Collier Museum Visit 2009
Here is the text of the article in the December 2009 FOGLight describing the event. Photos by Connie Schmitt follow the article.
A Privilege and an Honor
This morning I pulled a t-shirt out of my closet. It had a fading picture of 356 Speedster on it with a caption that read “Collier Tour – 2004”. Had it been five years already since I visited the Collier Collection? Too long.
It was early on Saturday morning, still dark outside when I jumped into my car with my copilot Tanya. She volunteered to drive down to Naples with me after I described the wonders she was about to see. There are few words to describe it, I told her. This is a private collection of some of the most important cars in the world. “Porsches right?” she asked. “No” I replied. I explained that the Collier Collection is an homage to the history of driving, the history of automobiles, and the history of racing in the US and abroad. It is a family’s legacy to the hobby, the businesses, and the love of something that transcends marques or loyalties.
It was a three hour and ten minute ride from Winter Park to Naples down Highway 27 and then on the Florida Cracker Highway, cutting through towns like Zolfo Springs along the way. As dawn broke on this beautiful Florida morning, we put the top down, cranked up Dire Straits and literally flew down to Naples, averaging a touch under 75 miles per hour, as traffic was non-existent until we reached I-75 for the last leg.
We arrived to see the FOG in full attendance, with a couple dozen 356s lined up beside a nondescript building with no signage. The piece de resistance outside the museum had to be a pristine black 356 Carrera 2. Pumping out 125 horsepower, with twin oil coolers and looking better than the day it left the factory, this prime example of the marque was stunning to behold. I wish I had one in my garage!
Members from around the state were there eagerly waiting to see the goodies inside, some for the first time, but most for the second and even third time. A word to the wise: never turn down an invitation to Collier.
We stepped inside the museum, and immediately our senses were assaulted by beauty. On the first floor, in the lobby was a 1937 Delahaye, possibly the most beautiful car I have ever seen. Maybe not the fastest in its time, but lines that would make an Old Master blush. In the center lobby were three cars, an Alfa, a Fiat Abarth and a Porsche 904, all red and all in pristine condition. I couldn’t wait for the tour to start.
Our group was broken up into smaller groups of about eight people per docent. The docents may have been more excited than we were, for they were getting ready to show us sights that they knew would make our collective mouths drop with excitement. It’s a job I would love to have. If you don’t know, the Collier Collection is only open by invitation, so the general public will never see most of these cars – ever.
The first floor was dedicated to significant cars and marques and included a replica of the very first motorized car. There were Bentleys, Maseratis, Ferraris, Mercedes, Alfas, Duesenbergs, Packards, Pierce-Arrows, and, of course, Porsches. The second floor was dedicated to racing cars, with some amazing examples of cars that, in their heyday, could reach speeds of more than 200 mph, some achieving that speed more than three decades ago.
The highlight of the tour, and probably for many members of the group, was the great exhibition of Porsches including a 1949 Gmund Coupe and a racing 917. My personal favorite was the Bali Blue 1964 356C that was Miles Collier’s personal car in college – it looked just like mine, just a different color. It is Miles Collier’s affinity for the Porsche marque that allows us to identify more closely with this collection than any other. He drives what we drive and shares the joys that we share each time we turn that key on a cool morning, smelling the mixture of gasoline, leather and exhaust that only a 356 has.
The Collier Collection is art in motion. It was an honor to visit the museum and I look forward to my next visit. I just wish that Miles Collier himself had been present to regale us with some of the tales from his youth, as a connoisseur, as a driver, and now as the guardian of some of the automobile world’s greatest treasures.