Entries in New York (5)


Salvage Titles scrubbed clean by Sandy's Waters?

Flood damaged cars lined up in Long Island on an airport tarmac. Doug Kuntz, New York TimesWhat ever happened to all those flood damaged cars left after Hurricane Sandy's waters receded?  Apparently, insurance companies, after writing them off as losses, are auctioning them off.  However, due to certain laws, the buyers of these damaged cars car re-register them out of state, and resell them to customers who might never know they are buying a flood damaged vehicle!  Read the entire report in the New York Times


New York: City of Contrasts

I wish I had gotten a better photo of this amusing juxtaposition.


Vintage Racing in Central Park? Why not??

With the new USGP F1 race slated to grace to the cliffs of New Jersey in 2013, I couldn't help but revive my fantasy about having a vintage racing festival on this side of the Hudson that would truly be worthy of the title "Grand Prix of New York."  As anyone who has ridden the park's outer drive by bicycle knows, the course would be thrilling, challenging, and has fantastic changes in elevation and camber. The inset below shows the northern end of the park in detail. For those who live elsewhere, note that this is a very hilly section!

"Oh, but the birdwatching blue noses on the Upper East Side will never let that happen!" I hear you cry. Possibly, but consider if you will that among the very wealthy population of the UES, there are a number of classic car owners, and I think if the event were limited to cars from before 1965 (this is an arbitrary number, but generally cars from before this period were lower displacement and had thinner tires), the speeds and the noise levels could be kept low enough to fend off most attacks on the noise and potential danger of racing in the park.  Why should we be denied the pleasures of scenes like this:Image credit: Conceptcarz.comImage credit: Conceptcarz.comThere is a remarkably good precedent for this type of civilized racing in the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix, held annually in that city's Schenley Park.  The above pictures were in fact taken at this event, which has been going on for years.  If Pittsburgh can pull off an event of this type safely and successfully for years, why can't New York City? If we can have 35,000 runners take over the entire city for the marathon, and if we can close bridges and tunnels for the 5-borough bike tour, I would say the impact of closing the outer drive of Central Park for one weekend a year seems pretty darn easy for the "City that Never Sleeps!"  The event could be one of prestige and glamour.  Paired with a concours, it could easily find its place among the first rank of automotive events. Sure the logistics would be a challenge, but I don't think it can be any worse than the many disruptive events we already have. Given the high income level of the audience and participants, blue chip sponsorship from financial institutions and luxury goods producers would not be hard to come by. (Any Occupy Wall Street protests will easily be drowned out by the symphony of finely tuned engines.)

I'm obviously not the first to fantasize about this race through the park.  Back in 1965, race promoter Alec Ulmann, of Sebring 12 Hours fame, proposed the very same idea in Automobile Quarterly (Vol. 4, No. 1). He felt that New York should have a Monaco-style Grand Prix right in its heart, and reserved harsh words for the all-powerful Parks Commisioner Robert Moses for scuppering his plans, as well as multiple previous attempts in the 1950's to run exactly such a race.  The map from Ulmann's article is reproduced here for your enjoyment. Click below to enlarge the full circuit map and ask yourself, why couldn't they do this?


The weather outside is frightful...

This great photo was posted on the Alfa BB a while back, by an NYC GTV6 owner! While today's NYC snow is far deeper, it made me think of this image.


"Cars, Culture, and the City" Exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York

Last night I had the distinct pleasure of attending the opening of the new exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York.  As its name implies, this new show explores the relationship between the Automobile and the City. On the face of it, one would expect a polemical exhibit that focuses on urban planning crises wrought by the car, and how Robert Moses and his road and bridge building almost destroyed steet life in the city.  But in fact the exhibit avoids these well worn themes, and should be really edifying to the casual visitor because it reveals and celebrates the fact that until the decay of the 70s, the city's relationship with the automobile had many positive aspects, and that in fact New York offered many far-reaching contributions to car culture across the country. Moses is still presented too, naturally. But he is shown within a larger context which makes the viewer better understand the general optimism and enthusiasm for the car that formed the cultural backdrop for his actions.

For example, the very first auto shows in America were here in New York.  They were held in posh hotels and geared towards the very wealthy who were in the market for bespoke luxury automobiles -- usually chauffer driven. It was a far cry from the uniform black GMC Yukons that convey the wealthy and powerful around Manhattan today.  As the mass produced automobile became a commercial reality, the first real auto show for the masses was also held in New York.  It was GM's Futurama at the 1939 World's Fair. The Motorama changed the auto show from an elite event into the mass spectacle that it is today. And it all happened right here!  The exhibit has some really wonderful artifacts and ephemera from the Motorama, as well as period footage of the event. The exhibit also covers, among other things, the Vanderbilt Cup races held on Long Island, which were the premier racing events held in the United States nearly a decade before the Indy 500 even existed.  There were also many fascinating renderings of urban planning proposals for car-oriented architecture.  A Paul Rudolph proposal for a multi-use complex built over the approach to the Williamsburg bridge leaves one breathless with its MC Escher-esque complexity.

This historical, political, and cultural survey flows across two large rooms filled with original artwork, drawings, models, and ephemera that are truly rare and special to see.  There was so much great eye candy, my photos don't really come close to doing it justice, even though it is not a large exhibit.

Some selected highlights:

Original Hugh Ferriss drawings I had never before seen, even as reproductions.  Ferriss was a master renderer, used by many major architectural firms in New York to delineate art deco skyscrapers.  Here he envisions a riverside highway that precisely presages what FDR Drive would end up looking like!

This is a design model for a Pontiac concept car from the Bill Mitchell era at General Motors.  The model is stunningly executed, oozing appeal from every angle.  Truly a treat.

Original Frank Lloyd Wright drawing for the showroom of Max Hoffman's Manhattan auto dealership.  But Hoffman was not just some car dealer.  Hoffman was to cars what Murray Moss is to the world of high design: a tastemaker who brought the best of Europe's offerings to a sophisticated New York audience.  Hoffman was the first to import the VW Beetle to the United States.  He was first to import BMW's here, and also was the sole importer for Porsche and Jaguar in the 1950s and 60s.  In short, Hoffman was a critical conduit through which European sports cars reached our shores, and his influence on the sports car market can't be overstated.

Original period model for Norman Bel Geddes' ideal automobile, known as Motor Car no. 9.  Bel Geddes was not only a New York based Industrial Designer and one of the founding fathers of the field, but he was also the master planner of the GM Futurama exhibition.


Check out the rest of my photos here!

The Exhibition runs through August 8th.  Worth the trip up to see it!!

Museum of the City of New York is located at 103rd Street and 5th Ave.