Monthly Archives: February 2021


Conversations With People We Value #18

My footsteps echoed off the walls of the long, mostly doorless hallway. Aged large format black & white action photos of vintage sports cars lined the walls and whet my already eager appetite for the experience that awaited. As a car guy and owner of a 1953 Jaguar XK120 my destination held great fascination for me. Summer of 2012 blazed outside as I came to make a pitch for the contract to digitize the thousands of original photographs, slides and films housed in the Jaguar Land Rover North American Archive. I would be meeting with Jaguar Land Rover Archivist and retired import car industry public relations legend Mike Cook and Assistant Archivist Fred Hammond.

Jaguar Archive – Preserving the soul of the brand



Mike Cook approached me flashing a ready smile and a genial demeanor as I entered the Jaguar Land Rover North American Archive. Mike could not have been a more gracious host as he guided me through the rows of files, shelves and cabinets. During my tour Mike took the opportunity to, in one single action, indelibly impress upon me the rich historic value residing within this treasure trove of 20th Century British automotive print, film, photography and documents.

Fred Hammond      Mike Cook

As a side note, while Land Rover is included in the Archive title, it has a significantly smaller presence than Jaguar as it was only added to the Archive around 2008. From here on Jaguar will be the focus.

Turning to the large open floor of the archive’s main room, Mike spread his arms open to the room and instructed me to pick any cabinet, open any drawer, pull out any file and remove any document and then said, “tell me what you found.” I did just that.

With the resulting file in hand, I removed two slips of paper.

Inspecting the first slip of paper revealed a letter written around 1957 from Sir William Lyons to another “Sir” explaining his great relief that “this unpleasant business” of wresting control of Jaguar distribution in America from Mr. Hoffman, referring to the notorious Max Hoffman, had been concluded.

The second slip of paper could not have been more historically significant. It was a telegram sent from home office shortly after the tragic events at the 24-hours of Le Mans in 1955, which Jaguar won. It instructed the North American office that Jaguar would neither promote nor advertise its victory at Le Mans.

Both documents, though brief, delivered powerful insights into life in the mid-20th century North American automobile business and powerful reminders of real life events in the automotive world that possessed industry and international significance. Wow, all in just one folder.

1948 New York Auto Show First U.S. showing of XK120

Viewing its rows of closed drawers and shut cabinets made clear that an archive differs significantly from a museum. Rather than an interactive visual display, an archive offers a thoughtfully curated comprehensive brand reference resource. It offers a place to conduct research and disseminate information. Jaguar’s North American Archive contains documents, data and materials all designed to provide a detailed and nuanced understanding of the company from its introduction in the North American market in the late 1940s through the current day. Its second component, a huge technical reference library represents a priceless resource for maintaining, servicing, preserving and restoring Jaguars. The archive gets calls from repair shops looking for specific information. A shop undertaking a ground-up restoration may need to know at what VIN# a change was made. A hobbyist doing his or her own work may want to know if the engine in an E-Type could be removed without the transmission. FYI: the answer is no.

As I witnessed when watching Mike and Fred in action, calls to the Archive were warmly received, treated with a sincere commitment to provide a correct answer, and, the conversation is free.

Having been awarded the contract, I enjoyed the opportunity to explore and marvel at the Archive contents for years and subsequently become a friend of the Archive. In my involvement, I found equally impressive the encyclopedic automotive knowledge of Mike and Fred, not just for Jaguar, but for the industry as a whole. At times I would be present when they would get into recalling the fine details of automotive or racing events in witnessed in their teenage years from 40 or 50 years prior. No archive much less a Jaguar Archive could be in better hands than those of Mike Cook and Fred Hammond.

Group 44 jaguar XJR-5

In 2018 Mike, then in his mid-80s passed away. A bright, fun loving car enthusiast with an acknowledged special love for all things Triumph brought an enormous knowledge of the British car industry in North America to the Archive. He started in the British car industry in the mailroom of Standard Triumph in 1958. He retired as Vice President of Public Relations for Jaguar Cars in 1990. He became archivist for Jaguar in 1990. In 2017 Mike was inducted into the British Sports Car Hall of Fame.

Fred Hammond who succeeded Mike as Jaguar Archivist holds Mike in very high esteem. Fred first met Mike when Fred, fresh out of college in 1973, began working at British Leyland Motors. In recalling the qualities Mike brought Fred says, “Mike was a mensch, honest, giving, caring, smart, reasonable and sincere. And the Archive reflected his personality, serious but not taken with itself.”

Today, Fred brings those same qualities in keeping the Archive active and available despite Covid restrictions. Fred with his vast wealth of product knowledge and commitment to the Jaguar brand and the Jaguar owner has kept the Archive active and available to all requests even when required to work from home. Fred says, I believe it is imperative that the marketplace and especially our owners have confidence in our presence and know that, even in these challenging times, the flag is still flying.”

Fred points out that a significant difference exists between the North American Jaguar Archive and the Jaguar Heritage Trust in the United Kingdom. Fred says, “The UK archives specifically focus on what happened in the UK in the home market at the factory. In North America Jaguar served as a marketing arm with enormous freedom to create our own advertising, literature, public relations imagery. Our focus targets preservation of that body of work.

1962 New York Auto Show U. S. reveal of E-Type

A legion of users take advantage of the Jaguar Archives easy access and vast resources. Owners of individual vehicles, all forms of media, buyers and sellers even the police turn to the Archive.

Fred says, “The most consistent requests we get revolve around histories of individual vehicles.” Having a chassis number, an owner will call looking for the vehicle build date. Others call seeking to identify the proper engine or transmission number.”

A gentleman in Texas has six huge barns filled with Jaguar bits and pieces, chassis, engines and transmissions. He tries to reunite cars with their correct individual components after having been acquired dismantled. He will call for information on a specific chassis number or with just an engine number. The Archive can then provide the other corresponding numbers. Fred says, “We are pleased to respond to these requests. That’s why we are here.”

If someone is buying a Jaguar or looking to sell a Jaguar they may call to confirm that the car has matching numbers.

First customer D-type arrives at Idlewild Airport New York

Demands by various media play an increasingly growing source of requests. Fred says, “These days with the exploding number of platforms some people want still images, television may want moving pictures and internet requests look for everything.”

As to being contacted by the police, Fred says, “I think the most interesting one was a recent inquiry about an XK 140 that had been stolen back in the very late 1950s. The car had just disappeared and when the serial number came up decades later, it came up as a stolen vehicle.” After the caller confirmed his identity as a police officer, Fred provide not only the vehicle numbers but the original owner’s name and address.

In summing up the critical importance of a manufacturer’s archive Fred says, “Essentially a quality archive details the story of where you, the company, came from. It paints a vivid picture of your history. Our Jaguar Archive assures that future generations of the Jaguar family will have an understanding of where the company came from and what that imparts to our product.” Fred believes whole heartedly that preservation of history provides the foundation for appreciating the soul of a brand. Fred says, “If you don’t have that brand identity you reduce yourself to the level of commodity. And as a commodity the only motivation for a customer to walk across the street to buy your product is a lower down payment and less per month. That does not bode well for a profitable future.”

By |2021-02-25T16:32:32+00:00February 25th, 2021|8 Comments

Conversations With People We Value #17

Considering Covid, sheltering in place, social distancing and a steady diet of heavy snow, the attraction of distraction cannot be underestimated. And the explosive growth of online activities clearly leads the pack in the distraction derby. However, when it comes to winning the “selling winter coats in Miami when the temperature plunges” sweepstakes, nobody has been better positioned to benefit from social isolation than

For an insider’s look at the Covid fueled Bring a Trailer online marketplace phenomenon, we reached out to Matt Maisano, classic car broker and owner of Motorcar Manor a premium vehicle storage facility in Ramsey, NJ.

Carried away by Bring a Trailer


Matt Maisano of Motorcar Manor

For car enthusiasts what began quite humbly over a decade ago has become an obligatory hour lost each day to ogling an eclectic and glorious array of exceptional vehicles from around the world being auctioned in real time. Matt Maisano, with a shrug, concedes, “It’s highly addictive for sure, but it’s a great tool for understanding the market, far better than Autotrader or eBay and if you’re looking to kill an hour of Covid boredom. BaT is for you.”

True to its name, Bring a Trailer began in 2007 as pretty much a car enthusiast website for selling incomplete project cars and race cars incapable of being driven home. Then, in 2014, based on the evolving culture and expanding community of Bring a Trailer, co-founders Randy Nonnenberg and Gentry Underwood took what would be a tentative and ultimately profoundly disruptive step impacting the business of collectible automobile auctions. They launched BaT Auctions.

Nonnenberg grew up as a kind of millennial version of older car guys like many of us. The type who in days past would be at the newsstand waiting for delivery of the WantAd Press. How about that for a blast from the past? Or the type who would follow the NY Times delivery truck to its next stop on a late Saturday night to get first crack at the automotive classified section in the Sunday Times. Yes, I did that.

Born out of Nonnenberg’s passion for all things automotive, Bring a Trailer came to life and evolved into what, in the time of Covid, ranks as the dominant classic and special interest vehicle auction venue.

Bring a Trailer’s very first auction on July 23, 2014 offered three cars, a 1970 “Boss” Mustang, Nonnenberg’s own 1991 BMW M3 and a 1964 Alfa Romeo coupe. Today BaT has over 300 cars auctioning at any one time. The total number of listings per month exceeds 1400 with a sale rate of approximately 80%. Vehicles sold on BaT include vehicles ranging across the full spectrum from category 5 “full restoration needed” to absolutely top tier classics. Six-figure sales are common place with seven-figure sales of a 1957 M-B Gullwing and a 2007 Saleen S7 LM on record. Among the cars Matt has sold on BaT, a 1972 Ferrari Daytona went for mid six-figures.

MG TC non-running project car

BaT’s community comprises a vast population of informed and engaged members. While the number constantly spirals up, BaT’s knowledgeable community exceeds 450,000 users and over 200,000 registered bidders. Matt when asked as to who the bidders are blurts back, “With Covid everybody has become a bidder on Bring a Trailer.” Since Covid came to town the concept of the typical BaT bidder has gone out the window. Matt says, “I’ll have guys – who’ve been dedicated sideline watchers of BaT but who have never purchased anything. Next thing, you know within three months time they’ve purchased two cars from BaT.”  Matt confirms that he knows guys during this pandemic who have gone nuts buying cars on BaT.

At this point BaT enjoys a backlog of over 5,000 cars waiting patiently for their turn to cross the BaT online auction block.

Bring a Trailer’s success has not gone unnoticed by big business. Just recently Nonnenberg and his partners sold BaT making it part of the Hearst multinational mass media empire. Nonnenberg will continue to manage it.

A visual and content rich feast for the car enthusiast, each vehicle being auctioned features high quality photography, driving videos and succinct and detailed descriptive copy. Matt says, “BaT really upped the game for photo quality from the craigslist days of ‘here’s a wheel’ and ‘here’s a bumper’ to BaT’s current comprehensive photo profile of easily 100 or more pictures.

However, it is the “comments” section that stands out as a key measure that enhances the total BaT experience and clearly distinguishes and differentiates its offering from others. Matt says, “Aside from the friendly, ‘I had one and loved it’ comments, real value exists in the pointed and technically astute insights in the comments section.” Matt strongly recommends that anyone in the market for a  specific vehicle take the time to monitor the comments offered by knowledgeable people in reference to the same type vehicle. Being an informed bidder can save a great deal of buyer’s remorse. This clearly helped a personal friend considering a BMW Z3. The comments section offered great insights such as lifting the trunk carpet to check the condition of the spot welds anchoring the rear suspension. Broken spot welds would indicate hard driving and necessary repair.

Want to be a registered BaT user? Simply go to the BaT homepage, go to “log on,” click “register and provide your email, a user name (What people will see if you comment or bid) and a password. Done.

Itching to place a bid? First thing, understand the costs involved. Compared to what many see as the usurious 10% buyer premium charged by the in person auction houses such as RM, Bonham’s, Barret-Jackson, Gooding to name a few, BaT maxes its buyer fees at a pretty painless 5 percent up to a maximum of $5,000. Matt says, “To become a bidder the steps are clear cut. Create a login name, register by completing some agreements and provide BaT with your credit card information. Bidder credit card info must be on file. The reason being that when you place a bid, BaT immediately puts a hold on your credit card for 5% of the bid.

Unlike eBay, BaT does not permit sniping. Sniping refers to a common practice on eBay where a bidder waits to the last second to place a hopefully winning bid while leaving no time for another bidder to counter. BaT, however, prevents sniping by adding an additional two minutes to any last second bid. Matt points out that the two minute extension can actually draw a bidder in and overwhelm the bidder’s better judgment. Matt says, “It gives other people time to jump in. Acting on behalf of a client and under the client’s direction, I found myself in an online bidding battle. Someone else REALLY wanted this car. It got to the point where the bidding had gone far beyond reason. Someone would be paying way over its true value. I had to pull my client back and say this is crazy.”

Have a car to sell? Matt says, “Initially you must provide your name, your email address, your vehicle description and pictures. You don’t have to submit all 100 pictures, but definitely give them at least 20 picture so they can get an overall sense of the vehicle.” In a process BaT calls “curation” it subjects your vehicle to careful scrutiny that it meets its standards including repair records, ownership history, accurate mileage and special features. BaT always demands to see acceptable proof of ownership. Listing a car on BaT carries a fee of $99.

While BaT clearly stands as the online auction big dog, it also makes an attractive target. Competitors have begun surfacing intent on carving out their niche. Gaining in popularity, online auction site “Cars and Bids” features its founder, Doug DeMuro, an engaging, knowledgeable and opinionated automotive journalist and You Tuber. Focused on cars of the 1980s,’90s and newer, DeMuro puts a distinctive and personalized stamp on the vehicles auctioned on his website. DeMuro’s popularity grows as does the “Cars and Bids” community.

Additional BaT competitors include specializing in Porsches, the a Mercedes-Benz only website, Hemmings online auction and, coming in March, offering just cars from the 1980s and newer.

Clearly the affinity of Millenials and Gen Xers for all things digital makes online auction sites a natural draw for those demographic groups. Matt says, “Online definitely attracts a younger community compared to in person auctions. I mean granted I recently sold a Ferrari Daytona online to a 75-year old gentleman. But definitely the online community is more youthful. Look Gen Xers and Millennials are just more used to doing things online.”

When asked if older buyers are waiting for the in person auctions to return, Matt responds without hesitation. Matt says, “Oh without a doubt. First of all, it’s a destination. They want an excuse to get out of their homes. As well, the older buyer wants to touch, feel, smell and experience the car they intend to buy. Buying cars online is still a really weird place especially if you are not a digital native. In addition, older buyers are much more concerned about getting screwed on a car. For some reason Gen Xers and Millennials are a little bit more forgiving with an attitude of ‘oh it is what it is.”

Matt also believes that the traditional auction houses, while most have ventured on line with some success, yearn for a return to in person events. Matt says, “Online you lose out on the whole live theater experience. Live is where a bidder can seize the moment. Bidders get caught up in the atmosphere. Your buddies pump you up and cheer you on. Whether it’s peer pressure or booze pressure, chances are enhanced that you’re going to keep buying and that’s what the auction houses want. You don’t get that on line.

By |2021-02-18T11:44:33+00:00February 18th, 2021|2 Comments

Conversations With People We Value #16

Totally unplanned, it proved to be one of the more entertaining days of my life. Business had brought me to Burbank California. A friend in the film industry had taken me on a tour of the movie studios and, seeing that one sound stage had activity underway, he brought me in. By sheer luck we would be the only two non-actors ever to see an hysterically funny full cast rehearsal for the wedding dance in the Taxi episode “The marriage of Latka. ”What could possible beat that? Shortly I would find out when my friend introduced me to 92-year old Hollywood dentist and movie car legend, Dr. George Schweiger.

Hollywood dentist Dr. George Schweiger’s fantastic stable of future classic car rentals



Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable “Boomtown” with mud and tire chains


Pacific Auto Rental Catalog

Driving to meet Dr. George Schweiger on a late summer morning in 1982, my friend Bill Wahnish alerted me that the somewhat curmudgeonly good doctor was a man of few words and had never been interviewed. This would be a first. Pulling up in front of an unremarkable but large one-story warehouse with huge sliding doors, Bill informed me that this was but one of three large facilities used to house the roughly 300 vehicles held by Schweiger’s Pacific Auto Rental business.

1931 Duesenberg Model J and Jayne Mansfield

A practicing and well-to-do Hollywood dentist in the time of silent films, Dr. George Schweiger possessed a great passion for interesting automobiles. As the 1920s came to a close, Schweiger had amassed a sizeable collection.

When the “Roaring 20s” disintegrated into the deep Depression. Schweiger decided he wanted some amusement in those dark times. His solution called for turning his car collection into a stable of vehicles available as rentals for the Hollywood movie studios. Schweiger’s breathtaking personal museum of future classic cars included numerous Rolls-Royces, Packards, Cadillacs, Mercedes-Benzes, Isotta Fraschinis and Duesenbergs including a 1931 Duesenberg Model J ‘Disappearing Top’ Convertible Coupe by Murphy that in 2015 would sell for $3,520,000.

Schweiger met us out in front of the warehouse. Spry and sharp, sporting suspenders and a dress shirt, Schweiger agreed to speak with me before departing for his usual afternoon tennis match.

Following Schweiger through the entry door, I found myself in a dimly lit cavernous space tightly packed with classic vehicles of all stripes and sizes. High end sedanca devilles of the 1930’s, ‘40s and ‘50s on trickle chargers lined the length of one wall. A far corner was thick with late ‘30s and ‘40s trucks, some military, others commercial canvas top 5-ton stake jobs, the kind seen careening down a dark road in chase scenes from 1940s and ’50s serial adventures.

Against a back wall resided a 1924 Model T taxi that frequently appeared with Laurel and Hardy. Stationed to its immediate right sat a 1922 Maxwell made famous by comedian Jack Benny and his chauffer Rochester. Menacingly stern and next in line, was a 1939 dual-wheel Mercedes-Benz staff car custom built for Nazi general Erwin Rommel and bought by Schweiger in 1950. It would later be made famous on “Hogan’s Heros.” Most conspicuously and proudly displayed in the center of the warehouse floor were the Duesenbergs. Dominant in their presence and perfection, this proud assemblage of American automotive royalty included the future multimillion dollar 1931 Model J Convertible Coupe.

Our conversation would be held in Schweiger’s office. Directed to my left, we approached a classic glass pane and metal panel factory floor office. It displayed all the patina one would expect after spending over forty plus years in a vintage vehicle storage facility. Pacific Auto Rental had moved there in 1940. During that time Schweiger’s original partner had passed away in 1943. Shockingly for Schweiger, his sixty-year old son predeceased him some years back and forced the doctor to resume control of the business. Considering the impressive size of his collection, the minimal nature of the Pacific Auto Rental support staff came as a shock. It consisted solely of a postman who worked part time and a young man with learning disabilities. Everything else was left to the studio renting the vehicle and specialists on the other end of a phone call.

Reticent to say much at first, Schweiger initially deflected questions saying that he could not remember much. However, with a little encouragement, recollections began to flow with greater speed and amazing accuracy.

Philion Steamer

Schweiger first recalled his good friend and favorite trading partner Bill Harrah who passed in 1978. Owner of Harrah’s Hotel and Casinos, one of the most influential figures in gaming history and at one point the owner of the largest collection of classic vehicles under one roof, Harrah and Schweiger had a great relationship. Harrah’s favorite motorized possession, a Philion Steamer came in a trade with Schweiger. Harrah loved the little steamer. Built in the late 1890s by French circus showman Achille Philion, the coal burning steamer successfully served to call attention to Philion when he paraded it down main streets of America to announce that the circus had come to town.

Schweiger rolled right into the backstory of Samuel Goldwyn of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer renown. As Schweiger starts the story, Samuel Goldfish has not yet changed his name to Goldwyn. A Polish immigrant, Goldfish in 1909 started out in Manhattan as the owner of a long and narrow novelty store. With the movies entering popular culture as a new form of entertainment, venues to show films were in great demand. Goldfish’s long narrow storefront suited the need perfectly. Within a few years Goldfish had progressed into movie making by entering into a partnership with the Selwyn brothers, Archibald and Edgar. To name their partnership they chose to combine their last names. Goldfish liked the name Gold-wyn so much so that he legally adopted it as his own. It also seemed a far more appealing combination than Sel-fish.

1931 Duesenberg Model J

As Gary Cooper’s mother lived on the same block as Schweiger, Cooper became a close friend and would stop by Pacific Auto Rental at times with his Duesenberg SSJ, the same Duesenberg SSJ that in 2018 would be sold by Miles Collier for $22 million. Hollywood’s A-list members possessing a love for Olympian automobiles apparently found Schweiger a kindred spirit and would visit Pacific Auto Rental to sell a car or just to hang out. Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, Tyrone Power and others would casually while away time in Schweiger’s little factory floor office. Years later a 20-something Elke Sommer would stop by to sell her 1957 Rolls-Royce.

A smile flashed across Schweiger’s face as his experiences on the set of the 1930’s Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable movie “Boomtown” came to mind. He recollected the heavy rains and deep mud that required putting tire chains on all 50 of his cars being used in the filming. He laughed in recalling how he crawled around in the deep mud affixing the chains so filming could proceed.

Rental car with chains

Schweiger, now fully engaged with his past, brought to life a wonderful freewheeling first person journey through the history of early Hollywood seen through the windshields of iconic vehicles that appeared in films America loved. Then, the clock struck twelve, literally and figuratively. I realized that time had melted away leaving me painfully close to missing my return flight home.

With many thanks, smiles and handshakes, I promised to continue the interview in the future. Back home I sent out query letters to a variety of magazines. A few months passed until  one day when four related letters arrived coincidentally. Three of the letters were responses to my magazine queries and expressed interest in the story of Dr. Schweiger and Pacific Auto Rental. The fourth letter came from my friend Bill. The single sheet of paper read, “Doc passed away. Thought you would want to know.” It would appear I had the honor of benefiting from the only personal recounting of Dr. George Schweiger’s remarkable Hollywood history.

I had been told that Schweiger’s only relative, a niece, possessed absolutely no interest in his collection other than its value. A few months later I learned that the physical assets of Pacific Auto Rental had been sold to the Imperial Palace in Las Vegas.

That said, I retained Schweiger’s priceless recollections. Some shared here with you.


By |2021-02-11T13:33:23+00:00February 11th, 2021|10 Comments