Earlier today, I ended my story on the move of Dragone Classic Motorcars from Post Road West to Orange by suggesting the 11,000-square foot property might be the site of a medical marijuana dispensary.
Some readers took me seriously.
I was kidding! It’s directly opposite Kings Highway Elementary School. You’d have to be smoking some heavy stuff to believe that would fly in this town.
But here’s something to consider.
Word around town — from reliable sources — is that a developer has closed on the former classic car showroom. He’s got his eye on the property next door too — where Villa del Sol planned to move.
Why? He wants to build 8-30(g) affordable housing there.
As in, 150 or more 2-bedroom apartments.
The former Dragone property and its neighbor, on Post Road West.
There’s already a plan in the works for the other side of Post Road West — the former “blighted homes” site on the crest of the hill heading downtown. That’s on the Planning and Zoning Commission agenda, for 81 8-30(g) units.
For a while, most Westport zoning battles have been waged on the other side of the river.
It’s not rent. It’s not lack of interest. The popular vintage auto dealer just needed more space.
A lot more space.
There was 11,000 square feet in the Westport showroom, and another 10,000 square feet in a Bridgeport restoration facility. Vice president George Dragone hauled himself — and Packards, DeSotos, Bugattis, T-Birds and more — back and forth, several times a day.
The Dragone showroom in Westport.
They’re consolidating everything in a 66,000-square foot building in Orange. That’s great news for them.
But not so great for their many loyal Westport customers.
“I hope they’ll continue coming to Orange,” Dragone says. “I still have a lot of connections to Westport. I was just at the Historical Society, in fact.
“But we needed a larger facility. We couldn’t show off our cars the way we wanted to.”
The site on Post Road West, across from Kings Highway Elementary School, has a storied automotive history. The Small Car Company — a Volkswagen dealer — moved in around 1959. Dragone took over from its successor, Saab of Westport.
There’s no word yet on who will move in there. Maybe a medical marijuana dispensary?
Tomorrow (Saturday, June 4) is Sunrise Rotary’s Great Duck Race (1-4 p.m., Parker Harding Plaza). There’s $10,000 in prizes (tickets are $20 each, available at the race). Plus plenty of free fun.
Tomorrow is also Shred Day (bring up to 8 paper bags or 3 boxes of bills, tax returns, medical records, etc. to the Westport-Weston Health District, 180 Bayberry Lane, 9 a.m.-noon).
On Sunday (June 5, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Winslow Park), the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce celebrates our 1st annual Dog Festival ($10 per person, $25 per family; dogs go free!). UPDATE: The Dog Festival has been postponed to next Sunday, June 12.
Flying a bit below that radar are 2 very intriguing events. Dragone is sponsoring a spectacular classic automobile auction tomorrow (Saturday, June 4, 6:30 p.m., 176 Post Road West).
Dragone and Cedar Point are cross-promoting each other. (Folks who can afford classic cars tend to also enjoy things like sailboat racing.)
Dragone director of marketing Alex Dragone stands next to a one-of-a-kind 1939 Alfa Romeo — perhaps the most expensive automobile in the auction.
Both are driven by young people. The auction’s mastermind is 26-year-old Alex Dragone, the next generation of the famed family. Race director Samantha Parisi doubles as Staples High School’s varsity sailing coach. She brings youth and excitement to those 2 jobs.
And both events draw hundreds of people from around the world to Westport. 500 car collectors are expected to bid on 62 cars tomorrow night. Alfa Romeos, Bugattis, Corvettes, Rolls Royces and more — one dating back to 1904 — will attract bids as low as $20,000, and as high as $3 million.
Cedar Point, meanwhile, hosts more than 80 boats and 500 sailors. The schedule includes one national championship, and a Long Island Sound championship too.
“06880” will provide race photos after the final series. Meanwhile, here are a few shots from today’s sneak preview at Dragone.
A 1965 Maserati Sebring Series 2. Behind it: a 1979 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow.
New York Times automobile writer — and 1970 Staples High School graduate — Jim Motavalli, with a 1965 Sunbeam Tiger.
An Allard J2R Sphinx race car. It belonged to the Sopwith family (of Camel fame). The Sopwiths were also yachtsmen.
It was called the Small Car Company. But for several years in the late 1960s, the Westport dealership sold more Volkswagens than any other in the US.
The Small Car Company was a Post Road West landmark from the ’60s through the early ’80s. We know it today as Dragone Classic Motorcars.
Dragone — kitty-corner from Kings Highway Elementary School — sells antiques like a 1924 Marmon, 1941 Graham and 1970 Mercedes.
But this Saturday (September 19, 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.), it will be site of an informal, non-judged car show featuring classic Volkswagens, Porsches, Dune Buggies and other air-cooled vehicles. The free show is open to all car owners and air-cooled fans. If you’ve got memorabilia, bring it along.
The Small Car Company lives on — and not just this one Saturday. The show is sponsored by SmallCarCompany.org. For several years, this informal group of vintage VW and Porsche owners has gotten together to share their passion, trade information, and host driving rallies.
SmallCarCompany.org is the brainchild of Westporters Dave Abelow and Tom Truitt. They thank George and Manny Dragone for supporting the upcoming event — and honoring the dealership that, in its own way, once sold “classic” cars too.
(For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org)
Comments Off on Small Car Company Leaves Big Legacy
If you were like most of Westport yesterday — out of town, on spring break — you missed two things:
The 7th straight day of fantastic, June-like weather, and
I’m not sure whether Batman or Robin was behind the wheel, but somehow it landed at Dragone Classic Motorcars. The showrooom is located in the old Saab dealership on Post Road West. You can find it by GPS, though the Batmobile is way more high-tech than that.
Jim Motavalli — the Staples grad who writes about cars for the New York Times — blogged about the vehicle:
(The) driver’s seat is cozy, with everything from the missile launchers to the Detect-o-Scope within easy reach. Everything has a little red sign, including the squarish “Bat Moniter.” Yes, it’s spelled that way. The Batmobile introduced some technology that actually happened eventually, including a FAX-like machine that could transmit photos.
Among other features: a Bat Turbine Switch (the car was supposedly turbine powered, explaining that macho flaming exhaust), the push-button Bat Phone (30 years before cars actually had phones), the Bat Compass, and bat insignias everywhere—on the wheels, the floor mats, the doors, even the seat belts.
The “Emergency Bat Turn Lever” was for turning the car around in emergencies; it deployed the parachutes, which this car indeed has. Completing the period look is a non-working Pioneer eight-track player.
The Batmobile -- rear view. (Photos/Roger Wolfe)
Gotham City being Hollywood, this Batmobile was actually a stunt double. According to Jim, the Dragone car — with a General Motors chassis and a 327 V-8 — is “said to be Batmobile #5, used for stunt driving and chase scenes.” A 1966 letter that comes with the car said it is serial number #00005, and was “the main stunt car for the Batman TV show.”
Jim said that owner George Dragone estimates the Batmobile will sell for between $500,000 and $750,000.
Holy 1 percent, Batman!
(Bonus “Batman” fun fact: Frank Gorshin — the Riddler on the TV show — lived in Westport for many years. In fact, his house was just few hundred yards from Dragone, where the Batmobile landed today.)
(The Dragone collectibles auction is set for Saturday, May 19, 10 a.m. If the Batmobile is not your style, check out the Duesenberg Model J — it could sell for up to $2 million.Among the more than 50 other vehicles: a Ferrari 250 GT Lusso, and a 1911 Stanley Steamer. Click here for details.)
Click below for Jim Motavalli’s YouTube video of the Batmobile:
Click here to help support “06880” via credit card or PayPal. Any amount is welcome — and appreciated! Reader contributions keep this blog going. (Alternate methods: Please send a check to: Dan Woog, 301 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880. Or use Venmo: @DanWoog06880. Thanks!)