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Yale 62

Adventures with Cars

1989 Jaguar, from my current collection

By Bill Weber

Back in high school I became fascinated with cars, and my first one, I recall, was a 1949 Packard that eventually ended up with me in New Haven during my Sophomore or Junior year; I sold it to Orin Towner, a fifth-year engineering/Navy fellow who roomed with Giamei, Post and me. Sometime before that, in my high school years, I bought a 1948 Lincoln V-12 Zephyr, which I was unable get running well. I eventually gave up on it.

But even before that, my father was the first person in Corning to get a VW Beetle, followed by three notable cars that I encouraged him to get. The first was a 1926 Rolls Royce Phantom I dual cowl phaeton, with a body by Windover.  Second was a 1933 Rolls Royce Phantom II continental tourer by AJ Mulliner. And the third was a 1939 Bugatti T-57 crop head coupe by Gangloff. The 1926 one is still in the family, with my brother in the Chicago area, and has not been used since he drove it there in 1973. My other brother took the Bugatti to New Hampshire and later sold it to Tom Barrett of Scottsville, AZ fame. I sold the 1933 in the mid ’70s and last I knew, it had been abandoned somewhere in southern California!

1996 Jaguar, from my current collection

While still in college, I acquired a 1931 Cadillac 7 pass sedan with the V-12 engine (my second V-12 car), which I took to Yale with me, driving it part of the year in New Haven. Next was the 1938 Packard Limo V12 (my third V-12 car) which I bought from Nelke Motors on Whalley Ave.; I drove it to and from New Haven for that year in college. I later had it restored and sold it in 1983.

Then on June 12, 1962, the day after graduation, I married Bonnie Mayhood in the Branford chappel. B. Davie Napier was the marrying pastor. Immediately thereafter, we drove to California in my 1953 Cadillac that I had acquired along the way.

One auto event I’d like to forget was the time Giamei and I went to NYC to some sort of musical event where I consumed too much Rhinegold beer, fell asleep driving on the way back and ran along some guard rails on the Connecticut Pike. The next day I was trying to fix up some of the damage with the car parked outside of Woodbridge Hall and President Griswold came along to inquire what I was doing. I do not recall my answer!

In California, for the summer I bought a 1956 Jaguar XK-140, which was my first venture into the Jaguar world. When I returned to New Haven for my year as a graduate student in mechanical engineering, there were no particular car adventures, but after that, Bonnie and I returned to California, where I worked for United Aircraft and attended Stanford part-time as a student in Aeronautics. Driving there in a 1957 Cadillac 60 Special Fleetwood my father had given me was not special except that, in returning from England (the next story) I used the car until the early ’80s when I sold it as part of my car business (which is another story!).

Having left Stanford and California in 1965 I went to Oxford as a D.Phil. student in Engineering at St. Catherine’s College. The car adventures there while studying involved a series of Ford Poplars (sort of like the US Model A), a BMC Austin Mini, two Jaguars, one of which I brought back to the US upon finishing at Oxford in 1969, and a 1952 Bentley Mark VI, which I sent home for my father to use.

In 1968, my parents were killed in a car crash, I finished at Oxford the next year and came home to Corning where I worked for Corning, Inc. until 1975. The car collection at that time consisted of the two Rollses, the Bugatti, the 1931 Cadillac and the Packard, the dispositions of which I have described earlier.

I, 1976 I bought a Volvo, Jaguar, MG, Triumph dealership, which evolved into a used car operation that continued in various forms until 2021. During those times, in virtually full-time automobile dealings, I acquired many interesting cars, mostly Jaguars, some of which I will describe with pictures later. One notable car transaction was with former US ambassador Amory Houghton when he traded his Bentley with me for a new 1976 Jaguar XJ-12, which I later acquired from his estate and resold.

Being in the business as long as I was, I came across many interesting cars and eventually focused on my V-12 engine-powered specialities, which are currently a 1989 Jaguar XJ-S, a 1996 Jaguar XJ-12 and a 1999 BMW 750il (also a V-12!).

There you have it, a wandering minstrel with an incurable bug for automobiles!

1999 BMW, from my current collection

 
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