There is TMZ and Entertainment Tonight and National Enquirer for showbiz celebs. But who are the celebs of the car culture?
We asked major sports car and motorsports authority, Peter Bourassa…
Peter Bourassa is the impresario of MMR, an enterprise devoted to motorsports and European sports car enthusiasts. At the center is the MMR website, where you find a comprehensive directory of service and resources, photo and video galleries, his entertaining blog and more — all done with panache and personality. He is also publishing an Almanac version of MMR, about which more very soon.
When asked to identify the celebs of the car culture, Peter set the criterion as those he would be most willing to pay to listen to. To the extent possible, they should still be alive, if not, then through a seance. Here are his choices, and the reasons for their selection…
Although Peter has never seen a Jay Leno monologue, he has run into him at events. Peter admires Jay’s fearlessly inquisitive nature. His comfort as a communicator and enthusiasm for his subjects makes him an accessible emissary for all aspects of motorsports.
In his prime, he never got the top job at Chrysler or GM. Despite that, his portfolio of responsibilities and the products he brought to market for them and BMW and Ford is quite remarkable. A former Marine, he was/is strong-minded, opinionated and quotable and that may have hampered his opportunities for promotion. On the other hand, even today his opinion on things automotive is sought; while those to whom he once reported are either forgotten or held in less regard. In the hierarchy of major company managers he stands out as The Car Guy.
He created a brilliant car museum out of an industrial warehouse in a nondescript industrial park on the outskirts of Philadelphia. Cars are presented in rich tableaus of their times. Yet he is frugal. Directing his resources to bettering the museum that carries his name and was recently named Museum of the Year in a poll to establish the most popular Automobile museum in America. He is a man who lives in his mind, and that’s a wondrous place to live. No one is more focused on what he cares about.
He was a mover and shaker in the formative days of the SCCA, and enjoyed notable success as a driver. But Peter chose him for providing the genesis of the Revs Institute. Under Collier’s guidance, the Revs Institute is now the leading destination for scholars and aficionados to study automotive history in America. In the Collier Collection are over 100 significant automobile displays. The displays are the base for study of legendary vintage automobiles and a rapidly expanding library of rare books, photographs, documents and ephemera. Miles Collier is its driving force.
One of smartest business people in motorsports. He is the center of Formula 1, balancing the needs of advertisers, teams, tracks and broadcasters. This octogenarian created modern Formula 1 decades ago and has made it work. He is a testy interview but his grasp of the every aspect of F1 is brilliant.
Peter admires Penske as the complete motorsports business executive. No one has a comparable history. He was a successful driver at the top level in America of his day. Briefly a successful Team Manager. His success as team principal is unmatched in the sport’s history. As an entrepreneur, he single-handedly changed racing from a sport to a business. He was the first to engage Americas’ largest corporations in modern motorsports. And in the larger business world he is connected to 104 board members in 8 different organizations across 15 different industries. He has parlayed the Penske racing success into one of the largest car dealership networks in the world.
She has been the Chairman of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance since 2002 and was Executive Director for ten years before that. She and her husband are consummate car people. They are participants. They collect and rally vintage cars. This is the best concours in the world and to her credit it gets better every year.
If Pebble Beach is the best classic car show in the world, the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance is clearly second overall. While Pebble may exhibit more classic cars, Amelia is everyman’s concours. Bill Warner built this concours and his personal history as a racing journalist informs the texture of this show. Amelia is like every car enthusiast magazine published between 1940 and 1980 coming to life before your eyes.
Bill Ford was insightful enough to realize that Ford needed professional – not family – management and in 2006 he hired Allan Mullaly to lead his company through the turbulent times ahead. That year, Ford borrowed $23.6 Billion and mortgaged the Ford Motor Company’s assets to do it. That took guts. In the crash of 2008 Ford Motor Company was the only one of the “big three” (Ford-GM-Chrysler) to refuse a government bailout. Several years ago Ford made it clear that they were in the “transportation” business and laid out plans that would make them a player in all kinds of mass transportation.
Peter points out that Moss was always physically fit and an excellent athlete with quick reflexes and exceptional eyesight. In 1955, Mercedes determined they would win the greatest road rally of the day, the Mille Miglia. They brought two special versions of their 300 SLs, renamed SLRs, and hired Stirling Moss and then World Champion JM Fangio to drive them. Moss and navigator, journalist Dennis Jenkinson, studied the route and made notes on a role of toilet-paper. Driving 1000 miles in 10 hours and 7 minutes, often achieving speeds of 170 mph for an incredible average speed of 98.53 mph, Moss beat Fangio by 30 minutes. Moss that day was an incredible confluence of a man at the top of exceptional physical powers, very well prepared and matched to the best car in the field.
Do you agree with the selections by Peter Bourassa? Feel free to offer alternative celebs or comments on the Automotive-Art Facebook Page.