped establish Lotus as a legitimate manufacturer.
David Porter’s car has been stunningly well restored and is considered an almost perfect example of the S4 Sprint model. It won its class in 2015 at the Lime Rock Historics concours and has won recognition at several other shows including the Alden Sherman Classic in Weston, CT.

The perfect car for a brisk run in the countryside (Photo David Porter)

The perfect car for a brisk run in the countryside (Photo David Porter)

Anyone interested in showing a car at this year’s Father’s Day Car Show may pre-register HERE – it’s only $10/per car to pre-register ($15 at the show entrance). Spectator admission is free. Dash plaques will be available for the first 100 cars to register.

New England Auto Museum
The New England Auto Museum will be an exciting new attraction for the state of Connecticut and throughout the Northeast. This non-profit organization will build a first class facility dedicated to preserving, interpreting and exhibiting historic automobiles and automobile artifacts. It will serve as both an educational learning center as well as a display center to highlight an ever changing evolution of car history and its impact on society. Find more information at www.neautomuseum.org

25 Apr

Grand Marshal Announced for NEAM Father’s Day Car Show in Norwalk

Alfredo Gulla kept the faith, welcomes Alfa Romeo brand back to the U.S.

Alfredo Gulla at his Alfa Romeo Fiat dealership in Larchmont, NY (Photo Fiat500USA.com)

Alfredo Gulla at his Alfa Romeo Fiat dealership in Larchmont, NY (Photo Fiat500USA.com)

Norwalk, Conn. – Alfredo Gulla, founder and owner of Alfredo’s Foreign Cars, dba Alfa Romeo Fiat of Larchmont and Larchmont Chrysler Jeep Dodge, has been named Grand Marshal for the second annual New England Auto Museum Father’s Day Car Show at Mathews Park in Norwalk. The event is scheduled for Sunday, June 19th from 10AM to 3PM and proceeds will support the nonprofit New England Auto Museum building and education funds.

This year the Father’s Day Show will celebrate Alfa Romeo as one of its featured marques, and Alfredo Gulla will be honored as one of the original U.S. dealers for the brand in the early 1960’s as well as for his success in regaining the franchise for its North American relaunch by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

From his dealership near the Connecticut/New York state border, Alfredo Gulla waited nearly 20 years for his beloved Alfa Romeo to return to the U.S. market. Gulla began selling the Alfa Romeo 4C two seat sports cars last year, and in 2016 will begin receiving the new Alfa Guilia sedans, recently displayed at the New York International Auto Show.

“I was always in touch with Italy and Milan, and the rumors were that Alfa and Fiat would return, so it was always ‘Wait and hope, wait and hope,'” Gulla says “It is a real pleasure to see these two brands come back to America.”

Gulla at his Larchmont, N.Y., store in 1963; for Fiat or Alfa Romeo, he says, he sold the brand, the history, the Italian heritage (Photo Automotive News)

Gulla at his Larchmont, N.Y., store in 1963; for Fiat or Alfa Romeo, he says, he sold the brand, the history, the Italian heritage (Photo Automotive News)

As a young man, Gulla immigrated to New York in late 1956 from Catanzaro, Italy — a city of about 100,000 people on the instep of the Italian boot. He found work in a small import car dealership in Larchmont, and five years later, when that dealership was for sale, he bought it.

At first, sales at what would become Alfredo’s Foreign Cars were confined to parts and service. But within months, Gulla had secured an agreement with Fiat to sell new cars. Gulla bought his first two — a Fiat 500 and an Alfa Romeo Giulietta — and began decades of selling Italian cars to people in the metropolitan New York area.

His customers included fellow Italian immigrants and their progeny, who sought a small piece of their native land. It included the famous — he sold convertibles to Groucho Marx and Henry Kissinger, for example — and the not-so-famous.

Alfa Romeo and Fiat models in Alfredo’s showroom in the early ‘60’s (Photo Automotive News)

Alfa Romeo and Fiat models in Alfredo’s showroom in the early ‘60’s (Photo Automotive News)

They were good years, for the most part. Always, Gulla says, whether it was a Fiat or an Alfa Romeo, he sold the brand, the history, the Italian heritage. “I hope, the fact that I’m Italian blends a little bit with the cars we are selling,” Gulla explains.

But Fiat and Alfa Romeo’s troubles grew in the United States as their sales fell in the late 1980s and early 1990s. By 1995, Alfa would pull out of the United States and retreat to Europe, despite the pleas of Gulla and other dealers.

Only when Fiat S.p.A. assumed control of a bankrupt Chrysler in 2009 was Gulla truly optimistic. His was among the first Fiat franchises to be awarded in 2010 when Chrysler began to sell the Fiat 500 in North America. Finally last year, Gulla’s Fiat of Larchmont was on the initial list to receive an Alfa Romeo franchise.

Even now, he is at the dealership and his nearby Chrysler store almost every day. Gulla says he believes Alfa’s return to North America will seem at first slow and regional. “But in the near future, with all the new models coming over, we will see a bigger impact for the brand.”

As Grand Marshal of the NEAM Father’s Day Car Show, Gulla is looking forward to greeting customers from years gone by as well as introducing the technological marvels of the new cars to another generation of “Alfisti.”

Adapted from article by Larry Vellequette, Automotive News

The iconic Alfa Romeo Spider celebrating its 50th Anniversary in 2016 (Photo: Hemmings)

The iconic Alfa Romeo Spider celebrating its 50th Anniversary in 2016 (Photo: Hemmings)

02 Mar

Alfa Romeo & Model A Ford to headline the 2nd Annual Father’s Day Car Show on Sunday, June 19th at Mathews Park in Norwalk

Spectators and classic cars at the 2015 Father’s Day Car Show at Mathews Park in Norwalk (Photo New England Auto Museum)

Spectators and classic cars at the 2015 Father’s Day Car Show at Mathews Park in Norwalk (Photo New England Auto Museum)

Norwalk, Conn. – On Sunday, June 19, 2016 New England Auto Museum will again present a Father’s Day Car Show on the lawn of Mathews Park in Norwalk, site of the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum. The event will be held from 10AM to 3PM and will offer hundreds of unique cars to view. Admission to the event is free to spectators; a donation will be voluntary and any proceeds will go towards the New England Auto Museum’s building and education funds. The New England Auto Museum is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. Great food and refreshments will be provided all day by the Port 5 Naval Veterans along with music and prizes from Car Tunes Classics, trophies for People’s Choice, Best in Show and more.

Spectators can come out and enjoy an afternoon of classic cars in all shapes and sizes, talk with the owners, be a judge and select their favorite car, grab a bite to eat and even visit the Stepping Stones Children’s Museum and tour the historic Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum, right next door. It’s a great afternoon for Dad and the whole family!

New this year, the Father’s Day Car Show will feature two celebrated automotive marques: from Europe will be Alfa Romeo automobiles including pre-war and post war models and from America the Model A Ford of which almost 5 million examples were produced from 1927 to 1931.

The iconic Alfa Romeo Spider celebrating its 50th Anniversary in 2016 (Photo: Hemmings)

The iconic Alfa Romeo Spider celebrating its 50th Anniversary in 2016 (Photo: Hemmings)

Founded in Milan as A.L.F.A. in 1910, Alfa Romeo has been involved in auto racing since its early beginnings and boasts the world’s title for most racing wins of any automotive marque in history. This year is the 50th Anniversary of the iconic Alfa Spider which gained fame in the blockbuster 1967 movie “The Graduate.” Now owned by the Fiat Chrysler organization, the brand has returned to the U.S. market, last year with the exotic 4C sports car and coming this year a new sports sedan, the Guilia Quadrifoglio equipped with a 500 hp Ferrari-derived V-6 engine.

2017 Alfa Romeo Guilia Quadrifoglio (Photo: Car and Driver)

2017 Alfa Romeo Guilia Quadrifoglio (Photo: Car and Driver)

The Model A Ford is beloved by collectors for its simplicity and ease of maintenance as well as being fun to drive. It is one of the most collected marques in the country and boasts of five owners clubs in the state of Connecticut alone. The Model A was the second huge sales success for Ford Motor Company after its predecessor the Model T, and was the first Ford to use the standard set of driver controls with conventional clutch and brake pedals, throttle, and gearshift.

1928 Model A Ford, almost 5 million built up to 1931(Photo: Wikipedia)

1928 Model A Ford, almost 5 million built up to 1931(Photo: Wikipedia)

Anyone interested in showing a car may pre-register online at the New England Auto Museum website (after April 3rd); it’s only $10/per car. Spectator admission is free. Prizes will include awards for the Peoples’ Choice; the Mayor’s Choice, Best in Show and many more. Dash plaques will be available for the first 100 cars to register.

New England Auto Museum
The New England Auto Museum will be an exciting new attraction for the state of Connecticut and throughout the Northeast. This non-profit organization will build a first class facility dedicated to preserving, interpreting and exhibiting historic automobiles and automobile artifacts. It will serve as both an educational learning center as well as a display center to highlight an ever changing evolution of car history and its impact on society. Find more information at www.neautomuseum.org

2015 Best in Show winner ’64 Austin-Healey 3000 MkII owned by Ryan Ledwith (Photo New England Auto Museum)

2015 Best in Show winner ’64 Austin-Healey 3000 MkII owned by Ryan Ledwith
(Photo New England Auto Museum)

23 Sep

The Fina Sport, Mid-Century Italo-American Hybrid Built in New York City – Part 3

Part III: Fina Motors, Move to Norwalk, Connecticut in 1957

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Norwalk, Conn. – After the success of the Fina Sport at Madison Square Garden in 1954, and at successive car shows including a first place trophy at the Philadelphia Autorama, not much is known as to why the coupe and its sister convertible the following year, were not put into production. The price of $14,000 (quoted in Italamerican Magazine) may have been a major deterrent when the average American car was selling for less than $2,000.

1954 World Motor Sports Show Grand Prix trophy awarded to Perry Fina

1954 World Motor Sports Show Grand Prix trophy awarded to Perry Fina

In 1957, Perry and Joe moved the garage to Norwalk, Conn. at 130 Connecticut Ave. and became a dealer for Studebaker-Packard, Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar cars. It appears that the Finas kept the prototype Fina Sport cars as there is a picture of the coupe with Perry and his wife Lillian in the Norwalk showroom taken in late 1960 as well as the convertible in the showroom window around the same time.

Perry and Lillian Fina with the ’54 Fina Sport in the Norwalk showroom Christmas season 1960

Perry and Lillian Fina with the ’54 Fina Sport in the Norwalk showroom Christmas season 1960

Previously the site of Fina Motors at 130 Connecticut Ave. in Norwalk

Previously the site of Fina Motors at 130 Connecticut Ave. in Norwalk

1955 Fina Sport Convertible circa 1960 in Norwalk showroom with’56 Philadelphia Autorama trophy

1955 Fina Sport Convertible circa 1960 in Norwalk showroom with ’56 Philadelphia Autorama trophy

Perry Fina passed away in New York City in 1970 just shy of his 78th birthday. Joe continued to run the garage in Norwalk, briefly retiring in the early 70’s before accepting a position with the State of Connecticut Trade School System in a consulting role providing technical advice and guidance for the state’s trade schools. Joe remained in that role for 19 years during the course of which time he became friends with fellow Redding, Conn. resident and car enthusiast David Reed. Because of Dave Reed’s interest in cars and memorabilia, he was able to acquire all of the remaining photographs and artifacts for the Fina Sport cars from Joe Fina, many of which were used to compile this article. The whereabouts of the Fina prototype cars today is somewhat of a mystery. Joe Fina passed away in early 1999. Dave Reed has been in touch with the owner of one car in Pennsylvania who claims he is going to restore the car with his son. The convertible turned up on E-Bay a few years ago from a seller in Des Plaines, IL looking very much the worse for wear for an asking price of $275,000.

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Remains of the Fina Sport convertible on E-Bay in March, 2011 asking price $275,000

Remains of the Fina Sport convertible on E-Bay in March, 2011 asking price $275,000

Dave Reed believes there is a third car in Houston, TX but has not been able to locate the owner. It would be a tribute to the ingenuity and foresight of Perry and Joe Fina to bring a least one of these cars back to life for new generations of car enthusiasts.

Last of Three Articles

Original Photographs & Artifacts contributed by David W. Reed, Redding, CT
Article compiled by Nick Ord, New England Auto Museum
nord@neautomuseum.org

28 Jun

NEAM Father’s Day Car Show – 2015 Award Winners

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People’s Choice Award
– 1st Place ’58 Jaguar XK-150, David Porter
– Runner Up ’68 Mustang Custom, Casey O’Neill

Mayor’s Choice Award
– ’15 Dodge Brothers Touring, Gwen & Parker Ackley

Best in Show Award
– ’64 Austin-Healey 3000 MkII, Ryan Ledwith

Malcom S. Pray Jr. Foundation Award
– ’25 Ford Model T Coupe, Peggy & Don Morey

Bob Sharp Award
– Pray Museum Dune Buggy, Jerry Cotrone

Lime Rock Park Award
– ’55 Porsche Spyder Replica, Al Baran

McMahon Ford Award
– ’66 Mustang Convertible, Al Muska

Coachmen Car Club Trophy
– ’58 Jaguar XK-150, David Porter

Connecticut Seaport Car Club Award
– ’54 Lincoln Capri, Allan Wilcox

Charles England Award
– ’59 Triumph TR-3B, Russ Jones

Hagerty Insurance Award
– ’68 Mustang 428 Cobra Jet, Vinny Lyons

Designed Sound Award
– ’59 Triumph TR-3B, Russ Jones

Automotive Restorations Award
– ’64 Austin-Healey 3000 MkII, Ryan Ledwith

Dragone Classics Award

– ’56 VW Sunroof, Bic Green

New England Racing Fuels Award
– 55 Ford Custom Fairlane, Frank Colcone

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19 Jun

Darien car show steers in new direction

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David Porter of Darien behind the wheel of his 1958 Jaguar XK-150 at his home; Porter will be showing the car at the Darien Collectors’ Father’s Day Car Show at the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Park in Norwalk Sunday, June 21,2015. Photo: Martin Cassidy / Hearst Connecticut Media

By Martin B. Cassidy
Darien News Review
Tuesday, June 16, 2015 
link to article

It took six months of networking three years ago before David Porter found a 1958 Jaguar XK-150 that hadn’t rusted into oblivion or suffered engine problems.

Porter, a retired financier who lives in Darien, said he bought the car from a United Kingdom-based dealer who found the well-preserved specimen under a tarp in an Illinois garage where it had been parked for more than 40 years.

Porter estimated about only a quarter of the roughly 820 XK-150’s created remain, and many are in poor mechanical condition, he said.

“They tend to be rough cars and they can be in bad shape for driving,” Porter said. “… There are also people who claim that they’ve fully restored cars but they haven’t.”

“I’ve been excited about cars since I was about 2,” Porter said. “My father was a car enthusiast and I remember having a pedal car when I was 4. You tend to feel the interest early. ”

Porter, 63, spent the better part of two days last week getting the Jaguar ready to roll for at the upcoming 10th Annual Darien Collector’s Father’s Day Car Show, which will be from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Lockwood-Mathews Mansion in Norwalk, on Father’s Day, Sunday, June 21. The registration fees for the cars on display will go toward establishing a New England Auto Museum in Norwalk.

The car show was previously held at Tilley Pond Park in Darien, which the show has outgrown, said Darien resident Nicholas Ord, a principal board member of the New England Auto Museum effort.

“(The show) is getting bigger and there is a lot more opportunity to make the show bigger in Lockwood Mathews, plus we’re establishing more of a presence in Norwalk,” Ord said.
While also a professional racer of vintage cars, Porter said car shows offer the fulfillment of being able to share a bit of beauty and industrial history.

Certain aspects of getting the car looking its best are tedious, such as polishing the 60 chrome spokes on each of the Jaguar’s tires, Porter said. But sharing the car in its restored glory gives Porter a sense he is fostering a historical appreciation for automotive history.

“These cars and others like it should be seen,” Porter said of the Jaguar. “There are so few of them left, especially in this condition.”

Ord said last week about 40 to 50 owners had registered cars for the show, a number that could jump significantly in the days leading to the show.

The non-profit effort launched in 2008 to establish a New England automobile museum is gaining momentum, Ord said, with the group fundraising for a $65,000 market study on whether a Norwalk museum celebrating Connecticut’s role in automotive history is feasible.
Last week the group received a grant for $13,000 from the City of Norwalk toward the study, and Ord said the group is focusing on building the future museum at 24 Belden Ave., the former site of the Norwalk Mall.

The New England Auto Museum would including rotating exhibits with up to 100 automobiles, historical displays about Connecticut’s history in the automotive industry, and an automotive technology academy in conjunction with Norwalk Community College and the Norwalk Public Schools.

“We’ve been looking in Norwalk now for almost three years and it is our favored location,” Ord said.

In most years, Porter will show the Jaguar at half dozen or more events throughout the region, including at the Lime Rock Raceway in Lakeville.

Last year, Porter raced in the Classic 24 Daytona race, which runs a full day pitting cars with a racing history from eras as far back as the 1960s against each other in a test of automotive endurance. Porter spent part of the race behind the wheel of a 2005 Pescarolo Judd, racing against other cars from the last decade.

The Pescarolo finished fourth in the race overall, after bouncing back from an accident early in the race, Porter said.

“It was an amazing feeling being underneath the lights at Daytona at 4:30 a.m. in the morning,” Porter said.

Admission to the show will be free for visitors, but a donation to the New England Auto Museum is requested. Anyone interested in showing a car can pre-register online at with the fee being $10 per car. More details about the show at www.neautomuseum.org.

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

By ROBERT KOCH
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

 

29 May

Rare Kurtis 500S on display at NEAM Father’s Day Car Show in Norwalk Sunday, June 21st

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Norwalk, CT – In December 1953, Road & Track wrote “Frank Kurtis of Glendale, California deserves full credit for being the first man in America to attempt to produce an American production sports car.” In 1956, Motor Life added “the Kurtis 500S practically owned West Coast sports car racing for a couple of years.” A 500S broke the Del Monte Forest track record by five seconds in 1954, and another was on the pole at 1955’s 12 Hours of Sebring. As the accolades mounted, Frank Kurtis earned his place in sports car history. Like all of the cars built by Kurtis, the 500S is a healthy slice of the American automotive pie.

From its beginnings in 1935, Kurtis Kraft built midget cars, quartermidgets, sprint cars, Bonneville speed record cars and USAC Championship cars. According to historian Alan Girdler, from 1950 until 1964, every winner of the Indy 500 was either built by Kurtis or directly influenced by his designs. The heritage shows in this example, as presented by Automotive Restorations Inc. of Stratford, CT; the 500S profile is pure Indy roadster. Its chassis is a classic Indy car design right down to the torsion bar suspension and quick change rear end. The build quality and details of each of the 500S models are also worthy of an Indy car, showing it was planned by a man who had done this sort of thing many times before.

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Fewer than 30 of the 500S models were ever produced. Many like this version were sold as kits with complete chassis, wheels and suspension parts. In this instance, Cadillac motor mounts accompanied the kit when ordered by original owner Darrel W. Johnson of Ferndale, MI. Although started by Johnson, the car remained unfinished for many years until purchased by Warren Wetterlund of California, who commissioned its completion by John Wyals and noted hot rod builder Roy Brizio. As was the custom of the time, a lighter small block Chevrolet engine was substituted for the original and more powerful Caddy. Everything on the body and suspension panel layout was left as Kurtis intended for its original customer in 1956.

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Also to be featured by Automotive Restorations at the Father’s Day Car Show in Norwalk will be a race-prepared 1964 Morgan 4/4. Equipped with a 1700 Ford crossflow engine featuring twin Weber carbs and dry sump oil system, the car produces 173 horsepower. It’s fast and easy to drive with an excellent power to weight ratio and is a consistent finisher in vintage racing with only minor maintenance required during the season. A great looking vintage Morgan, this car will go head-to-head with Porsche 956’s and Jag XK’s all day long.

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The Father’s Day Car Show, sponsored by the New England Auto Museum, will be held at Norwalk’s Mathews Park, adjacent to the historic Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum on June 21st from 10 AM to 3 PM. Admission to the show is free, with a donation to the New England Auto Museum building fund gently suggested and appreciated. Tours of the mansion will be conducted from 12 noon to 4 PM and the next door Stepping Stones Children’s Museum will also be open for visitors of all ages. The show will feature over 100 antique, classic and a broad variety of collector cars along with food, ice cream and a chance to select your favorite car.

Story and photos courtesy Automotive Restorations Inc.

20 May

Malcolm S. Pray Jr.’s 1934 Packard Sport Phaeton to be featured at Norwalk Father’s Day Car Show June 21st

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Norwalk, CT – The late Malcolm S. Pray Jr.’s immaculate 1934 Packard 1108 Dual Cowl Phaeton will be featured at the Father’s Day Car Show at Mathews Park in Norwalk on Sunday, June 21st from 10AM to 3PM.

The Packard Twelve was produced from 1933 to 1939. It is considered by many to be one of the finest automobiles ever produced by the legendary American automaker, and one of the most significant automobiles of the classic car era. This 1934 Packard is a re-creation of the LeBaron style 1108 Sport Phaeton. It was the work of the craftsman Fran Roxas of Chicago, Illinois. It is equipped with a side-valve V-12, 445.5 cubic inch engine producing 160 horsepower. The vehicle is built on a massive 147 7/8 inch wheelbase, and is patterned after one of the most elegant and rare coachbuilt bodies ever created. The car has been a three-time entrant at the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance, winning Best American Open Car in 2006, as well as a winner of awards at Concours in Amelia Island, New York and Stamford. The Pray Family Foundation will display the car in Norwalk.

The Pray Family Foundation is carrying on Malcolm Pray’s legacy at the Malcolm Pray Achievement Center in Bedford, New York using his extraordinary car collection to inspire thousands of underprivileged kids to realize their potential by working hard and daring to dream.

Mr. Pray, who passed away in 2013, a longtime Greenwich icon known as much for his business success as for his philanthropy, established the Pray Achievement Center in 2001 after the sale of his Greenwich automobile dealerships in the fall of 1999. He taught his staff the principles of Honesty, Integrity and Reputation, and today his Achievement Center continues to teach these essentials to a new generation.

Using his cars, he delivered a message that anything can be accomplished through hard work and a positive attitude. Mr. Pray used many of the guiding principles he learned as a Boy Scout in a booklet he shared with his young visitors which teaches such concepts as valuing one’s reputation, trustworthiness and pride in one’s conduct.

Malcolm Pray planned for the Malcolm Pray Achievement Center to continue in perpetuity and to be run by the Pray Family Foundation, established expressly for the purpose of continuing his work. Since 2001, the Achievement Center has engaged young people to consider their future careers by introducing them to the field of entrepreneurism. Malcolm Pray’s legacy, namely, his lifelong passion for cars and his extraordinary journey as an entrepreneur in the automobile business, continues to inspire young people today. “The cars are a way for me to prove to these kids that I have become an achiever on my own and they can, too,” Mr. Pray had said.

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Malcom S. Pray Jr.

 

The Malcolm Pray Achievement Center is located in Bedford, NY and houses a collection of antique and collectible automobiles spanning over 100 years of automotive history.

The Center is open to private tours for youth groups in the area by appointment only; it is aimed to complement the inspiration and guidance of educators, counsellors and parents. To learn more or schedule a visit, contact Executive Director Marikay Satryano during business hours at (914) 234-2579 or www.malcolmprayacheivementcenter.com

Entrance Lobby Malcolm Pray Achievement Center

Entrance Lobby Malcolm Pray Achievement Center

Story contribution & photos courtesy The Pray Family Foundation

05 May

Flashback: The Melton Auto Museum opened in Norwalk, Connecticut on July 24, 1948

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By Margo Melton Nutt
Reprinted from February 11, 2011

Norwich, VT – Although I have talked some in previous posts about the James Melton Autorama in Florida, I haven’t said much about its precursor, the Melton Museum in Norwalk Connecticut (1948-53). So here goes:

Back in the summer of 1941, the State of Connecticut had appropriated funds to build a museum for my father’s cars. But the onset of World War II put the project on hold. After the war the agreement still did not come to fruition. As he put it in a letter to fellow Veteran Motor Car Club members in 1947:

“As you may have seen by the papers, I have withdrawn my offer of a museum collection to the State of Connecticut. The first appropriation was made in 1941, the enlarged appropriation in 1945, and the thing is still only on paper…The combination of dilly-dallying techniques, small brother groups crying over locations, appointment of an antique auto curator—repeat curator!—and the shifting sands of politics—of which I want no part—finally made me decide that it would be in the best interests of my collection and the antique automobile movement as a whole, to cut out of all that complicated and unpleasant situation…I shall create a museum of which we can all be proud—and where we won’t wake up some morning to find some Politico’s Aunt Tillie’s 1928 Model A Ford where a Mercer Raceabout ought to be.”

Rather than donating his collection to the State in return for the building, he continued to own the cars—and to add to their number until he had close to a hundred. He formed a corporation, The Melton Museum, Inc., and acquired a 10,000 square foot building on an eight-acre site on Route 7 in Norwalk, Connecticut, half a mile from the Merritt Parkway (where Wal-Mart is today). To that he added another 10,000 square foot building, incorporating an existing well-known restaurant, called the Stirrup Cup. On top of the building with the sign saying The Melton Museum, he put brightly painted cutouts of some of the cars represented in the collection; out front he placed a 1902 trolley car. He sincerely believed that everyone was as interested in the history of the automobile as he was. He felt that preserving the cars was only half the story, they should be shown to the public as examples of man’s ingenuity and as the beautiful antiques they were.

On July 24, 1948, the 20,000 square foot Melton Museum of Antique Automobiles opened in Norwalk, with fifty-five cars, antique bicycles, auto accessories, toy trains and music boxes. Opening day began with a parade of antique autos, driven by his confreres from the Veteran Motor Car Club, and was attended by celebrities such as Clare Booth Luce, Lawrence Tibbett and Connecticut Governor Grover Whelan. Twelve hundred paying customers came the first day, sixteen hundred the second. Little did many of the visitors know what a huge, last-minute effort had gone into readying the exhibition for opening day? Firestone, for instance, had agreed to equip all the cars with their new “non-skid” tires—the words formed the tread design. The tires had been flown in by air freight from Akron, Ohio the day before the museum opened, and Firestone men had worked until 2 A.M. to mount them all. For months my mother had been a willing helper in preparing the museum, haunting local antiques stores in search of the right accouterments to accompany the displays, and raiding friends’ and relatives’ attics for old-fashioned costumes for the mannequins to wear. She also oversaw many museum-related details on the home front while her husband was on tour with the Metropolitan Opera that spring.

Their old friend, former Ziegfeld designer, John Harkrider, designed the exhibits. The entrance hall was decorated with large photos of my father’s various old car exploits with other celebrities: the 1937 Easter Parade of antique autos down Fifth Avenue with fellow singers Lanny Ross and Jessica Dragonette as passengers; Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy riding in one of the cars my father took to Hollywood in 1944; and a meeting with Henry Ford Sr. in Dearborn, Michigan. The cashier’s office was in a 1912 Renault Hansom Cab, the car’s radiator having been converted to a counter for selling tickets. (Admission to the museum was 60 cents.) One exhibit room had a parade of vehicles filled with cap-and-duster clad mannequins intended to look as if they were driving down a country road. Another room had eight racing cars displayed in an octagonal pattern; one of the cars was a 1911 Mercedes which was accompanied by a huge photographic blowup of Ralph DePalma driving that very car in the 1911 Vanderbilt Cup Race. In yet another room, the sign in front of the 1910 White Touring Car explained the origins of the collection, “The ambition of a small boy to own a car like this is what started the whole thing.”

He hired a retired Norwalk policeman—Officer Phillip O’Grady—as the security guard. Dressed like a turn of the century Keystone Kop, O’Grady was straight out of central casting, and played his part to the hilt. Among the summer help my father hired was Joe Ryan, still only in high school, to polish brass and run errands. Over fifty years later, among the highlights Ryan recalled was a trip to Canada to pick up a 1924 Rolls Royce that Lady Eaton had donated to the museum. “Between being held up at the border for two days because Customs didn’t accept the paperwork I carried, (they had to verify it with both Lady Eaton and your father), and the fact the headlights were so dim I could only drive in daylight, it took me five days to get the car back to Norwalk.” His job at the Melton Museum started Ryan’s lifelong love of automobiles that evolved into his career as sales manager of a Mercedes Benz agency.

The oldest car in the Melton Museum was 1893 custom steam stage coach, which looked rather like a horse-drawn carriage with engines added front and rear. The most modern car in the museum was a 1934 custom-built Detroit Electric. Other unusual pieces in the collection were aforementioned 1911 Mercedes of Vanderbilt Cup Race fame, a 1900 Rockwell Hansom Cab—the first New York City taxi— and a 12-passenger Stanley Steamer Mountain Wagon circa 1915, formerly used in Yellowstone National Park for sightseeing tours.

Margo Melton Nutt’s memoirs of her father “James Melton: The Tenor of His Times” is available at Amazon.com

James Melton (left) at the Hershey Meet in 1958 beside a 1910 Thomas Flyer

James Melton (left) at the Hershey Meet in 1958 beside a 1910 Thomas Flyer

James Melton driving his 1907 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost (Chassis No. 60565)

James Melton driving his 1907 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost (Chassis No. 60565)