Chicago-area architect named Lou Natenshon caused one of the more picturesque traffic jams when 52 of the world’s rarest cars descended on his hometown of Highland Park, Illinois for the Auto Historica: The Automobile as Art car show July 17th.
Scattered tastefully about the lawn of the village’s Historical Society were Aston Martins, early-model Porsche Speedsters, a 1925 Bentley, pre-war Vauxhall, Mercedes models, and other rare European autos that rolled off British, German, and French assembly lines as early as 1913.
But when asked what set this show apart from the rest, the event's organizers and exhibitors were surprisingly inclined to talk as much about Natenshon as about the cars on display.
“Lou is really the heart of Auto Historica 2012,’ said Linda Marshall, program and development director for the Highland Park Historical Society who has worked with Natenshon on the annual car show since 2009.
Nathenshon’s interest in vintage cars dates back to his teenage years, when he bought a Jaguar XK120 for $300, restored it, and was forever hooked.
Years later he joined a car club with fellow antique car enthusiasts, including auto historian Fred Egloff. Together they decided to create an invitation-only car show.
"Standards for selection were always high and reserved for the unusual," said Pat Morris, a retired Cook County judge and an early member of the car club who now sits on the selection committee.
Among the carson display were a cream-colored Lancia (one of the winners of the Elkhart Lake show and chosen by Road and Track magazine’s Peter Egan as the car he wants to drive home).
Spectators also enjoyed seeing a 1927 Mercedes Benz S, designed by Dr. Ferdinand Porsche before he formed the Porsche Engineering Company and once raced by Rudolf Caracciola and Hans Stuck Sr. The car also served as inspiration to famed designer Brook Stevens, whose Excalibur was an homage to the ‘27 Benz.
In addition to Natenshon's own red 1961 Devin SS Special, another landmark of auto design, a pale green Maserati Ghibli, designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, lay nearby.
Another standout was the Aston Martin DB2 which once caught the eye of author Ian Fleming who made sure the character of James Bond drove an Aston Martin.
By day's end, Bill Siegfriedt, a mechanical engineer who has chaired the auto show at the Elkhart Lake Vintage Weekend for the past ten years and also judges cars at Churchill Downs concluded:
"It's Lou's taste in cars that makes this show special. It's a taste that is well refined but it’s very eclectic. He loves cars in grand style, he likes cars that are rare, he likes cars that are weird; he goes and personally assembles these shows with the help of me and a few others and he ropes in the exhibitors, all of whom are thrilled to be included.”