RACE HISTORY 101
REVS INSTITUTE MUSEUM IN NAPLES, FLORIDA T E A M S U P W I T H STA N F O R D U N I V E R S I T Y
We stopped at a big boulder at the side of the road bearing flowers and a plaque to commemorate Sam Collier, who had died here when the Ferrari he was driving crashed in 1950. That Ferrari 166 was the first Ferrari imported into America and it had been previously driven by its owner, Briggs Cunningham at the Glen and in a race on Long Island and later by Sam Collier's brother Miles at Bridgehampton.
These three, along with Cameron Argetsinger, were pioneers in the post-war road racing movement and today, the Revs Institute, a world-class car museum in Naples, Florida, is a tribute to these three men and to their legacy.
Miles Collier died of polio in 1954, but his son, Miles, Jr., carried on the family legacy. While heading up his half of the family business, he also raced a Porsche for over ten years - and he started building a collection of cars, mostly Porsches. Meanwhile, Miles' father's racing companion had made history, racing cars of his own make at Le Mans from 1951 to 1955 and after that, he continued to be a major player in racing with Jaguars and other marques.
Cunningham kept most of his race cars and they formed the heart of a collection which was located in California. In 1986, Cunningham sold his collection to Collier who melded them with own collection to form the Collier Collection in Naples. This museum remained open to the public for only a few years but it continued to grow behind closed doors. Then the cars were seen only by a few lucky invitees and on the occasions when the collec- tion staff brought out one or more cars to put them on show at various vintage car events.
This changed dramatically in 2004 when the museum established the Revs Institute and working in collaboration with the Revs Program at Stanford University established a new trans-disciplinary field connecting the past, present and future of the automobile — and they reopened their doors to the public. As the Revs Institute, its mission is to “serve as a centre for scholarly study” and, in cooperation with the Stanford program “further automotive research and provide teaching and learning opportunities”. That's all great stuff, but for most of us, we just want to see the cars. And there are over 100 cars in the collection.
The cars are grouped into four collections: Automobility, the story of the automobile's impact on modern life; Vitesse, Sports Motoring and Motoring Sports; Porsche, the story of Porsche's engineering evolution and Revs, Racing Cars and Racing Men – the story of the racing car's evolution.
The museum is open to the public three days a week – Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. They have well-informed docents who lead two-hour tours for a small additional price- it's well worth it. An advance ticket reservation is required, which can be done via revsinstitute.org. The Revs Institute helps fulfill its mandate with a huge library and archive which is open to students of the history of the automobile. And, of course, there's a restoration shop in the back to refurbish and maintain the cars in the collection. They try to keep all the cars in running order and they often take them out to show them off.
While this is a varied collection of cars from the early days to modern times and it includes many road cars as well as race cars, my focus was on the race cars in the collection – especially the ones with history that makes