From the beginning of December through the end of April, I spend quite a lot of time thinking up serious journalism-related reasons why I need to abandon Vermont, head to Florida and claim a portion of the trip as “business-related” on my taxes.
This year I came up with the perfect excuse: A quick visit to The Revs Institute for Automotive Research in Naples.
I’d heard a lot about The Revs from friends and read about it in Hemmings contributor Michael Milne’s book, Roadster Guide to America’s Classic Car Museums & Attractions, but I’d never had a chance to check out this storied collection of classics, exotics and historic race cars.
Memorabilia on display in the La Maxima Competencia mini exhibit.
I was especially interested in the Institutes’ mini exhibit La Maxima Competencia, devoted to Mexico’s Carrera Panamericana, which opened in December and runs through April 30. Back in 2004, a few friends and I attempted to tackle the modern Carrera Panamericana armed with a couple of crappy old vehicles, very little money and the dangerously blissful naivete of youth. The experience was completely chewing-on-the-carpet nuts and, as anyone who’s ever competed in the Carrera will attest, it left us a lot poorer, a lot exhausted but mostly babbling semi-coherently about the thrill of driving an old car flat out on public highways in Mexico. (Last summer I published a semi-coherent account of our Carrera adventure, which is available on Amazon, but I’d advise you to skip reading it, save your money and just go run the race yourself.)
The Carrera Panamericana exhibit at The Revs was snuggled in a small corner on the second floor and consisted of just two cars. But if you were going to pick two (and one of them couldn’t be a Mercedes 300 SL), these would be excellent choices: the 1953 Porsche 550 coupe that’s part of the museum’s collection and the 1954 Lincoln Capri that won its class in ’54. (The big Lincoln is on loan from the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada.)
1953 Porsche 550 coupe prototype.
The mid-engine 550 prototype was Porsche’s first purpose-built race car — not a modified production automobile. The car at the Revs, which is part of the Collier Collection, finished second in class at Le Mans in 1953 (behind the other 550 prototype in the race) then raced at La Carrera in ’53, where it suffered a DNF. From there, it more or less went missing until it was rediscovered in the 1990s in Guadalajara, Mexico, disguised under a different body as well as lacking its original drivetrain. Miles Collier acquired the car and performed an epic restoration, returning the Porsche to better-than-original condition.
The Lincoln, discussed by Kurt at length here, is the only one of the Carrera Panamericana-flattening Capris known to exist. It was one of 13 entered in ’54 and one of the seven factory cars beefed up for competition by Bill Stroppe and Clay Smith.
In addition to the 550 and the Lincoln, The Revs’ display included original video footage from the race, Carrera-themed memorabilia including programs, vintage magazine covers, photos, some original race gear and more.
The exhibit is very small, but will whet your appetite for the more than 100 vehicles from the Collier Collection on display throughout the rest of the facility — including most of those that Kurt covered here back in 2014.
I planned to spend an hour or so visiting, but wound up wandering around, mouth agape, for about three hours, and then, unfortunately, it was closing time. I’d love to go back — perhaps when I start thinking about leaving Vermont again this time next year — but I’ll book my visit for much earlier in the day.
The exterior of The Revs Institute.
The Revs Institute is not open to walk-ins; you must schedule a visit online at RevsInstitute.org or by calling 239-687-REVS (7387). Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and it’s located in a nondescript building at 2500 South Horseshoe Drive in East Naples. General admission is $17 or $20 for the guided tour.
The Revs Institute is well worth searching out (especially from the snowbelt). Most of the cars are truly legendary — of the type you’ll never see close up anywhere else, unless of course you’re lucky enough to have been to Goodwood where many of these cars have appeared. Moreover, the exhibits are beautiful yet strikingly simple and the docents are friendly, knowledgeable and welcoming.