I did a little research of the “skiff” because I fell in love with its boat-like design. Actually I don’t remember the car from my childhood (the way I remember cars we drove frequently, like the 1907 Rolls Royce and the 1913 mercer Raceabout). Evidently the construction of skiff bodies on automobile chassis was primarily a French innovation, courtesy of Henri Labourdette Coachworks; such cars had appeared in auto races as early as 1897. The Peugeot skiff won at Indianapolis in 1913, 1916 and 1919, according to my father in his book Bright Wheels Rolling. In the book he says the car was a gift (!) from William Leeds of New York City, and “was one of the finest cars in our collection.” At some point, my father sold the car (and a number of others) to his good friend Dr. Sam Scher of Mamaroneck, New York. It was from Scher's collection that Richard Paine purchased it for the Seal Cove Museum.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Last weekend I had the privilege and delight of giving a talk about The Melton Collection to a group at the Seal Cove Auto Museum on Mount Desert Island, Maine. I talked about my father’s passion for cars, how it began with his Uncle Charles’s White Touring Car, how his collection expanded, the founding of the Melton Museum in Norwalk, Connecticut, and its subsequent move to Florida, and finally the sale of the collection to Winthrop Rockefeller. (Much of this I have covered here in earlier postings...or will cover later.)
Billed as Opera Night, the event at Seal Cove also featured the playing of my father’s music, and the showing of the La Traviata segment of “Ziegfeld Follies.” It was a terrific evening, and my talk seemed to be well received by the 40 people in attendance.
The Seal Cove Museum itself is a fascinating collection of brass era cars. Among many highlights of the collection is the 1913 Peugeot Labourdette “Skiff” (so called because of its boat-tail design crafted of tulip wood) that once belonged to my father. What a gorgeous vehicle! It stuns me that even fifty years after my father’s death, the provenance of having been in the James Melton Collection provides value to antique cars.
Other high points of the weekend were being wined and dined by the charming Roberto Rodriguez, Executive Director of the Museum, and meeting Tina Paine Weeks, daughter of the museum’s founder, Richard Paine. Check out the museum at www.sealcoveautomuseum.org. The story behind the museum’s founding is as interesting as the cars its collection.