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January 04, 1991 - Image 59

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-01-04

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in limited edition, all built
between 1925 and 1948.
Earlier, more egalitarian
cars, such as assembly line
Model-T's, are considered "an-
tiques" and are represented
by clubs such as the Antique
Car Club of America and
Veterans Car Club.
Housed in a non-descript
suburban Detroit warehouse,
Mr. Tamaroff's cars are main-
tained with the care and
reverence reserved for
museums and galleries. And
in fact it is. He points to one
of the cars, a gleaming black
1938 Packard V12, converti-
ble coupe.
One of Tamaroffs special
favorites is a 1933 flispano-
Suiza J-12, built in France
with an aluminum body,
right handed drive, and an
engine that could travel up to
100 miles an hour. "This was
quite an accomplishment of
engineering in the 1930s.
There were only 280 of these
cars ever built because the
company went out of produc-
tion in 1937, but some were
built for European royal
families," • Mr. Tamaroff
"In 1933, this kind of
custom car could have cost
about $25,000," Mr. Tamaroff
adds. Today's price? "Around
$300,000," says Mr. Tamaroff,
who once owned a used car
dealership in the mid 1950s,
before opening his Buick
dealership in 1969.
Across from the Packard
sits one of Mr. Tamaroffs
favorites, a 1932 maroon and
gray Marmon with an all-
aluminum body and a 200
horsepower engine. " It was a
better car than the 1932
Cadillac V-16, which is on the
Classic Car Club of America's
approved list," says Mr.
Tamaroff, "but at $7800 it
was just too expensive for its
Next to each other are two
Buicks from the 90 series, a
1931 black roadster, marking
the first year for an 8 cylinder
engine and the last year for
that model; and a 1932 Buick
convertible, one of an edition
of 289, whose inside fittings
include glass bud vases by
Tiffany; a 1928 Stutz four
door, seven passenger conver-
tible, featuring safety wire
running through the window
glass to prevent shattering; a
1936 Mercedes two-door
salon, one of only 14 ever
built; and a dark green 1941
Buick formal sedan with body
custom crafted by Brunn, the
lone survivor of corporate in-
fighting. There was only one
of these," says Mr. Tamaroff,
explaining the story of cor-
porate rivalries. It seems that
Harlow Curtis, then GM head
of styling, had great plans for

this car and removed all of the
Buick markings, calling it
Body by Brunn. Cadillac put
up a protest, feeling that it
would cut into their monopo-
ly on the limosine business.
There are some tributes to
modern engineering and
design as well. Mr. Tamaroff's
highly photogenic 1949
creamy yellow Buick conver-
tible was used in the adver-
tisements for the movie Rain-
man. He bought it from a
sheep farmer in Texas, with
only 17,000 miles on it. "The
upholstery had been chewed
up by the sheep, but there
wasn't a bit of rust on the
body," he says.
Mr. Tamaroff's collection
has its whimsical side. A cam-
py 1953 maroon Cadillac has
its filler pipe located under
one of its overdeveloped fins.
Sitting on a pedestal of its
own is a miniture Buick "toy"
car, with a working radio and
headlights, dating from 1941.
In today's marketplace, even
the toys have appreciated. It
could command as much as
Mr. Tamaroff recalls pur-
chasing his first classic, a

Vintage auto
collectors spend
weekends at auto
shows or attending
classic automobile
auctions around
the country.

1937 Horch convertible, with
the kind of misty fondness
that many reserve to describe
their best friend or their most
romantic encounter. "A GI
had brought the car over from
Europe. I was buying an Irish
sweepstakes ticket from his
mother when I saw the car,
and I think I paid $1500 for
it. That was a lot in 1952. I
painted it black and white
and entered it in several
shows. The Classic Car Club
was just getting started at
that time, and I remember
driving to a classic car Expo
in Milwaukee. The front
wheel kept coming loose, and
finally I went into a garage to
get it checked. The guy didn't
have a hoist heavy enough to
lift it, but we figured out that
the lug nuts were on the
wrong wheels. I did wind up
taking second prize with it
though," he says smiling.
Mr. Tamaroff would not
drive any of his collection so
casually today. Though self-
insured, he sticks to driving
his cars strictly in shows. "It
costs too much money to drive
them in the street," he says.
That is one of the ironies in
the world of "the great cars."

The more original parts the
car has, the more valuable it
is, a condition that makes
these cars virtually
"If you have one of the
`great cars,' you wouldn't dare
put an extra mile on it,
especially if it is one with low
mileage," says Larry Crane,
Art Director of Automobile
Magazine and a vintage car
enthusiast who participates
in another aspect of this
burgeoning hobby —
historical auto races.
"Engines can be restored,
though an original engine
counts for more, but you cer-
tainly wouldn't want to nick
the fender, and cars with
their original paint jobs are
the diamonds among the
jewels," Mr. Crane notes.
To demonstrate this point,
Mr. Glieberman tells of
trading one Mercedes, a 25
year old 230 SL, for another
of the same model. The se-
cond car with its original
paint job, a unique shade of
ivory, and European
headlights, was worth con-
siderably more.
Mr. Tamaroff has taken the
more leisurely route to collec-
ting. After the Horch, he did
not buy another vintage car
for five years, when he read
an ad for a 1930 Mercedes.
The Mercedes cost $2500, but
Mr. Tamaroff, who is reluc-
tant to talk about the price he
got for the car when he sold
it last June, spent $600,000
fixing it up to approximate its
original glory. This included
a trip to the Mercedes ar-
chives in Germany, where he
checked out pictures and
literature. "Fortunately, this
particular factory had not
been bombed, but this car had
been handbuilt, one of just
four that were a prototype for
the 'grosser Mercedes,' so
there were no old parts," he
It took five more years and
10,000 man hours to do the
job. Replacement parts had to
be handcrafted to match the
specifications - that Mr.
Tamaroff had come up with in
his research. "It was extraor-
dinary. At one point the car
was totally taken apart, with
every piece just lying on the
floor in a garage," Mr.
Tamaroff says.
For sheer drama, however,
it is hard to beat Mr. Glieber-
man's 1939 540K short
chassis special roadster, an
awesome, gleaming black
hulk that was built especial-
ly for Alfred Krupp and one
of just 19 special roadsters
built in the last days before
World War II. It was intend-
ed go into production with a
bigger engine, but the war


Above: Bernie
Glieberman surrounded
by his vintage
automobiles, including a
Rolls Royce.
Left: Mary Tamaroff in
front of a 1931 Buick
Roadmaster, which is
next to the 1991 Buicks
at his auto dealership.



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