AUTOMOTIVE DRIVING MUSEUM
Cirque Du Auto gala
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Wed, Dec 21, 2016
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
Story and pictures by Zoran Segina
Some time ago, Mrs. S, a widow well into her seventh decade, commenced, through social media, a search for a suitable companion to enhance her pursuit of the life’s little pleasures, one of those being a fully operational and meticulously maintained 1931 Ford Victoria. To narrow the field and avoid wasting time, Mrs. S, a successful businesswoman in her own right, listed precise qualifications required of prospective suitors. As it happens, the gentleman who ultimately won her heart met precious few requirements set forth by Mrs. S. His response, however, contained the following statement: “I know how to double-clutch.” They have been together ever since.
To beautiful young ladies attending the 2016 Cirque Du Auto gala at the Automotive Driving Museum in El Segundo, this phrase may not help distinguish the right guy from the wrong one. With Uber and Lyft applications on their cell phones, these youths barely understand the function of an antiquated mechanical device named the clutch, and why there has to be two of them (double, no?) And yet they, together with two hundred invitees, were surrounded by the gorgeous examples of automotive engineering some of which could only be put into motion by rowing the gearshift through the un-synchronized gearbox while double-clutching. If this seemed adventurous, imagine the excitement of a lady invited for a ride, as the gentleman grabs a mechanical crankshaft attempting to start the engine with no electric starter. Should the cavalier forget to retard the spark plugs. . . . . . Automotive history is littered with broken clavicles and dislocated shoulders of the drivers who, smitten by the charms of their driving companions, skipped this crucial detail. In those days the car could harm you before you even got behind the wheel. Driving offered a palpable sense of danger, excitement and wanderlust.
It is thus no wonder that this year’s theme of the annual fundraiser for the Museum involved circus performers. They were saltimbanques, wandering acrobats, performing as buskers in the open air, if you will. The Italian phrase "saltare in banco," means "to jump on a bench" or a temporary platform to give their audience a better view. And what a view they provided! The stilt-walkers two stories tall were intermingling with the crowd, more sure-footed that some of us much closer to the ground. During and after dinner, contortionists and acrobats treated the guests to breath-taking performances, made more dangerous because they took place mere feet away from the audience on an impossibly small stage with no safety nets.
Is must have been that sense of adventure which prompted Stanley Zimmerman, past president of the Mortgage Institute of California and the National Home Equity Mortgage Association to turn his focus on antique automobiles. Advising clients on loan-to value ratios, and analyzing potential equitable subrogation claims, however exciting, cannot compare to an acquisition, and a restoration of a 1936 Packard Phaeton, and a tingling feeling when finally, behind the wheel, one rolls her gently out into the street for that first spin, the V8 engine coming to life. And that’s why in 2001, Stanley, and his pal Earl Rubinstein, having already been bitten by the antique car bug, founded the museum in West Los Angeles. Because it is impossible not to expand one’s acquisitions, things logically progressed from there. The El Segundo location opened in 2007
Most art collections, be they of the canvas or sheet-metal variety, have two things in common – their exhibits are protected by glass or rope shielding them from the public, and the founder’s name is prominently displayed – Getty, Hammer, Petersen, Mullin, Nethercutt. What differentiates the El Segundo collection is that Mr. Zimmerman’s name cannot be found anywhere on the premises. Instead the term “Driving” is most prominently displayed. The Automotive Driving Museum does not strive to have impeccably restored specimens that can only be eyed from afar. Their machines are to be touched, examined, climbed into, and yes, regularly driven on the nearby streets.
That’s why the vibe among the guests at the gala - who milled around taking selfies - felt less like a stodgy fundraiser than an invitation to a playdate. The toys may have been larger and more complex, but the air was permeated with a palpable sense of excitement as people stood next to the cars at the distance that would trigger alarms in most other museums. There was a raffle and an expertly prepared dinner. And acrobats. And drinks. And music. How much more fun on a playdate can you have?
The 2016 Cirque Du Auto took place at the eve of the annual Los Angeles Auto Show. This year’s theme was Automobility -a marriage of cyber technology and automobiles. The ultimate objective is to develop a car that will drive itself. Walking among acres of sameness – for most part – I could not stop thinking of six score or so beauties on Lairport Street, each of which endowed with something that had made them irresistible to Stanley in the first place – personality. A six-figure exotic hybrid sedan on the Automobility LA showroom floor may have the most advanced technology, but its exhaust roar must be artificially enhanced, and broadcasted into the cabin because the original sound is – how to put it delicately – boring.
So, to the young gentleman of the future who – in response to a lady’s inquiry on Match.com - offers to program the autonomous driving system on her car: it may not have the same panache as knowing how to double clutch, but you won’t damage the gearbox. Or dislocate your shoulder.
Not to mention the ability to devote your undivided romantic attention to the charming companion while the car drives itself. . . . . . .Hmmmm.