This collection may well be characterized more by its omissions than by its inclusions. Where are all the great Grand Prix, Indianapolis, Formula One, and other open-wheel racing specials? Where are the great muscle cars which ultimately became stock racers? If you’re restricting yourself to sports cars, where are the great small displacement Lolas, Lotuses and Fiats, which provided such road-racing enjoyment?
From a collector’s point of view, particularly one who doesn’t have the time to go racing on a regular basis, the open-wheeled machines are not drivable under ordinary circumstances. They cannot be taken on the road, they are always unmuffled, and the single-seater does not even allow enjoyment with a partner at one’s side, consequently they get little use. The later open-wheeled race cars have become complex to the point where external starters, special fuels and unavailable parts all define a different animal. Not to mention the computers and software required to run and tune them.
Of all these excuses, if you will, the fact that is both stylistically and functionally, the pure race car often does not offer the practical excitement provided by the sports car. From a museum conservator’s point of view, the non-enthusiasts who come to visit and learn, actually our target group, are much more likely to resonate with a roadable-looking car rather than a pure racing machine apparently designed to be managed only by an enthusiast or professional.
Even among the specific genre of cars that are in the collection, there are many absences and omissions. This assortment is clearly an overview, though certain makes are accentuated largely because of their great significance in sports car racing. Inclusion in the collection required the alignment of many stars: personal economics – availability – condition – degree of authenticity – and, most of all, historical significance. When these all came together at the right time, the example could be added, and when not, this accounts for the obvious gaps.
The sports racing car offers so many interests that prioritization is a matter of taste, and it varies within the same collector from time to time. Historical significance may supervene, but usually drivability is a principal factor. Of course, pure beauty can, in itself, enthuse the acquisition. Then there’s rarity (will I ever see one again?), but this should not be confused with historical value, for rare things are of significance only if they are inherently special to begin with.
And finally, perhaps somewhat perversely in my case, condition is always an irresistible enticement. The ability to not only experience the car as it was during its heyday but to sit on the same leather, to run one’s hands on the “first” paint, to take in the old smells, and to reflect on the occasional battle scar, these are all attractions not paralleled by the technical perfection and shine of the concours restored example.
The visitor is asked to accept this as a group of winning sports racing automobiles, hopefully arranged to tell a story. It is far from complete, and it would not be likely, even if there were sufficient funds and ready availability of good original examples, that a universally representative selection could be presented. Rather, it is hoped that the visitor will be refreshed on the general history of some of these great cars (and we have deliberately avoided the opening screed which sadly accompanies auction catalogue entries in favor of brief overviews). I hope that the visitor will not be bored by the sometimes too-folksy accounts of the particular car and how it was acquired, and mainly I know that the visitors will be enthralled by Michael Furman’s ability, without technical alteration by the digerati, to present the vehicle and its parts in their most flattering light.
If any of these goals is achieved, the photographer and this author will be content.