Imagine a place, hidden in plain sight, while sequestered away from the prying eyes of the public. This is a place automobile enthusiasts and race fans alike can call their holy sanctuary. A place of worship for the petrol-stained, knuckle-busted upper class. This place is “The Meyer.” Now without coming over all Rod Serling-esque, this place is a private collection – the aura of which is Twilight Zone worthy.
Enthusiast Bruce Meyer is a successful man, to say the least. But among his material blessings are his gracious demeanor, down-to-earth personality and hospitality. Meyer keeps the location of his collection private for obvious reasons and access is by invitation, but these cars have certainly not been doomed to lot-rot in a tidy loft. Meyer drives his collection – with a vengeance.
The path to the car passion was one taken under cover of night, figuratively. With very little support for the hobby at home, Meyer turned to a local hot rod shop for a tribe of belonging.
“Growing up, my parents hated cars, to a degree that my mom took every model, book, hot rod magazine, and just purged my room. But when it’s in your DNA you just can’t flush it out,” Meyer recounted. After several motorized forays (mostly motorcycles), Meyer finally found himself in the market for a 4-wheeled vehicle.
“When my dad said he’d help me with my first car at age twenty, he said; you’re ready. He had know idea what was going on before that [with the other cars and motorcycles I had owned]. I bought a Chevy Biscayne — the cheapest Chevy with the biggest engine. It was $2,400, this was in 1960 and I discovered I could buy a brand new Porsche for $2,700, so I kinda got into sports cars,” Meyer continued.
Fueling The Passion
With the fire burning, and the passion growing, Meyer continued to accumulate cars. Building momentum financially, he set out on what he thought was the business venture to make his name – candles!
“I’ve been in this building for 48 years, in 1968 I opened a candle shop down stairs, and if you were around in ’68 I had shoulder length hair, a big Frank Zappa mustache, and I thought I was going to make my mark in candles,” Meyer ruminated.
After a year or so, the candle business just wasn’t waxing financially like he had hoped. Remaining in the same location, Meyer began a mail-order business out of the building. Without much money, he expressed an interest in buying the building should the owner ever wish to sell, and the rest is history.
The plethora of automobilia that resides in this transformed parking structure ranges from minutia to monumental. Ribbons, awards, finishers pins, a full library, and more make for a greaser den the Fonz could only have dreamed about. There is rhyme and reason to this overwhelming garage. The theme? 24 Heures du Mans.
The Triumphant Le Mans Victors
“I don’t really consider myself a collector, I consider myself an enthusiast. Every car in here we drive, every car in here runs. If there’s a theme that runs through this collection it’s the 24 Hours of Le Mans. We have multiple Le Mans winners in here,” Meyer foreshadowed.
1965 Iso Bizzarrini
Sitting in the foyer between walls, flanked with historic racecars, is an exotic looking red racer wearing the number 3. Straight out of the pages of a comic book, or vintage cartoon, this car is rife with bubbles, burbles, ducts, and scoops.
“The number three car has an interesting story, in 1962 a racing engineer for Ferrari named Jaco Bizzarrini did everything for the GTO, he was a race engineering savant. Enzo fired the guy, a bunch of guys came in support of Bizzarrini, and he fired them too — it was called the palace revolt. Jaco went off to work for Iso,” Meyer told. “That car ran Le Mans in 1965, and won. It’s got a 327 Chevy engine in it. In ’65 Ford had a small block and big block GT40, this car was the only one faster in ’65.”
As Meyer mentioned, a Corvette-derived 327 ci V8 belts out over 400 hp and features four Weber side draft carburetors. This potent powerplant (for the day) was good for pushing the car to over 188 mph. Further rarified features for the era include; the mid-engined layout of course, inboard rear disc brakes, and fully independent suspension.
When America’s sports car came onto the scene, it forgot the byline of what defined american muscle. Straight-line speed was no longer the benchmark, handling and poise became new goals. “That’s the first Corvette that ever ran Le Mans in 1960. Back then there were two drivers and it was a real endurance race, now it’s a flat out sprint,” Meyer reminisced.
This car is one of three identical fuel-injected Corvettes entered into Le Mans by Briggs Cunningham. It features a 283 ci fuel-injected V8 producing 315 horsepower, and despite a top speed of only 151 mph, finished first in class and eighth overall.
Walking around the car one can’t help but scoff at a fully appointed interior in a racecar, giving way to a purposeful giant steering wheel, and instrumentation that looks like it came out of a WWII fighter.
Little tell-tales are sprinkled around the exterior of the car that hint at its racing pedigree. Polycarbonate windows, knock-off wheel nuts, capped headlights, and a primitive front aero device on the hood all remind us that this ‘Vette is meant to race.
Ferrari Comp 61
The prancing horse has always had special fan base, partly from the performance and winning history, and partly from the playboy mentality. Enzo Ferrari famously said ‘aerodynamics are for people who can’t build engines,’ and the bravado encoded in that remake has resonated through to today.
“In 1961 this car won Le Mans, they call it’s a ’61 Ferrari called a Comp 61. It’s a competition car, and the penultimate GTO. That’s the most historic car I have.”
The number 14 Ferrari is understated by today’s standards, harking back to a time of gentleman drivers and fashion sense in automotive design. Clad in silver metallic paint, the visual crescendo of classic Ferrari red is nowhere in sight.
2009 Corvette C6.R
Of course the Corvette’s showing at Le Mans in 1960 was not the end of GM showing their racing strength to Ford, or the rest of the world. In 2009, the number 63 GT1 class C6.R racing Corvette won the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“That Corvette won Le Mans in 2009, that car has never been washed, never been cleaned. That was the last GT1 that won Le Mans, and came in just after the prototypes. It’s about as rowdy and obnoxious as any car here.”
Powered by a raucous 7.0-liter LS7 developed by Katech Engine Development, this is the most modern car of Meyer’s collection. In contrast to the tidy nature of the rest of his collection the C6.R is the only car displayed in as raced spec.
Fully covered in rubber streaks, dents and dings, and all manner of other road rash, the Corvette sits proudly displaying its battle scars.
Before the 911 came along the Porsche recipe was similar to that adopted by Colin Chapman – “simplify and add lightless.” Racing cars like the 550, and 718 were lightweight, mid-engined go-karts with simple air-cooled powerplants propelling them into the history books. Even after the advent of the 911, these race engineers dream cars still were pumped out to race Le Mans.
“Staying in the Le Mans theme, in 1967 the Porsche company was run by the Porsche family and converted to the Piet family who was still part of the family but with a different last name. They wanted to build a prototype car, and this is the 910. This is the one that won Le Mans in ’69.”
The frontal projection of the 910 screams vintage Porsche, that curved nose, pronounced headlights and low hood line – echoed today in models like the Boxster and Cayman. The body lines lead into gaping ducts on the rear clamshell and swoop into an abruptly tucked rear valence.
A flat-six powerplant sits very low behind the driver, cookie-cutter tipped megaphone exhausts barely peer out from the back and a spartan cockpit makes for a suitably no-frills experience.
Of the cars in Meyer’s collection, all have glory and a history, but none have a story quite as outrageous as this. The Porsche 935 to win Le Mans ahead of the prototypes is a big enough statement as is, but when we learned of the story, we thought it was something out of a Hollywood production.
“That’s a 1979 Porsche 935, it started with the RS, then the RSR, the 934, 934.5, and finally the 935. This car won Le Mans overall, these other cars were class winners. Le Mans is like the Olympic games; if you’re an Olympian, you’re pretty cool sh*t. If you come back with a medal, that’s even cooler. If you’re on the top of the podium with a gold medal that’s the best. That car beat all the prototypes. That’s the most important Porsche 911 in the world.”
“There’s this backstory … the guys that ran with that car are the Whittington brothers. Aside from being very capable drivers, they maybe have been the largest drug dealers in the world. These guys were competitors, great business men, they raced unlimited airplanes, they raced offshore, they raced Le Mans.”
“When they went to Le Mans, they went to the Kremer brothers. The Kremer brothers took the factory Porsche 935 and made 100 changes on the car which gave them a one-percent advantage,” Meyer set the stage.
The day before the race they had a dispute with the Kremer brothers on who would start and finish the race, because as the owners, the Kremers made the call.
“If it’s your car you can do whatever you want, so what does it take to be my car? Asked the Whittington brothers. The Kremers decided on a sale price of $200,000. The Whittington brothers went back to their trailer where they had a driver’s suit with money sewn into it. They came back and the Kremers sat there and counted out $200,000.”
“The car’s rockstar status lasted about a year or two until they got put in prison. Before they went to prison they’d gotten rid of all their stuff. This car went to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, where it sat in their basement for 30 years. When the guys got out of prison they went and said we’re here for our car. The museum said no way, you donated it. They went to the supreme court of Indiana and they said it’s too late,” Meyer concluded.
The Honorable Mentions
Not to be diminished at the Meyer are the plethora of collector cars that, while not having a Le Mans win under their belts, do hold some serious clout.
Shelby Cobra Serial Number: 1
“In ’62 Carroll Shelby started the Shelby Cobra program, and this is the first Cobra ever built, serial number one. It is the very first Cobra ever to race. It was built by Ed Hughes and was sent to Europe until ten years ago when I bought it. My wife and I did a tour from Budapest to Prague,” Meyer explained.
The Cobra was retired in 1966 after competing in The Tour de France, and several European races and hillclimbs. It features the original 289 ci engine with Weber carburetors and was restored by McCluskey Ltd.
“This is a 1929 Bentley, this is exactly what would have run Le Mans in ’29. It had an owner in the U.K. for 50 years, it’s an all-original. My wife and I toured Europe in it, we’ve done three North American tours in it, this thing runs like a train.”
1957 Ferrari Testa Rossa
“The 1957 Ferrari Testa Rossa was owned by a guy named John Von Neumann … he was really the first entrepreneur sports car guy in LA. He was a distributor for Porsche, Ferrari and Volkswagen. That’s the winningest Ferrari in the history of Ferrari,” Meyer said.
The Testa Rossa weighs in at a mere 1,620 pounds dry despite its sizable footprint. It features a 4-cylinder DOHC, 2.5-liter engine that produces 220 hp and 189 lb-ft or torque.
We’d like to thank Bruce Meyer for his hospitality. A collection like this is not something one comes across often. With his determination to keep everything driving, maybe we see one of these machines on the road one day.