It's strange to think how traveled a cup of coffee is by the time it reaches to your hands. The coffee beans were grown and harvested in a country across the globe, then put into bags to rack up their one-time use of frequent flier miles. So the minute that cup of coffee reaches your hand, its already had quite an adventure. Who would've thought that shopping for a cowboy hat and the need for caffeine on a Friday afternoon would take me on random speedhunting adventure in the city of Houston, Texas.
After stopping by an artisan coffee shop close to the downtown area, my at-the-time Houston guide and I decided to walk around. So with my latte in hand, I spotted glimmer of a glamorous red car in the corner of my eye. It was a 1937 Mercedes SSK replica which was made in the very limited numbers in the 70s. This one was the first ever production version of that '37 Mercedes replica.
For being such a rare replica of such a rare car, it was crafted with exquisite detail. When this car rolled off the production line in the 1970s, it garnered an asking price of $70,000! That's a car that'll set you back around $300,000 when you add the present day inflation.
There's just quite something about grills and badges of these older cars. Beautiful.
Right behind the Mercedes was an open door and with quick glance my coffee companion and I spotted what was a warehouse full of classic and rare automobiles. As we peeked our heads deeper inside, we spotted someone who was dusting off the car. The man introduced himself as, Lee Brown and found out that he was the owner of this collection. So a few introductions later, he gave us permission to spend a few minutes shooting the warehouse.
One of the newest members of the collection was this 1937 Cord 812. Lee mentioned that the Cord 812 is recognized as the first modern day automobile. It was the car that had the first ever front-wheel drive, independent front suspension, pop-up lights, no door sills, in-body rear tail lights, and a supercharged V8 under the hood. For 1937, this car was the future.
A few of the cars were in the non-running condition and in the process of getting restored like this beautiful Cadillac for example.
More badgehunting. They just don't make badges like they used to!
Hood ornaments, another casualty of time.
Lee's collection didn't have just cars, there were a few bikes hidden in the corners collecting dust.
I know next to nothing about motorcycles but this one looked rather amazing.
Another motorcycle. This one looked as though its seen and experienced many, many things in its long life. And now, it collects dust in a warehouse waiting to be restored.
The cleanest car in the warehouse was this 1956 Nash Ambassador Custom.
Hood-ornament-hunting the Nash Ambassador.
What's a retro car collection without a Ford Model T?
The star of the collection was this 1910 Bianchi limousine. It was a car built to chauffeur the European aristocracy.
Lee mentioned that this was the only surviving Bianchi limo left in the world as many of them were melted down for the bronze and metal during both World Wars.
This particular Bianchi survived getting scrapped because it spent a good portion of its life in Switzerland. The first owner bought the car in 1910 and owned it until 1929 when the stock market crashed. The story is that he ran low on money and the bank seized some of his assets, this car being one of them. Soon after, the bank condemned the car to a junk yard where it fell upon the eyes of the curious 17 year old on a bicycle. His parents then bought the car for him and since then somehow found its way to America.
Randomly coming across a collection like Lee's is like finding the dirtiest hole-in-the-wall eatery only to find that it is some of the best food in town. As we said our goodbyes, Lee smiled and said "this warehouse was one of three." Looks like I'll have to make some time to check out the other two before I leave Houston….
When I left where I was staying to shop for a cowboy hat and grab coffee, I was thinking of not bringing my camera along. I'm glad I did.
Now, onto the Texas Mile!