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For New Jersey car collectors, passion wins at Pebble Beach

Emily and Sam Mann with their 1930 Duesenberg

Emily and Sam Mann with their 1930 Duesenberg Credit: David Fluhrer

For New Jersey car collectors Sam and Emily Mann, the recent Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance – the Super Bowl of classic auto shows – is less about the wealth needed to enter and more about their passion for fine automotive design and the friendships they’ve made with other enthusiasts over the years.


Their breathtaking blue 1930 Duesenberg Model J cabriolet (shown above with the couple), an American car sporting a lean and fluid custom body by Swiss coachbuilder Graber, was among this year’s four finalists at Pebble Beach, winning the Duesenberg class and “Most Elegant Open Car” trophy.  It was edged out for “Best of Show” honors last Sunday by a stunning white 1933 Delage convertible from Kentucky that last sold at auction in 2007 for $3.74 million.  But don’t feel sorry for the Manns, who are well-known on the collector car circuit and say they have “close to 50” vehicles.  They've won four of the top Pebble Beach trophies between 1991 and 2005, a record for individual owners (versus much larger classic auto collections that also enter).


“The whole thrust of our collection is based on design, absolute perfect excellence in design,” Sam says.  “Both of us are educated as designers.  I’m an industrial designer and Emily is an architectural designer, so we’ve really sought that perfection.  You have to want the object more than you want the money.  It’s as simple as that.  A lot of people who are business people tend to see these things as objects of affection until they see a profit opportunity.  For us and for a lot of others, it’s a love affair.”


As proof of their focus on passion over profit, the Englewood couple still own their Pebble Beach winners -- a Chrysler, two Delages and a Voisin -- and have had the Duesenberg since 1996.  “We tend to keep them,” Sam says.  “When you do have to sell one, it’s a bit gut-wrenching.”  “We fall in love,” adds Emily.  They still have the car Sam owned when they met, a 1941 Cadillac stored in East Hampton.


Even at this rarified level of car collecting, the Manns share the same view of the hobby as many Long Island enthusiasts.  “There’s no such thing as the best cars,” Sam says.  “The best car is the car that makes you happiest to own. People form relationships with their cars.  We relate to design, other people relate to the mechanicals, others relate to cars as a reflection of the time in their youth when they had a connection to the car.”


And like other collectors, the Manns are also in it for the friendship.  “We’ve met the most incredible international group of people,” Emily says.  “We have friends everywhere.  It is our entertainment in many ways.” On back road tours, she says, the local Elks, chamber of commerce and other groups have made meals for drivers and passengers, reminisced about the old days and thanked them for bringing such rare vehicles into small towns.  “It’s more than a hobby,” she adds.  “It’s a way of life.”



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