Aaron & Valerie Weiss’s ‘Beaters’

  • story by David M. Brown
  • posted on 04/2023
  • posted in: Great Garages

Aaron and Valerie Weiss affectionately call their cars “our beaters.” These automotive treasures, showcased in a Pasadena warehouse, include many award winners: a Deusy, Rolls Royce, a Marmon V-16. So, let’s rally to California where we can meet the couple, enjoy their collection and maybe find Jan & Dean’s “Little Old Lady (from Pasadena),” who, almost 60 years after her debut, still terrorizes Colorado Boulevard in her Super Stock Dodge.

The couple has about 30 cars in the collection with two out for restoration. Aaron cofounded and both continue to organize the popular San Marino Motor Classic that includes the PCA Concorso Ferrari held every summer in Old Town Pasadena as publicized by Highline Autos.

Their earliest car is a 1925 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost bodied by Picadilly. The newest is a 1991 Porsche 944 Turbo Cabriolet. The collection also contains pre-war European and American classics such as Packards; he’s an active member of the Packard Club.

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“I started collecting post WWII Rolls-Royces but then discovered cars of the late 1920s through 1937 and have focused my attention on the period,” Weiss says, noting that the collection is about 70% pre-World War II and 30% post. Many of these cars have appeared at the Pebble Beach Concours d’ Elegance.

His car interest started when he was about 5. “My father had a friend who had a Chevrolet dealership, and I would get showroom sales aids from previous years. Our neighbor, a TV actress, bought a Rolls-Royce Cloud, and I got interested in Rolls-Royces when I was about 10.” He started acquiring cars about 1998.

Weiss was born in Inglewood, California, and raised in Palos Verdes Estates, California. After high school there, he attended the University of Southern California where he earned a bachelor’s of science degree and an MBA. Later, while working in banking, he taught economics at USC for several years. He started a business and in 1991 began managing the family’s real estate business.

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Raised in Hollywood, California, Valerie attended Hollywood High School before matriculating at USC where she earned a bachelor’s in communications and an MPA from the School of Planning and Public Policy. “She enjoys the car culture, probably the social aspect of it, the places we go and the people we meet,” he says.

For the San Marino Motor Classic, she is most involved with planning the Symphony of Cars Gala and in organizing the stuffing of entrant and judges goodie bags. “She’s extremely active in several charitable groups in addition to the San Marino Motor Classic, so she does not long for things to do,” he says. He adds that they regularly donate to the Cancer Support Community Pasadena, and the annual concours raises money for the organization.

Check out these “beaters” from the last 90 years:

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•1929 Duesenberg Model J Murphy Body Butterfly Dual Cowl Phaeton — John-Manville heir Tommy Manville bought this new. One of two built, it recently took 2nd in Class at Pebble Beach.

1930 Cadillac V-16 Roadster — The couple have owned this car for more than 15 years. A CCCA 100-point car, it’s won numerous Best in Show Awards and placed 2nd in Class at Pebble Beach. “For collectors of V-16 Cadillacs, the 1930–31 roasters are the holy grail both because of their limited manufacture but the design of the body itself,” he says. The car has placed 2nd in Class at Pebble Beach.

1931 Chrysler Imperial CG Dual Cowl Phaeton —The 1931 Chrysler CG was Chrysler’s first attempt to enter the luxury car market, Weiss says. This one was 1st in Class at Pebble Beach.

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1933 Marmon V-16 Convertible Coupe — This may have been the last Marmon sold before the company went bankrupt. The magazine article “$70,000 for a V16” tells the story of the sheet metal vendor that the company owed $70,000 went to the factory to obtain payment. On the way to the corporate office, he passed the factory showroom where this coupe was displayed.

Management told him that the company was broke and was going to file for bankruptcy. They offered him a pallet of tooling that he could not use, and he countered their offer by saying that if they gave him the Marmon in the showroom he would call it even.

“He took possession of the car and built the fenders and hood enclosure and modified it by skirting the fenders and replacing the vertical vents in the engine enclosure with horizontal ones, making this possibly the only Marmon with such features,” Weiss explains. It’s won several Best in Shows, and was 2nd in Class at Pebble Beach.

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1937 Horch 853 Sport Phaeton — This is one of 24 remaining. The 4944-cc straight 8 produces 120 hp; it’s linked to a 4-speed manual gearbox. An Army officer at the end of WWII brought this gorgeous car to the U.S. where it remained in his family through 1992. “It bounced around a bit before I purchased it from a couple in Germany, and I had a frame-off restoration performed and then took it to Pebble Beach where it won 2nd in class and the Elegance in Motion Award,” Weiss explains.

It then won a Timeless Elegance Award at Amelia Island, Best In Show at the Peterson virtual concours, and then DuPont Registry named it Concours Car of the Year in 2021. It also won Best in Show at the Hillsborough Concours and is a 100-point CCCA Award winner, he says.

1937 Rolls-Royce Phantom III — First purchased by a maharaja, this is a V-12 disappearing top cabriolet. Of the 724 PIII bodies built, only 21 are convertibles, making this car rare.

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Weiss tells the story: “The wealthy maharajas completed amongst themselves as to who could obtain the most opulent physical possessions. This maharaja was upset that the delivery date for his PIII chassis was further out than those of his maharaja friends, meaning that he would be the last one on the block to have a PIII.

“Not to be outdone, he travelled to England and bought a recently bodied PIII, took it to famed Thrupp & Mabry and they replaced the existing body with a more desirable two-door disappearing top coupe, one of two bodied in this manner. He returned to India with his distinctly more opulent PIII and then later in the year took delivery of the original running chassis and had it bodied and shipped to India. He may have been the only maharaja with two such cars.”

Weiss adds: “Again, this car bounced around a bit before I bought it in 2021.” It won a People’s Choice at Amelia Island. He is repainting it and hoping to take it to this year’s Pebble Beach.

1956-Mercedes-Benz-300Sc-Cabriolet

1956 Mercedes-Benz 300Sc Cabriolet — One of 51 made, the car has never been shown. “In 1956 only the most discerning and wealthy car buyers would have even considered a 300Sc Convertible Coupe. The car was one of the last models that were hand built and had a MSRP that exceeded that of a Rolls-Royce,” Weiss says.

1961 Mercedes-Benz 300 Model D — The Model Ds are nicknamed “Adenauer” after Conrad Adenauer, Germany’s first post-war chancellor who owned six of them. “These cars were state of the art and certainly the most luxurious models that Mercedes-Benz made at the time,” he says. This car was originally purchased for European delivery by a physician in Atherton, California, who retained ownership until his death in 2014. At that time, his children inherited the car and sold it to Weiss. The four-door convertible has had a recent restoration.

For more information on the collection and the concours, see www.flyingagarage.com.

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