Travel · United States

The Revs Institute, Naples: a must visit for automobile aficionados

While Ferrari is synonymous with race cars, did you know that the Tipo 166 was the first Ferrari to win a major car race? Imagine standing next to the Mercedes 1923 Targa Florio, a unique masterpiece and one of only three that exist in the world today.  View the world’s most famous sports racing OSCA (Officine Specializzate Costruzione Automobili) right in front of you.

If you are an automobile aficionado and have a fetish for rare automobiles, then welcome to the The Revs Institute of automotive research, a niche museum aka research centre located in the beautiful city of Naples, Florida. 

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History

A must-visit if you are someone who is passionate about the history and evolution of automobiles, The Rev’s Institute is an educational organisation dedicated to the study of automotive history. Founded by Miles Collier, whose family members were passionate auto racers, this institute is touted as one-of-its-kind and one of the best in the world. An avid car racer himself, Miles’s family is often credited with introducing sports car-racing to America way back in the 1930s. A philanthropist and a foresighted investor, he is almost single-handedly responsible for the collection at the institute.

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The ‘Collier Collection’, as it stands today, was started in the 1980s when Collier added rare automobiles and sports cars to his private collection. He also acquired the Cunningham museum collection of his close friend Briggs Swift Cunningham, which included treasures like the first Ferrari racing car to be sold in America and one of six Bugatti Royales ever produced.

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Formally started in 2009, the institute is an ode to the automobile that, according to Collier, was the most significant object of technological innovation and transformation in the 20th century. This, in turn, profoundly influenced social and economic development. Before the discovery of the automobile, people were limited to the mobility provided by carriages and horses.

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With a library that has an inventory of thousands of books, manuscripts, photographs and catalogs pertaining to automobiles, The Revs is a centre dedicated to further the cause of automotive research. The institute has collaborated with Stanford University since 2011 to provide The Revs programme, which is a premier programme spanning disciplines while connecting the past, present and future of automobiles.

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Declared the finest car collection by The New York Times, the cars on display are divided into four zones: Automobility, Vitesse, Porsche and Revs. Manufactured between 1896 and 1995, they are impeccably maintained after being painstakingly restored, and each one is operated by being driven around on a rotational basis.   Many of them are sent on prestigious races in the United states and Europe, a testimony to their strength and capacity. The centre has a functional and resourceful workshop area where the cars are spruced up.

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Dedicated to the evolution of the automobile from the 20th century and its influence on the economy and population, the Automobility section has some classic cars like the vintage 1896 Panhard and Levassor and 1912 Hispano Suiza T-15 Alfonso XIII SWB. The transformation of the old-fashioned lamps, seats and the carriage- style wheels, along with the development of features like the first shock absorber, is sure to keep you engaged.

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Vitesse is a section dedicated to the development of motor sports. It traces the making of cars during the early 1900s, where power and speed were foremost rather than design, practicality and comfort. It was the time when European makers dominated the market and the ultimate test for sports cars remained the Le Mans 24-hour race that was run in the highways of France. The 1931, 4.5 litre Bentley, the 1929 Sunbeam that was known to be “too fast for its chassis” and the 1927 Lancia are some of the priceless pieces on display.

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The Revs section is about racing cars and men and how races ushered an age of advancement in the field of motor vehicles. The trivia about the gruelling Paris-Madrid race also dubbed the ‘Race to death’, the role of the Peugeot 1913 in races and the Bugatti 1930 Type 35 B/T that even today is in the same condition as it was when it raced about eight decades ago, is remarkable.

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My favourite part of the museum was the section dedicated to the story of Porsche, arguably one of the best names in the world of motor sports. The journey that started from the functional Volkswagen Beetle that was designed by Ferdinand Porsche upon the request of Adolf Hitler to becoming a sports-car maker that continues to challenge its rivals, is a revelation.

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Similar is the story of the domination of the 1909 Ford Model T touring in the low-priced automobile market that reflects the sheer brilliance of Henry Ford.  The Cunningham family of vintage cars, the collection of various car mascots and the evolution eye-protection gear (googles) are some of the other highlights in the institute.

Visitor’s delight

Open to visitors three days a week by prior reservation, the institute offers docent-led tours which guide up to 10 visitors. These tours offer an enhanced visitor experience, considering that there are experts explaining the focal points of each car. Irrespective of whether you opt for the docent-led tour or the normal one, the centre is manned by a team whose passion for and knowledge about the cars is paramount. Happy to answer any questions, they are treasure houses of information themselves and make sure that all your queries are answered.

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All the cars have detailed boards highlighting their specifications, history and unique features including trivia, the races they were a part of, and other significant facts related to their development.  There are no barriers and visitors can view the exhibits from close quarters.

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This article appeared originally in Deccan Herald here. More details on The Rev’s institute can be obtained on their website.  Click here and here to read my posts on other car and transport museums.

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