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Miller Motorcars (née) Chinetti Motors, America's First Ferrari Dealership

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Miller Motorcars

There is an elegant structure in upscale Greenwich, Connecticut. It's something of a stately 2-story Tudor with large picture windows, and graces Putnam Avenue with style. At first glance, the building could house antiques and/or art... and yes... in many, many ways, it does house fine art.

The establishment features Ferrari, Maserati, and the occasional "previously owned" Rolls-Royce Motorcar and such. Why, I even thought I saw a more-pedestrian BMW on the premises. They also feature new and, ahem, used Aston Martin, Bentley, Bugatti, McLaren, Pagani, and Rolls-Royce. In fact, they are the only factory authorized dealership for all these unique brands in the state of Connecticut.

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4th Annual Home Depot Cruise-In, Medina, Ohio 9/14/14

Last Sunday was a perfect day for a cruise-in, so the Frazer Manhattan and I went to the one sponsored by our local Home Depot.

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There were probably close to fifty vehicles that were in attendance at one point or another over the span of five hours, and it was a pretty eclectic mix.

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Here's some of what we saw.

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The Forgotten Mustang

As of this year, the Ford Mustang, the prototype, archetype, and trope maker of the "pony car," has been in production for half a century. In all the discussion of the Mustang's golden anniversary, and its unquestionably important place in the history of the American automobile, I've seeen very little about the other Mustang, the Mustang that came before the Mustangs that we all know and love.

Ford publicity photo, 1962The "Mustang I" concept car of 1962.

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Notes from the 2014 Cleveland Auto Show - Part One

The 2014 Cleveland Auto Show runs through Sunday, March 9. I was there on Saturday the 1st, and here's some of what I saw.

Ford would like one of these to be in your future.100_3939100_3942

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2013 Nashville British Car Club Show... "Brits At The Parthenon"

"Brits At The Parthenon"

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Well, we're back again. And it's another unbelievably perfect Autumn day, October 12, 2013, to be exact. We're in Centennial Park in Nashville, Tennessee, to see the 2013 Nashville British Car Club Show.

And does it get any better than a British Racing Green Jaguar E-Type in front of the Parthenon? Yes of course it could, but only if the Vanderbilt University Marching Band was practicing right across the street... which it was.

This was the fourth year in a row (2010, 2011, 2012) that I have motored into Music City USA to see this event. And never has it been disappointing. This year's theme was simply "Brits At The Parthenon," which didn't single out any particular make, model, or time period. And I think that was a good thing.

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1958 Facel Vega Coupe

For the Tuesday installment of French Cars Week, we're going to take a closer look at the '58 Facel Vega coupe that was at the SDC Meet in Tallmadge back in August.

"Allons enfants de la Patrie,/Le jour de gloire est arrivé!/Contre nous de la tyrannie,/L'étendard sanglant est levé, l'étendard sanglant est levé...."The car is owned by Roger Hicks, who did the restoration himself.

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Sometimes It's Better To Give (Back) Than To Receive

NARTOne of my most valued life possessions was a cloisonné Ferrari North American Racing Team (NART) badge, given to me in 1978 by my late friend, George Arents III. This badge, maybe two by three inches in size, was on his racing car when he raced in LeMans, Sebring, Bridgehampton, and a few other places as well. It has a few scratches from here and there, a mute testimony to many brutal laps on world-class racing courses.

And in fact, George, Luigi Chinetti, and Jan de Vroom started NART, though some sources give that lone credit to his business partner, Mr. Chinetti. The 48 stars indicate that NART was formed in 1956, before Alaska and Hawaii joined our great Nation. NART won LeMans in 1965, and Chinetti Motors was the first Ferrari dealer in North America. It was originally located in New York City then later moved to Greenwich, Connecticut, and is now known as Miller Motorcars.

Being the heir to the American Tobacco Company, the family could afford to race in the most prestigious auto arenas of the world. George's father, who passed in 1960, was also a race car driver, and was seriously hurt in an accident in a Vanderbilt Cup race in 1904 in Westbury, Long Island. And following his rich tobacco history, in 1942 he gave his collection of 6,000 books on tobacco (The world's largest collection) to the New York Public Library, where it remains today and has enlarged.

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Pop's Cruise-In Car Show, Wadsworth, Ohio, August 3, 2013

This past Saturday, there was a charity car show in nearby Wadsworth benefitting the local youth basketball program. It was a perfect day for such things, sunny and comfortably warm with low humidity.

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Here's some of what I saw.

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One Big Project (Finis)

025Last week, as you recall, I started yapping about replacing the folding top on the 12-year-old Miata. The top was dirty and worn, was beginning to let light through, it leaked, and it stank a little bit. The leak had soiled the rear deck carpet and turned it from tan to moldy black, so that was to be replaced as well.

I had decided to replace the front floor carpet while the seats were out with a new piece from the Mazda dealer. And, by chance, I found some brand new Miata floor mats online from an out of state Mazda dealer. They match perfectly and even still have that "New Car Smell."

So, off we went. The fiddly bits and the old top were removed, and soon the new one was being screwed, glued, bolted, squeezed, and riveted on. I saved the old top for a while for references.

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A Miata is tiny until you bring it into the house. Luckily, I had an empty room to store the carpets, seats, the old roof, and the small parts.

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1972-1976 Volkswagen SP2

VW-SP2_895225iWhile searching images for the Buick Centurion / LeSabre post, I stumbled on this car by accident. I had never heard of an SP2... and now I'd love to have one.

But I'd probably have a better chance of going to Mars than getting one. Only 670 of them left their home in Brazil, and none of them ever came to the United States as new cars.

That racy bodywork included a rear-mounted engine under a hatchback lift gate. Not an easy trick to design, I'm sure. And it's got to be safe... look at all that front crush space. The only styling reservation I might have is that I think a little more time should have been spent on the grille-less front end... though it does grow on one after a while. And just imagine some rallye or fog lights there.

VW SP2 profileAn SP2 is stunning to look at, even 40+ years later. The long hood/short trunklid styling screams Italiano! As well it should, since the SP2's designers included Jose Vicente Martins, Jorge Oba, and Marcio Piancastelli, who studied under the great Luigi Segre at Carrozzeria Ghia. Its cabin appointments were also first class for the time, and the rear engine area shows engineering packaging of sheer genius.

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Pictured above: This is a forlorn Chevy Vega photographed by reader Gary Sinar. (Share yours)

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