iPhones and Local Events for “Car Guys”

March 17, 2012 by  

dodge60I took advantage of a rare treat today. I paid a visit to Cars of Dreams, a private museum dedicated to cars of the 50s and 60s, owned by S. Florida resident John Staluppi, who owns a number of car dealerships in the Northeast US. He only opens this museum to the public three times per year, and also makes his wonderful museum available to an additional small number of private events throughout the year (I attended a lavish party that was part of the Barrett-Jackson classic car auction event back in 2008).

His automotive tastes parallel mine for the most part—especially the great chrome barges of the 50s. Some highlights include a nearly complete collection of Chrysler 300 lettercars. These were among of the first musclecars, but unlike the relatively inexpensive musclecars from the 60s (Roadrunners, Mustangs, Malibus, etc.), the Chrysler 300 was a very expensive, luxurious supercar. Using the best engine and carburetion technology available at the time, the first model, the 1955 C-300, offered the well-heeled customer 300 horsepower, using the legendary Hemi engine of 331 cubic inches, with twin four-barrel carburetors (don’t even ask about the mileage!). Subsequent models used lettered suffices, so that the 1956 model was a 300-B, the ’57 a 300-C, and so on, until the end of the lettercar series in 1965 with the 300-L. These were limited production automobiles; usually fewer than 2,000 were produced each year. Well, Mr. Staluppi has acquired examples of all but the final two years. It’s interesting to note that it took a large hemi V-8 and 8 barrels of carburetion to achieve 300 horsepower. Ford is now achieving the same 300 horsepower with their stock V-6 offered in their new Mustang.

Other outstanding cars in the Cars of Dreams collection include two 1960 Dodge Polaras—a convertible and a two-door hardtop, both with the extremely rare D-500 option of twin four-barrel carburetors attached to long tubes that impart some supercharging effect without the addition of an actual supercharger. There are several lovely Buick Roadmaster convertibles of 1955 and 1957 vintage, and the exceedingly rare 1958 Buick Limited convertible. The Limited was a one-year only model that tried to outchrome and out Cadillac the Cadillac brand. This is one of my favorites from the collection. Unfortunately, Buick introduced this model into the 1958 “Eisenhower Recession,” and a general disdain by car buyers of the overwrought, overchromed, and overweight cruisers of the time. This recession effectively killed the Edsel (there is one Edsel in the collection) before it had a chance to make it on its questionable merits, and spelled final doom for the Desoto brand (no Desotos in the Cars of Dreams collection). There are a number of Corvettes in the collection, including the first car owned by Staluppi, a 1964 model. There are also examples of Plymouths, Fords, Chevrolets, a bathtub Nash from 1950, flashy Pontiacs, firetrucks, police cars, a ton of 60s musclecars, and much more.

Below, view a ten-minute video about this amazing museum on YouTube.

The museum was opened today (November 7th 2010) to benefit the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, who sponsored a Classic Car, Truck, and Motorcycle show in the vast parking lot adjacent to the museum (which was a former department store). I’m sure I can speak for the community in thanking Mr. Staluppi for making his exceptional museum available to the public, and I can certainly understand why he limits access to just a few days a year. There are just too many opportunities for damage to the cars and the delightful décor, which was not designed for high traffic, and just the basic wear and tear to everything that a museum such as this would cause.

Oh, I did say I was going to talk about the iPhone. I am, in the context of visiting this museum. I figured, what the heck—I’ve got my nice new iPhone with a built-in multi-megapixel camera, which includes a spotlight-flash. The overall lighting scheme in the museum is somewhat subdued, with carefully adjusted spotlights on each car. This created a challenge for my iPhone’s camera. When using available light, the images were pretty dark (maybe some time in a photo editor will improve things). When I tried to use the “flash”, it created hotspots, especially when it hit some of the excesses of chrome that make up most of the cars from the 1950s. So, in a nutshell, my results were mixed, and I probably would have had much better luck with my regular Nikon S8000 digital camera. This is something you iPhone 4 users out there need to consider. From what I’ve seen thus far, the iPhone 4 camera is better suited for well-lit inside areas or for outside photography. Or maybe it just couldn’t deal with the acres of chrome…

Sadly, as of December 2012, the Cars of Dreams collection is no more. Owner John Staluppi decided it was time to move on to other things. The auction, managed by RM Auctions, brought record prices for most items in the collection. It will be missed. There were few places where such a wonderful collection of the best of the 1950s and 1960s could be seen.