You Can’t Drive A Painting: <br />The Ralph Lauren Collection
A Knife In The Dark

One of the biggest things about Speedhunting is that you can stumble upon some rather amazing automotive finds at any given moment. Like the time I was on my way to shoot a car feature and came across right-hand drive, sixth generation Toyota Crown driving on motorway. Or when I was on the way to coffee shop with a bunch of friends in Houston, Texas, only to turn a corner and spot a 1937 Mercedes SSK replica, which then led to discovering a warehouse full of priceless automobiles.

Car culture and pure automotive enjoyment is everywhere, and it’s both my and your job to keep a keen eye out to spot hidden treasures.


Late last month I extended my trip to New York for a bit of much needed RnR time. I met up with Elizabeth on a beautiful Friday morning and we headed out in a roaring Maserati GranTurismo Spyder to Lime Rock Park to do a bit of special bit of Speedhunting. This photo gives you a big hint what we were up to.


There was more though, because that weekend there was something special going on: the 32nd annual Historics Festival. The paddock at Lime Rock Park was filled with all sorts of classic race cars, from Alfas to Porsches to BMWs, and even a varied selection of Formula cars. But one tent stood out from them all – that which housed five cars owned by renowned American fashion designer, Ralph Lauren. Knowing that Lauren is very protective of his car collection, we weren’t going to let this rare Speedhunting opportunity in front of us go to waste.


Upon entering the tent, this 1959 Porsche RSK was the first car that caught my eye


The smooth, hand-crafted body, with its silver finish and classic Porsche body lines stood out from the rest of the collection.


Only 34 of these cars were ever built, and the RSK is widely considered to be the most beautiful of all Spyder models.


This RSK was used for practice during the 1959 Targa Florio, which then became Porsche’s first outright victory in a manufacturer’s championship.


At its heart an air-cooled, 1,500cc four cylinder boxer engine. Beautiful simplicity.


This particular car’s biggest race was during the Tourist Trophy at Goodwood in September of 1959. Porsche was up against Ferrari and Aston Martin, and had the chance to take the championship if they won. After a closely-fought, six-hour race, Stirling Moss took the checkered flag in an Aston with Wolfgang von Trips in the RSK finishing second ahead of Tony Brooks in the Ferrari. Amazing racing pedigree aside, I have to say that the Porsche’s face is absolutely adorable!

The Bruiser

Easily the largest car from the Ralph Lauren collection is this 1929 Birikin Blower Bentley. This ‘Bruiser’ also takes the cake for being the rarest of the bunch with only four examples ever being built!


The car features a massive 4.4-liter supercharged inline four.


This particular car is one of two short-chassis models ever built, and was sponsored by socialite Dorothy Paget for the 1930 24 Hours of Le Mans where it was driven by Sir Henry ‘Tim’ Birkin.


This Bruiser was fast but the race proved to be a bit too much for the supercharger. The car had to be retired just shy of 150 laps.


During the 1930 French Grand Prix at Pau, Birkin drove this car to second place. But as that year’s racing season came to a close, Paget cut off funding for the team, which forced the sale of the cars.


Ralph Lauren acquired the car in 1988 and the Bentley was restored to an ‘as raced’ condition by England’s Traction Seabert in 1990. Out of all the cars at the collection, the Bentley was the one I was able to picture myself driving. Dappered up to the nines driving this black beauty along the seaside? Count me in!

The Jag & A Morgan

Of the two silver cars in the tent, this 1956 Jaguar XKSS proved to be the most beautiful – and most elegant.


This 3.4L inline six beauty is the road-going version of Jaguar’s D-Type race car, which won Le Mans in 1955, 1956, and 1957.


Briggs Cunningham, an American entrepreneur and sportsman who raced automobiles and yachts, convinced Jaguar that they could win the American SCCA production car series if they produced some street legal D-Types.


Jaguar changed the model name of 25 XKD race cars to XKSS, and planned to build another 25 soon after. They began modifying the XKSS to meet the required 50 street units but a fire in Feburary of 1957 destroyed nine cars, and all of the tooling, during the conversion work at the factory. The surviving 16 XKSSs had their modifications completed and delivered. Ralph Lauren’s XKSS was a D-Type that was later converted after the fire incident.


There are few cars that I am uneasy photographing around, and this Jaguar was one of them. There’s something nerve racking about hanging a camera over the body of a car this rare and prohibitively expensive.


Sitting next to the Porsche RSK was this 1953 Morgan Plus Four. These cars were nicknamed ‘Flat Rad’ due to the shape of their radiator grill.


Originally, the Plus Four was powered by a 2,088cc engine developing 68hp.


But in 1955 the engine was be replaced by a higher-performing 90hp Triumph motor.


Although it’s an earlier car, Ralph Lauren’s Plus Four was retrofitted with this later Triumph engine. It was a popular modification for owners seeking additional performance during the era (think LSx engine swaps of today). Fun fact: Lauren’s very first automobile was, coincidentally, a Morgan.

The Classic Prancing Pony

The final car in the Ralph Lauren collection at the Historics Festival was this very flamboyant – and extremely drool-worthy – 1964 Ferrari 250 LM.


These 250 LMs were first introduced at the Paris Motor Show in 1963, to great fanfare.


The Ferrari was powered by a gorgeous 3.3-liter V12.


I mean, just look at these trumpets! Such a stunning and beautiful piece of engineering.


The beautiful simplicity even extends to the full-sized spare tire that’s attached to the chassis with leather straps.


These 250 LMs were intended to be raced in the GT category but Ferrari was denied homologation, and thus the cars were raced in the Prototype class.


The 250 LM won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1965. Between 1965 and 1968, this particular car saw a very successful racing campaign winning 13 of 19 Australian racing events. Among those victories was the Surfers Paradise 12 Hours in 1966. This 250 LM was co-driven by Andy Buchanan and a young, up and coming driver named Jackie Stewart.


I have to admit that I am a product of the ’90s. I grew up idolizing my generation of classics like Mazda’s Le Mans winning 787B, the street-going Mazda FD3S RX-7, Toyota’s JZA80 Supra, Nissan’s R32 GT-R, Jaguar XJ220 and Lamborghini’s Diablo. Walking around the Ralph Lauren tent I was reminded that these exotic classics were the trendsetters that paved the way for the classics of my generation.

When I thought about the significance of what I had the privilege to take in, only then did I start to realize the extent of just how groundbreaking and important these cars are. And because of that, I’m very glad Elizabeth and I had access to this fine collection.


Instagram: @linhbergh
Twitter: @linhbergh

Story Produced by Elizabeth White
Instagram: @itswhitenoise



Comments are closed.


by Oldest
by Best by Newest by Oldest

Those are some nice cars and really neat history ta boot.!



  I'm a product of the 90s too and have driven a lot of vintage cars very hard (BMW 328, Porsche 356 etc) in the past. I can honestly say I prefer cars from the modern era more. As pieces of art classics are breath taking, but your title is pretty accurate: you can't drive them. They are a lot of fun to cruise in, but as soon as you really start hammering on them the differences between modern and vintage is about as different as a firework to a .50 cal. 

     Your last 2 paragraphs are so important to me as a fan of both new and old. I think from 1990 to the current wave of super cars we are in the best time in automotive history. Look at Pagani, Mclaren, That LSX AE86 you guys featured, M5s, ND Miata, etc. We're about to enter a wave of electric cars over the next couple of decades and cars that drive themselves. We are truly at the tail end of the best part of internal combustion (in my opinion) and we will one day look back at the cars we have now like the older guys look at the Blower Bentley, only we will actually be able to do 150 laps without our super chargers failing us! 

     Thanks for the view through the looking glass!


Unbelievably gorgeous machines...I'm having trouble typing with my jaw on my keyboard. Love to see you guys covering the whole spectrum of car culture, including the ultra exclusive realm of one-of-a-kind historically significant racers.


@Chris Agreed, so much. The 90's is hands down the best decade for performance cars. There are a lot of undeniable icons from earlier generations, but as far as how they actually feel to drive they don't hold a candle to the more modern cars. In saying that, I believe the 90's were the pinnacle of performance cars full stop.
The designs were the last to be diluted by safety regs (new cars all have such high bonnet lines and weigh too much), the #'s the cars were capable of are still relevant (the McLaren F1 is still the fastest N/A car is it not?) and there was no huge effort to look to the past with the styling (seriously, how many retro designs are out there now?) 
I feel the current gen has lost the charm and the older cars aren't as nice to drive, the 90's strikes that perfect balance of reliability and charisma between the two.

Cars like the McLaren F1, Ferrari F50, Jag XJ220, Mark 4 Supra, Evolutions 1 - 6.5, WRXs, Skyline GT-Rs, FD RX7, original Viper GTS, Diablo, NSX, Lotus Carlton, E39 M5, C5 Corvette.


Brett Allen Don't forget the F40 was also made in the 90s. Adding to that list we have the E30 M3, E36 M3 and E46 M3 all in one decade. NA and NB Miatas, GM Syclone, FC RX7 as well. 

Not to mention Porsche 964, 993, 996 (including 1999 GT3), Ferrari 355 (including 1999 challenge car), 550 Maranello 355.

And the Jaguar XJ220. 

DAMN IT! Does anyone have a time machine. I miss the 90s :(


That Jaguar is easily in the top 3 must have cars for me. Such a perfect look.


This is one of the few events I get to make it out to. Loved the classic collection of Ralph Lauren cars and meeting Sir Stirling Moss. Have a couple of shots with him driving an Osca with his wife around Limerock. Awesome time! Only unfortunate portion of the weekend was the tragic death of a driver at the hands of an MG. Love your coverage of the collection... So much to see and do.


Brett Allen And the cars that got so many into the scene....Hondas....four-wheel steering Preludes that outhandled 911's, ITR/CTRs that punched out cars WAY above their weight, NSeX's and S2000s that today are incomparable bang for the buck performance, and above all FUN. 90's are only now being truly missed as we get disappointed again and again year after year by the new options of cars to buy.


Lin, I am extremely jealous. As I opened speedhunters and saw the cover shot, the hair on my arms stood up and my wife could hear "OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooohhhhhhhhhhh....." from my corner desk. I love my modern cars, JDM, muscle, rods, all of it. Been to more car meets than I can remember. But this tent. THIS tent....*gasp*

More pure beauty and art in one supple flank of that Porsche than in all the cars from 1980 on! Of course, what else would Ralph Lauren collect? I could drool over these few cars forever, and just keep getting drawn to just how PERFECT the panels were formed. good.


i'm not too much into vintage or even modern day supercars. Bit this man definitly has taste. all of These cars are not just so rare but also real design Icons and super beauties. Best classic car collection of european car's i've seen so far!


that pic of the 250's airbox with the trumpets is just so...amazing, to understate it.


I saw 6 years ago a Ferrari 250 LM at a auto show. I remember that I must have spent an hour or so near that white car. I never saw anything like that since or before. Seeing it in pictures doesn't do much for the design. It was huge, yet so slim and weightless, massive but with a feeling of featherweight aluminium chasis. Never will forget that car.


I could only be more envious if you got to drive the cars! Great article! All of those cars are amazing, but i have a special love for that Jaguar. Keep up the great articles ;-)


@Chris Thank you for your comment - we appreciate seeing our readers add to the debate about automobiles old and not so old when we do these features.


Artsee We keep expanding our coverage and its great to hear that we are striking a chord with our readers.  Thanks!


D1RGE EXE We agree - and look forward to featuring more jaw dropping features!


itswhitenoise Hey anytime, I'm just glad to see you guys covering so much of the scene. It's a really broad spectrum you guys have here and I never know what I'm going to see when I log in. Theres a lot to be talked about on speed hunters as of lately.


Amazing story for each car. The vented rear panel on the RSK is a cool detail.


Great feature, and great pics! 

One little detail though, on the "beautiful simplicity" of the  Porsche's engine: While only 1500cc and beautiful to behold, that Type 547 4 cylinder is one of the most complex automobile engines ever constructed, with 4 cams and a roller-bearing crankshaft in the earlier models. I'm told by a local specialist that until an owner took it upon themselves to develop (read:fund) a helpful calculation program, it would take well over 20 hours just to set the valves, and over 100 to build the complete unit. By contrast, a good Porsche tech can build a 911 engine, not a simple unit itself, in a couple of 8-hour days.


Cool. I wish I could own just one of these. Any one, I don't care.


Excellent writeup! The last 2 paragraphs hit home... Lots of my generation (teenagers-low 20's) is obsessed over R35's, Subaru STI's, new mustangs etc. Its hard finding kids my age that appreciate the history behind fine automobiles that paved the way for what we are able to have now. Thank you!


First the pictures are pretty amazing, second Ralph Lauren collection of cars will blow people's minds, really classy and pretty cool. The rally racing 1929 Bentley is really out of this world the details of the steering wheel, makes you feel your stepping back in time!