Peter Brock on comprehending the aesthetic value of race cars

Photograph Courtesy Alfa Romeo

Over several decades, I’ve been fortunate enough to travel much of the world because of my involvement in motorsports. Fast, beautiful automobiles have always seemed to attract a unique and select group of individuals, so I’ve had the rare opportunity to meet a few. 

Intimately involved in the competition of the moment–be it a race, a concours or even a local gathering of enthusiasts–there have always been those exceptionally sentient beings who seem to appreciate a deeper meaning in the activity and are able comprehend the aesthetic value of the almost incredible objects before them. 

Anyone who has had the opportunity to stand in the presence of a ’30s-era Miller board track racer or Touring-bodied 2.9 Alfa will instantly understand the value of the integral art as well as its historical significance. 

Those with this peculiar sensitivity, whether trackside or even long retired from the active scene, seem able to discern who among them, in any group they might be quietly involved with at the moment, has the same sense of appreciation. 

Most can be quietly approached, even without introduction, to converse on that unique elevated level of understanding without wasting words in the normal pleasantries usually required in polite society. Some, realizing such a rare opportunity to connect, will sometimes even offer to share an object or perhaps an entire seldom-seen collection of treasures simply because of their shared understanding. 

There is, in Central Florida, on a sparsely traveled back-country road, an unassuming home so common in general appearance that one would never glance in passing or suspect its contents. Its owner, now long retired, is one of those intensely passionate beings. Having been involved at the center of motorsports at its highest corporate levels as well as in the depths of some of racing’s most famous garages, he was wise enough to acquire, for almost nothing, some treasures of an era when they were simply considered obsolete tools of the moment. 

In some cases, each was simply granted as a gift in recognition of incalculable hours spent making more horsepower or perhaps creating or refining some critical component that changed the fortunes of all involved. Today, the value of any single item stored within those simple walls exceeds by tenfold the ordinary space that houses the entire set. It’s patently obvious, when trying to absorb all the history within, that it’s never been about the money. 

In the sprawling vastness of Tokyo, there are countless streets and buildings, each with a numbing sameness that obliterates any sense of individuality, so it’s impossible to grasp what might exist within. 

At the quiet invitation of one who is known to have some remarkable examples of automotive art, I arrived at a numberless address and followed him through some twisting alleys and up several tight flights of stairs to reach a small, unmarked door to what could have been the entry to some sort of elevated warehouse. 

Upon entering, there seemed little immediate reason to proceed. Shocked into immobility by an array of some of the most incredibly beautiful, historically important racing cars I’d ever seen, there were no words, only a quiet glance of understanding. Each was a treasure from an era long past, but just as relevant today as any great art on the walls of the Louvre. Because of their incomparable contributions to the history of speed, the quiet realization remained: It’s never about the money.

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