If James Bond moved to America, he could have found a car worthy of his reputation at Cars of Dreams.
Until Saturday, the North Palm Beach car museum was replete with All-American classic Chevrolets, Buicks, Lincolns and more collected by South Florida businessman and philanthropist John Staluppi. He bid adieu to his prized slice of Americana on Saturday in an auction at the museum.
Visiting a day before the auction was like walking into a veritable candy store of American exotic cars. They were all parked within a theatrical landscape worthy of any Disney World attraction or Hollywood movie set, complete with life-sized shops, Bob's Burger stand and a drive-in theater with working screen.
Inside the museum were the likes of a jet black 1954 Chevrolet Corvette Roadster, a seductive red 1960 Chevrolet Impala Convertible Coupe and a terra cotta-colored 1960 Chrysler 300F Convertible. The latter is one of only 82 believed to be existence.
Standing amid Staluppi's intricately-built parallel universe, anyone could easily imagine Elvis walking around, or Bond for that matter, either vintage Sean Connery or Roger Moore.
The visit offered a glimpse of the man behind the collection, who on occasion opened the doors to the museum for charity events to benefit children, hospice caregiving and local law enforcement.
Staluppi, who owns dozens of car dealerships, mainly in New York and Nevada, was busy preparing for the auction and saying goodbye to his babies-with-engines that took him 10 years to assemble so he was not available to talk. Instead Donnie Gould, a car specialist with RM Auctions, the world's largest collector car auction house and the host of Staluppi's event, chatted about Staluppi's passion.
"He knows the difference between a good car and a bad car. For him it is about the right year and model," said Gould, who spent a decade helping Staluppi complete his collection.
Gould has the 66-year-old Staluppi on speed-dial whenever he comes across the right car for sale or that is headed to auction.
"I remember the day I called to tell him about the Chrysler 300F," Gould said. "Terra cotta is the rarest of colors for that sereis and it represents the pinnacle of Chrysler performance in 1960. That's the kind of car John likes."
New, the Chrysler listed for $5,411. The estimated auction price was somewhere between $175,000 and $200,000. The museum that once housed auto works that harkened back to the days of the Drifters, Connie Francis and Elvis is now just a memory.
But one car was spared from the auction block: a 1962 Corvette that Staluppi purchased new at the age of 17 when he was a mere budding mechanic. His father took out an additional mortgage to help him purchase the car.
You can't put a price on sentimental value.
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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OCTOBER 31, 2014
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