People — 01 February 2014
Collectors pay homage to auto objets d’art

In Tom duPont’s mind, there’s no question about the artistry of the cars he collects.

“To me they are examples of automotive design and engineering that are really pieces of rolling automotive art,” says duPont, chairman and publisher of the St. Petersburg-based duPont Registry publications, which advertise luxury automobiles, real estate and yachts. “They have a lot of importance in the history of our country and of the automotive industry. That’s coupled with the eye appeal of the cars.”

DuPont’s eclectic collection of 18-20 cars includes an assortment of Checker Cabs, a 1925 Chevrolet Station Hack that belonged to his godfather’s father, and three of the 30 or so remaining DUPONT automobiles, built by his family in the ’20s. “I guess you could say I’m attracted to them because they have my name on the grill,” he says.

He also owns a wicker-seat 1957 Fiat Jolly 500, which he plans to enter in the Boca Raton Concours d’Elegance on Feb. 23. (DuPont Registry sponsors the event’s duPont Registry Live hangar party on Feb. 21.)

He still has the 1961 Porsche Roadster he bought in ’68 at the age of 21 and drove in grad school. “I had enough change to be able to buy a car that I would want to hold onto – not for its ability to appreciate in value but to have something that represented the passion I had for automobiles.”

What was your first car to collect? “In ’72 I had a 1948 Chrysler station wagon, and then it was quiet for a little bit – one or two cars and an old Packard – but then it really took off when a merger occurred between avocation and vocation, and the magazine [duPont Registry: A Buyers Gallery of Fine Automobiles] gave me the opportunity to get into collecting a little more intensely.”

It became part of the job. “Just another day at the office.”

Is there one car you would like to have? “There’s a car I would like to have back, a ’67 Ferrari 330 GTC – yellow with tan interior and factory air-conditioning. I bought it, I did some restoration on it, and a guy offered me what I thought was a lot of money, so I sold it. If I had kept it, it’d be worth a lot of, lot of money.”

What do collectors have in common? “Car enthusiasts have a passion for the mixture between design and engineering and history. I think everyone in the car-collector business would like to own something that’s rare – that nobody else owns. One of the great, exciting moments for a car collector would be to have a barn find. If you can find a car that’s been in a barn for 40 or 50 or 60 years and literally nobody’s seen it, you get the opportunity to bring it out. That’s very exciting – an opportunity to preserve history.”

S

teve Wolf displays his rolling art collection in a 12,000-square-foot Boca Raton warehouse.

Unremarkable from the outside, the private museum is beautifully appointed with brick and granite inside, a fitting home for about 20 of his collector automobiles and thousands of memorabilia items.

“These are cars that you can look at for their beauty,” says Wolf, president/owner of Brookside Realty in Boca Raton and owner of the Delray Beach horse-training facilities Sunshine Meadows and Palm Beach Downs. “You can appreciate them for their era and how far advanced they were, in many cases. They bring back the past. We have cars here that are 60, 70, 80 years old already, and they’re magnificent. So it’s collectible art.”

The museum is the result of 50 years of collecting. His first car was a ’53 Dodge he received as a teenager for free, but he soon started collecting – Corvettes and Cadillacs from the ’50s and ’60s, then moving on to other makes, Mercedes-Benz, Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Ferrari and Duesenberg.

Wolf, who serves on the board for the Boca Raton Concours d’Elegance, is tasked with finding cars for the show. In his business he helps clients locate automobiles from around the world and restore them in his shop. At the 2013 Boca Concours, he received the Lee Iacocca Award for extraordinary dedication to the preservation of classic cars.

What was your first collector car? “The first classic cars I had in high school were a ’54 Corvette and a 1950 Cadillac convertible – I paid $86 for that one. I bought another ’54 Corvette a few years ago that was identical to what I had in high school.”

What is your favorite car? “A 1970 Mercedes Benz 280 SE convertible. I bought that car when I had no money. I traded in a Cadillac, I borrowed some money, and I paid $10,100 for it in 1970. I still have it, and it’s still my favorite.”

What is it about cars that you find so intriguing? “One facet is memories that go back to the ’50s and ’60s and ’70s, and another facet – the best part – is meeting people. We go to shows in California, we go to Italy, we do Florida. We’ve made some wonderful friends over the last 20 years. You have something in common, which is the cars. You get stories and you get histories and how they found stuff. They’re very congenial people. And of course, there’s the prestige of winning the concourses with quality cars.”

Is this a passion or an obsession? “It’s a passion. You always set goals for what you want to find and what you want to buy. But basically, it’s a wonderful hobby, a hobby where you can have something that’s a very good investment, if you know what you’re doing. It’s also a situation where you can take an unrestored car and turn it out to be a 100-point car.”

John Warrick comes by his appreciation of automobile artistry honestly.

“I have my dad to thank – or to blame – for my love of cars. He’s a car guy and has been from the time I was a little boy,” says Warrick of Boca Raton, who served as president of UPS Europe before retiring 10 years ago. “When I was a kid growing up [in Barnesville, Ohio], I knew every car make and model that was on the road. I’d sit in the car with my dad driving, and I’d name every car that we’d pass.”

A regular at the Boca Raton Concours d’Elegance for the past four years, Warrick says he appreciates cars of all shapes, sizes, makes, models and years. “The concours does a great job – every year it just keeps getting better and better.”

He is not a car collector – though he does enjoy his 2007 Ferrari F430. “It’s a fun car but not an everyday driver – not what you take every day to Publix.”

What was your first car? “At age 15 I got a ’38 Chevy Coupe – bright red with black and white leather interior. It sat in the driveway until I could drive at 16 [in 1963]. My father bought it, but I paid him back. That was the deal.”

Why are cars so intriguing? “Some people fall in love with a car because it’s what they’ve always wanted. Some people can’t get enough, and they collect them – often just for themselves, not for the public. I just happen to enjoy cars, and if I had enough money to do what I wanted with cars all the time, I’d have a garage full of them, too.”

What’s your everyday driver? “I just had a new S550 Mercedes delivered to the house – if you can call that my everyday driver. Now I have an S550 that I don’t want to take anyplace and a Ferrari. I told my wife, I think I’m going to buy a Mini Cooper to go to the grocery store – but I won’t.”

Does your dad still enjoy a drive? “At 90 he is still a car guy. He drives every day – a Ford Taurus. Once a car guy, always a car guy, I guess.”

 

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