2015-Revs Institute’s 8th Biennial Symposium

Just what are the sorts of pre-World War II cars might a 21st Century collector consider, and which automobiles will be collectible in 2025? European? Japanese? American?

How does one care for brass era cars, and, moving to a computer, how do you take advantage of the extensive digital library project that the institute established with Stanford University Libraries, known as the Revs Digital Library?

Those were the sorts of issues discussed at Revs Institute’s most recent Symposium on Connoisseurship and the Collectible Car. Over the course of an evening and three days at the institute’s facility in Naples, Florida; an expert faculty, Stanford Revs Program students, and the 50 plus participants interacted on many levels.
Work modules varied. There was a gallery tour of Grand Prix and Indy cars, plus an overview of how the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum is conserving an historic Mitchell B-26 from World War II. Shop talks covered automobiles from an ex-Third Reich Mercedes to a Sebring-winning Porsche 907.

How about a discussion of the VW Beetle, original Mini, Citroen 2CV or the Soviet-era Trabant? Or a powerful Ferrari 375 race car?

It was all part of the symposium…but we’ll let photos tell the story.


David Gooding, founder of the well-known Gooding & Company auction house, gave a description of the 1912 Mercer Model 35-C Raceabout and how it was such a breakthrough in its day


Gathered around a trio of cars from 1964–Abarth Simca 2 Mila Corsa (front), Porsche 904 GTS (left) and Alfa Romeo GTZ (in back)–are attendees in a gallery tour. Designer Peter Stevens and archaeologist Michael Shanks led the tour. While Stevens discussed the freedom and restrictions that guide an automobile designer, Shanks talked about how an automobile is a product of its cultural context.


Busiest man at the symposium was Doug Nye. A famed English historian and author, Nye has more than 70 books about motor racing history to his credit and seems to recall just about every fact in them. A gentleman of good humor, Nye is able to not only recite those historical details, but also put them in context with a good story.


Eminent restorer Paul Russell (left) and Professor Michael Shanks discussed the restoration of a Mercedes-Benz 540K Spezial Aktion Panzer Saloon. This armored car was used to transport Third Reich VIPs and the question was how it should be restored considering its role as a symbol, expression of cultural identity and the part it played in a troubling time in history.


In one of his talks, Peter Stevens discussed the principles behind the Lotus Elite and McLaren F1. They seemed to be rather different vehicles until Stevens compared their aerodynamics, lightweight construction and use of structural composites.


Conservation principles being applied to the collection’s 1968 Sebring-winning Porsche 907 are pointed out by Revs Institute’s Vice President, Scott George. After 44 years in private hands, the Porsche is being “conserved” to its original condition.


She is known as a graphic recorder and her talent is “drawing clarity from dialogue.” Sara Heppner-Waldston did just that at the symposium, listening to the discussions and then translating them into large drawings that encapsulated those talks. Very busy. Very talented.


During one of the shop talks, attendees got the background on this 1914 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost Colonial with its Kellner body, an automobile that was once part of the Briggs Cunningham collection.


So what was an archaeologist doing at a symposium about automobiles? In addition to teaching at Stanford University, Professor Michael Shanks is a co-director of The Revs Program at that school. He explained that “archaeologists do not discoverthe past; they work with what remains.” And then pointed out that principle applies to automobiles just as it does to great collections of other forms of art.


It’s argued that Hispano-Suiza’s 1912 T-15 Alfonso XIII (named for the Spanish king) was among Europe’s first sports cars. With 64 horsepower and good for 75 mph in street trim, that performance was quite impressive in the day for this short-wheelbase two seater.


No need to call 911. This sort of flame up is not unusual when firing up a hot tube-ignition automobile, like the collection’s 1896 Panhard & Levassor Wagonette. Well known restorer Eddie Berrisford did the honors and soon the vintage machine was literally huffing along.


Among the cars exercised was the collection’s 1912 Mercer Raceabout with its highly regarded T-head, 4-cylinder engine, which has 300 cubic inches and was rated at 58 horsepower.


Hagerty Insurance President and CEO, McKeel Hagerty, discussed the fascinating (and inevitable?) concept of how autonomous automobiles would interact with driver-operated cars. Duesenberg versus Google?


Keynote speaker for the gathering was Peter Stevens, a designer with an impressive portfolio, best known as the man who penned the McLaren F1. Here he is with the F1 that is part of Revs Institute’s Collier Collection.