Monterey Museum of Automotive Arts – Interview and Profile

Interview by Dennis Gray

Morris KindigMorris Kindig is Executive Director of the proposed Monterey Museum of Automotive Arts that aims to build upon the legacy of Monterey’s storied history with the automobile. Conceived to honor and recognize the relationship the automobile has with the Monterey Peninsula, the Museum will pay homage to the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, Laguna Seca and the personalities that carried the flame for the automobile.

The planned 150,000 sq ft venue is designed to house over one hundred cars within the Pebble Beach and Laguna Seca wings and within main exhibition hall. In addition the facilities will include an active restoration area, theater, library, digital media center, members club, restaurant, banquet facilities, plus an art gallery, history and education center and retail store.

Morris sat down with Sports Car Digest to discuss the proposed Monterey Museum of Automotive Arts and his long relationship with cars.

Sports Car Digest: Morris, let’s start by discussing your history.

Morris Kindig: Professionally, I worked first as a mechanical engineer, then moved into marketing and product management, then eventually started a market research company focused on automotive electronics.

I’m a car guy, have been since I was a kid! I had my first sports car in college, an MG-TF 1500. Unfortunately, I sold it and got an Austin Healey. After college I bought a Lotus Elite, and I still have it along with a few other cars.

SCD: What cars do you have in your personal collection?

MK: I have a few antiques, Model Ts, 1914, 1925, 1927; and a 1917 Overland, which I raced at Laguna Seca in Steve Earle’s 2004 event. I have the parts for five or six more Model T Speedsters and enough Overland parts to build one or two more Raceabouts. I also have a couple of Lotus Elites, as well as a 30, a 23, and a Europa; two ’50s Rileys; a Ferrari Dino and a few other cars.

SCD: With the exception of a red Lotus 30 that ran at last year’s Rolex Monterey Reunion and occasionally a white Lotus 30 I don’t see many 30s.

MK: I have two that are unrestored. Another one, I restored and sold to Sanehiro Nozaki of Japan. Unfortunately, the car was not completed in time for the 1995 Monterey Historic Races tribute to Lotus, but it was featured in the Lotus exhibit that year. The car was finished in Lotus racing green with a yellow stripe down the middle. Sanehiro ran the car in 1996.

SCD: Can you tell me about your Lotus Elite?

MK: Absolutely an incredible car! I had never experienced any car that could handle so well. My first ride was with Rod Carveth in a right-hand-drive car. He took us out to the freeway, accelerated to about 65 mph and then exited the freeway! It was one of those moments you never forget, I was in the left-hand seat of a right-hand-drive car, no brakes or steering wheel, I thought my life was coming to an end. But we went around the corner and the car didn’t even squeal the tires. I put an order in for one a few days later.

SCD: Did you know I spent my high school weekends and many summer days hitchhiking from Millbrae (California) to San Carlos then polishing Rod’s 250 Testa Rossa or his Aston Martin DB3S?

MK: We were probably there at the same time. I was part of the pit crew for Rod when he drove the Testa Rossa and the Aston. Do you remember Max?

SCD: Max gave me two rides in the 250, one down 101 and the other over King’s Mountain Road. The highlights of my high school years were those two rides. Carveth once gave me a ride up King’s Mountain in his Elite. Didn’t he live up there?

MK: He lived off of Sand Hill Road in Portola Valley. It broke my heart when he sold the Ferrari to a guy in Texas, because I would have had my dad borrow the money to buy that car.

SCD: They were just old race cars then…

MK: That’s true, but they weren’t to me.

SCD: After the Elite what happened?

MK: That’s a good question because the Elite has been the most influential aspect of my life with automobiles. Just a few highlights: I bought the car in 1960, received it in California in 1961, actually showed it at Pebble Beach in 1962, which was the same year I started racing. I continued racing in 1963 and 1964 and, if you recall, the Elite was so raceworthy that it was reclassified from E to C production where it was no longer competitive. So I quit racing, autocrossed for a year, then undertook to restore the car for Concours. The first restoration wasn’t good enough to win, so I took it apart and restored it again. Then I won at Pebble Beach in ’69. In 1974 I entered Steve Earle’s first event at Laguna Seca and raced another 26 or 27 times in the Monterey Historics.

SCD: Do you still race?

MK: My last race was 2004. I raced a 1917 Overland Raceabout at Steve’s event. I do hope to get back on the track soon. This is a passion, I love to drive, I like to work on the cars, older ones that is. I don’t care much to work on modern day cars.

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  1. This is one of the best ideas for the Monterey area. I can see a 25% economic increase with the building of his project. I hope the local residents understand the project. It will bring another wonderful destination to the area. Please go to  the http://www.montereyautomuseum.com to view our video which is a well done visual of how this museum means so much.

  2. Very interesting vision and well overdue plan – the perfect location for a world class automotive museum and an advanced college program for classic automobile restoration crafts.
     
    I hope the city of Monterey and the local communities recognize the medium and long term economic and political value of this program to the Monterey Peninsula.
     
    This could make many weeks into the Monterey Historics and Pebble Beach week….what a plus !!!

  3. Greetings and congrats from Athens, Greece. A wonderful idea for the Monterey area, for youngsters participating in educational programs and top marks for the inclusion of a Resto facility within the project. How inspiring all that is!

    Sincerely hope that Morris’ vision will soon become a reality. All the best,

  4. This idea has legs because of the vision as laid out in the article. Best wishes on bringing it forward!

    I was at an AACA National in Bristol, TN over the weekend. One thing that struck me was the number of children who gaped and gawked at some of the brass era cars on display and giving people rides. We have to engage our youth and bring them in, or we will lose our enthusiast base.

    The very heart of automobilia is being challenged on many fronts. We need to push back. Growing the next generation is very, very important.

  5. The Monterey area is perfect for an Auto Museum/Restoration School. What other part of the country is associated with classic cars more than the Monterey Peninsula? Not everyone can get to the Pebble Beach Concours in August, but might enjoy a display about Pebble Beach all year long when visiting the area.