Heroes and Their Cars - Drawn to Speed: The Automotive Art of John Lander (2015)

Drawn to Speed: The Automotive Art of John Lander (2015)


Heroes and Their Cars

These are some of the people and their cars that caught my attention during the early stages of my auto addiction. They included writers, artists, television personalities and race drivers. All of them were talented, highly individualistic men that excelled at whatever they took on.

“Ralph at Zumbach’s”

In the late 1940s, before the car magazines we have today, I would look forward each month to the amusing and informative articles Ralph Stein wrote for Argosy magazine.

Ralph owned several Alfa Romeos and other interesting cars prior to World War II. During the war, he was able to buy the 1934 4.5 liter low chassis Invicta.

In several books that Stein wrote, he refers to Zumbach’s shop in New York. Stein said, “Zumbach’s was more than a mere repair facility, it was a gathering place for those with an interest in unusual high performance automobiles.”

In my illustration, Stein (in top coat) stands outside the shop with the Invicta. Charles Zumbach (in grease-stained shop coat) presides over the machine shop on the second floor, while Jacques Schaerley (in suit and cap) takes care of the car owners in the shop on the first level.

Of all the cars he owned, the Invicta was one of Ralph’s favorites.


Ken Purdy was arguably the finest automotive writer of the mid-20th century. His first book, The Kings of the Road, was published in 1952. This book was, for a lot of us, our first introduction to the world of automobiles. Prior to this book, Ken had written several articles for True magazine, and later became its editor.

Over the years, Ken owned and drove many interesting cars. He was very much into Bugattis and also owned a Morgan three-wheeler and a Frazer Nash. I always associate Ken with his Mercer Raceabout. One of the first articles I read was about his acquiring the Mercer.

Ken wrote an article for True and mentioned how sought after Raceabouts were with collectors. He then received a letter from a Mr. Brown who lived in a small town in Alberta, Canada. Brown owned what was probably the last undiscovered Mercer Raceabout. The car escaped the scrap drive during the war, hidden in an orchard. After months of correspondence, Ken got the car and had it restored.

Tragically, we lost Ken in 1972 when he took his own life.

“Garroway’s Jag”

In the early 1950s, you could usually find Dave Garroway in front of a television camera or at the wheel of his SS-100 Jaguar.

Dave had an innovative television show from Chicago, Garroway at Large, and went on to become the first host of the Today Show.

Dave was an active participant at the early Bridgehampton and Watkins Glen races. He loved the classic lines of his Jag but wanted a little more power for racing.

Garroway tried installing a supercharger on the pushrod six, but had little success. Dave then became the first buyer of a new twin overhead cam XK-120 engine, ready to install. Along with the new engine, Dave added some more special touches. New steel fenders were made to replace the original aluminum ones. Fender parking lights were deleted, and Lucas P-100 headlamps were installed. The seats were re-covered with alligator hide. All in all, it was a unique classic.

Garroway must have had a lot of fun with this car. Over the years, I have driven a couple of standard SS-100s, but I have always wondered what Garroway’s SS-100/120 must have been like.

“Westhampton ’66”

This illustration depicts Charles Addams, the New Yorker cartoonist, with his 1933 Aston Martin Le Mans. The background is Addams’ house in Westhampton. AMD 547 previously belonged to my friend, Charles Turner. In the fall of 1965, Charlie and I towed the ’33 behind an Aston DB MK III to Inskip’s in New York. Charlie traded both cars for a standard DB-4 with a GT engine (twelve-plug head and three Webers). Subsequently, Addams bought the ’33 Le Mans from Inskip’s.

Fast forward to 1980, on the way home from the fall antique auto club meet at Hershey, Pennsylvania. Charlie and I stopped at an Aston club meet in Valley Forge. The meet was at Bobs (his first name was Roberts, so we called him “Bobs” for short) Harrison’s farm. The Harrisons had Charles Addams as a weekend guest. I was thrilled to meet Addams and told him I had all of the books collecting his New Yorker cartoons. We planned that next year, I would bring my books for him to sign. However, the next year my wife, Carole, was in the hospital for cancer surgery and I didn’t make it. Instead, Charlie took boxed-up books for me. Addams graciously did an original drawing in each one. I treasure the books and memories still.

“Miles and Friend”

In the pre-World War II years, naming of cars was a popular tradition, especially in Great Britain. Miles Collier christened his MG Special “Leonidis.” Leonidis began life as one of a three-car team the factory ran at Le Mans in 1935. Later in the year, engine size was increased to 939 cc and the cars took part in British trials. In October the cars were then sold to private owners. Before taking delivery, Miles had the factory install a large Marshall supercharger.

In early 1937, an accident with a New York City cab left the MG with a totaled body. Luckily, John Oliveau of Grumman Aircraft Co. was available to construct new, lightweight bodywork. Leonidis, in this new form, was raced by Collier in the ARAC races of the 1930s. In 1939, Collier took Leonidis back to Le Mans with Leroy Cramer, Jr., as co-driver. They were easily leading their class when a split fuel tank ended the race for them.

Miles raced Leonidis one last time in 1950 at Bridgehampton, N.Y., coming from last on the grid to win. This illustration shows them at the finish.

“Smokey and the Bandito”

Phil Hill went from being an amateur club racer to become the first American to win the world driving championship. Phil started out racing MGs and an XK-120 Jaguar. In 1950, the 2.9 Alfa Romeo, part of Tommy Lee’s stable of cars, became available after Tommy’s death. This car was one of four that the factory built for the 1938 Mille Miglia in Italy. Phil felt that the 13-year-old racer was still competitive and had a successful season with it.

Pebble Beach was the premier race at that time on the West Coast. In 1951, Phil and the Alfa handily won the preliminary Del Monte handicap race. Race fans expected a repeat performance in the main event, the Pebble Beach Cup. The Alfa, however, was beginning to show its age and a thirst for oil. Hill was running in the top three until a late race pit stop for oil and water forced him to settle for fourth place.

One of the new cars Hill had to contend with was the Jim Kimberly’s little Ferrari 166 M Barchetta. This illustration shows the badly smoking Alfa battling the little Italian challenger. “Smokey and the Bandito.”