Blackhawk Museum — some of the world’s most collectable cars under one roof.

1935 Duesenberg SJ Convertible-Coupe. 1 of 3 with coachwork by Walker Le Grande. 1992 Pebble Beach winner_____________________________

This is car porn, fifty of the most alluring vintage, classic and antique cars on display at the Blackhawk Museum in Danville California, buffed to perfection, competing like “ladies of the night” for our attention.

 

1937 Cord 812 Supercharged Phaeton. 1 of 6 total. with a trunk-mounted spare tire.___________________________________________________

1930 Packard Model 745 Deluxe Eight, 5 Passenger, convertible Sedan, with headlamps “reminiscent of a pin-up girl’s entry into a swisuiter competition! ___________________________________________________

They come in all shapes and sizes, slender sleek, and supersized.  The Blackhawk Automotive Museum in Danville houses these one-of-a-kind, priceless, collectible masterpieces. They are sensual, all curves and rounded edges, glitzy, groomed, and glorious. Seductive, sultry, and striking, with headlamps reminiscent of a pin-up girl’s entry into a swimsuit competition!

1947 Delahaye 135 MS Pigoni Falaschi Narval Cabriolet._____________________

One example on display that checks all the boxes, is this 1947 Delahaye 135 MS Pigoni Falaschi Cabriolet, with its distinctive “nose” and flamboyant, curvaceous body.  The word “Narval” refers to a whale and the car has been likened to a whale swimming through the water. To quote: “the flowing lines create a feeling of speed and elegance.”

It is a streamlined hulk of a machine and was selected to be shown at the 1945 Salon l’Autoobilr de Paris. In its heyday, this one was owned by legendary singer-songwriter Charles Trenet, who famously composed and sang the song”La Mer.” He was an extremely elegant man, who could well afford this elegant car. Only seven of these models were made, and it is one of the most outstanding post-war automobiles and is presently on display in the museum.

THE SHOWROOM.

The Automotive Museum showroom gleams like a polished diamond, its facets reflecting in the mirrored walls, and shiny polished surfaces of the cars. It is well organized in different classes, or chronologically, each car with a  placard displaying its provenance. This will show the year the car was made, how many cars were produced of that design, its racing credentials, who built the car, if the interior was custom designed by a famous coachbuilder, if it was ever owned by a celebrity or a president, and if it was a limited edition. These are some of the factors that will play into defining the value of each automobile.

1935 Hispano-Suiza K6 Sedanca de Ville.

Reading a provenance may not be the most exciting reading material until you have read some of these descriptions. They read like a who’s who of the times, naming Presidents, titans of industry, millionaires, and celebrities who could afford to have someone custom build the car of their dreams.

1933 Packard 1004 Super Eight, 7 Passenger seat sedan. ——————————

Altogether thee are about ninety cars warehoused in the building, with 45 – 50 on display at one time, and they are shown on a rotating basis. Some of the cars are owned by the Museum and the rest are privately owned and warehoused there by their owners.

1940 Cadillac, Series 75 Town Car, 1 of 53 produced, featuring coachwork by Fleetwood. ________________________________________________

CLASSIC, VINTAGE,  and  ANTIQUE CARS.

The collection houses Classic, Vintage, and Antique Cars, although the distinction is not exact,  and not everyone agrees on the classifications. Usually, the classic car moniker applies to vehicles 20 years and older,  Antique cars are 45 years and older, and vintage cars are built between 1919 and 1930. This collection embraces all of the above.

THE BLACKHAWK  MUSEUM.

Designed by architect Doug Dahlin, the  Museum is a modern, granite-clad architectural masterpiece in Blackhawk Plaza, Danville, a prosperous town in the Tri-Valley, that is 35 miles east of downtown San Francisco. This is a shopping center that includes shops, restaurants, a theatre,  professional suites, a Montessori school, and the Museum Building at its pinnacle.

                                 

The Plaza is designed with a number of levels creatively landscaped using a variety of plants and shrubs, separated by cascading waterfalls and ducks swimming languidly in the ponds.  Reaching the upper levels, there are replicas of an elephant and zebra, that are reflective of the smaller galleries within the Museum building.

THE FIVE MUSEUMS.

There are a total of five museums s inside. The  Automotive Museum is by far the most significant, and this leads to four other galleries: The Spirit of the Old West, Into China, Art of Africa, and World of Nature.

THE COST.

The building cost $10 million dollars,  and the collection was valued at $100 M in 1988 when it opened. Since then, the value of these collectible, one-of-a-kind automobiles has increased exponentially, making the collection far more valuable, not to mention the increased value of the Museum real estate.

1946 Delahaye Type 133 Cabriolet, 4-speed manual transmission. ——————-

BETTER THAN CRYPTO!

If one can afford to invest in these collectibles, they are now one of the most lucrative commodities with prices that have escalated into the stratosphere in a few short years. With the proliferation of millionaires since the dot com era, there is no shortage of buyers from all corners of the globe. Most of these sales are online and by invitation only, and when the auction begins, it takes only a couple of minutes for one of these collectible cars to sell for several million dollars or Euros.

Duesenberg Model J, Convertible Coupe, 3-speed manual transmission. “Twi Lite” Headlamps, “Pilot Ray” Driving Lights, “Scripted” Sidelamps.______________

THE PARTNERSHIP.

The museum was founded by a partnership that began in 1982, between the benefactor, the late Ken Behring, and Don Williams, a high-end, international car auctioneer, both car collectors, and car aficionados.

FRED BEHRING

Fred Behring grew up a poor kid, the son of a mill worker from Monroe, Wisconsin, who displayed a strong work ethic from the day he started working at 8 years old. Beginning with a paper route, then graduating to mowing lawns, caddying, and working as a gofer in a cheese factory. When he got to University, he completed one semester and left to go and work.

He was 17 when he began selling automobiles saving money until he could afford to buy his own company. At 24 he opened a Lincoln-Mercury dealership and at 29 he sold the dealership to buy land in Florida

Behring remembered that growing up in Wisconsin, a car was the most important possession in a person’s life — that could represent his success or wealth, He himself chose his cars as a symbol of his wealth. Prior to opening the museum,  he owned two Ferrari Testarosssas (one converted to a cabriolet at a cost of $40,000,) a 1973 Daytona Spyder,  a 1964 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud 111 convertible, two Cadillacs a Clenet neoclassic limited edition from the Santa Barbara Clenet coachworks, and a couple of golf carts!

In the 1980s, before beginning the Blackhawk Museum, Fred Behring had a net worth of  $600 million and in 1985 his personal income was $30 Million dollars after taxes, a chunk of change, even in the early 1980s

His two passions were automobiles and soccer and with enough funds. he was able to indulge in both. In the same year as the museum opened, he partnered with Ken Hoffman, to buy the  Seattle Seahawks, a football team based in Seattle.

1935 Duesenberg SJ convertible coupe, coachwork by Walker LaGrande, 1992 Pebble Beach 1st Class Winner. ________________________________

Behring favored European car brands, voluptuous, spirited models like Delahayes, Buccatis and Ferraris, Rolls Royces, and Mercedes that vie for one’s attention. Heavy in chrome embellishments and brightly colored with super luxurious interiors, they were individually custom designed by famous coachbuilders. He loved historic cars with an interesting provenance, either the history of their coachbuilder, their racing history, or the history of who had owned them. Fred Behring loved to look at these cars and remember who had driven in them,  such as the Dusenberg that was used by Clark Gable and Carol Lombard.

Fred Behring did not have a crystal ball to predict the future price of these cars, but, he was well aware of their value and rarity and knew their price would continue to escalate.

He had seen a number of valuable automobile collections sold off after their owners passed away and wanted to make sure this would not happen to his collection of cars, which he equated with a collection of fine paintings.

To secure its longevity, Fred Behring turned his museum into an educational institute by saving all the information relating to each car’s provenance.

It was his wish that the Collection would be preserved and exhibited for “public enjoyment and educational enrichment”.  As someone with little education, he was passionate about education and to this end, he created the Behring Global Educational Institue which at that time was composed of a museum building,  an automotive reference library, and an adjoining study center. and these were subsequently donated to the UC Berkely University in California.

PHILANTHROPY – one million wheelchairs…..

Although there are many chapters to Fred Behring’s life, his defining chapter is his philanthropy which outshines every other achievement,

Twenty years before his death, Fred Behring became a noted philanthropist. His Foundation donated one million wheelchairs to people living in sixty-five countries, an act that generated headlines all over the world, applauding his generosity. Although he passed away in 2019, his Foundation continues to donate wheelchairs around the world. These donations have changed countless lives, people who were immobilized due to their condition suddenly find they can move around again.

In addition, he was responsible for making possible the digging of clean water wells in Africa, organizing cataract surgeries in Third World countries, and starting several natural history museums all over the world among other achievements.

Following  Behring’s death at the age of 91 in 2019, the running of the Behring Global Educational Fund was left to two of his sons who carry on his philanthropy.

1930 Duesenberg SJ Rollston Convertible Victoria, once owned by noted bandleader Paul Whiteman, known for his arrangement of “Rhapsody in Blue.”–________________________________________________________

Don Williams.

In 1966 Don Williams began in the classic car business in Los Angeles. He had a love and affinity for these old cars and a passion to find out everything he could about them – and his thirst for knowledge has continued to make him a world-class authority. Over the years he has sold more classic cars than anyone else and was the first person to sell a car for more than one million dollars: a 1931 Figoni-bodied Duesenberg.

Don Williams and Ken Behring met in 1981 when Behring approached Don to find some prized period cars for a collection he was building. Behring was looking for cars for a proposed Automotive Museum and his first purchase towards this was a 1937 Cord convertible bought at a Phoenix auction. It was here that he met Don Williams,  an auction executive and a leading classic car authority with global contacts in the “car world”. Recognizing Don Willimas’s expertise, talent, and connections,  he knew he had met the authority who could build this car collection, and he hired him away to join him.

They partnered and decided to work together to acquire more automobiles for the proposed Automotive Museum, a partnership that worked extremely well, and endured until Ken Behring passed away at the age of 91 in 2019.

Together, they amassed a unique collection of collectible driving machines,  before opening the Blackhawk Automotive Museum for showcasing the collection in 1988.

Intending to move to Phoenix, to set up his own car business Williams instead moved to California to work on the nascent Blackhawk Collection and by 1988 there were sufficient cars to open the Blackhawk Museum. At the same time, he continued to be involved in Classic Car auctions and exhibitions all over the world.

Today Don Williams is the most sought-after expert and advisor in the collectible car market, a world authority specializing in the acquisition and sale of one-of-a-kind classic automobiles, and sports and racing cars. “Don Williams has redefined the classic automotive market for private collectors, museums, and investors worldwide”.

THE BLACKHAWK CAR DEALERSHIP.

The Blackhawk Collection is actually a car dealership of the highest order, led by Don Williams. It is the leading car brokerage in the world, whether it is buying and selling entire collections, or building collections. The Blackhawk Collection has bought and sold well over one billion dollars in car sales over the years.

Don Willimas is also responsible for developing the international market in these rare cars, by holding auctions and exhibitors in  Asia and Europe.

He is involved in many charities and supports concourse events across the country and across the world

MY VISIT.

I visited the Blackhawk Museum on a beautiful summer’s day. Parking the car, I walked up terraces separated by pools, cascading waterfalls, and vegetation differentiating the levels. Swans and ducks were swimming nonchalantly in the ponds.  As I neared the entrance to the museum I saw statues of an elephant, giraffe, and tigers. The Blackhawk Musem is one section of a five-part museum, that forms a whole and the animal statues were representative of these other museums.

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3 Ferraris and a Lamborghini, that belong to one owner……____________

Paying a very reasonable $10.00 entrance fee,  as I  entered the showroom, I passed a row of three Ferraris and one Lamborghini, all belonging to one owner, who keeps them here, taking them out on occasions for a spin.

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1929 Pierce-Arrow Model 133  Club Sedan, 3-speed manual transmission.———————————–

Restored gas pump next to a 1935 Hispano-Suiza K6 Sedanca DeVille. Open top driver’s seat and enclosed compartments for passengers. Fold away third-row seating.__________________________________________

VINTAGE GAS PUMPS.

A recent acquisition of the Museum is a collection of old gas pumps and they have been dotted around – a reminder of an age when gas was more realistically priced!

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1949 Cadillac 62 Coupe De Ville.

1955 De Soto Fireflite, convertible.———————

1963 Ford Thunderbird Sports Roadster.————–____________________________________________________

There is no particular order to how the cars are displayed, sometimes it is chronologically and other times it could be the brand or the celebrity value. The only fast and hard rule is that no two identically colored cars are placed together to allow each one to shine on its own.

1930 Packard Model 745 Deluxe Eight, 5 Passenger, convertible sedan._______________________________________

CONCLUSION.

The Blackhawk Museum is a treasure trove of information related to the development of the automobile industry that played out against the history of the world, taking us from the first gas-activated Mercedes Benz in 1886 through generations of carmakers and coachbuilders, prizes won for racing and automobiles that were made exclusively for celebrities or Presidents.

1950 Monarch Woody Station Wagon.
_______________________________________________________

WISHES CAN COME TRUE………

It was Frank Behring’s wish that his collection would be preserved and exhibited for “public enjoyment and educational enrichment.”  The Blackhawk Museum, with its never-ending stream of visitors, of all ages, confirms that his wishes came true. This is a unique Museum, housing one of the finest collections of priceless, collectible automobiles in the world.

 

Sidebar…………….(sorry your invitation was lost in the mail!)

THE WORLD’S MOST EXPENSIVE CAR – $143 Million.

On May 5th, 2022, under the strictest security and in secret, a handful of automobile collectors were invited by RM Sotheby’s to participate in the sale of a 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe, recognized by its gull wings. Held at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart it became the most expensive car to sell at auction and exceeded the previous world record price by $95 million dollars, selling in minutes for $143 Million Dollars. This set a new benchmark for collectible cars.

 

Blackhawk Museum.

Blackhawk Plaza

3700 Blackhawk Plaza Circle,

Danville, Ca 94506.

Tel. 925/736-2277

Tuesday – Sunday 10.00 a.m. — 5.00 p.m.

website. blackhawkmuseum.org.

Visit Tri-Valley

Robin Fahr, Vice President of Marketing.

robin@visittrivalley.com

visittrivalley.com

Tel. 925/215-4711.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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