Car collecting is often—and accurately—viewed as elitist. These fast and fabulous machines humans make cost money, and collecting requires quite a bit of it.
Nowhere is that clearer than at one of my favorite places in the world: Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline. If you haven’t been, go. Now. The 1888 French-inspired carriage house was originally a working stable, and is now home to an impressive permanent collection and revolving exhibits.
Larz Anderson was born in the late 1800’s to an extremely wealthy family, and when he married Isabel Weld Perkins—the wealthiest woman in America at the time—he solidified his place among the elite. Both he and Isabel (the first licensed female driver in Massachusetts) shared a love of automobiles, purchasing one a year at a time when such a thing was unheard of.
I recently had the pleasure of judging the 1960’s sedan and 190 SL class at a Minuteman Mercedes Benz Club event on the museum lawn. If you know me, you know I’m first and foremost a Porsche guy, but more than one Benz has had my heart over the years. My favorite was the ’67 250 SL that made my daily commute one long-ago summer an absolute pleasure.
In this club contest, the official class winner was a nicely turned out ’67 300 SEL. But there was another car that was far and away the most interesting: an old diesel sedan with over 400K miles driven by its young owner all the way from Wisconsin.
That’s right. Wisconsin.
That young man, probably in his early twenties, had a car that was dirty and lacking authentic parts, and, frankly, the antithesis of what one generally brings to a show. But he LOVED the thing. He’d talk your ear off about his car for as long as you’d let him. And he knew all about the other cars at the show and what he aspires to collect someday.
In a world where most young people look to me like proof that the zombie apocalypse has already happened, their faces forever in their ironically-named “smartphones,” this kid fell in love with an old diesel Benz and drove the thing clear across the country to club shows.
It gave me hope.
Google can put driverless cars on the road, and millennials can opt to Uber instead of getting theirs drivers’ licenses, sure—but car collecting is far from dead. And, as the young man with his old diesel proves, even this elitist pastime offers a way in for anyone with a love of these fast and fabulous machines.