Clive Cussler was presented with the Spirit of the Hobby award at the 40th Concours d’Elegance of America this past weekend, and deservedly so. The undersea explorer and best-selling author not only collects cars but exposes them to readers around the world by including them in his novels and to visitors at his museum in Colorado.
In Cussler’s novels, his heroes drive those classic vehicles, often in harrowing situations that must delight readers but terrify other collector car owners.
Driving collector cars is something many owners of high-end vehicles do only on rare if special occasions. Many owners, that is, with noteworthy exceptions, exceptions such as two others who had cars on the golf-course fairways at the immodestly named concours.
For Dan Ostwick, being invited to show his 1965 AMC Ambassador 990 convertible at a major concours d’elegance was a once-in-a-lifetime thrill, he said. And how did he get the car from his home in northern Michigan to the showfield in suburban Detroit? He drove it there, of course.
Ostwick often drives his car, which may not be the typical concours vehicle but which the Concours of America car-selection committee was eager to include as it built its American Post War class.
Ostwick, son of two-time Michigan state midget-car racing champion Eddie Ostwick (who once raced in a car powered by an engine crafted by Ray Harroun, winner of the first Indy 500), is a retired parts and service manager who worked for several American Motors dealerships in Michigan. Thus his quest in retirement to find a vintage Ambassador convertible.
“I make excuses to go to town. I drive it every day if the weather is good enough to keep the top down,” Ostwick told me when I first met him a few years ago at an annual car show in Gladwin, Michigan.
Talk about the spirit of the hobby: Ostwick not only told me about his car and his quest to find it, he invited me to the Cruisin’ Classics car club’s monthly picnic and to another local car show, this one a weekly event at the Whippy Dip drive-in in Sanford, Michigan.
By the way, Cruisin’ Classics members not only show their cars, they work at the county fair each year to raise money to add to their personal contributions to buy everything from winter coats to Christmas presents for local children in families struggling just to survive.
While Dan Ostwick and his car were making their concours debut, Scott Isquick is an old hand at such things. He’s shown cars at Pebble Beach and Amelia Island. At age 93, he still drives his cars, although he stopped racing them when he was in his late 60s.
At the Inn at St. John’s, Isquick’s 1939 Rolls-Royce Wraith, a car Isquick has driven more than 40,000 miles since he acquired it, was part of the European Classic class.
Isquick bought the Wraith in 1970. It’s the Freestone & Webb-bodied touring limousine with knife-edge styling that was displayed at the Earl’s Court motor show in June 1939 and originally was owned by a British baronet.
Isquick acquired the car in 1970 for $15,000 but, as he put it, “like a wedding license, that’s just the beginning.”
Isquick is a native of Scotland, where his father designed aircraft propellers using the skills developed by those producing propellers for ships in the Glasgow boat yards. The family moved to the U.S. when Scott Isquick was an infant, though he was sent back to Scotland for school in the late ’30s, returning to the U.S. the same day that Hitler invaded Poland.
Scott Isquick was a Navy pilot and after the war launched a company in Cleveland that manages pension plans. He has yet to retire, except from racing cars and flying airplanes, and plays tennis several times each week.
He believes in driving his cars, whether his Rolls-Royces — he put more than 100,000 miles on a 1913 Rolls — or the trio of 1911 Mercedes he’s collected and shown at Pebble Beach, where his cars won four trophies.
While Isquick and I were talking, he was asked if he wanted ropes to be placed around this car like the others in the European Classic class before the gates to the concours were opened. He accepted the offer, but reluctantly. He likes it when people can get close to his cars so he can share them and their stories.
Neither Dan Ostwick’s Ambassador nor Scott Isquick’s Wraith won awards at the concours, but both certainly personified the spirit of the hobby.