By Paul Ingrassia – Photos Peter Harholdt
NAPLES, Fl. — The devil’s in the details, the saying goes. In this case the detail is the desiccant.
You know desiccant. It’s those little packets of silicon that come in packages of foods, medicines, electronic gear, etc. to absorb moisture and preserve freshness. Desiccant also comes in big eight-ounce packages — the size of beanbags — for preserving bigger items. Fifty of them will be packed in and around the 1955 Jaguar D Type, chassis number XKD 507, that’s being trucked 357 miles from its home at The Revs Institute in Naples, Fl., to this weekend’s Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance near Jacksonville.
Normally cars shipped from the Collier Collection at Revs to car shows and to other museums are simply, albeit carefully, loaded onto transport trucks, and off they go. But XKD 507 is special, even among the Duesenbergs, Bugattis, Hispano-Suizas and other automotive rarities that constitute Revs’ collection of 115 cars. The bags of desiccant are intended to protect the car from humidity and moisture should it rain or get unusually hot while the truck is making the seven-hour journey.
“There are plenty of D Types around, but you will never see another one with this degree of originality,” says Miles Collier, the founder and President of Revs. “The seat still has stains from the sweat of the drivers who drove it back in the day. When you put your hand on that car, suddenly it is 1955 again.”
Preserving the car’s fragile originality is a critical mission at Revs. XKD 507, which was acquired by Collier in 1986, hasn’t left the humidity-suppressed, temperature-controlled, climate-modulated and light-adjusted atmosphere of the museum since the turn of the century. The car’s road to Amelia Island is a tale of Collier being cajoled, and maybe a bit snookered, by Bill Warner, the irrepressible man behind the Amelia Concours, now in its twenty-second year.
“Miles saw how emotional I was about having this incredibly special car,” Warner says.
The context here is Warner’s staging of the Amelia Concours, which lacks the super-rigorous judging standards of the Pebble Beach Concours held each August, but has a fun-spirited sense of showmanship. Warner selects several themes for each Amelia show. Past Amelia Concours, for example, have featured cars named after Florida cities (Daytona, Sebring, etc.) and all-yellow Italian cars (a yellow Ferrari 246 Dino GT, among others). One of this year’s themes is Cars from the Movies — among them an Aston Martin from the James Bond films and the Chevy Impala from American Graffiti. Another is long-nose Jaguar D Types.
“It’s the 60th anniversary of their 1957 victory at LeMans,” says Warner. “I’m 74 years old and I might not be around for the 75th anniversary. So we’re celebrating the 60th.”
When Warner first called Collier and Scott George, the vice president ofRevs, about getting XKD 507 for the Amelia Island Concours, their answer was a simple no. The car’s originality is fragile. Example: there’s a piece of now-petrified masking tape on the back of the cockpit of the driver’s seat where then-owner, Briggs Cunningham, or one of his cohorts, wrote the model and chassis number: XKD 507. “It’s the most priceless piece of tape in the world,” says Collier.
But Warner persisted, peppering Collier and George with repeated requests. Over several conversations, the truth came out. Warner had already printed the Amelia Concours’ full-color limited-edition poster (only 150 copies that will sell for $250 apiece) and one of the seven cars on it was a Briggs Cunningham D Type. Having the car on the poster but not at the show would be the concours equivalent of bait-and-switch.
So with a mixture of exasperation and admiration, Collier and George relented. “We’re very nervous about the car going out,” says Collier. “But you can blame my soft heart for this. I was not going to leave Bill hanging out to dry.” Warner adds, plaintively: “They’ll probably never lend me anything again. They beat me up on this.”
“Beat me up” is classic Warnerian hyperbole, but Collier and George did insist on strict conditions. The car won’t be entered in the judging competition because that would require putting coolant and water in the car so it could drive under its own power instead of being pushed into place. XKD 507’s fluids were drained out some years back in the interest of preserving the car. “Corrosion doesn’t sleep,” explains George.
Before XKD 507 is loaded on the transport truck, it will be exposed slowly to higher heat and humidity in the Revs garage to help the car acclimate, thus avoiding condensation and “sweat” on its body and components. If there’s any hint of rain in the air, XKD 507 will stay in its transport truck instead of gracing the Concours’ lawn. (Not to tempt fate, Warner has banned Frank Sinatra’s 1959 classic “Here’s that Rainy Day” from being played at the Concours.)
That precious piece of petrified masking tape will be shielded from sunlight while the car is on display. XKD 507 won’t be allowed to join the group photo shoot for the D Types on display at Amelia, because the extra time on the lawn would mean added exposure to elements. Then there are those bags of desiccant, which were George’s idea. “It’s an extra level of protection against heat and humidity,” he explains.
If all goes as planned, the precautions should provide a rare treat for Amelia Island attendees. “XKD 507’s degree of originality is unduplicable,” says Collier. “It’s like the car is preserved in amber.”