The name Blackhawk is very familiar to the world of classic cars being renowned for dealing with some of the world's most glamorous cars for the last decades. Beside a large showroom of the subsidiary “The Auto Collection” at the Imperial Palace in Las Vegas the name Blackhawk is resident in Danville, about 30 miles east of San Francisco.
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In 1988 the Blackhawk Museum was opened to show some of the cars for sale plus many others to the public in a modern 70.000 sq-foot building. Beside the cars on show the non-profit corporation includes a large automotive research library and the museum serves as a premiere facility for different types of events.
The museum has always about 90 cars on show with changing inventory. As mentioned before some of them are for sale by the Blackhawk Collection but many are loaned be friends of the museum permanently or temporary. What most of the cars have in common is a special rarity as Museums founder Don Williams has a foible for special coach build cars that can clearly be seen in the compilation of the inventory.
Center pieces of the collection are without doubt the three famous BAT-Alfa Romeos build by Bertone in 1953-55. The trio has travelled the world over the last years and was shown on numerous concours d'Elegance where it always drew much attention both by spectators and media. Next to the BATs are the two Nardi Blue Ray studies based on the Lancia Aurelia and designed by Michelotti. These two coupés in their name giving two-tone sea colour livery might be less known and less extravagant than the futuristic Bertone design but they are still very special and make a great addition to the exhibition.
During our visit no less than three very rare coach build Aston Martin DB2/4 could be seen. Beside the works Saloon and DHC few of the Aston chassis were given to outside coachbuilders like Bertone and Allemano. 9 cars were originally build by Bertone and 2 of them (a spider and a coupé) are displayed. The Allemano is even rarer being a one-off and a former class winner at Pebble Beach when Aston Martin was featured marque.
Further highlights on the ground floor are a rare Pegaso Z102 with body by Soutchik and one of just four Ferrari 625 LM. The entrance is flanked by a Chinese and an American States Limousine, the later out of the fleet of John F. Kennedy. A trio of Chevrolet Corvettes and a few muscle cars can be seen as well.
The large hall on the first floor is dedicated to the vintage and post-vintage era with its elegant and sometimes flamboyant design. This era with separate chassis and body-construction was the golden age for coachbuilders and many different designs could be found on the same chassis. To start with Bentley one can see a more common Vanden Plas body on a very rare Blower Bentley as well as a rarer Corsica Body on a “more common” Speed Six. The 8-cylinder Alfa Romeo is one of just seven 8C bodied by Figoni and is presented in contemporary two-tone livery.
But one can see that not every car had to be designed by a separate coachbuilder to be elegant as three of the attendant Mercedes-Benz carry an in-house Sindelfingen body. The supercharged straight six 680 S is bodied as an open tourer and the two 540K are the most desirable Cabriolet A and Special Roadster versions.
The 630K again has a body by Saoutchik that traces an arc to the American pre-war metal on show. With the French design very popular amongst the wealthy playboys and movie stars on both sides of the Atlantic it is no surprise that many American cars were designed or inspired by Figoni or Saoutchik as was the Cadillac Series 62 3-Position Drophead. Another Cadillac, the huge V16 was bodied in Lausanne and used by its owner to cruise at the Swiss Riviera. This might be the most lavish way to transport 2 people on 22 foot length.
Beside other Cadillacs, Auburns, Pierce Arrows and Chryslers no less than 3 Duesenberg were presented during our visit with 2 naturally aspired Model J and a supercharged Model SJ. All three cars were bodied by Murphy and Bohman&Schwartz in Pasadena.
Worth to mention is also the very special Hispano-Suiza H6C Tulip Torpedo whose body is covered with tulip wood riveted with thousands of brass rivets to the sub-frame. This famous car with its copper plating is one of the permanent exhibits and is a great example for the craftsmanship of this era and almost worth alone the visit.
The Blackhawk Museum is located in Danville near the large shopping center and is open Wednesday-Sunday 10 AM – 5 PM.
For all those flying over for the Pebble Beach weekend it is worth to mention that usually the day after the Concours (Monday) is an open house so this is just a small detour on the way back to the San Francisco airport.
For more information please visit www.blackhawkmuseum.org
Text and images: Peter Singhof - www.classiccarphotography.de
Cars at the Blackhawk Museum
Alfa Romeo 1900 SS Zagato
Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Sport Touring Berlinetta s/n 915030
Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Figoni Tourer s/n 2311212
Alfa Romeo BAT 5
Alfa Romeo BAT 7
Aston Martin DB 2/4 MKI Allemano Coupé s/n LML/761
Aston Martin DB 2/4 MKI Bertone Coupé s/n LML/765
Aston Martin DB 2/4 MKI Bertone Spider s/n LML/505
Aston Martin DB MKIII s/n AM300/3/1622
Auburn Model 852 Cabriolet
Bentley 4 1/2 Litre SC s/n SM3903
Bentley S1 Continental Park Ward Coupe
Bentley Speed Six Corsica Coupé s/n HM2861
Bucciali TAV8 Roadster
Bugatti T15 Torpedo Chauvet
Bugatti T50 Semi-Profilé s/n 50165
Bugatti T57 S(C) Vanden Plas 4-seater open Tourer s/n 57541
Cadillac Model M Tulip Tourer
Cadillac Series 62 Saoutchik 3-Position Drophead
Cadillac V16 Series 37-90 Hartmann Cabriolet
Chevrolet Corvette 1954
Chevrolet Corvette 1961
Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
Chevrolet Malibu SS
Chrysler CG Imperial 8 Roadster
Chrysler New Yorker Convertible
Daimler Model 45 H.P Saloon Cabriolet
Delage D8SS Cabriolet Fernandez&Darrin
Dodge Challenger R/T
Dodge Firebomb Convertible
Duesenberg Model J Murphy Town Car
Duesenberg Model J Torpedo Convertible Coupe
Duesenberg Model SJ Convertible Sedan
Ferrari 250 GT PF Cabriolet Series I
Ferrari 250 MM Vignale Spyder SI s/n 0260MM
Ferrari 365 GTC
Ferrari 625 LM s/n 0642MDTR
Ferrari 750 Monza s/n 0538M
Hispano-Suiza Model H6C "Tulipwood" Torpedo
Hispano-Suiza Model J-12 Type 68 Dual Cowl Tourer
Horch 780 Convertible
Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A Landaulet
Jaguar E-Type Roadster
Lancia-Nardi Blue Ray I
Lancia-Nardi Blue Ray II
Lincoln Continental Coupé
Lincoln Continental Mark II
Lincoln Continental Presidental Limousine
Lincoln Premiere Convertible
Mercedes-Benz 680 S Tourer
Mercedes-Benz Model K Transformable Torpedo
Mercury Woody Wagon
Minerva Type AM Convertible Sedan
Packard Model 120 Darrin Convertible Victoria
Packard Model 1608 Kellner Torpedo-Cabriolet
Packard Model 745 Convertible Sedan
Pegaso Tipo Z-102B Saoutchik Coupé
Pierce-Arrow Model 66-A-4 Touring
Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow Sedan
Plymouth Fury Convertible
Plymouth Road Runner
Red Flag Chinese Limousine
Rolls-Royce 40/50 Silver Ghost Tourer
Rolls-Royce Phantom II Boattail
Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental Pillar-less Saloon
Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud
Rolls-Royce Springfield Phantom II Brewster Ascot Tourer
Ruxton Five Passenger Sedan
Volkswagen Micro Bus Double Door Camper