TALES OF 40 YEARS #11 – SAVE THE WALES

John Gunnell |

When I look back on my OLD CARS WEEKLY career, that trip to the Gene Storm’s auction that Christie’s ran in 1983 stands out in many ways. Ken and I met Brian Jackson’s wife on the plane, visited with Don Williams and saw the Blackhawk Collection in its infancy. Then, I met Briggs Cunningham in Costa Mesa. Before the auction I went to a big party that was like a Who’s-Who in the hobby back then. There were many bigt-time personalities there such as Clyde Wade of Harrah’s, Wally Parks of NHRA and Frenchy and Russell Head of the Candy Store. During the auction a Duesenberg sold for the then world’s record price of $325,000, which was headline news. And another thing that happened on that trip was that I met Gary Wales for first time. It was no big deal. We had hero sandwiches in a small shop near the L.A. Convention Center, but over the years a string of things I’ll remember always were linked to Mr. Wales. A few years later, when I returned to L.A. for The Great American Race, Gary won it in a ’34 Bentley that he had reconstructed after a fire. On another trip to the City of Angels, Gary came to the hotel and picked me up in a 1936 Lagonda and we went ripping all over town in that great car before making a landing at his home. I saw his fantastic collection of car mascots and watched a 14-person crew building a dream Rolls-Royce in the courtyard. Later we went to dinner and Gary told me to drive his massive modern Bentley. I always thought that Gary looked like Burt Reynolds and that he built some of the most fabulous cars I had ever seen. Many were his own creations made out of classic car parts, but they were done just the way the great European craftsmen would have done them. I have met Gary in Hollywood, in Scottsdale and in Vegas and every visit with him has been a fun time. As you age and look back on your life, there are not that many people you can say were fun to be with every time you were with them. Gary is one of those rare folks.

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