Hometown Boys & Their Automotive Toys
By Dave Donelson
The throaty rumble of a well-tuned engine. The squeal of hot tires on pavement and the basso profundo thunder of raw, unleashed horsepower. These are the sounds that haunt the dreams of boys and men who used to be boys. Some guys suppress their adolescent dreams and grow up to become stamp collectors. Others, though, live their automotive fantasies to the fullest, filling their garages, driveways, their neighbors’ garages, and even entire ware-houses with chromed and polished precision-tuned driving machines. They collect rare production models, handcraft one-of-a-kind hot rods in their basements, restore historic automobiles like art conservators painstakingly refurbishing a Rembrandt. They are the car guys of
The Street Rid Enthusiast
Les Madaus of Somers, a retired
“These cars grow on you,” Madaus, 64, says. He logs more than 20,000 miles every year speeding up and down the East Coast in his candy-apple-red 1939 Chevrolet Coupe (shown here).
Michael Bruno is a Ferrari kind of guy. Many, many Ferraris. Also many Aston Martins, Mercedes, Porsches, and Jaguars.
The 51-year-old financier, a leveraged buyout specialist for the past 20 years, says he has been a car enthusiast his whole life. Among the gems of his collection, which is housed in several off-site garages, is a 1962 Mercedes-Benz 300SL, which has had more than 3,000 hours of museum-quality restoration. “If it’s not the best one in the world, it’s in the top five or ten,” he says with quiet pride. One of his favorite cars to drive is a 1969 Fly Yellow Ferrari 365 GTC, one of only 150 built. He’s has it up to 120 mph, but wouldn’t tell us where or when on advice of his attorney.
An automotive museum curator might want to check Zach Schulman’s car collection from time to time. It’s full of significant models. “I try to find cars that epitomize a style or era,” explains the 56-year-old produce import/export entrepreneur. “Like my Mercedes 280SE 3.5 Cabriolet was the last convertible they made until recent years, and my Datsun 240Z was the first real sports car for the average man. My Porsche C4S was the last air-cooled wide-bodied model.”
His first collectible car was a ’67 Austin-Healey, which he bought in 1972. “I’ve had a hundred- and-two cars so far,” the
Schulman’s favorite at the moment is a screaming red 1971 Maserati Ghibli Spyder (shown here), which he says is one of only 125 Ghibli convertibles the company made. “Everybody who sees it falls in love with it.” The car has a 4.7-liter twin-cam V-8 engine. It’s been repainted but has the original top and interior. “If you have to have one car, make it a convertible,” he advises.
The Packard Pack Rat
Sixty-five-year-old Edward Falkenberg of
Cyrus Clark of
Ward Jones’s family car has never even seen the inside of the basement garage of his modest ranch in Bedford Corners. That’s because the garage—as well as the other two rooms in the basement—are entirely filled by the metal-working lathes, drill presses, and metal racks where the 72-years-young hot-rod fabricator bends, pounds, welds, and grinds raw steel into James Dean fantasies. Unusual touches like flames painted on the inside of the four hood sections on his ’32 Ford Roadster are his mark. He built the entire machine himself, from the custom-welded frame to the hand-tooled body panels. Jones doesn’t make hot rods—he creates rolling sculpture. “The thrill is making something nice, then looking at it and knowing you’ve made a good piece of work.”