Classy Chassis show more than a Sunday drive

HOUSTON The fifth annual Classy Chassis car show inspired many a stroll down Memory Lane, with Frank Sinatra singing Cole Porter's "Night and Day" and other standards in the background, courtesy of Reliant Stadium speakers.

One of the centerpieces of the show is the 1939 Bugatti, the only one of its kind and among the most famous cars ever built, according to Clay Baker, the founder of Classy Chassis event, whick benefits United Cerebral Palsy. Twenty Bugatti models were featured at Sunday's show.

"This particular car ended up belonging to the Shah of Iran," Becker said of the '39 classic. "This car currently belongs to the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, which is a world-class auto museum."

"It takes an incredible amount of passion and hard work" to keep vintage cars in pristine condition, Becker said.

"These cars are rolling works of art," Becker said.

He equates the '39 Bugatti to a Renoir or a Rembrandt. "It is that spectacular, it is that valuable," he said.

Another one-of-a-kind car on display was the 1969 Chaparral, which came from a the Petroleum Museum in Midland. Its rear tires are hidden from view as part of maintaining a vacuum seal underneath, in which air is sucked from the bottom and blown out the back for propulsion while on the track.

"This was a very infamous car. It only raced five times before they outlawed it. The first time on the track, I think it was about two seconds to a lap faster than the nearest competitor," Low said.

One of the challenges the '69 Chaparral posed was that it not only shot out air from its exhaust, but rocks and other debris that might make competitors and tailgaiters think twice.

For those who prefer a luxuriously slower ride to the fast lane, the elegant 1910 Bianchi limousine is a car that all but demands that a proper Houstonian don a town coat from Norton Ditto.

"This car was intended to be driven by a chauffeur," said Lee Brown of Friendswood. "There was a very distinct pecking order in society...very probably, the original owner of this car never drove it.

Brown says the Bianchi is still operational. "We drove it in here to the Reliant floor," Brown said.

Not bad for a car that's nearly 100 years old.

Thanks, Classy Chassis, for the memories.

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