This summer, the Academy of Art University in San Francisco announced plans to update its private collection of around 250, primarily pre-war, classic cars and share them beyond its own student body as an open-to-the-public automotive museum.
Because of space constrictions and a lack of more modern vehicles, the school started to cull its collection, selling seven cars at Mecum Auctions’ Monterey sale, where the cars generated more than $2.8 million, most of that from the sale of a 1929 Duesenberg Model J convertible sedan.
This month, the university will send 52 more cars to Mecum’s Las Vegas collector car auction, scheduled for November 15-17 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
The consignment includes two Talbot-Lagos, a 1938 T120 roadster and 1939 T150-C coupe; several Packards, among them a 1934 1108 V12 Sport Phaeton and 1934 1104 Super 8 dual-cowl Sport Phaeton; a 1930 Duesenberg Model J dual-cowl Phaeton; a 1930 Bugatti Type 46 faux cabriolet; and a 1935 Pierce-Arrow Model 1245 Silver Arrow.
“We have been reviewing our collection for several months and there is some duplication and excess, so we’ve culled a little further,” university president Elisa Stephens told ClassicCars.com Journal.
“Yes,” she added, “of course it feels like losing family members.”
Indeed. The school was founded in 1929 by her grandparents, Sunset magazine art director Richard S. Stephens and his wife, Clara, and was run from 1951-1970 by their son, her father Richard A. Stephens, a car collector who added transportation design to the school’s curricula.
Regarding the family aspect of the collection and the school itself, she said she and her staff have been happy in their dealings with Mecum Auctions, which also is a multi-generational family-owned business.
The academy’s car collection has been used to provide students with three-dimensional inspiration and objects for study and sketching and, more recently, with the addition of a vehicle restoration program, templates for study. But the vehicle world has changed and the school needs more modern vehicles to serve those same purposes, so some of the older vehicles are being sold to make room for those on the school’s wish list.
In the process, the school will turn its private collection into a public museum and another tourist destination for the Bay area. School officials hope to have the museum ready for public opening around the middle of 2019.
“We’re working to have a strong educational component to the museum,” the university president said, noting that before it opened its collection to students, the school offered summer classes in drawing and modeling across the Bay using the vehicles in the Blackhawk Collection in Danville.
“I want to replicate and expand on that at the museum,” she said. “That will be a big part of this museum, hands-on education.”
She and others involved in the collection noted that the vehicles going to auction are excellent vehicles that the collection service staff, as one official put it, “have brought to be better than when they were purchased.” Fuel and braking systems have been serviced and all the vehicles are in good running condition, the official added.
To replace those being sold, the school has a wish list that includes vehicles such as the new Ford GT, the Bullitt Mustang made famous by the movie filmed in San Francisco, a split-window 1963 Chevrolet Corvette, a Datsun 240Z, an early Mazda Miata (designed by Tom Matano, who heads the school’s transportation design department) and a DeLorean (designer Richard Teague helped launch the school’s design department).
“Iconic post-war cars that were leading style in their period,” Elisa Stephens said.
She also mentioned the AMC Pacer as an iconic if unusual design statement, and added, “we don’t have a (modern) Citroen,” another icon of post-war design.
To see the full consignment of Academy of Art University cars going to the auction, see the special Mecum website, which includes the pre-sale estimated values.