Could This Stunning Car Show Become the East Coast Pebble Beach?
A slew of priceless cars on a Hamptons golf course, attended by overdressed rich guys? That’s a start.
Robert Rubin came from a blue collar New Jersey neighborhood, where cars equated to freedom. A suburb where you didn’t leave your parents’ house until you could afford the down payment on some proper American steel, a Corvette or a GTO. Unsurprisingly, after Rubin’s bank account grew flush after 25 years as a commodities trader on Wall Street, he began to assemble his dream fleet of renowned sports and race cars. That’s not hyperbole, either. Some people would cut off limbs to possess a fraction of what Rubin’s owned.
Rubin’s impressive roster includes the stunning V12 Ferrari 250 Testa Rosa, a Ferrari 250 GTO, the Ferrari 330 LMB, with that delicious 4.0-liter Colombo V12, two racing Dinos (the 196 S and the 260 SP), two Ferrari F1s – the 312T, the Forghieri-designed beast which the likes of Niki Lauda drove to a championship in 1975 and 1977 – and the 1512, which saw John Surtees to the top of the F1 podium.
Roll up your tongue; there’s more. Rub’s also owned the 1952 Mille Miglia winning Ferrari 250 S, driven to victory by Giovanni Bracco, a Whitney Straight Maserati Tipo 26M, the Tazio Nuvolari Maserati 8CM and a 1929 Miller Front Drive 91, a record-setting Indianapolis 500 monster that Rubin recent gave to the Smithsonian. Arguably his most prestigious acquisition is the King Leopold Bugatti Type 59, with Rubin being the first owner outside the Royal Belgian family. So, uh, Rubin knows incredible cars. As such, Rubin’s no stranger to Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance, but always wished an East coast version existed to rival the prestigious motoring spectacle. Since none do, he started one.
In 1981, Rubin bought the Bridgehamtpon Raceway, a modest 2.8 mile, 14-turn track nestled in the affluent namesake hamlet out in Long Island, New York. Sir Stirling Moss once called it one of the most challenging courses in the United States, but it’s glory days were in the rearview. “I bought the track to race,” Rubin told The Drive. “I was able to keep it running until 1998 when forces of modernity unfortunately forced me to shut it down.”
The unhappy town, tired of the noise and crowds that accompanied racing pre-war sheet metal, allowed Rubin to transform the infield into a golf course in 2002, called The Bridge. Bits of the historical circuit were thoughtfully preserved. “The access road to the clubhouse is part of the old track, and the original flag stations are still there,” Rubin says. “Though using the course as a backdrop for a concours didn’t even enter my mind until about 2008.”
Calling upon close friends such as Manhattan attorney Jeffrey Einhorn and special events whiz Shamin Abas, Rubin shared his vision. “I didn’t want a traditional concours. Everyone may not agree with me, but I think the judging thing has gotten old. I’m trying to do something halfway between a concours and an art installation,” Rubin told us. Einhorn and Abas fully bought in, and Rubin called fifty-some close friends, all owners of illustrious post-war sports cars and race machines, and secured more than 60 cars for the event. Alongside the cars, artworks would be displayed, all from the likes of Richard Prince and other artists whose zeal for speed emanates from their artistic oeuvre.
The event was simply entitled “The Bridge,” and when it stepped off earlier this fall, it was a well-attended success. Luminaries from the apexes of Fortune 500 companies milled amongst a carefully curated crop of post-war beauties that either raced or would have been eligible to race at the Bridgehampton raceway during its heyday. A 1956 Jaguar XKD 537, a 1961 Jaguar E-Type Low Drag Coupe, a 1954 Ferrari 250 GT Lightweight Berlinetta Competizione and, even a 1970 Chrysler Francochamps Hemicuda were all shown, invited directly by Rubin and his co-collaborators. “If we invite you, you’ve won. That’s the extent of judging here,” Rubin chuckled.
Among the “winners” on exhibition, Rubin was partial to the Low Drag E-Type, owned by friend and Cantor Fitzgerald CEO Howard Lutnick. “I included that in the European cluster. I wanted little thematic groupings, so I put all the European racecars together in one section with some accompanying artwork. I had a contemporary Porsche area with some Richard Prince pieces in another spot. And I had an American muscle cluster, too.” Rubin’s favorite from the latter category was the Hemicuda. “Chrysler ran that in France in hillclimb races. It was a beast.”
That Hemicuda belonged to the friend of a member of the golf club. For the inaugural Bridge, “I didn’t go much beyond members who could just drive the cars there,” Rubin explained. “If I put my mind to it, I could get a few hundred cars there, but I wanted to keep it small and intimate and let it grow organically. If you give people the platform, they will come. I’m a big believer in that.”
Here’s hoping The Bridge returns next year, bigger and even more impressive. Until then, enjoy some stunning shots from the front lines at this year’s kick-off.