Eoin Young's Collector's Column no. 4
D'Annunzio's home, Vittorale, overlooking Lake Garda, is now a stately home and open to the public. Among the masses of gifts and tributes on display is a badly bent steering wheel. The poet was friendly with the drivers of power boats on the lake and he proposed the idea of record runs on the lake back in the 1930s. The Coppa del Oltranza is still run with modern boats, racing flat out, one at a time. When Sir Henry Segrave was killed in an attempt on the Water Speed Record in 1930, D'Annunzio sent a poem in praise of his achievements to Lady Doris Segrave and she was so moved that she sent him the wheel from the wrecked record boat.
When Nuvolari died in
1953 he was buried wearing his racing uniform of blue trousers
and yellow jersey with the tortoise motif on his breast.
While we're in the realms of motoring fantasy, I also have a small collection of original Ettore Bugatti pencil sketches, the sort of things he committed to paper while travelling or waiting for his meal in a restaurant. Each one is initialled and dated and the designs include boats as well as car detail.
Having digressed again, we'll get back to Tazio and his tortoise signature at Christies. I pointed out that there was no Nuvolari signature, the Christies man agreed, and when the lot was offered the lack of a Tazio moniker as pointed out. I forget what the album fetched - too much for me! - but vividly recall a completely incidental 'phone call I made that evening to a customer who had an apartment in Spain. I was telling him about this amazing autograph book and the missing Nuvolari signature and to my amazement he said "Oh that belonged to 'Mort' Goodall. He's my next door neighbour down here. I'll tell him what happened." I could hear him shouting the news round the corner of his balcony and I could also hear the bellow of rage from 'Mort'. the historic Aston Martin campaigner, who then pointed out to his neighbour that there had never been a signature - Nuvolari had drawn him a little tortoise! To my eternal credit, I never admitted that it was me who pointed out the apparent shortfall in the signature department...
I really like good signed motor racing items, or should say that I like items with good strong signatures by famous people in the motor racing world. Caveat Emptor- buyer beware. Modern racing driver signatures should be regarded as deeply suspect unless you are happy with the provenance, or unless you had the man sign your programme so you can guarantee it to be genuine. I have friends in the F1 paddock who used to sit down with a pile of driver postcards and happily forge his signature on dozens at a time. Not that the modern racer's signature is too difficult to forge. It's just a scribble or a wiggly line - doesn't do anything for me at all. One of my Italian journalist friends could, and still can write a better Enzo ferrari signature than the Old Man could in the final years of his life when his handwriting became very shaky.
but obviously the rarest signatures are of those drivers who are
no longer with us. World champion's signatures are extremely collectable because
it gives the collectors a theme. The most expensive are those of
Farina and Mike Hawthorn from the 1950s, Jim Clark and Jochen Rindt
from the 1960s/70s and Ayrton Senna in the 1990s. Fangio was a
prolific signer but since his death in 1995, the value of his signature
Why am I telling you
It is sad that driver signatures have gone from being stylish extensions of a driver's character to a careless scribble but maybe it's because there are too many fans wanting autographs and drivers with too little time to spend signing. I care for the story of the young Scottish garage mechanic who was quite good at racing and realised that his signature was a modest thing, the same as it had been in his schooldays. As he worked on his racing, he also worked on his signature, practising until it became as polished and professional as he was. Good bloke, that Jackie Stewart... Excuse me, Sir Jackie Stewart.
To read previous columns click on the links below:
Eoin Young is a
who left a bank job to join Bruce McLaren and help set up his racing
More or less. He arrived in the UK in 1961 as a freelance journalist,
the Formula Junior season with Denny Hulme, joined McLaren in 1962.
director of team. Established Motormedia 1966. Started weekly "Autocar" diary
page in 1967 -- it ran until 1998. Covered CanAm, Indy and GP series.
In 1979 established as a dealer in rare motoring and motor racing books
and ephemera. Still trading with regular lists. Autobiography "It
Beats Working" published in 1996. with its sequel "It Still beats
in 2003. After more than three decades based in the UK he has now returned
to his native New Zealand.
The stock of
books and ephemera is constantly changing.
here to view the current catalogue.