The inaugural Las Vegas Concours d’Elegance is scheduled for the weekend of October 25-28 and one feature will be the presentation of The Helene Awards “celebrating excellence in the automotive industry.”
The awards are named after Helene Rother (more about her in a moment). This year, the concours will present five of the Helen statuette awards. One will go to acclaimed automotive photographer Michael Furman. Another will go to the Art Center College of Design, world famous for training future car designers. Two others will go to the Best of Show car owners, of which there will be pre-war and post-war categories.
But the first Helene will be presented to Sheri Goldstrom.
Officially, Sheri Goldstrom is curator of the Nostalgia Street Rod Museum in Las Vegas. Unofficially, she is a tireless supporter of charitable programs who sometimes rushes off to another state to take care of a sick friend in need.
Concours founder and chairman Stuart Sobek says Goldstrom epitomizes the spirit of the collector car hobby.
“I can think of a million other people who should get this award,” was Goldstrom’s typically selfless response.
Goldstrom, mother to three daughters and grandmother to their children, grew up driving one of her father’s trucks and says she’s still a trucker at heart. She recently renewed her CDL, still has her 1959 Peterbilt and occasionally takes it out for a joy ride.
Goldstom’s father, Art, now 85, founded a demolition business and a trucking company and has assembled a collection of around 250 cars and 50 semi tractors, many of them showcased in the museum.
Goldstrom’s mother, Shirley, who died four years ago, also was a collector. She had a few cars but her other collections fill a gymnasium-sized building that is part of the museum complex.
“I was a truck driver working for my Dad and never realized the magnitude of their collection until I had to run the office,” Sheri said.
With Sheri running the office, her parents hit the road. “They really started traveling and buying,” she remembers.
She opened the museum around a dozen years ago in two of the buildings in two of the buildings in her father’s business complex. The museum now occupies two more buildings and Sheri wants to expand the displays even more someday, creating an entire museum village with various storefronts, including an antique shop, vintage gas station, doll shop, etc., as a way to share her family’s history with her children and grandchildren and the public as well.
“They taught us what we know today,” she said of her parents and their generation. “I don’t want to that history to be forgotten.
“I want to show my kids and grandkids what life was like and where we came from.”
Among the things Sheri Goldstrom learned was to give, and to give generously. She’s raised money for various charities and organizations, including medical research projects, the Teen Challenge group home, Pawtastic Friends and the University of Las Vegas rodeo team. She’s on the board of Speedway Children’s Charity and this past weekend co-organized a major car show that raised funds for that charity.
Though a dedicated giver, this fall it will be Sheri Goldstrom who will be the recipient, of the first Helene Award, a honor named for Helene Rother Ackernecht, perhaps the first woman employed as a car designer. Rother’s is the first profile in Constance Smith’s book Damsels in Design: Women Pioneers in the Automotive Industry 1939-1959.
The author writes that, “Rother was seen as a pioneer, a dynamic talent, and a radical, and likely considered a threat by some of her male colleagues.”
Rother was born in 1908 in Leipzig, Germany, studied to become an artist and illustrator, wrote and illustrated children’s books, did fashion and textile design and created jewelry after moving to France, and in 1941 fled with her daughter, Ina, to the United States.
She worked as an artist and even did illustrations for Marvel Comics before answering an advertisement for a vehicle interior designer at General Motors, where Harley Earl hired her as the first woman to do vehicle designs.
There’s a photograph of Rother driving the LeSabre concept car when GM showed the car at the Paris Motor Show in 1951. She not only designed vehicle interiors, but those for trains, and later did vehicle designs for Nash and product designs for various clients, including radio and furniture companies and several churches in Detroit have stained glass windows she created.
In retirement, she bought a farm in a rural part of Michigan and raised horses and peacocks before her death at age 91.