The Weirdest Stories in Car Collecting (Part 2)

11. The Weirdest Collector Car

Bruce Baldwin Mohs was the owner of the Mohs Seaplane Company of Madison, WI. Clearly the man’s day job as a seaplane manufacturer was not weird enough. And since there were apparently no ornithopter or harpsichord manufacturing companies on the market, Mohs decided to ensure his legacy by building a limited-production automobile whose weirdness remains unsurpassed to this day.

The Mohs Ostentatienne cost $19,600 in 1967—about $124,000 in today’s money. It was built on a modified International Harvester chassis and featured a rear-door design because the giant safety steel side beams prevented it from having doors on the side. It resembled the illicit offspring of a Kaiser Manhattan and a 1970s blaxploitation film pimpmobile.

Factory options included an oriental rug, nitrogen-filled tires, and a refrigerator. It is unclear how many Ostentatiennes were sold. They rarely turn up at collector car auctions, but around $28,000 seems to be all the money for one today.

12. Deadman’s Curve Nearly Claims its Songwriter

Jan and Dean had a string of hits in the late 1950 and early ’60s during the heyday of the California surf music craze. 1964’s “Deadman’s Curve” was their most famous hit, and it chronicled the story of two L.A. drag racers. The ill-fated protagonist drove a Corvette and his challenger drove an XKE.

Ironically, in 1966, near the intersection of Whittier and Sunset in L.A., (a short distance from the reputed Deadman’s Curve), Jan Berry, the writer of the song, was involved in a near-fatal accident in a Corvette—no word on whether an XKE had pulled up at the light.

13. The Lancia Doria

One of the legends of the Andrea Doria, the Italian passenger liner that sank on July 25, 1956, is that it went down with about 20 Lancia Aurelia B24 Spiders in the cargo hold. SCM’s Donald Osborne debunked this myth in the December issue of SCM by pointing out that the B24 Spiders were all built from 1954 to ’55, and it is unlikely they would have been in-transit to the U.S. in 1956.

More likely, the cars were Lancia B24S convertibles, but the exact number on the Doria is unknown; however, Lancia was known to use Italian Lines ships to send cars to the U.S. One thing that is a certainty, however, the Chrysler Norseman—a Ghia-built concept car—is certainly dissolving in the hold of the Doria at the bottom of the Atlantic, as Ghia was shipping it to New York on the ill-fated liner. (Photo by Bob Wendlinger, Daily Mirror)

14. The Weirdest Auto Accessory

The horse didn’t go out as the primary mode of transport without a fight. Legislators deemed the mayhem and horse bothering potentially caused by early automobiles too frightening to contemplate.

The obvious solution? Fool the dumb equines into thinking that a horseless carriage was simply a strange looking horse with serious flatulence issues. Thus the “Horsey Horseless” was born—literally a stuffed horse head attached to the front of the automobile. Makers even suggested using the horse head as an extra fuel tank, proving that the Pinto was not the first explosive pony.

15. Classic Porsches vs. the 3:10 to Yuma

The photos from this occurrence were known to have caused at least several cases of angina and loss of consciousness in Porsche Club of America members around the country. Porsche nuts with weak constitutions should read no further.

At 3:45 pm on Sunday, September 12, 2004, a locomotive traveling at 43 mph and pulling nearly 100 freight cars slammed into an automobile transport truck that had gotten high-centered on the tracks. Five classic Porsche 356s were totaled, including a Speedster with a rare factory hard top, chrome Rudge knockoff wheels, and $175,000 in fresh restoration receipts.

When asked how he had gotten himself into the predicament, the truck driver replied that he got lost looking for a shortcut to the freeway. He’s now a paid spokesman for Magellan GPS.

16. The Most Bizarre Barnfind Story

Probably the most desirable of all Carroll Shelby’s creations was the Cobra Daytona coupe race car. Designed by Pete Brock, only six of the slippery 289 coupes were built. CSX2287, the first coupe, was purchased as an obsolete race car by a maker of slot car kits.

The Daytona coupe soon passed to music producer Phil Spector, who even in his twenties was showing signs of his later very weird behavior. He painted on the car’s side a few nutty and historically inaccurate “facts” about the car (like “winner, 33 grand prix and land speed record holder”) and drove it around L.A. for a while.

Allegedly, Spector sold the car to his property manager, George Brand, for $1,000. Brand’s daughter Donna O’Hara offered to store the car in her L.A.-area storage unit. She drove it for a while with her husband, but by 1971, the car was consigned to the storage locker for good while O’Hara sank into mental illness.

On October 22, 2000, police found Donna O’Hara burned over 98% of her body. She had apparently doused herself and her two pet rabbits with gasoline and found a source of ignition. O’Hara lasted a day in the hospital before expiring.

Upon O’Hara’s death, at least three people asserted ownership of the car, including O’Hara’s mother, Phil Spector, and the collector who purchased the car, (an SCMer from Pennsylvania). A settlement was subsequently reached—with Spector represented by O.J. mouthpiece Robert Shapiro—and the bizarre saga of CSX2287 finally came to an end. (Photo from

17. Heiress Buried in Ferrari

Sandra Ilene West was the heir to a Texas oil, cattle, and mineral fortune left to her by her late husband. Compared to Ms. West, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan were rank amateurs.

Eventually, her lifestyle caught up with her at the ripe old age of 37. Ms. West had been an amateur Egyptologist with a pharaoh fixation, and her final wish was to be buried in a lace negligee “in a comfy reclining position” beside her husband in a San Antonio cemetery. In her favorite Ferrari Daytona Spyder.

She almost got her wish, too, but her brother-in-law decided the Daytona was too valuable, and as she really wouldn’t notice the difference, he had her interred instead in a 250 GTE she’d wrecked the week before. Nobody’s sure what became of the Daytona. (Photo from Christie’s Auctions, 1979)

18. Jay Leno Rescues Not One, But Two Duesenbergs From Long-Term Lockup

“Tonight Show” host Jay Leno has a reputation as a hands-on, genuine car guy. In 2004, following up on stories and rumors, Leno found a Duesenberg Model X sedan that had been stored since 1947 in a garage just several miles from his L.A. home.

A year later, following up on similar rumors about an untouched Duesenberg in a Manhattan parking garage, Leno found a Duesenberg town car that had been laid up since the 1950s. And they say lightening never strikes twice. (Photo from John Lamm)

19. Bond Car Stolen

In the 007 series of films, James Bond has bested the likes of Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Auric Goldfinger, and Dr. No, only to be undone in 1997 by a common car thief. A Florida real estate developer owned and stored one of the on-screen cars from Thunderball, a Birch Silver Aston Martin DB5 with several non-factory accessories.

One night in June of 1997, the security system in a Boca Raton aircraft hangar where the car was stored was disabled and the car simply disappeared. In spite of rumors and numerous theories as to the car’s whereabouts, it hasn’t been seen since. (Photo from Reuters)

20. Lost Ed “Big Daddy” Roth Car Shows Up in Front of Tijuana Adult Book Store

Looking not unlike a person who had been kidnapped, drugged, beaten, and left for dead in Tijuana, Ed Roth’s iconic “Orbitron” spaceship-style dragster was recently found by tourists in front of a Tijuana adult bookstore.

The long-missing 1964 show car had been used as a carnival attraction and later a dumpster for the aforementioned bookstore. Purchased by an individual who recognized it as the long lost Orbitron, the car is presently being restored to its original bubble-topped glory.


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