Cars We Love & Who We Are
More than the polished parts and hard to find pieces, the special interest vehicles people collect embody the character of each owner. “Cars We Love & Who We Are” profiles individual special interest vehicles and the proud owner committed to its preservation.
Conversations with People We Value
Talking with skilled professionals who support our passion for collectible automobiles.
Roads We Remember
Some roads discovered far from home reward us with a once in a lifetime driving experience. Others are old friends revisited to elevate our spirits and celebrate the joy of life behind the wheel.
Cars We Love & Who We Are #34
Previously readers became acquainted with classic car restoration virtuoso Mike Gassman through stories he told about others. It would be a disservice to you dear reader if I neglected to share with you Mike’s own story.
Descending once again through Rockfish Gap to the floor of the Shenandoah Valley and Waynesboro, Virginia, I weave through some back roads that hug a railroad siding. In making a right turn away from the tracks a row of low clean white adjoining structures come into view. They feature a spotless showroom recalling the modest (compared to today’s massive highway automotive cathedral) masonry structures with huge window panes typical of mid-20th century family owned dealerships. Eye candy for any passerby, the showroom features a tightly organized array of pristine restored 50’s and 60s vintage British sports cars. Their meticulous curation offers a hint of the passion for perfection that drives the robust beating heart of Mike Gassman’s restoration business, Gassman Automotive.
The story begins on a mountain top in Afton Virginia.
Read the car, not the book and other words of wisdom that pave a path to Pebble Beach
She opened her front door wearing a wedding dress. It is 1977. High atop Afton Mountain in Western Virginia a woman Mike recalls as Martha stands smiling down from the open doorway. Her wedding day preparation had been interrupted by a knock at the door. A boy of maybe thirteen years had come to inquire about a forlorn 1969 Triumph TR6 moldering out in the field by Martha’s house. Featuring a rose bush violating a structural integrity that could not cast a decent shadow, the TR6 could best be described as a heap. With his father visible in a car waiting on the country road, the boy asked if she wanted to sell it. “Yes I do,” responded the bride-to-be with a kind forthright demeanor exhibited by adults suddenly aware of their role in a teaching moment. “How much do you want?” the boy asked. “How much do you have?” asked Martha. “Forty five dollars,” offered the boy with the air of a question. “That is perfect. That is exactly what I want for it,” responded Martha and in so doing gave the young boy a wedding day gift that would continue to give for the rest of his life. Martha had sold thirteen year-old Mike Gassman […]
Conversations With People We Value #46
Spending time as I do in the Blue Ridge Mountains offers a great opportunity to commune with the beauty of nature. However, where I stay, being at the end of a serpentine dirt road snaking its way deep into the forest, affords a level of social connection just north of Neil Armstrong’s solitary stroll on the moon. Jeremiah Johnson I am not. So to break the spell of the woods, I often go in search of stories. The other day my friend Eddie, mentions a local restoration specialist. Game on.
Escaping from my forest sanctuary, I head out to meet a man who I would come to respect as an artisan. He works in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains where he produces Amelia Island, Pebble Beach and Cavallino quality work with a special place in his heart for British cars.
Meet Mike Gassman.
Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda with One of America’s Most Important Cars
1907 Thomas Flyer
Heading north, the Rockfish Valley Turnpike passes beneath the terminus of the Virginia Skyline and the entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway. We are talking God’s country. Clinging to the western side of the mountain above the Shenandoah Valley this old blue highway cuts through the Rockfish Gap before descending to the valley floor below where my destination awaits.
Clean and white with a garnish of distressed old British sports cars from the 50s and 60s dressing the side lot of the shop, Gassman Automotive presents itself as a buttoned downed source of high end restoration services, NOS parts and restored vehicles for sale.
Mike Gassman welcomes me with the warm humor of an old friend. In his mid-50s, he possesses a forthright country geniality reflecting his farm family upbringing. Mike converses with the intensity of a high energy, engaging storyteller. Conversations reflect the technical acumen of a master restorer delivered with the flavor of comedian Ron White.
Time spent at Gassman Automotive offers rich servings of eye candy and good information. Mike’s business offers a great story. However, that story will have to wait to be told another day. Why? Because before I interviewed Mike he told a couple of great stories that I had to share, now.
As we walked through his fabrication shop, Mike motioned to a bare metal shell mounted on a […]
Conversations With People We Value #45
“Maurice, come join us,” they called to him as he passed. Friends with whom I sat beckoned him to our table. Clearly, he recognized them and enjoyed their respect and warm feelings. A slight man with white whiskers and genteel manner, his charming and proper English accent left no doubt as to his British roots and breeding. A youthful 88-years of age, no dodderer he. With an exchange of pleasantries he begged off claiming weariness at day’s end and with goodbyes completed his after dinner departure.
My friends explained that he possessed a wealth of knowledge concerning fine art and antiques. His business focused on the purchase and sale of both. They marveled at the stories he shared. And, oh yes, during his early years in post-WWII England he refurbished and brokered vintage Rolls-Royce automobiles. They affectionately boasted of his encyclopedic knowledge of early Rolls models. Indeed his expertise with the iconic British marquee had earned recognition on both sides of the Atlantic. So much so that by the beginning of the 1970s his renown had drawn the attention of the Rockefeller Estate. Now living in America, Maurice accepted their offer to oversee the vintage car collection of, the now departed, past New York Governor and Vice President Nelson A. Rockefeller.
Shortly after our dinner time introduction, I reached out to Maurice. Indeed he had great stories to tell and this one is a doozy.
Meet Maurice de Montfalcon.
A Silver Ghost story. Real or Fake? You decide.
Portrait of the real 60553 by Stephen Salmieri
Upon entering a small but tasteful antique shop in a tony New Jersey suburb, I see owner Maurice de Montfalcon. Exhibiting a frenetic blend of determination and confusion he moves about a room strewn with rare historic documents. All will prove to address the iconic 1907 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost in general and one specific 1907 Silver Ghost in particular. More about that in a bit. The shop presents itself in a sort of discordant integration of neatly arrayed upmarket collectibles and antiques overlaid by a blizzard of pictures, magazines and papers blanketing every flat surface. The scene recalls photos of Einstein’s office.
Maurice standing in front of 60553/565, with son (Sam Stevens Jr.) of original owner according to Maurice
Exuding warmth delivered with an air of preoccupation, Maurice, after the […]
Here’s this week’s question:
What car holds the world record for most miles driven?
Answer to last week’s question:
The focus of RADwood events is the automobiles, period dress and lifestyle of the 1980s and 1990s
About the blogger
Burton Hall has written for an automotive client list that includes Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Maserati, Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Peugeot and Volvo. He has also written for The Washington Post, AutoWeek, Corvette Monthly, Jaguar Magazine, BMW Magazine, Hemmings.com, Hagerty Magazine and numerous auto restoration buff books.
He is a member of the Society of Automotive Historians and the Historic Vehicle Association.
As a classic car hobbyist, He owns a 1961 Corvette that he bought in 1967, a 1953 Jaguar XK120MC Drophead Coupe that he restored after finding it in a barn in 1980, an original 1953 Golden Anniversary Ford F100 pickup that he purchased from the original owner and a 1951 MG TD that presently serves as a planter and centerpiece in his garden. All are great drivers, except the MG which has a few bugs.
03/02/23 – Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda with one of America’s most important cars
02/16/23 – A Silver Ghost story. Real or Fake. You decide.
02/03/23 – Fanfare for an uncommon man. A decorated soldier passes at 98.
01/19/23 – Dr. Fred Simeone’s Mona Lisa car legacy. Part 2. Fascinating backstories of cars he preserved.
01/05/23 – Dr. Fred Simeone’s love, vision and priceless racing legacy Part 1
12/08/22 – Driving to history, Visiting America’s oldest tavern and the man who saved it
11/24/22 – How to manage down a classic car collection
11/10/22 – Saving the farm, Barry Wood’s beach club in the Blue Ridge
10/27/22 – When the collection outlives the collector, a daughter’s point of view
09/29/22 – Benny Bryant’s 50-years of building Blue Ridge beauties
09/15/22 – Visiting a community built for car enthusiasts
09/01/22 – Reaching the heights of her dreams on the wings of a deHavilland Beaver
08/18/22 – 35 Below, 16 Dogs, 13 Days. Angie tackles Alaska’s Iditarod.
08/04/22 – Let’s create a Concours d’Elegance. OK…How?
07/07/22 – Applying Miles Collier’s archetype versus portrait conventions in assessing the restoration of my 1961 Corvette
06/23/22 – Does original matter anymore?
06/09/22 – Judged the 32 most historically significant cars in America. Do you agree?
05/26/22 – Hagerty automotive heritage dream conference. Gone for good?
05/12/22 – A Devin’s 47-year journey from scrap heap to Pebble Beach
04/28/22 – Hot Road Missionary and his monster machines
04/14/22 – The monster truck that nearly crushed Volvo
03/31/22 – Drank with Arlo. Dated Alice. Tuned Evel’s motorcycle. They call him Pinto.
03/17/22 – Mr. Thomas’s forest of old Porsches, VW buses and more
03/03/22 – Taking the Skyline Drive to explore the dusty attic of Virginia car culture
02/17/22 – Return of the Zipper King
02/03/22 – Karaoke, Elon Musk’s new weapon to fight driving doldrums
01/20/22 – When blue highways turn white
01/06/22 – Blue highways, back roads – If not now when?
12/09/21 – Hot rod love, family style
11/25/21 – Cars & Caffe’s Tony Boniello is always looking to brew up something new
11/11/21 – Randy the Rodfather and his Green “T” hot rod
10/28/21 – Provenance – Uncovering your car’s backstory
10/14/21 – Comparing classic car sales platforms
09/30/21 – Evolution of the new car brochure (Part II)
09/16/21 – A hot rod life defined by abundance not lack
09/02/21 – The man they trust to rebuild history
08/19/21 – Bring what you love
08/05/21 – Exploring our power within
07/15/21 – Evolution of the new car brochure (Part 1)
07/01/21 – The sputtering Mosquito and the Virgin Loretto
06/17/21 – Raymond Loewy’s 1970s Soviet world car adventure
06/03/21 – 90 GTOs, 30 Corvettes and counting
05/20/21 – An inspired venture to preserve American craftsmanship and vintage Airstream trailers
05/06/20 – When the find is the barn
04/22/21 – Man Cave Garage Sale unmasks Covid boredom
04/08/21 – The odd couple in Vinny Plotino’s garage
03/25/21 – Lemans 1978 – A young man’s memories
03/11/21 – A Sherman tank’s incredible journey from Nyack, NY to the final episode of M.A.S.H.
02/25/21 – Jaguar Archive – Preserving the soul of the brand
02/18/21 – Carried away by Bring a Trailer
02/11/21 – Hollywood dentist Dr. George Schweiger’s fantastic stable of future classic car rentals
01/28/21 – And then, Nuccio Bertone signaled for his personal Miura
01/21/21 – Behind the wheel of a time machine
01/14/21 – Wurst Kase Motorsports
01/07/21 – Singing the CarGurus no title blues
12/24/20 – Rebuild it and they will come – The life of Carburetor Steve
12/10/20 – A Volvo Christmas Classic – “It’s a Vunderful Life”
12/03/20 – Carnucopia II – Classic Car Food Drive
11/26/20 – Vintage Cord binds father and son
11/19/20 – NY Route 9D – A sure cure for Covid boredom
11/12/20 – Confessions of a demolition derby survivor
11/05/20 – Sons of Danger – Mad Men on wheels
10/29/20 – VW Bug restoration is no joke. Ask Jerry Seinfeld
10/22/20 – Guatemala and back in a Karmann Ghia
10/08/20 – A classic Corvette and a soldier’s old letters connect to a kid brother’s memories
10/01/20 – American Pickers meets Hunger Games on a country road
09/24/20 – Crash course for an underage driver
09/17/20 – Playboy Bunnies in the rearview mirror
09/10/20 – The journey is the reward
09/03/20 – More than the next chapter, it’s the next book – Life 2.0
08/27/20 – Old School Larry
08/20/20 – In celebration of a life off the leash
08/13/20 – Asleep at the wheel – Rest Stop Recovery
08/06/20 – Rt. 17A – A sweet ride to Sugarloaf
07/30/20 – What’s a”Vineyard truck?”
07/16/20 – The woman picks up where the girl left off
07/09/20 – When time and other things stand still
07/02/20 – Drive-In movies, Back to the future
06/25/20 – Mystery of the vanishing Indian Motorcycle sign
06/18/20 – Dagavar’s Jaguar, the truth at last
06/11/20 – TAKE-OUT, Lifeline to the future
06/04/20 – Henry Hudson Drive
05/28/20 – CARnucopia Food Drive Results
05/21/20 – CARnucopia
05/14/20 – Collectible Car Culture in a Pandemic
05/07/20 – Austin Healey? Nope, It’s Austin’s Crosley!
04/30/20 – Storm King Highway
04/23/20 – Children We Love
04/16/20 – Mustang Madness Revisited