Not far from New York is a haven for Continental classics
The Californian classic car scene dominates our European view of the American car world but it’s worth remembering the Stateside awakening to post-war European sports cars started on the East Coast. From his Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Manhattan showroom Max Hoffman introduced brands like Jaguar, Mercedes, Porsche, Alfa Romeo, BMW, Austin Healey and more to the American market. His influence such that he was able to convince manufacturers to build cars specifically for him to sell. The most famous example of that is the Mercedes-Benz 300SL roadster but he was instrumental in many others.
About an hour north of Manhattan that East Coast passion for European classics is being kept alive by specialists such as Westchester County-based Motor Classics & Competition Corp. It is run by Nick Soprano who has been putting his love of ’50s, ’60s and ’70s sports cars at the heart of a business he’s run for 40 years. “I grew up inspired by European cars,” he says, “and ever since it’s fired an enthusiasm and a tremendous passion for a period when these cars were pretty much unknown apart from among a small cadre of enthusiasts.”
Things have changed, not least with a growing interest in classics from an ever-expanding audience. “In the old days it was a group of people who knew each other from racing,” says Soprano, “but today more people are exposed to the cars through the media, through TV and there are a lot of younger people interested in these cars. They buy contemporary icons like Lamborghini Aventadors or Ferrari 488s and although they haven’t grown up with the same inspiration they are turning back and saying the supercar of today is somewhat soulless and doesn’t have the intensity of the older cars.”
So, what’s hot on the East Coast classic scene? “We do anything of interest,” he says, “but Ferraris of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s are a focus. There’s a sustainable market in those cars. We could say the same for air-cooled Porsches but by the same token there’s interest in British sports cars like E-Types, the Aston Martin DB4s, DB5s and DB6s … there are centre points in this market where the attention is focused but there’s only a fixed number of cars and an increasingly worldwide demand.”
Certainly his current stock reflects that. The Mistral SR ‘Silver Bomb’ racer is a particularly interesting mix of American hot-rod culture and European club-racing, with a custom-made bodywork of glassfibre and aluminium over a Chevrolet V8. Offered alongside Healeys, Morgans, Jaguars and even more modern metal like a Porsche Carrera GT, it makes for an interesting and eclectic stock list.
SPEAKING TO NICK SOPRANO
The founder of Motor Classics and Competition on his home-made Italian classic
The Sensuale is the culmination of everything that initially inspires me. I wanted to build something in the same way as the icons of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s combining all the magnificence of the period into a current sports car exemplifying the craftsmanship of the time. It’s a one of a kind prototype and powered by a 4.4-litre V12 Ferrari engine, with a tubular chassis and a hand-formed aluminium body. It’s taken us over 20 years and it’s been an adventure – built by creative men for creative men!