Sunday, September 25, 2016

Saratoga Auto Museum, Saratoga, New York, September 25, 2016

After enjoying the Hemmings Concours d'Elegance and seeing the display cars starting to drive off, we ended the day with a visit to the Saratoga Auto Museum, which was adjacent to the display area and also on the grounds of the Saratoga Spa State Park.  It is housed in the old bottling plant that was constructed in 1935 and opened its doors as a car museum in 2002.

The 1935 bottling plant today...
...and in its heyday
The museum is fairly compact and can house around 30 vehicles in three galleries.  On entering it, we enjoyed a special exhibtion entitled: "Posey: Shifting through the Creative Life of Sam Posey." Noted racing driver Sam Posey (born in 1944) raced in the TransAm series for the Penske team when Mark Donohue was the team leader, as well as competing at LeMans 13 times (coming third while driving a Ferrari 512M), winning the 1975 12 Hours of Sebring, starting at the Indianpolis 500, doing two Formula 1 races, racing a CanAm car, and even doing a NASCAR race.  Posey is a multitalent as he continued as a television analyst after retiring from racing, was a regular contributor to Road & Trace magazine, and put his education as an artist and architect to good use by designing the main pavilion at Lime Rock Park.  He is also a noted model railroader and has written a book on the subject.  He was born in New York City and as the Saratoga Auto Museum has a New York focus it was highly appropriate to celebrate his accomplishments.

1954 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing Coupe

Sam Posey first saw this 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing in 1958, when he was 14 years old.   His family purchased it for him for $2500 and he enjoyed driving it around country lanes, although he had no license.  In 1971, he used the car to win the Mount Equinox Hill Climb, an event for vintage cars, in Vermont although he had not prepared for it beyond doing two runs on the 5.2 mile course.  The complete, and very interesting story behind this car may be found in a Road & Trace piece Posey wrote about it here.  It remains in Posey's possession.

1971 Ferrari 512 M
In this 550 hp car, co-driven by Tony Adamowicz, Sam Posey had his best finish at the 24 Hours of LeMans, coming in third overall behind two Porsches.

1975 BMW 3.0 CSL Tribute Car
The BMW that Sam Posey used to win the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1975 was on display at the museum but absent to participate in events marking the 100th Anniversary of BMW at Pebble Beach, Watkins Glen and Laguna Seca.  This car was built up from a 3.0 CS by a resident of New York State who had seen the original at Lime Rock in the 1970s and been inspired.  Parts were collected and in 1998 a clean donor car was found and work began in earnest by the owner and his son.  Sadly, the son died after being hit by a drunk driver in 2013 as work was almost done but the father continued the project as a tribute.

1967 Caldwell D7 
 The survivor of a pair of Caldwell D7 CanAm cars commissioned by Posey, it raced in 22 events but was never fully developed to its potential.  Posey did tie Bruce McLaren's Laguna Seca lap record with it but in racing the best it did was a third place at Riverside, but had reliability issues.  It is powered by a Chevrolet 365 cu. in. engine and has a ZF five speed transmission.

1977 Datsun 260Z IMSA GTU
Sam Posey raced for Bob Sharp Racing from 1977-1979 with some degree of success.  He was most proud of winning at Lime Rock in 1979 although the race was held the same weekend at the Monaco Grand Prix he was attending as a commentator.  Flying back to New York on the Concorde early in the morning, he had time for one practice lap before the race began and started at the back of the grid.  By the time the first turn was reached, he had passed half of the other competitors and went on to win, defending his 1978 title.

1960 Maserati 3500 GT Vignale Spyder
Designed by Michelotti, this was one of only 242 Spyders produced.  It was for sale on a lawn in Connecticut when noticed by Sam Posey's mother, who traded her little Lancia Appia in an even exchange for it.  A lady of impeccable taste and some bargaining skill!

On the upper floor of the museum additional permanent exhibitions are to be found.  One of these, "East of Detroit," is about car manufacturing in the State of New York, which offers up some impressive examples.  On display was a very fine Pierce-Arrow, made in Buffalo, a Franklin Airman from Syracuse, and a prototype Playboy, also made in Buffalo in a former Chevrolet assembly plant.

1931 Pierce-Arrow Dual Cowl Phaeton, with built-in bar for rear passengers (during Prohibition!)
1928 Franklin 12A Airman Sport Sedan, formerly owned by aviator Charles Lindbergh and loaned from the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village
1909 Patterson Motor Buggy
Looking like something from a decade earlier, this Motor Buggy was produced in Flint, Michigan and is thought to be the 23rd of 64 produced.  The W.A. Patterson Company made carriages as well but in 1910 it abandoned the motor buggy in favour of a conventional car model with its engine and radiator in the front, and a steering wheel.  This car was purchased at an estate sale in Ohio by the granddaughter of W.A. Patterson, who was living in New York State, and donated by her children to the museum.

1947 Playboy
This 1947 Playboy prototype was one of 94 cars built before funding ran out.  It features a 90 inch wheelbase, a three-speed transmission, and a four cylinder Continental engine.  The planned retractable steel roof fell by the wayside for a conventional fabric convertible top.  The Playboy had a number of virtues as a potential town runabout but the failure of the Tucker project that same year killed any potential stock financing for car producers.

The museum is home to the New York State Stock Car Racing Hall of Fame but also offers some additional racing memorabilia.

1950 Allard J2X
Allards, built in England, were typically outfitted with powerful American engines.  This Cadillac-Allard was raced with some success by its owner, coming in second at the 1950 Watkins Glen Grand Prix, and third there the following year.

1956 Ferarri-Bardahl Special
Luigi Chinetti, Sr., won the 1949 LeMans race driving a Ferrari 166 Barchetta, Ferrari's first major win as a manufacturer, and persuaded Ferrari to build road cars and appoint him as the North American dealer.  Chinetti opened a showroom on 11th Avenue in New York City.  He believed that a Ferrari winning the Indianapolis 500 would add greatly to the firm's laurels and after an unsuccessful attempt in 1952 with four cars, the company returned to the Speedway in 1956 with this car, equipped with a 4.4 litre Ferrari six cylinder engine and using a Kurtis chassis.  The Ferrari inline six had not been successful in sports car racing and the company had lost interest in it, so the car was assembled at the nearby OSCA factory.  It failed to qualify for the 1956 race.

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