TALES of 40 YEARS #13 – PIZZA KING

When Domino’s Pizza owner Tom Monaghan got interested in old cars he tried to do it in a big way. Early one fall, in a very short period of time, he purchased two Duesenbergs for $1 million each, which was record price territory at the time. First he bought the ex-Harrah’s Collection unrestored Murphy convertible that Capt. George Whittell used to drive around Lake Tahoe with a lion as a passenger. Then, he bought the late Dick Gold’s gorgeous phaeton, which was totally restored. Tom hired a man named Louis DeLong from Ohio, who I had ridden with in the Great Race, to be the first “outside” caretaker of hs cars. He also had a talented in-house employee who wrenched on them. When the OLD CARS WEEKLY staff got to Hershey, we found that the Domino’s entourage was staying at our hotel and had even had marquee outside changed to welcome the “Million Dollar Duesie.” But after the show’s set up day, we returned to the hotel to find both the sign and the Domino’s people gone. It seems that Tom had not pre-registered his cars for Hershey and the Antique Automobile Club of America rules said that you had to. Tom got miffed that his cars were not allowed in the show and took them home. Early the next year, at the Scottsdale auction, I met Mr. Monaghan for the first time. He had made such a big splash that everyone in the hobby was trying to “get in his pockets.” I saw him at the auction, sat next to him and introduced myself. “What do you want to sell me?” he asked somewhat defensively. I looked him in the eye and said, “Not much, but if you need a subscription to OLD CARS WEEKLY, I’ll be happy to sell you one for 20 bucks.” That brought a twinkle to his eye and he said, “I’ll take that” and handed me $20 and business card. Later on, George Crocker formed a kind of partnership with Tom and George always liked OLD CARS WEEKLY. He must have put in a good word for us, because when Tom later opened his museum in Ann Arbor, Mich., he invited me over and then gave me a long introduction to the crowd. Personally, I thought Tom really loved cars and had a good heart. He wanted to share his cars with people. He didn’t always do it the best way at first, but in the long run, he figured it out. For us at OLD CARS WEEKLY, a high point was when he sent the $6.5 million 1931 Bugatti Royale Berline de Voyage to the Iola Old Car Show.

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