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Michael's Superfinds - Classic Cabin Fever

While driving my 1962 Jaguar E-type Roadster on a dreary winter morning, I realised that my passion for classic sports cars and their interiors started very early on in life. 

E-type driving

Above: An early morning drive in a 1962 E-type is the perfect antidote for an otherwise uninspiring winter’s day.

On my daily journey to school in the 1970s, I’d choose routes based on where the most interesting cars were parked in the streets. Back then, the cars that fascinated me most were mainly Lamborghini Miuras, Maserati Ghiblis, Jaguar E-types and Ferrari 275 GTBs or Daytonas. 

In those days many of these now highly-prized cars were owned by colourful characters who drove them daily, despite not having the financial means to properly maintain them. I distinctly remember a few dented and dusty thoroughbreds that had been parked for months in the same spot. Sometimes I’d come across them again, though this time in the back row of the used car dealer just around the block.

To peer into the interior of these cars, nose pressed hard against the glass, trying to get a whiff of the aroma of the ageing Connolly leather, was a kid’s paradise for me.

Checking the general condition and looking for any artefacts left behind allowed me to imagine what kind of past – glamorous or otherwise – these cars had experienced.

I remember admiring hotel brochures from St. Tropez and Cannes, spotting Playboy magazines and fashion boutique invoices from London’s Carnaby Street and King’s Road. Of course old Gauloises and John Player Special cigarette packets were frequently left lying on the dashboards. On one occasion, in the city of Munich, I took an almost empty Halston perfume bottle from the glove box of an abandoned yellow Miura – it was the magic smell of the big wide world for me. The car had just been left there with its doors open for months, right alongside a crashed and forgotten Ferrari 250 GT Tour de France. To prove that this was not a daydream, please see the photo below.

Miura

Lamborghini Miura and Ferrari 250 GT Tour de France, abandoned sometime in the 1980s right in the middle of Munich – a wonderland for a car-loving school kid.


Finding one of these cars was like finding treasure. After admiring the wonderful patina of faded paintwork, my attention would turn to the interior where there was always so much to explore: beautiful, sun-kissed leather upholstery; audacious lettering on the instruments (with huge speedometers marked as high as 300kph); lovely wooden steering wheels, and often very heavily worn gear knobs and pedals – all clues to their history. Sometimes it was as if these cars were softly whispering their stories to me. 


As my appreciation grew, I found that some of these early interiors were not only beautiful but also masterpieces of design, rich in style, elegance and glamour – the Daytona and Ghibli for example. Others were technical wonders, or manifestations of luxury and power, like the glorious cabin of the Iso Grifo.

In the early 1980s I discovered the world of racing cars. Living near the Nürburgring, I took every chance I could to go to the Oldtimer Grand Prix. Not having the money for the expensive tickets, I climbed fences or hid in the boot of some race driver’s support vehicle.

Also in the ’80s, I managed to get into Brands Hatch to watch the GP by hiding deep in the cockpit of a Ferrari P4, buried under helmets and race gear. It was the very kind David Piper who smuggled me in.

I loved all the aircraft-inspired cockpits of cars such as the Jaguar D-type, 250 SWB and GTO, Maserati 450 or 300 S and, of course, the incredible Birdcage. But I admired the mighty Lister Jaguars even more.

These cars all contain a fabulous mix of fashion, early aerodynamics, raw power and elegance that we all still find so fascinating.

In later years I kept discovering many of these cars in barns, underground garages and collections all over Europe. In 1983 I saw a cache of very neglected Miuras and an Aston Martin DB4 in France. You could have bought the lot for just 10,000 dollars! I knew it was a golden opportunity but having just bought a pretty good Aston DB5 for £5,000, which I used daily during my studies in London, I was flat broke. No matter, I loved that car.

And deservedly so.

By Michael Kliebenstein

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Comments

christian hercher - February 23, 2022

History lesson but the interesting way, well told !

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