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May 2nd 2007

Realtor contact is Linda Molvar at

For Sale: A mansion with room for eighteen collector cars
It’s not often that one finds a property for sale designed by a car collector with space for eighteen cars. Even less often is an opportunity provided for one to run amok in a mansion, planning where we’d put the 166MM, what room would best suit the Bugatti, and how would we equip the workshop and decorate the rooms.

It sounded like fun, (it was) especially when we can share the experience with our readers. So we embarked upon this feature, reminding the reader to bear in mind that certain compensations from the owner were an inevitable part of the deal.

Since this real and imagined mansion is up for sale, someone out there will have the chance to actualize our virtual reality dreams, changing at will whatever they wish, tailoring this remarkable hideaway into the car collectors home of dreams.

The basement layout with fourteen cars in position. Drawing courtesy of Hopke and Associates.

Car collections: out of site, out of mind, out of heart
All too often, car collector’s hobby takes a back seat, or more correctly a back yard. A garage is sometimes attached to a house but rarely does an attached structure have more than three doors, and two is by far the norm. So, another structure is built or needed and put further from the house, far enough to be out of site and out of mind. Far enough to let the mice multiply, the heat rise, the cold settle and water condense, all in relative quiet and peace. Even estates built by the rich, such as Bill Marriott’s palace in Potomac harbors his 20 odd car collection in an elegant but separate mansion.

But there are exceptions to this situation. We have found one…not by any means the only, we’re sure. But the Dunn estate is available now, located near Williamsburg Virginia, and at about half of what it would cost just 120 miles further north near Washington D.C. and can hold up to eighteen cars within its foundations. But before we get into the garage, let’s examine what else is offered with the estate.

Other, lesser amenities
Purely secondary but nice nonetheless are a neat list of amenities which include: waterfront property, a gated community named Kingsmill with three golf courses, (the resort will host the LPGA Tour 2007 Michelob ULTRA Open this May), tennis courts, a marina and a multi-use resort facility.

Then there is the traffic, or lack of it. The Williamsburg area has not yet experienced any real traffic yet. It will, no doubt, but right now, the area is a joy to drive. Kingsmill is located in the Historic Triangle consisting of Jamestown, Williamsburg and Yorktown. Williamsburg‘s other attractions are well known and can be reviewed at

So let’s take a closer look at this property--now available for only $2.75 million-- from the perspective of the car collector.

Garage space by design
The Dunn Mansion consists of 8,170 sq, ft of living space on three floors, and an additional 2,361 sq. foot of garage space beneath the house.

That's ninety feet deep and about 24 ft wide. Door to 27x18 ft shop can be seen at left.

The late Jack Dunn, read “Lulu of a Lele” who basically designed the structure, was a car collector who had the time and the foresight to think things through. Starting from the basement, he planned a completely circular driveway which cut a path from one side of the mansion to the other. Putting a garage door on both sides of the house he was able to utilize the main portion of the floor space to house twelve normal size cars--and still be able to drive out one door or the other. In terms of measurements, the length of the basement from door to door is 90 ft, the average width is 23.5 ft.

Inside the basement garage looking in one direction..

Inside the basement garage looking in the other direction.

Jack wasn’t much of a hands on type, but he realized that car guys would need an extra room for use as a shop or a cleanup area. Once inside the main garage there is another 8 ft wide garage door leading to a 18 by 27 foot shop area, complete with water and drain facilities. Two additional cars can also fit into the shop, making the total number of cars to fit in the basement fourteen.

Driveway extends down each side of the mansion and leads into garage door entrance on both sides.

If that is not enough, and you’d like some display area, up to three full size cars can fit on the beautiful, spacious and open main floor. One more can fit in the trophy room, four for a total of eighteen collectors cars in the Dunn Mansion.

Home, hearth and Bugatti
Storing and working on cars in a basement is an acceptable endeavor, approved by most wives, partners, real estate agents, county code inspectors and fire inspectors. Displaying a full size classic automobile on the first (hardwood) floor of the living space next to the fireplace is another matter altogether. For some, having your automotive heartthrob at the hearth smacks of velvet Elvis paintings and pink flamingoes on the lawn. Stephen Glenn, real estate broker, car collector, and co-founder of VeloceToday, talks from experience. “Personally, I think that the two (housing & garages) should remain separate”, he says.

First floor diagram indicates where three cars can be displayed in Grand Hall,another in the trophy room. Drawing courtesy of Hopke and Associates.

Grand Hall looking toward the front doors.

Grand Hall looking toward the rear and fireplace.

While everything is subjective in this regard, let’s not get too specific about one man’s definition of art and assume that we own an automobile or automobiles worthy of sharing one’s living room and explore the full potential of the spacious and waiting Dunn Mansion

Ever present art
There is just something ultimately homey to having a car by the fireside. On the darkest and coldest of winter days, it, or in this case, they, can be with you, just there, comforting, quiet, gleaming and ever present art. There will be no mice, snakes, squirrels or possum in the leather or wiring or carburetors to infest your investment. To see your treasure you won’t require a heavy jacket, a long walk, or to warm up a deadly cold garage. To see them is to live there. They won’t need anti-freeze and the oil will be kept at room temperature. This is a very comforting thought, one which no doubt has crossed the mind of every car enthusiast in the world.

But to gain a place of honor inside where it is warm and dry and miceless, the occupant should be recognized as a piece of art by a variety of characters. A Type 57 Bugatti with the right coachwork come easily to mind. A customer once complained to Ettore Bugatti that his Bugatti would not start in cold weather. Bugatti replied that his cars deserved garages, preferably heated garages. Ettore would have enjoyed our plans for the Dunn Mansion.

Editor-at-Large Lorenzo Marchesini was sure that certain pre war cars would work very well, including an SJ Duesenberg and a 1750 Alfa Zagato. Many would now be worth more than the cost of the house itself, making such a pampered environment more justified. Ferrari historian and noted author David Seielstad noted that one car might qualify as a live-in. “A Type 35B” (Bugatti) was his instinctive reaction, but Seielstad also said that unless the space was extremely large, a car would probably not find a home in his home. From academia came a strong reaction from Patricia Lee Yongue, Associate Professor of English at the University of Houston. “I don’t have a problem with cars in the living room!” She related the story of Raymond Mays, the British Bugatti and ERA driver. “Raymond’s mother let him use one of the living rooms in the Mays’ mansion as a workshop for his Bugs during the winter, because the garage was unheated and wet. I thought that offer was mighty decent of her.”

Zen and the art of the motorcycle
Post war cars come to mind as potential living room guests but not as readily. A 166 MM Touring barchetta might be eligible, a GTO at the other end. Writer and historian Carl Goodwin viewed the layout with a wider sense of history. “First of all, there should be at least one interesting car in the circular drive at all times. An Alfa or, excuse the expression on an Italian car site, a nice MG-TC or a Jag 120. “Well, maybe two Alfas,” he wrote. “But beyond that, there should be a display car in the living room and a display engine. It doesn't have to be a W196 Mercedes - it could be a nice older Formula Ford or Junior like a Lotus 51 or 22. It would be easy to cart inside and assemble. The engine could be an Alfa or a 4-cylinder air-cooled Porsche.”

Type 35 B would be a great addition to the mansion.

It would even fit in the trophy room.

It was suggested to us that we not forget about the motorcycles. Several, perhaps four, would fit comfortable in the adjacent trophy room. Thes might include a Brough Superior, a Vincent, an early Ducati Desmo or MV Agusta. See our motorcycle article, Legend of the Motorcycle for some further ideas for suitable candidates.

If all else fails, how about this full size work of art?

And if neither real cars nor motorcycles appeal to those who must be obeyed, Carmel writer and historian Michael T. Lynch offers this advice: "Every car guy should have a full-size automotive sculpture. This Alfa Romeo P3 driven by Nuvolari was created by Frenchman, Francois Chevalier. He was a two-time Le Mans competitor. The work presently resides outside the dedicated garage of a private collection in Marin County, California. The medium is unfinished bronze."

There are no code or legal requirements to have your treasure sit next to you by the fire, at least in the state of Virginia. But you might run it by the local Fire Dept anyway, and remove the gas tank and fuel lines, which in this world of bad gas in six months is a good idea anyway. Also, check out the installation of a sprinkler system. If planning to display more than two cars on the first floor, the loads should be calculated by a structural engineer. Hopke and Associates a local architecture firm that did most of the detailed design, at warns that the marble and wood floors maybe prone to damage from automotive traffic. The only other restrictions are the front door openings of only six feet and the distance between the posts of seven feet.

Ups and downs
There are a few more interesting items in the Dunn Mansion worthy of note. An elevator, a small four person affair but conveys (yes it does convey) one from the treasures in the basement to the huge storage area above the fourth floor. We all need a place to store spare parts and having the elevator makes moving parts a breeze.

Did we mention the media room? Viewing room, personal screening room, whatever, is just off the trophy room. There, you can show friends how you managed to get those two wheels off in the dirt at Laguna which is why you are now living on the East Coast, or perhaps, show how you passed Sir Stirling Moss with 450 cubes at your disposal down the straight at the Bahamas. Wonderful opportunities to tie in the displays in the living room and trophies in the, well, trophy room.

It's a big place and we have only opened a few doors. To contact the realtor, email Linda Molvar at To see much more of the mansion go to

Given the right opportunity, we would gladly provide an entire package for the prospective buyer. Classic cars could be provided by RM Auctions, vintage racing prints by Vintage MotorPhotos, and tools by Griot’s Garage (oops, they are not advertising with us yet!).

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