Even just the larger international events of 2019, the number of cars (and not just the cars!) that we’ve been able to admire has been incredible. We’ve therefore decided to play a game of finding the top 10 ‘hidden gems’. Unlike our rankings in The Key, which present the Top 100 Collectors, this is not down to scientific or objective research. But, rather, this is an instinctive choice, linked to the emotions that the sight of these extraordinary models has brought to us, and based on our prediction that, in future, you will still hear talk of these vehicles.
1) 1969 Howmet TX Turbine, seen at Pebble Beach (USA)
Few, in fact very few, know of the Howmet TX (an acronym of Turbine eXperimental), in part because only two were created and their life was like that of a meteor. Produced by the Howmet Corporation of New York (USA), a company specialising in helicopters, and designed by Robert McKee Engineering, it was equipped with a turbine Continental Aviation Engine. The Howmet is equipped with a 350 CV, 57,000 rpm engine, and it debuted at the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1968 before running, with rare success, in various endurance competitions – amongst which were the 24 Hours at Le Mans and the 12 Hours of Sebring. To this day, it is the only turbine-engine car to have won a race: the Heart of Dixie in June 1968, on the track at Huntsville Alabama. At Pebble Beach, the Austrian collector Andreas Mohringer (number 33 in our Top 100 Collectors 2019) brought, fully functional, the car with chassis #1.
2) 1968 Riva Acquarama Lamborghini, seen at Concorso Lamborghini & Design, Trieste (ITA)
Given that motoring beauty has a variable definition, we wanted to also include a motor boat: the unique Riva Acquarama model, keel number #278, equipped with V12 motors from the Lamborghini 350 GT. The client for this boat was Ferruccio Lamborghini himself, eager to have the most powerful Riva ever produced, and at the same time to evaluate the commercial feasibility of a potential maritime use of his engines. The concept didn’t materialise at the time, but it was picked back up after some time and that’s when Lamborghini motors for off-shore races were born, capable of winning a seemingly infinite serie of races and no less than 10 World Championships. The Riva ‘Lamborghini’, sold without a motor by Ferruccio in the early 1970s, was then equipped with V8 series motors, before being completely restored and re-equipped with two Lamborghini motors, roughly equivalent to the 12-cylinder 4-litre Espada engine. There can surely be no complaints with this boat winning a prize whilst being judged in a competition for cars.
3) 1954 Ferrari 375 Plus Pinin Farina Spyder, seen at Pebble Beach (USA)
Starting from the base of a 375 MM, Ferrari created a super-limited series, with 8 units in total, of Spyder cars, designed for competitions and equipped with a ‘Plus’ motor carried by the original 4.5 or 5-litre models, rear-mounted gearbox and De Dion front suspension. Five cars raced with the official Scuderia colours, whilst the others were sold to private buyers. The car with chassis number #0384 AM, the first produced and one of the only 4 remaining, ex-official, raced both the Mille Miglia (thousand miles) and the 24 Hours at Le Mans in 1954, piloted by high-calibre drivers in Froilan Gonzalez, Umberto Maglioli and Paolo Marzotto. Sold in the USA, it then raced many races with John Kimberly and Howard Hively. In 1957, seriously damaged from a fire during a race in Cuba, it ended up parked in a makeshift shed. Sold in 2006 to the current owner, the collector Les Wexner (OH, USA), who is number 15 in our Top 100 Collectors 2019, it was finally restored and made its ‘return to society’ at Pebble Beach.
4) 1952 Nash Healey Le Mans Prototype, seen at Amelia Island and at Quail (USA)
A unique model, chassis number #X-6, this car is equipped with the 6-cylinder 4135 cc Nash motor. The car is based on a Silverstone chassis, built in 1951, equipped with a coupé body. Damaged in an accident during the Mille Miglia (thousand miles) race in 1952, the chassis was repaired and, in a record time of 6 weeks, equipped with a new open body designed to run the 24 Hours at Le Mans. In the classic French endurance race, the Nash Healey prototype performed extremely well, winning its class and finishing third overall, driven by Leslie Johnson and Tommy Wisdom. It’s now property of the Fernandez family (CT, USA).
5) 1965 Pontiac Vivant, seen at Villa d’Este (ITA) and at Quail (USA)
The Pontiac Vivant is the fruit of a project external to General Motors, created by Herb Adams, racing enthusiast and engineer, Pontiac employee, and one of the fathers of the Pontiac GTO, Firebird, and the now-legendary 455 Super Duty motor. After making a scale-model, Adams created, using items bought from demolition, the complete mechanical chassis in his own garage, whilst the all-aluminium bodywork was created by a small bodyshop in Troy (Michigan) specialising in dragsters. After being presented at Detroit Autorama in 1966, the Vivant was used by Adams who then sold it at the end of the 1970s. The Vivant then went missing without a trace for 35 years until, in 2009, it was discovered, battered but almost fully intact, in a barn. Today, completely restored, it is part of the Phillip Sarofim collection (CA, USA).
6) 1901 Panhard et Levassor B1, seen at Audrain Concours (USA)
P&L cars, thanks to their speed and reliability, were the must-have sports cars of the early 1900s. This B1 model, chassis number #2866, 4-cylinder 12 CV, was born as a race car and took part in the first edition of the Vanderbilt Cup, which happened in Newport (Rhode Island, USA) in August 1901. In September, registered as official P&L car with drivers David Wolfe Bishop and Fernand Charron, it raced and triumphed in the New York – Buffalo race, winning every stage. Having finished racing, it was transformed into a road car, whilst maintaining many specific model features that render it unique. Now perfectly restaured, it’s part of the Rob Kauffman collection (USA).
7) 1979 BMW M1 Procar, seen at Modena Cento Ore (ITA)
The BMW M1 Procar, with 40 made between 1979 and 1980, gained legendary status for its performance and beauty. The M1 Procar series was created in 1979 by BMW, putting identical cars to race, driven by the best drivers in Formula 1. Terminated in 1980, with championships won by Niki Lauda and Nelson Piquet respectively, many M1 Procars continued to race before, gradually, disappearing into private collections. The chassis number #WBS59910004301042 debuted at Silverstone in 1979, in the official BMW team, with Carlos Brands Hatch. It then entered team Obermaier and raced, until 1983, in the German turismo championship, followed by some rally races in 1984, in the French championships. Today, it’s the property of a Swiss enthusiast, who decided to take it racing, on tracks and on mountain routes, as well as in the Modena Cento Ore (hundred hours) – even though the car would have frankly looked perfectly at home in a beauty contest.
8) 1929 Mercedes Benz 710 SS, seen at Amelia Island (UK)
Built exclusively for racing, winning the Ulster Tourist Trophy with Rudolf Caracciola behind the wheel as part of the official race team, the 710 SS chassis number #36225 is a piece of history on wheels. After having won the TT, and having raced, in 1930, with Caracciola behind the wheel, in the Irish GP, the German GP, and the Mille Miglia (thousand miles), it was then sold to Francis Richard Henry Penn, Viscount of Curzon, 5th Earl Howe. He was one of the most important and legendary British racing drivers in history, who used this car in certain competitions and finished first with it 5 times. Never restored, and still equipped with its original motor, this 710 SS is considered amongst the most historically important cars in the world, for both is state of preservation and its competitive past. It’s been in the United States since 2012, property of Arturo Keller, who is number 4 in our Top 100 Collectors 2019.
9) 1912 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, seen at Salon Prive (UK)
The Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost is the model that created the legend of reliability, comfort and discretion that, still to this day, accompanies the Rolls-Royce brand. The 40/50 HP Silver Ghost, chassis number #2154, with Barker & Co Ltd. open touring body, was ordered by the Rolls-Royce agent of Bombay, equipped with certain accessories suited to the Indian climate and road conditions. As such, the wheels have large dimensions in order to raise the base of the car, the carburettors are designed for tropical conditions, and the mudguards come equipped with chains, to protect them from the iron shoes of horses and oxen and to thus protect the body work and front pneumatics. To distinguish it from others, as per traditions of the time, a plate under the windshield displays the nickname given to the car by Rolls-Royce: Taj Mahal. It was sold as new to the Maharaja of Nabha, and remained in his garage for the following 80 years, during which time it was very rarely used and constantly maintained in perfect working order. In the early 1990s it returned to England, purchased by the Foster family, its second and current owners. Unlike the Indian owner, however, the Fosters have put the Rolls to work and, with all the family aboard, they have driven it nearly 100,000 km (60,000 miles) across roads all around the world. A unique and beautiful story, of travels and of passion for cars shared between parents and children, for a car that is both extremely rare and completely original in every main component.
10) Itala 35/45 HP ‘Pechino – Parigi’ (Beijing – Paris), seen at Festival of Speed (GB)
It is difficult to imagine a car that is more historically important than the Itala 35/45 HP, with open body from the Sala body shop, chassis number #447, used by Prince Scipione Borghese in the Beijing – Paris race in 1907. The challenge, bold even by today’s standards, was closer to science fiction in 1907: it drove an incredible distance of 14,995 km (~9,000 miles), through remote landscapes, and became part of a legend in the process. It became a magnificent display of how it had become possible to unite the two capitals by road, despite their sheer distance from each other. On this feat, the Prince would make a curious and entertaining comment: ‘In so doing it, we are now able to confirm that it is simply not possible!’ – referring to the many challenges that the crew, just like the rest of the participants, had to overcome. After having run the distance to Paris, the Itala 35/35 HP returned to Italy, displayed in Turin, at Automobili Italia, where it remained until the company collapsed in 1934. Specifically to save this piece of history, just before closing, the directors donated the car to Carlo Biscaretti di Ruffia, founder of the Turin Automobile Museum, the museum where the car is housed to this day. Though it had graced certain events with its presence in static form, it hadn’t previously been seen in motion since 2007.