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August 3rd 2005

The Man Behind Automobilia Monterey

By Michael T. Lynch

Since the mid-1980s, when Steve Earle established the "Pre-Historics" Ė a race meeting the week before the Monterey Historics/Pebble Beach weekend Ė entrepreneurs have viewed the time between as a canvas to be filled with even more events. One of the most successful recent additions has been Automobilia Monterey, an exposition of vintage posters, photographs, rally plates, badges & pins, mascots & hood ornaments, signs, original art, desk & display pieces, scale models, literature, books, signed items, advertising items, postcards mosaics, fine art, unique scarves/ties/shirts, and much more.

A poster montage from Singer's website. You'll find many to choose from at Automobilia Monterey.

Now in itís third year, Automobilia will be held in the ballroom of the Embassy Suites, just off Highway One in Seaside. The expo will be open to the public on Tuesday, August 16th from noon to 6 PM and on Wednesday, August 17th from 10 AM to 7 PM. The Embassy Suites is also where competitors, officials, press and hangers-on pick up their credentials, so if you are part of that esteemed group, make sure you stop in.

Tony Singer at rest.

Enter Tony Singer

Tony Singer is the man behind Automobilia, and how he came to create the expo is a fascinating story. Unlike many of us, Singer was not a gearhead in his pre-teen years, while growing up in Roslyn, Long Island. The first car to really turn his head was a coral colored, 1957 Thunderbird that his father had in his garage while it waited to be part of a town raffle. In high school the bug began to bite when an art teacher drove up in a Porsche 356C Cabriolet. In college, he began hanging around the local Porsche dealership, and saving whatever literature he could cadge from salesmen.

Singer tried to convince his parents to get him a Porsche as a college graduation present, but ended up with an Oldsmobile Cutlas Supreme. Porsche ownership finally became a reality when Singer was working in Denver and bought a red Super 90 Coupe that he owned for almost thirty years. Soon, having returned to Long Island, he was immersed in finding and trading cars including a Carrera GT coupe. Leveraging off a Porsche 904 basket case, Singer acquired a Porsche 550 in boxes. Working with John Howe, who was part mechanic and part spiritual advisor, Singer meticulously researched the 550, restored it and presented it at the Porsche Parade. Judges and spectators alike agreed that the car was prepared to a standard unknown at the time. It was awarded the Judgesí Choice and followed that up with a Best of Show at the 1979 New York Auto Expo.

Singer at speed in his 250GT California. Photo courtesy of Allen Rosenberg.

The Singer Ferraris

Singer also began dabbling in Ferraris including a 246 GTS, 330 GTS and a 275 Alloy GTB 6C, which he owned for fourteen years. He finally got a California Spyder in a trade for the 275, a 166 V-6 Formula II car and a Porsche. He used the California on several tours including the Colorado Grand and showed it at Amelia Island and the Cavallino Classic.

In the meantime, he had sold his 550 to Ralph Lauren with whom he stayed in touch. After visiting the Ferrari International Concours at Monterey in 1984, Singer showed Lauren some photographs he had taken at the event. They mostly concentrated on the details of the great Ferrari designs. The upshot was a book, Ferrari, Beauty and Detail, published in 1985, which raised the standard, not just for the emerging concept of car as art, but also won six awards related to printing and photography. A completely new printing process was developed to make sure the various reds of the Ferraris in the book were properly reproduced.

While collecting cars, Singer was concurrently collecting art and literature, especially that pertaining to his favorite marques, Ferrari and Porsche. He was especially interested in posters and still is amazed at how much material a small company like Porsche produced in its early days. This developed into more than a hobby and Tony sometimes took a booth at the great automotive events to dispose of items extraneous to his collection.

After coming to the Monterey automotive festival for many years, Singer fell in love with the area. Finally tiring of the cold and snowy winters on Long Island, he moved to Monterey in 2002.

The Need Arises

Having been an exhibitor at events during Monterey week, he saw the need for an exposition solely devoted to memorabilia. The existing venues with their races, car displays, other vendors and food booths were too distracting for customers to concentrate on vendorsí merchandise. In 2003, Automobilia Monterey was born. A stroll down the aisles is a real eye-opener. Lawrence Edser specializes in pins and badges.

A composite photo of items from Automobilia Monterey.

Chris Bertschi comes all the way from Argentina to sell pictures from the Vicente Alvarez Collection. Alvarez was an Argentine physician who created a fabulous archive of South American racing as well as coming to America each year from the 1940s to the 1970s to shoot at the Indianapolis 500 and the Pikes Peak Hillclimb. Didier Derauw is a generalist from France who has everything from vintage pedal cars to a collection of St. Christopher medals that wowed this observer. More photographs are presented by Ted Walker whose Ferrett Photography collection contains over six million images. If you like models, Marshall Buck has assembled the best.

Automobilia Monterey has become a must-see during the crowded Monterey week. Itís a relaxing stroll through the minutia of automotive history, at a time of the week when there a few other demands on enthusiasts. And it all came about because one of Tony Singerís European sources asked a simple question, "When are you going to put on a show in America?"

Further information:

Past Issues


Graham Gauld

Otto Linton

Giulio Ramponi Part 2

Giulio Ramponi Part 1

Curtis LeMay

Graham Robson Tells All

Jason Castriota, Pininfarina

Tom Tjaarda

Bob and Dennis Show

Ed Hugus, Obit

Joe Nastasi, Part II

Joe Nastasi, Part I

Tony Adriaensens

Otis Chandler Obit


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