Bruce Meyer
Bruce Meyer in his museum at his home in Beverly Hills. (photo: Bruce Meyer Collection)

Bruce Meyer Collection – Profile and Photos

By Art Evans | Photographs as credited

My abridged dictionary defines “provenance” as “source, derivation.” Provenance is important insofar as collections of art are concerned. The value of a painting, for instance, is greatly enhanced if its history can be documented. Another important aspect is authenticity. My wife inherited a picture assumed to have been painted by Murillo. But when I took it to the Getty Museum, experts told me it was, in fact, painted by a student of Murillo, which, of course, greatly diminished its value.

These factors also apply to collectable cars. In this day and age, there many so-called “knock offs.” Perhaps the most copied are the Shelby Cobras. My son, David, who has worked for Shelby for a number of years, has become well-known as an expert in this regard. He has ways of telling if a car is a real Cobra or not.

All of this brings me to Bruce Meyer, whose collection has provenance and authenticity in spades. One of his cars is Shelby Cobra serial number CSX2001 no less. It’s the very first production Cobra. Actually, there was one Cobra before CSX2001. CSX2000, the prototype, is in Shelby’s personal collection. Bruce bought CSX2001 in 2006 at Retromobile where the car was displayed in Paris at Porte de Versailles.

The car started life, as did all of the first Cobras, in England at AC Cars, where the chassis and body were assembled. AC records show its manufacture date as July 17, 1962. Then it was shipped to Shelby’s buddy (and mine), Ed Hugus, who then had a large dealership in Pittsburgh, where a 260cid Ford engine and transmission were installed. Ed was a top driver in his own right with ten runs at Le Mans culminating with a win in 1965. Shelby appointed Hugus his first Cobra dealer and later as distributor for the Eastern States.

Ed sold it to a Dr. Richard Milo. It turned out to be more car than Milo could handle, so he returned it to Hugus. Next it went to Lloyd “Lucky” Casner, who intended to race it at Le Mans with co-driver Jean-Marie Vincent. But it wasn’t fast enough with the 260 engine, so Vincent bought it from Casner and took it to Ford Racing of Europe where a 289 with four Webers was installed and updated it to FIA specs. Vincent raced very successfully in Europe from 1964 through 1966, and then sold the car to a Herve Arnone-Demoy, with whom it lived in Morocco for 15 years. Next it went back to France, purchased by a Bernard Afchain who eventually displayed it for sale at Retromobile. Bruce has this trail documented with paperwork and photographs. Now that’s provenance! The car was authenticated by Cobra expert Lynn Park. Bruce had it restored by Mike McCluskey, who had been licensed by Shelby to construct “continuation” Cobras.

1962 Shelby Cobra 289 CSX2001 on the show field at the 2012 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance
1962 Shelby Cobra 289 CSX2001 on the show field at the 2012 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance (photo: Sports Car Digest)

A few years ago, my friend, Don Klein, asked me to take some photos for him to accompany an article he was writing. The shoot was in Beverly Hills and when I arrived, there was Bruce Meyer with a 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300 Sc Cabriolet. Interesting, I thought, and in beautiful condition, but what’s so special about it? It turned out the car had belonged to Clark Gable and that Bruce had bought it from Gable’s widow, Kay Spreckles, in 1981. It’s in all original condition.

Gable bought his 300 Sc new from Mercedes-Benz of Hollywood for $12,500. It was then the most expensive of the make. It is one of only 49 the company made in the cabriolet format. Gable never let anyone else drive it. When he and his wife, Kay, went to the studio premier of Giant, they went in the Mercedes rather than in a studio limousine. After Gable died in 1960, Kay kept it in her garage until Bruce bought it from her.

1956 Mercedes-Benz 300 SC Cabriolet, ex Clark Gable
Bruce Meyer’s 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300 Sc Cabriolet finished 2nd in the Mercedes-Benz Postwar Class at the 2011 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance (photo: Bruce Meyer Collection)

One car in the Meyer collection is dear to my heart because it was owned and raced by my close friend and neighbor, Johnny Von Neumann. I took a number of photos of it when John, his step-daughter, Josie, and Richie Ginther raced it during the fifties. It is a 1957 Ferrari 625 TRC Spider, only one of two ever built. It now has a 320bhp 3-liter 12-cylinder engine with six Webers. Von Neumann himself took delivery from the factory in Italy. Bruce has a fully-documented provenance.

The first time I saw the car was at Santa Barbara on May 18, 1957. John had entered to drive it in the main event and I was running my XK120 Jaguar in the production event. The 18th was a Saturday and it rained cats and dogs. An Austin-Healey spun in front of me and dented my door. Boy was I mad! The next day it was sunny and clear. John ran a barn-stormer of a race. He was pitted against Eric Hauser in Max Balchowsky’s “Old Yeller” and Phil Hill in John Edgar’s 4.9 Ferrari. Eric led from the start with Phil nipping at his heels. On lap 20, John passed Phil and then Eric on lap 24. John led until the last lap when Eric inched by him to win.

The record shows that Von Neumann raced it in 19 different events; the May 1957 Santa Barbara was its first time out. He won first overall during 1957 on June 2 at Salt Lake City, July 28 at the Pomona Fairgrounds, October 6 at Sacramento, October 19 at Hour Glass in San Diego and at Pomona again on October 27. John’s step-daughter, Josie, won a preliminary event at Hour Glass in it on September 27, 1958 and Richie Ginther won the main event with it at Lago de Guadelupe on May 3, 1959.

John Von Neumann driving his 1957 Ferrari 625 TRC at Santa Barbara on May 19, 1957.
John Von Neumann driving his 1957 Ferrari 625 TRC at Santa Barbara on May 19, 1957. (photo: Art Evans Collection)

In 1962, the car was sold to Otto Zipper who entered it for Ken Miles to drive. He won the main event at Santa Barbara on May 27, 1962. Later that year, my friend and USC classmate, Ron Ellico bought it. He installed a Ford V8 engine (shame on him) and drag raced it. From Ron, the TRC went through six different owners. The sixth was a Charles Zwolsman who acquired it in 1992. Zwolsman was arrested by the Dutch government for drug smuggling. Bruce Meyer bought it on July 6, 2001 at a Dutch government auction.

Bruce Meyer, 1957 Ferrari 625 TRC Spider, John Von Neumann
Bruce Meyer with the 1957 Ferrari 625 TRC Spider (photo: Bruce Meyer Collection)

Bruce had it restored to its original specifications with a Ferrari V-12 engine installed. He also had it painted in the original silver. He showed it at the Quail on August 20, 2006 where he won the Road & Track award.

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  1. What is really great, is Bruce driving it down to Cars and Coffee in the Valley and just parking it with a sign telling about the car and then just walking away. Just mixed in with the other cars

  2. One thing about Bruce , you will have a hard time catching him without a smile on his face

  3. In 1999, Bruce had his ’32 Roadster on display at the Louis Vuitton Classic in Rockefeller Center, New York City. As I was photographing, he came over and we discussed Hot Rods in general and his “Deuce” roadster.
    His pleasant demeanor made it seem as if we had been friends for years.

  4. I met Bruce Myer when my son was doing some construction work on Rodeo Dr. In Beverly Hills.

    My son called and asked if I had heard of a car guy named Bruce Myer. I replied, YES, will he let me in his garage ?

    That Saturday, there I was at his house. The house keeper told me Mr. Myer was busy but to go ahead back to his garage. REALLY !

    I can’t even begin to describe the classic cars there. There was one of three Corvettes to win at the 24 hours of LeMans. Behind that, a 32 Ford Coupe with an Ardun Flatly. Behind that three rare, very collectible motorcycles. Then there was Clark Gable’s MBZ and it only got better from there.

    Bruce came out and is truly one if the nicest guys I’ve ever met. I was almost drooling on a 427 Cobra. He had to step out for s minute and said to sit in any I wanted to. I said, Really? He said, Sure, I drive them all.

    When he came back I was looking at a pedal car replica of the 1952 Indy 500 winner and noticed a Drivers suit with the Indy winners name, Rutman on it. I said, I bet you wish you had the real car. Bruce said, You want to see it ?

    He gave me a pass to the Peterson Museum. There it was and also The Bruce Myer Wing with MORE cars !

    Later on one day, he called and invited me to the Museum for the Franklin Mint release of the 52 Indy winner.

    I bought two of them. The Agaganian Brothers, son’s of the original owner, were there.

    They posed for photos with Bruce in front of the original car.

    After the pictures, although nobody else did, I unboxed mine and asked the briothers to please autograph them. Then I asked Bruce, he actually replied, You want my autograph ? I say, HELL YES.

    He later sent me a model collection of some of his cars.

    Just a really nice man, totally unpretentious and a real force in the collector car world.