We named this tour the Great
Collections Tour and that name fit well enough, but maybe we should have
called this the Unusual Collections Tour, or the Automotive Rarities
Tour, because there were some weird and wonderful things to behold. Our day started in a
light industrial area north of Carson. A number of people accepted the
invitation to arrive fashionably late, but by 9:30 we had a good
turnout. The long distance award, if we had had one, would certainly
have gone to Jerry Morrissey, who came over from Arizona. Perhaps the
journey was worthwhile; we saw three unusual collections.
At the first stop, Ron
and Dave Simon welcomed us to Cornwell and Sheridan, the name of their
collection and rental business. There is hardly a spot on the walls of
this warehouse which isn’t covered with some sort of car or airplane
picture. The airplanes range from early biplanes through World War Two,
at least, and include a mural of B-17s. On a lift was a gorgeous
cream-colored 1940 Plymouth convertible which was in Ed Wood
(about a young director and friend of Bela Lugosi’s). Toward the back
of the same room was a seven-cylinder Continental engine ¾
not a chunk of a Lincoln V-12, but a radial engine used in the M4
Sherman tank. To one side of it was Professor Fate’s submarine from The
Great Race and to the other side was a ’59 Biarritz in the middle
of restoration. One focal point was a very stylish ’38 Bentley with
one-off saloon body by Van Vooren of Paris. It looked about a quarter
Bugatti. Across from that was a ’34 Ford which hasn’t reached 40,000
miles yet and still wears its first set of tires. There was also a rare
’42 Oldsmobile B-44 five-passenger coupe. In the other room were lots
more cars and airplane memorabilia, including a Stinson 108 hanging from
the ceiling with no skin.
Dave Simon is experienced
in lending cars to Hollywood. He says that if you take your eyes off
your car for even five minutes, something bad may happen to it. The prop
riggers have little respect for the cars and are likely to try to attach
something, like a camera or duct tape, or they may decide something
doesn’t look right and do something about it, as when they scraped
some tinting film off someone’s door window. Dave also says that music
video producers pay little or nothing to have cars appear in their work,
while movie and commercial producers may pay pretty well. He provided
one of the Rolls-Royces in the Grey Poupon commercial. Evidently,
antique cars are even in demand for pornographic movies.
One of the Simon cars that was out for the day
(and for the last five years) was Professor Fate’s car from The
Great Race. It is still on loan to the Peterson. This prop is a
six-wheeled bad guy car that was driven by Jack Lemmon and Peter Falk.
It can make a smokescreen and the body can rise like a scissors jack.
The car has no shock absorbers.
It’s also far from street legal,
with no taillights, bumpers, or license plates. When Dave took this
whimsical vehicle for a slow spin around the block one day, what should
appear but a police car. The cop just waved and drove away….
A two block walk from the Simon collection was
another bunch of unusual cars. When was the last time you saw a right
hand drive ’48 Mercury converted in Australia to a pickup truck? When
was the last time you saw three Ford Anglias in one spot? Two Henry Js?
When was the last time you saw a Fiat Topolino? Or a Goggomobile? Or a
car being driven by two aliens and which had two monster engines? How
about an Alvis that may be zooming down the drag strip one day? The
Scott Tupper collection was definitely not your father’s Oldsmobile.
Then we headed to the
Tucker collection a few miles away. One room of the Tucker home is a
doll museum. Pat sells and repairs dolls. One of her prized pieces is
about three feet tall and wears an expression of indignation. I’ve
never seen a doll like it before, and since it was one of a hundred
made, I probably never will again. Pat also has a child’s player piano
featured in the F.A.O. Schwartz catalogue for Christmas 1950. In the
living room is a pool table, a barber chair, an exotic jukebox, and a
big model of a railroad club car.
Mr. Tucker is helping to
preserve station wagons of the sixties, with a cute black Falcon and a
’60 Pontiac. He also seems to like Jaguar roadsters.
Near several Jaguar
grilles hanging from the ceiling like bats in a cave, the diabolical
Gerald Krumm and his henchman, Jim Webb, plotted to gain control of the
world with a big red console that had gauges all over it. Their
conspiracy ended when the control panel turned out to be the forerunner
of a Sun automotive diagnostic center.
Outside, in its original
cardboard carton addressed to John Dannenfelser was a NOS 1947 Cadillac
grille. It is a great education in factory quality. It’s still new,
but it’s not a 100-point piece and never was; there are some ripples
and waves in the chrome. As Gary Falasco observed, the factory did not
build 100-point cars. (So why should we?)
Mr. Tucker also has
several prewar motorcycles, including a fine ’41 Harley. The Tuckers’
collection of signs looks like it has been in the making for fifty
years. There probably are not many motor oil signs that the Tuckers do
It turned out to be
incredibly easy to get seated at Tony Roma’s for lunch. About 25
people stayed with us for this last stop.
Tony Hiller arranged this
excellent tour for us. Considering the perfect weather,
out-of-the-ordinary collections, good food and good fellowship, it would
be very easy to get spoiled by an event like this.