Looking at a warehouse full of classic cars is better than looking at porn.
Recently I was wandering around a 6000sq m repository of old (some very old and very rusty) metal in Linden, New Jersey where, nearby, for exactly 70 years until 2007, GM had 6000 workers on 40ha making Caddys, Pontiacs, Buicks and Jimmys. Some of those workers would be mystified today to see the blue-collar autos they made, now selling and being shown as classics. In a remote corner of the warehouse was a red and black AMC AMX in original condition. The AMX was not only one of the best muscle cars of its time but it has a very strong Australian connection.
American Motors Corporation had its beginnings in the 1937 merger of Nash Motors and Kelvinator. I still get a thrill thinking back to the 1955, Kelvinator Food-A-Rama Side by Side Refrigerator, a sensational frost-free cooler that was the Rolls-Royce of fridges.
Of course, the king of Kelvinators in Australia is Adelaide’s Michael McMichael, who told me he bought his Food-A-Rama because of the built-in breakfast bar and the US TV commercial featuring Hilary Brooke as Side by Side’s spruickeress.
“Hilary was born in Astoria, New York, but cultivated a perfect English accent to get more acting parts much like I have cultivated an Australian accent to cover up my aristocratic Adelaide upbringing. Interesting Alex Downer has kept his accent,” Michael told me in another exclusive interview.
Anyway, just before Kelvinator launched the Food-A-Rama, Nash-Kelvinator Corporation bought the Hudson Motor Car Company and renamed the whole show AMC. In the late 60s, AMI (Australian Motor Industries, later to become Toyota) brought the AMC Javelin in kit form into Australia and assembled them. They were twice the price of the hottest Holdens and Falcons and twice the cars. They are Australia’s rarest and most beautiful muscle car. AMI put together 258 Javelins and 24 AMXs. AMXs sell for more ($60k-plus for a concours car) in Australia than in the US ($42k).
Showing me the cars is West Coast Shipping’s Dmitriy Shibarshin. Despite the name (not Dmitriy, but he is Russian and a relative of Alex Naumov, who set up the business almost 30 years ago), West Coast also has a big east coast operation. The family-owned company ships about 14,000 cars and bikes a year around the world. Australia and New Zealand are big markets. If you want to buy a classic from the US and ship it home, expect to pay $1500 in freight, $1500 to get it off the boat and through customs and whatever duty you get hit with.
And it’s not all Food-A-Ramas and Fords. Tucked away was a very beautiful 1938-ish Bentley (at least $300k), headed like the convertible 1990s Roller (in original condition, so maybe well bought for $30k) for India, where a new generation is keen to relive the Raj.
Even Woolf Barnato, diamond heir and Le Mans winner, couldn’t keep Bentley from going belly-up. In 1931, Wocka Bentley believed he had sold the company to Napiers (a motor business with an Australian connection and Rolls-Royce’s major competitor), but in the Royal Courts of Justice a barrister representing the British Central Equitable Trust made a counter-offer and won. Wocka cried when he found out later that the trust was really Rolls-Royce.
West Coast Shipping also has regular customers like one of America’s most respected classic dealers, Matthew Ivanhoe, who owns Connecticut’s The Cultivated Collector. Matt imported a rare 53 Jaguar XJR-15. The yellow 1990 supercar came from a Japanese collector to a famous Adelaide Jag restorer to him. Matt is in good company with Lindsay Fox having an XJR-15 in his Melbourne museum. Matt also has one of six Schuppan 962CRs. It’s a one-owner, no kms, with 450KW twin-turbo flat-six, five-speed manual gearbox and 370km/h that should be about $2 million.
Also on the client list are the lads at Germany’s Chrome Cars (or as they prefer to be known, automotive archaeologists). Chrome Cars (www.chromecars.de) seems to be intent on cornering the world market on classics including the 1939 GM Futureliner ($6m) and the remade Elanor from the remade Gone In 60 Seconds ($2m).
Then there is the 2007 Feezer F430 Challenge art car (little market for these, unsurprisingly). West Coast shipped this red with what looks like spilt white paint recently. It was painted by Maquis Lewis, who is better known in white paint circles as Retna. He probably got the idea for the name change from Rogers Nelson, who had a pretty good career in the music caper by changing his name to Prince, Alexander Nevermind, The Artist, The Artist Formerly Known as Prince (TAFKAP), Christopher Tracy, Tora Tora and The Prince of Funk.
If you want to change your name or bring an art car or an old Mustang to Australia, Dmitriy and the gang tell you how to do it on wcshipping.com/australia. As usual, I paid for my trip to see West Coast myself, including the world’s most boring drive from NYC to Linden.
Now I don’t want you to get too excited, but apart from the old bloke and I in our WART Beemer, other VIP drivers at the Leyburn Sprints next month will include legendary former Brisbane radio DJ Bill Gates, who discovered the Bee Gees. (Younger readers: the Bee Gees were a singing group from Humpybong, Queensland.) Bill was a serious speedster in his day (much like your WART team) and will be driving a borrowed Ford Escort Mk 1.