Porto, November 2002
The receipt of some photographs from a friend in Portugal, Vitor Sousa, which he had
taken at a Ferrari meeting in Porto some eight years ago, was the starting point of this
treasure trail. One of the Ferraris pictured was what appeared to be a 410 SA Series I
coupe, or possibly even more interestingly one of the 250 GT ”Speciale” models built
with that body style. After enquiring if he could do some detective work on the car, he
came back to advise that it was registered as a 250 GT, also he had located the
owner who lived less than a half hour drive from him, and who was happy to show us
the car. In passing he commented that he thought the owner had a few other cars in
his collection. This seemed to be worth a trip to the Iberian Peninsula!
Whenever one flies south from the wet and grey of a November day in London one
expects warmth and sunshine! Not the case with Porto this November, it was pretty
much the same as London, and stayed that way for most of the weekend. However,
the prospect of an interesting collection to view meant that my spirits weren’t as damp
as the rest of me. The private collection is situated in a small town just outside Porto,
succinctly hidden away behind a football stadium in a pair of unprepossessing
buildings that give no clue to what lies within.
In fact the collection only remains private because the local council were unwilling to
grant a license to open a museum, even though it would have been at no cost to them
and would obviously have brought spin-off business to the town. Short-sighted or
what? Apparently the general mentality in Portugal can see no further than football,
and where to build the next apartment block!
Mention was made earlier that Vitor ”thought that the owner had a few other cars”, this
turned out to be ”quite a few”, a quick count amounted to something over seventy!
Opening the doors of the first building revealed a large L shaped warehouse with
cars stretching in rows to the far wall. Whereas some collections follow themes, this
one is very diverse in its contents, although there is a clear passion for the unusual
and also for ”American Iron”. Similarly the condition varies from pristine, like the 1940
Lancia Aprilia, to well used although the majority are in fine condition and lovingly
restored to reflect the period of manufacture. The variety in this building ranged from
pre-war French elegance like Hotchkiss and Talbot through a Cord 4 door sedan, a
Willys Overland, Jaguars in the form of XK 120 and ”E” Type, a Ferrari 308 GT4,
chassis # 08366, to a bizarre fifties Kaiser cabriolet, and La Ferrari.
There she sat with slightly flat metallic grey paint, a tiny dent in the shapely nose, but
still an elegant automobile needing little cosmetically to restore her to her former
glory. Closer inspection revealed that she was indeed one of four 250 GT ”Speciales”
built in early 1956, featuring the 410 SA style body, although each had slightly different
features. This was chassis number 0467GT, the third example built, and probably the
most original remaining example, as it is believed never to have been restored, and
still wears the original paint and has its original beige leather interior, still in
remarkably good condition. She has been in the present ownership for around thirty
years, but has been unused for the past twenty years, only being taken out of repose
for display at the occasional show, like the one where the photograph that started the
quest was taken eight years ago.
The second building on the site was much narrower than the first only permitting a
single row of cars to be displayed, but again there was some impressive machinery.
The range was again diverse, from a 1930 Pearce Arrow 143 Roadster, through a
1938 V12 Lincoln Zephyr, a 1939 Bugatti Type 57 Berline, a wonderful salmon and
cream 1947 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe, to a pale pink seventies Fleetwood model
from the same manufacturer.
And Yet More
After the tour of these two buildings, it was suggested that we might like to visit the
collection workshop, which was a five minute drive away. Here all the repair and
restoration of the cars in the collection is carried out, a real hands on enthusiast! Here
was a Maserati A6 Pinin Farina Coupe, which is one of the next projects for the
workshop, the engine refurbishment having already been completed. In an adjacent
warehouse was a further collection of cars, some of which are hired out for wedding
and promotional work. One of these was what the owner called his Madonna model,
a fifties Rolls Royce painted bright metallic bronze, with imitation leopard skin
trimming to the interior!
Hopefully in the not too distant future the public will be able to visit this wide ranging
collection, albeit on Spanish soil rather than in Portugal.