Last week, while my prop was out getting new seals installed,  I spent a couple of days with some friends at the West Coast National Hot Rod Show in Pleasanton, CA. It’s the hot rod version of AirVenture for the West Coast. Instead of rows and rows of airplanes of various shapes and sizes the rows were populated with cars and trucks in the same state of restoration or modification.

On the way to the show we stopped at a museum that the group I was with Blackhawk Auto Museum, Danville, CA wanted to show to the ‘new guy’ (these guys have been making this trip for over ten years – there’s that AirVenture similarity again). The place that we stopped is the Blackhawk Museum in Danville, CA. It is located at one end of a very upscale shopping area.  I was going to just show you a photo or two and move on the the Hot Rod show, but I couldn’t pare down the shots I took, so we’ll get to the hot rods in the next post. Hang in there – you’ll see more than one aviation reference in the car descriptions.

1949 Healey Silverstone


Donald Healey was initially a race driver – he won the 1931 Monte Carlo Rally. In the 1930’s he was Experimental Manager for Triumph, then started Donald Healey Motors right after WWII. This Healey Silverstone was introduced in 1949 – an open-top two-seater with an aluminum body. Only 105 of them were built during 1949-1950. Survivors of the model are very rare.

1937 Cadillac Hartmann Cabriolet

1937 was the last year for Cadillac’s 452 cu-in V-16 engine. They made only 50 cars that year and only allowed 2 chassis of the model to be taken to independent coach builders. This chassis was purchased by Phillipe Barraud who took it to a fellow Swiss, Willy Hartmann. Hartmann designed and produced this 22-foot long cabriolet body.

1924 Hispano-Suiza "Tulipwood" Tornado

Andre Dubonnet was already an accomplished race car driver and pilot by age 26. His family amassed their fortune selling the aperitifs and cognacs which still bear the family name. Dubonnet contracted with the Nieuport Aircraft company to make a body for his new car that would be good for racing and touring. They used 3/4″ stringers covered with a 1/8″ wood veneer. Then strips of tulipwood of uneven thickness and length were attached to the veneer with thousands of brass rivets. The sealed, sanded and varnished body weighed about 160 pounds.

1953 Ferrari 250MM Vignale-bodied Spyder

Phil Hill was the 1961 World Driving Champion and was the first American to win the Formula One World Driver’s Championship. His record stood for 17 years and now is shared with Mario Andretti. This 1953 Ferrari 250MM Vignale-bodied Spyder was Hill’s personal car. He drove it to first place in the 1953 Pebble Beach Road Race.

1936 Duesenberg Model SJ

This is the business end of a 1936 Duesenberg Model SJ. The “SJ” designation indicates that this is a supercharged version of the model J. The supercharged Lycoming engine became available in 1932 and upped the horsepower from 260 to 320.

1933 Packard 1004 Sport Phaeton

This is a 1933 Packard 1004 Sport Phaeton in all it’s glory. Only two of these cars were built. It has a 142″ wheelbase and sports a 145 HP straight-8 engine. True elegance.


1953 Alpha-Romeo B.A.T. 5

This is a 1953 Alpha-Romeo B.A.T 5. It was designed and created by Franco Scaglione and Nuccio Bertone. It is the fifth design exercise and the first of their full-scale cars debuted at the 1953 Turin Motor Show. The B.A.T (Berlinetta Aerodynamica Technica) was designed to have the lowest possible drag coefficient – it was built on the Alpha-Romeo 1900 Sprint chassis.

1886 Benz Patent Motorwagen

This is the first commercially available automobile ever offered. Karl Benz used his love of bicycles as his inspiration and applied for a patent in 1886 as an automobile powered by a gas engine. This is a working replica of that vehicle. It is powered by a 3/4 horsepower 0ne-cylinder engine turning at 400 RPM. It’s top speed was 8 mph on 25 mile per gallon.

These were only a few of the beautifully restored cars on display. I would highly recommend a side trip to the museum if you are ever in the Danville, CA area – even for an airplane guy like me it was an excellent experience.


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