Flights of fancy, wings of imagination
by Richard Lewis
Your Loyal Correspondent (YLC), likely like you, has had daydreams where he discovered chests of pirates' gold, or came upon long-lost Uncle Henry's priceless stock certificates, or won the Power Ball Lottery for a zillion smackeroos - and having done so, imagined what he might do with all that loot.
Surely after buying that castle in Spain, villa in Tuscany, pension in Paris, a gold-plated mega-yacht and a few other trinkets, one would turn to, being the auto wing-nut that we all are, how he might outfit that stable of exotic cars he has so long lusted after. No more rusted-out MGs, spavined Bugeyes, and smoke-breathing Triumphs; now he could go for the best, regardless of cost.
But, being the eccentric he is, rather than just making a bacchanalian romp through all the multiple cars available throughout the world and gorging himself fat with row after row of cars, he would choose to limit himself to just a handful of the extraordinary or unique cars available - five, to be exact.
His would be not a grabfest of semi-precious and precious stones, but a bracelet of brilliant diamonds, "la creme de la creme". He would limit himself to five, only five of these treasures. These would be the cars he picks, not the cars someone else might choose.
Where might one look for the fabulous five? What countries have produced true works of rolling art?
Italy, for sure. Doubtless the place with the keenest eye for design. With a few exceptions, even their utilitarian cars have style, panache, vigor.
The Brits make it into the list, but not unqualifiedly. Theirs is a hit and miss, with some of the most grotesque to some of the most sublime designs anywhere. The States make it into the charmed circle, with some gorgeous people-movers, its share of mistakes, and a few great sports cars.
The Germans? Sorry. Wonderfully efficient, but with Van Gogh's ear for design.
Japan? It squeaks under the wire with at least a couple or three gorgeous ones.
The French hit home again and again, especially early on.
Let's start with the French. Hard to choose among the Delahayes, Delages, Voisins of those early years. They saw their halcyon days in the '30s and '40s, with the Art Deco styling. They continue today with some gorgeous vehicles, but YLC is going to settle for the thoroughly impractical 1937 Delage D8 120S, a car with rear vision almost nonexistent, but with luscious styling.
The Brits range from the loveable MG TDs and TFs to the comic Minis and Vauxhalls, to the stately Bentleys and Rolls, to the higher performance Austin-Healeys, McLarens and Aston Martins. The MGA has a sophistication quite unexpected, but the Jaguar roadsters and coupes bear the bell away. It’s no wonder the Metropolitan Museum of Art tacked an E-type on its wall. YLC is going to settle on the 1957 Jaguar XKSS Roadster as the apex of design for the sometimes wall-eyed Brits.
America has made some very handsome cars for the popular market, like the Chrysler Imperial Airflows, the innovative Cords, the Chevrolets of 1955-57, the 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham - the list goes on.
The States have produced a few short-lived sports cars like the Cunningham, and a smaller few like the Dodge Vipers that are still around, but only one major production sports car: the Corvette. While it has gone through some really interesting styling, YLC is going to prove his hip, upto- date credentials by choosing as his favorite the current Stingray, a car that can do very well against exotics costing three times as much, such as the Ferrari and Maserati. His pick is the 2020 mid-engine model, a winner in price (given what it delivers) and performance.
The Japanese got into the market late for anything except the small, economical, mass-produced cars, like the early Nissans, Hitachis and Mitsubishis. But suddenly they sent, mainly for the American market, the beautiful 1969 Datsun 240Z (sold in Japan as the "Fair Lady"). This reliable, voluptuously designed, 150hp beauty competed in America famously with the Fiats, Triumphs, MGs, Porsches and other imports, selling by the thousands.
Japan has had some other great sports cars (Toyota 2000GT and Supra, Honda/Acura NSX), but nothing to compare with the Z. While the Miata is another success story, and this delight-to-drive has also sold in the thousands, YLC is going to stick with the trailblazing Z. His pick? The first, the 1969 Datsun 240Z, a gamechanger if there ever was one.
Lastly, the Italians, designing and producing cars all over Europe. Early interest in racing helped hone Italy’s cars, and Ferrari, Lamborghini, Alfa Romeo and Pagani have churned out both some remarkably beautiful racers and GTs. Bugatti and Talbot-Lago, founded and/or managed by Italians (Ettore Bugatti and Antonio Lago), aimed at the wealthy of Europe and elsewhere. They did lots of handcrafted, lavishly appointed cars for the superrich (not to suggest the aforementioned cars could be bought on a motor-man’s salary). Their genius is hardly rivaled by anyone.
Today, Italy produces lots of more moderately priced cars like the Fiat, but there is still a great deal of focus on racing. If there ever was a surfeit of riches, it’s got to be Italian cars. With lots of misgivings with so many to choose from, YLC picks the Bugatti Type 46, French-built but Italian-designed - a car to lust for.
So there you have it: the 1937 Delage D8 120S, the Jaguar XKSS Roadster, the 2020 Corvette Stingray, the 1969 Datsun Z, and the Bugatti Type 46. Quite a lineup of beauties and enough for now. Perhaps the future beckons an addition or two, but this a feast that lasts for quite a while.
July 21 - The heat of summer, and this has been a doozy, calls for some indoor activity. The highlight of the season is always the Schmitz Pig Roast at the Schmitz home in Lillian, Ala. Tom and his sister, Linda, hosted the event, which drew a crowd, with them providing the pig and others invited to bring sides and desserts. As always a great event.
July 26 - Fancy Friday on the Town drew 19 diners to the Grand Marlin in Pensacola for some luscious food and lively banter. YLC brought along his lovely visiting daughter, Dr. Catherine Lewis, to share in the fun.
August 6 - Tuesday Breakfast at the Grand, followed by Show and Executive Board meetings. Yes, it’s already time to get the Show Committee cranked up, with the guarantee that we will excel again in 2020.
August 19 - PBCA monthly meeting at Sonny’s BBQ on Navy Boulevard. Business, program, and fun. August 24 - Arcadia Mill Archaeological Site Museum Visit, followed by lunch. Arcadia was the first industrial site in Florida, housing a bucket factory, cotton mill, stone quarry, and sawmill, which, upon its move to Bagdad, became the largest producer of yellow pine in America. Lunch followed.
September 3 - Tuesday Breakfast at the Grand, followed by Show and Executive Board meetings.
September 7 - Emerald Coast Car Show, Mullet Park, Niceville, Fla.
September 20-21 - Brits on the Bluff show in Natchez, Miss. September 16 - PBCA monthly meeting at Sonny’s BBQ. Business, program, and fun.
September 16 - PBCA Dog Days Rally & Lunch. The Rally, proceeds of which go to the Pensacola SPCA, yields up tons of pet food and cash. Hosted by Tom Matsoukas.
September 27 - Fancy Friday on the Town.
The Jaguar XKSS Roadster, a fevered dream. Photos courtesy Bob Manske & Richard Lewis.
The Delage D8 120S, as seen at Pebble Beach
The 2020 Corvette Stingray, a 455hp, mid-engine growler that starts at about $60K.
The 1969 Datsun 240Z, which you could have for about $200 more than an MGB.
The Bugatti Type 46, which cost a fortune to own and maintain - but if you’ve got it, flaunt it.
Honorable mention? The 1933 Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow, one of only five made, boasted 175hp and created a stir everywhere it went.
Margaret and Bob Henson enjoying the Pig Roast.
Tables of happy diners at the Grand Marlin on Fancy Friday.
Tables of happy diners at the Grand Marlin on Fancy Friday.