The present day antique car hobby is really a very interesting one as well as a business. Looking back through the years at what the hobby was and how it has evolved into what it has become today is intriguing to say the least and very important.
I note the moment the car hobby was truly born as the VMCCA Raceland meet in 1939 taking place in Framingham, Massachusetts. At this moment, this hobby was purely a passion for great cars and the men and women who recognized these great cars recognized them purely for their greatness. More than 75 veteran cars were exhibited and early motoring celebrities present included Freeland O. Stanley, Charles B. King, Fred Marriott, Ralph DePalma, and George Whitney. They were celebrating the historical significance of the early automobile, but at the same time, whether they knew it or not, they were making history themselves beginning a hobby and a love for antique cars that would grow into what it is today.
Henry Austin Clark Jr., George Waterman, Kirkland Gibson, Cameron Peck, Ben Moser, Whitney D. Snyder, Millard Newman, David Tunick, James Melton, Briggs Cunningham, Dr. John Miller, Louis Biondi, Joe VanSkyver, Cameron Bradley, Peter Helck, Lindley Bothwell, Bill Harrah, Sterling Walsh, David Uihlein, Brooks Stevens, Gardner King, Joe Murchio and the list goes on and on. These are the ones who started it all, the ones who deserve to be remembered and the ones who’s passion for the automobile has been passed on to collectors today.
The greatest cars in the world have been preserved because of these collectors. Countless cars for example; the Gordon Bennett Napier’s in the Waterman Gibson collection, The around the World Thomas Flyer in Henry Austin Clark’s Long Island Auto Museum, the Caracciola Mercedes SSK from the collection of Dr. John Miller, The 8 liter Bentley “Old Number 1” from the David Tunick Collection, the Gary Cooper Duesenberg SSJ from the collection of Cameron Peck, the 1906 Locomobile “Old 16” and “Rabbit the First” from the collection of Peter Helck, a Bugatti Royale from the collection of Briggs Cunningham, countless silver ghosts, supercharged Mercedes, and other cars such as KM Isotta Fraschini’s etc.. from Ben Moser and again, the list continues. These are only small examples of the cars these great collectors preserved and recognized as historically significant at a time before a car was looked at in monetary value before all else.
These collectors and this time in car collecting history (1930’s-1960’s) should be preserved and remembered because it is so important to do so. Even today, when a great car is looked at, not only is the car itself important in terms of what it is, its originality, its historical significance, but it also makes it even more important and more significant when one of these great collectors had previously owned it because they knew it was great before anyone else and before these cars were extremely valuable. They have become important in the histories of these great cars and will forever bring more historical and monetary value to cars, separating them from all the rest.
The Sarah Tunick Memorial Trophy
During the early days of collecting, many of these great collectors participated in car clubs and the events they held. Specifically, the Veteran Motor Car Club of America, the Horseless Carriage Club of America, The Antique Automobile Club of America, and the Sports Car Club of America. All of these clubs were important, but the VMCCA was one of the earliest and many of these great collectors, if not all of them, had at one time belonged to the VMCCA. They held many great events such as the revival Glidden tours beginning in 1946 and many great car meets such as the Raceland meet in Framingham, Massachusetts, James Melton’s HCCA meet at the Hunt Club in Fairfield, CT and countless other tours and events over the years such as the Transcontinental Reliability Contest beginning in 1968 for example. As the VMCCA grew larger and more prestigious, awards were created and award ceremonies began to be held annually. Today, many of these awards and collecting memorabilia are overlooked and in some cases lost, but I am looking for these items from great early events and collectors in hopes of saving them and to display proudly in my facility to remember and preserve this time in collecting.
Beginning in 1955 a very beautiful and prestigious award was donated to the VMCCA by the famed collector David Tunick from Greenwich, Connecticut named “The Sarah Tunick Memorial Trophy” in honor of his mother. This beautiful sterling silver trophy was awarded annually beginning in 1955 to the member of the club who “has made the most notable contribution in the furtherance of the aims and purposes of the club” as it was stated when unveiled in the January 1956 issue of the Bulb Horn magazine.
David Tunick had one of the greatest collections in the world in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Everything from Herman Goering’s 1937 Mercedes 540K special roadster, great racing Ferrari’s, Bugatti’s, Duesenbergs, to great brass era cars such as chain drive Simplex’s, Locomobiles and other high quality early cars having around 100 cars at one time in the heyday of his collection and over 200 cars passed through his hands over the years.
Recently I was lucky enough to come across and acquire the “Sarah Tunick Memorial trophy” that has been lost and looked past for years. It had actually been sent back to David Tunick’s son, Stephen, in 2001 and I acquired it from him. It came with the original photograph taken by a professional photo studio in Stamford, CT for use in the Bulb Horn and its original box it would be shipped in to award winner’s homes. At first glance I knew it was something special just by the “Tunick” name that it proudly wears, the names of the collectors who were awarded the trophy, and the fact that it is sterling silver with one of the most beautiful engraving jobs I have seen on a trophy, but I didn’t know that this was one of the greatest trophies awarded by the VMCCA during the heyday of collecting. On the front of the trophy an incredibly detailed 1909 Pierce Arrow roadster is engraved along with the name of the trophy. There are vines and floral designs engraved throughout. Again on the rear of the trophy another Pierce Arrow touring car is engraved along the top surrounded by more floral engravings. The bottom of the trophy wears two sterling silver bands, the top band having “the Veteran Motor Car Club of America” engraved and the bottom band having the names of the award winners from 1955 through 1965.
The award winners (engraved on the trophy through 1965) are as follows:
(The names of award winners with asterisks are photographed receiving the trophy)
1955 – Robert S. Kilbourne III
1956 – Dr. Wendell H. Stadle
1957 – J. Byron Hull
1958 – Robert H. DeHart
1959 – Fredrich H. von Strange
1960 – Arthur G. Rippey
1961 – Lee DeNies
1962 – Stanford S. Block*
1963 – Dr. J. R. Forbes*
1964 – Stanford S. Block
1965 – Frank D. Saylor Jr*.
1966 Arthur Rippey
1967 Millard Newman*
1968 Norman Vinney
1969 William Clark
1970 Leland K. Cowie
All of these men were great collectors and all of them had great cars. With help from the VMCCA historian Barbara D. Fox, I was able to find some incredible period photographs of some of these great collectors being awarded the trophy by David Tunick himself! The more I researched this trophy the more excited I became. Finding out how prestigious this award was, seeing and reading who held this trophy and where it has been during its existence before me makes me smile every time I look at it and hold it knowing who’s had it and where it came from. I am honored to have this trophy and to display it proudly in honor of the great collectors that started the car collecting hobby. Without these great men that came before me, I wouldn’t be who I am today and many significant cars wouldn’t exist. This Sarah Tunick memorial Trophy is beautiful both in physical appearance and beautiful for what it represents.
I am seeking any significant memorabilia from VMCCA and HCCA events to collect and display to preserve the history of car collecting. Anything from awards such as the Sarah Tunick trophy, early Glidden Tour awards, event ribbons, trophies, photographs, banners etc.. I will buy anything that is important to this time period (1930’s-1960’s). Anything related to great collectors or events. If you have something you think might fit into my collection please contact me as these things need to be saved and enjoyed.