Join The World's Best Iconic & Vintage Car Community >>

Bruce Meyer Collection – Profile and Photos

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

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.

Bruce Meyer Collection – Profile and Photos Page Two


But that’s not the only Ferrari in the Meyer stable. Another outstanding car is a 1961 250 GT SWB Berlinetta Competizione. It has at least as, if not a more, illustrious racing history than the Von Neumann car. The ’61 Ferrari was dubbed the “SEFAC Hot Rod” by famed motorsports reporter Henry Manney III. (“SEFAC” is an Italian legal acronym for the partnership that then owned the Ferrari company). According to Ferrari lore, there were between 19 and 21 of the model that were so-called “hot rods.” Why “hot rods?” Because each car had the modifications Enzo thought appropriate for the intended competition. They were designated “Competizione.” (In earlier days, racing rules allowed constructors relatively free rein to make whatever modifications they thought would produce a winner on sports-racing cars).

Bruce’s car was purchased new from the factory by race-driver Pierre Noblet, on June 3, 1961. Noblet entered Le Mans that year and selected Jean Gutchet as his co-driver. Seven ’61 Competizione SWBs were entered, but only five started the race. Noblet’s plan was not to overstress the car in order to insure finishing. They took third overall and first in the GT category. Noblet continued to campaign the car that year finishing first at Monza and eighth at Monthlhery. In 1962, he won the Coupes de Bruxelles, was second at Spa, seventh overall and second in class at the Nurburgring and sixth in the Trophess d’Auvergne. After that, Noblet retired and sold it.

961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB SEFAC Hot Rod
Bruce Meyer in the 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB SEFAC Hot Rod on the 2010 Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance (photo: Tim Scott)

Until 1975 when it was acquired by John Upton, the 250 SWB went through many different owners (all documented by Meyer). Upton had the car restored and entered its original owner-driver, Pierre Noblet, in the 1984 Monterey Historics. Afterward he entered some Concours and drove it himself at Monterey in 1987. Next Upton sold it to Bob Baker, who vintage raced it; then it went to Kerry Nanolas, Lord Michael Cowdray and finally Greg Whitten, from whom Bruce bought it in 1993.

Of course, Meyer has a Corvette, but not just any ‘Vette. It’s one of the 1960 models entered at Le Mans by Briggs Cunningham. They were assigned numbers 1, 2 and 3. Number 1 was driven by Briggs himself and Bill Kimberley, with Dr. Dick Thompson and Fred Windridge in number 2 while John Fitch and Bob Grossman drove number 3. Regarded as too heavy, Corvettes that year were not thought to be a serious threat. Fitch, a wonderfully talented driver, pushed his car as high as third overall during a rainstorm. Kimberley ran off the road during the storm and crashed. Luckily he was not injured. Then Dr. Thompson damaged his car when he ran into a bank, leaving the Fitch/Grossman car the only Cunningham Corvette running. They finished eighth overall, the best any American car would do until Shelby’s Cobras came along. (More on the #2 Corvette)

Le Mans 1960 Chevrolet Corvette
Meyer with the Le Mans 1960 Chevrolet Corvette (photo: Bruce Meyer Collection)

Bruce has hot rods too. As a matter of fact in 1997, he persuaded the powers that be at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance to include rods. On that occasion, he won the Historic Hot Rods Class with his 1932 Doane Spencer Roadster. The car started life as a stock 1932 Ford Roadster. In 1941, Jack Dorn bought it, painted it black and installed a stock 1937 flathead Ford engine. Dorn sold it to his Hollywood High School classmate, Doanne Spencer, in 1944 for $500. Spencer removed the fenders and put in a modified 1946 flathead Mercury. He won the Best Appearing Roadster award at the Pasadena Roadster Club’s Reliability Run in 1947. Then he clocked 112.35 mph at El Mirage that year and in 1949 he did 126.76, after which he sold it to Lynn Wineland who installed a Thunderbird V8. Neal East bought it in 1968, who sold it to Bruce Meyer in 1995. Bruce had Pete Chapouris restore it to its original hot rod configuration.

1932 Ford Doane Spencer Roadster
1932 Ford Doane Spencer Roadster won first place in the Historic Hot Rods Class at the 1997 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. (photo: Bruce Meyer Collection)

Another hot rod Bruce is proud of is his 1934 Pierson Brothers Ford Coupe. Built by Dick and Bob Pierson in 1949, the body was chopped to the max and the windshield raked back 50 degrees. The engine—a 267 cid flathead Ford V8—was built by Edlebrock employee Bobby Meeks. In its first time out, the brothers turned 142.98mph at the El Mirage dry lakes. They sold it in 1953 to Tom Cobb who did 198.86 at Bonneville. In 1956, Tom Bryant went 227.33 after installing a Chevy V-8 engine. Meyer acquired it from Bryant in 1991 and had it restored to original at the So-Cal Speed Shop.

Pierson Brothers Ford Coupe
Bruce Meyer’s son, Evan, is with the Pierson Brothers Ford Coupe at Bonneville (photo: Bruce Meyer Collection)

Bruce Meyer Collection – Profile and Photos Page Three


During WWII, aerodynamic and light-weight teardrop-shaped belly tanks were made for military aircraft. After the war, they were plentiful and cheap as surplus. A number of these tanks were utilized to form bodies for record-run cars. One of the best-known and successful was built and campaigned by Alex Xydias at his So-Cal Speed Shop using a P-38 tank. Powered by a 156 cid flathead V-8, he set a new class record of 145.395 mph in 1951. That night in his motel parking lot, Alex and his crew installed a 259 Mercury, went back and set another record of 181.085. Still not content, they put in a 296 Mercury, setting new one-way record of 198.340 and at two-way of 195.77. The 198.340 stands to this day as the fastest one-way speed ever run by a flathead-engined car. Meyer added the So-Cal Speedshop Belly Tank to his collection in 1993.

So-Cal Speed Shop Belly Tank
The original builder of the So-Cal Speed Shop Belly Tank, Alex Xydias is on the left, Bruce’s son, Evan, is sitting in the Tank and Bruce Meyer is on the right at the 2010 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance (photo: Bruce Meyer Collection)

Among his other hot rods, Bruce has the Greer-Black-Prudhomme Dragster. It ran in 241 events winning 237 of them. Don Prudhomme earned the best record with it in NHRA history. He won the NHRA FC championship a total of four times, is ranked third in NHRA’s Top 50 Drivers and was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1991. Prudhomme retired from racing after the 2009 season.

Then there’s the one that got away. It’s Steve McQueen’s 1958 1600cc Porsche Super Speedster. Bruce bought it during the late sixties. This Speedster is the first car Steve raced. My records show he entered an SCCA race at Hourglass Field near San Diego on June 19-20 1959. He was third in his production-car race at Hourglass (I was sixth driving my Devin SS in the main event). I remember one time when I was assistant race chairman at Del Mar in 1959. Steve came rushing up, waving his arms, upset about what I don’t remember. After some discussion, I mollified him and he went away happy. Bruce had the car for around seven years when McQueen persuaded him to sell it back. The car is now owned by Chad McQueen. Meyer would like to re-acquire it, but Chad won’t sell.

1958 Porsche 356 Speedster
Bruce Meyer (right) delivering the 1958 Porsche 356 Speedster to Steve McQueen (photo: Bruce Meyer Collection)

Within walking distance from his home in Beverly Hills, Bruce has an office on Beverly Drive where he runs his Meyer Pacific real-estate investment and development company. He started his collection—that includes not only cars, but also motorcycles and related memorabilia—with a Chevy-engined 1964 300SL Gullwing. It grew exponentially. There is a 12-car museum adjacent to his home plus another in his office building now under construction that will accommodate some 20 vehicles. In addition and on a rotating basis, a number of Bruce’s cars are usually on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum, an institution Meyer was instrumental in helping form.

Bruce showed his CSX2001 Cobra at the 2012 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance where he won first in class as well as the Henry Ford Award. He also showed the Cobra at the Pebble Beach Concours d‘Elegance where it won the Briggs Cunningham Trophy for the most exciting open car. During the past 25 years, Meyer has entered Pebble Beach almost every year and has won 15 awards there.

I asked Bruce if he had any advice for potential collectors. First, he said, “The most important thing is for you to love the car or cars you buy. When you contemplate buying a collector-car, be aware that a restoration will likely cost way more than you expect. It can cost as much to restore a common model as a rare one. Unless you are going to buy one with a unique provenance, it’s almost always less expensive to buy an already restored vehicle.”

[Source: Art Evans]