To most gearheads, Jay Leno has the ultimate car collection. His tastes run the gamut of automotive history, from early steam-powered tourers to modern supercars, with a healthy dose of American muscle in between. But while Jay may have a more complete collection, it’s hard to find any fault with fashion designer Ralph Lauren’s 60 or so cars. Located in upstate New York in a nondescript warehouse, Lauren’s collection is like his clothing: timeless, elegant, and sleek.
He avoids the the one-off curiosities, baroque period cars, and chrome-dripped Americana of many collectors, focusing instead on classics that bridge the gap between art and engineering. Despite his cars being the centerpiece of the L’Art de L’Automobile exhibition at Paris’ Musée des Arts Décoratifs in 2011, and showing some at of the most prestigious Concours d’Elegance events in the world (his $40 million Bugatti 57SC Atlantic Coupé won Best of Show at the 2013 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este), Lauren is a man of few words when it comes to his collection.
In a rare auto-focused interview given to Vanity Fair in 2010, Lauren opened up his garage and shared just what he looks for in a car. “You can’t drive a painting,” he told the magazine.”I drive these cars — they don’t just sit here.” And while all his cars are completely functional, they aren’t all Concours ready. Lauren is known to personalize his cars, even if that means painting an iconic blue pre-war Bugatti black, or reupholstering an interior with a slightly darker shade of leather. “I got the right color, I got the right leather… These cars are all what you dream they should be.”
Except for him they aren’t dreams, they’re his. For the rest of us, here are 6 stunning cars from the Ralph Lauren collection that we can only dream about.
1. 1938 Bugatti 57SC Atlantic Coupé
One of the rare cars that resides somewhere in the space between engineering marvel and fine art, Bugatti was at its best in the 1930s, and the 57SC Atlantic Coupé could be the most beautiful car the company ever made. The avant-garde aluminum-bodied coupe featured a supercharged dual overhead-cam straight-eight engine and had a top speed of over 120 miles per hour – an astonishing feat for its day. One of only two original 57SCs ever built, Lauren’s car is worth an estimated $40 million.
2. 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO
The original GTO (Pontiac stole the name for its muscle car) is considered by many to be the most beautiful Ferrari ever made. But in the early ’60s, looks were secondary compared to the 250 GTO’s performance. The car dominated races around the world in the early ’60s, but eventually got lost in the shuffle as manufacturers made the switch to mid-engined racers. With only 39 produced between 1962-’64, the 250 GTO is also one of the rarest Ferraris in the world. In 2014, a 1963 model sold for a then-record $38 million.
3. 1930 Mercedes-Benz SSK “Count Trossi” roadster
Like the Bugatti, Lauren’s SSK “Count Trossi” roadster is a true one-of-a-kind gem. Any SSK ranks as one of the world’s most sought after cars – it was designed by Ferdinand Porsche, and its supercharged straight-six engine was capable of up to 300 horsepower in the 1920s. Lauren’s car was built for Italian industrialist and racer Count Carlo Trossi, who campaigned the car in the 1930s, and later drove for Enzo Ferrari.
4. 1950 Jaguar XK120 Roadster
With its wire wheels and split windshield, the XK120 may look hopelessly antiquated in 2015, but when it debuted in 1948, it was one of the most formidable performance cars in the world. While it was initially meant for a limited 200 car production run, the XK120 became so successful that 200 cars turned into over 12,000 before production ended in 1954. The XK series carried on until 1961, when it was replaced by the iconic Jaguar E-Type.
5. 1996 McLaren F1 LM
If the McLaren F1 was the ultimate supercar of the ’90s, then the LM (or Le Mans) version was the king of them all. After the car’s victory (and taking four of the top five spots) at the 1995 24 Hours of Le Mans, McLaren made an edition of five Papaya Orange $1 million-plus cars to commemorate the historic win. Over 165 pounds were shed from the already flyweight F1, allowing it to go from zero to 60 in under three seconds, on its way to a top speed of 225 miles per hour.
6. 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder
In pop culture, the 550 is infamously known as the car James Dean died in, but in classic car circles, it’s an example of automotive perfection. The all-aluminum Spyder was the hardcore track-day alternative to Porsche’s already capable 356 Speedster, and to this day is the standard against which all light-weight Porsches are judged. Earlier this year, Porsche announced that they are reviving the Spyder name for a performance-oriented Boxster.
Like classics? It’s always Throwback Thursday somewhere.
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