Stephen Grisanti: ‘Il mio sogno,’ ‘My Dream’:
Stephen Grisanti will take any route to find the right car: He’ll even place a want ad.
Two of the many classic Porsches he has stewarded in his lifetime, his 1959 356A and first 914-6, he found along that road.
Today, the businessman, car-care writer and collector has four Porsches and five Harley-Davidsons, including a rare 1959 hog from his birth year to match the 356A. “Every one of my cars still has the engine and transmission that it left the Porsche factory in,” he says. “I have the certificate of authenticity I have framed on my garage wall for each one.”
Following his automotive passion, he moved from his Rye, New York, home to build a new home and garage in Somers, New York, for himself, his wife Brigitte and his collection. To save space, he installed two lifts. Equipped with a loft/ office for admiring views, the space is porcelain tiled, heated, air-conditioned and dehumidified, with special lighting, custom barn doors, storage, compressed air and a complete vacuum system.
He pitched the garage slightly so that he can release the brake and roll out instead of starting the cars inside. Artwork is posted throughout, including a portrait of Dr. Ferdinand Porsche, the marque’s founder. Outside the garage hangs his shingle, “il mio sogno,” My Dream.”
Grisanti has been collecting Porsches since 2004, including cars he has sold, such as a 1964 Porsche 356C Coupe in Signal Red with Black interior; 1970 914-6, Irish Green with Tan interior; 1986 Porsche 930 Euro Turbo, rare White Gold with Palomino interior; 1991 Porsche 964 Carrera 4, Guards Red with black interior; 2004 Boxster Spyder, Racing Silver with Black interior; and a 2013 Porsche Carrera S Cabrio, Speed Yellow with Black interior. He’s also owned VWs and Karmman Ghias and a Harley.
Memories make collections. For Grisanti, Porsche and Harley- Davidson have been his passion for decades.
Passionate Harley owners will appreciate his modest collection: They’re from the same family of cycles but different. “One thing they all do well is sing,” he says. “The Harley sound is like no other.”
He wanted a Harley-Davidson since he was 19. Five years later, he purchased his first and had the classic American two-wheeler for 15 years; he sold it when he became a single parent.
His Porsches represent the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s and ’90s. Each is extremely rare because of low production numbers, all are in great condition and every one gets used. “Sure, they look like garage queens, but I have the expertise and knowledge to keep them looking the same after each one is driven,” he says, noting their therapeutic value. “I set the music, pour the wine and slowly massage each vehicle back to perfection before covering them.”
The Sounds and Colors of Love
The love began at 12 in small Mount Vernon, New York. “I was walking to work one late afternoon when I saw and heard a 1972 Ravenna Green 914-4. I had never seen anything like it, nor had I ever experienced a color as bright and fascinating as this green,” he recalls. “It was almost fluorescent and had a shine so bright that I had to walk over and take a closer look.”
The owner, Peter, was a friend of his older brother; he asked for a ride, got it and he’s been riding in Porsches since. For him, vintage Porsches are the most reliable and low-maintenance cars to own compared to other marques of the era, he says. “The combination of the lines, smell, different paints, leathers and every detail that it takes to create these works of art truly stimulate me.”
His first car –– almost –– was a 914. He and his dad went to look at one in town. Sean Scott Smith, a New York photographer and writer, tells the story: “The car was hidden under a tarp. It was Forest Green. When the doors were opened, it was a forest of cobwebs and the smell of mildew, and the motor didn’t turn over. His father, a Caddy guy, told him, ‘You are not buying this car. Foreign cars are no good; you need something American.’”
He waited to start his collection. At 23, he opened Classic Shine Auto Fitness Center and Greenwich Metal Finishing, both thriving today in Greenwich, Connecticut, under different ownership. He also wrote car-care articles and books and played drums in a band that booked gigs every weekend. “When he sold his businesses and took some time off, that was when he was able to start his dream search,” Smith says.
In 2004, he purchased his first collectible, a Guards Red 1991 964 C-4 with very low mileage, from the original owner. Next was a White Gold 1986 930 Turbo. “The wide body, huge tail, and famous racing history is enough to excite any classic car enthusiast,” he says, noting that when it was nearing the 30,000-mile mark he knew that to maintain its high value, he would have to use it less. So, he reluctantly sold it.
History, originality, documentation, condition, matching numbers and provenance make the difference with collectors. “For me, that’s the only way I will consider adding one to my collection. Each box must be checked,” Grisanti says. “As badly as I wanted to own a ’59 Harley, had it not had its original engine, I would have passed, even if it meant I would not find another one.”
A Place for Porsches, a House of Harleys
•1959 Harley-Davidson Sportster XLH –– This gray-and-white example is one of 997 built. “Finding a 1959 Harley Davidson Sportster is extremely difficult, but finding one that is complete with the original engine is nearly impossible,” Grisanti says.
For 3½-years in Pratt, Kansas, motorcycle historian and collector Terry Richardson restored it. “There was not one part of this machine that wasn’t restored to absolute perfection,” he adds. “She is a masterpiece and would sit well in any enthusiast’s office as a piece of artwork.”
He’d been searching for a ’59 for years. One cold Sunday evening in front of the fireplace, he saw a listing for a 1959 BMW R-50 motorcycle offered by Richardson in “stunning restored condition.” He purchased it, believing the chances of finding a ’59 Harley minimal.
Six months later, he noticed an ad for a ’59 Harley-Davidson Sportster XLH in Chicago Illinois; after confirming its authenticity, he bought it. “When my wife Brigitte suggested we ship it directly to Terry in Pratt, Kansas, I said ‘How brilliant!’” he recalls. In the interim, he sold the BMW in two weeks to a Ferrari collector in Boca Raton, Florida, who still cherishes it.
He had Pratt change the color, as he didn’t like any of the five original ones offered. “Only two small fenders and a gas tank required painting to my liking,” he notes. “I did use the correct Harley white and a gray from a very early Harley-Davidson. My feeling was that this bike was so special and if I ever decided to part with it, it would not take much to paint the three parts.”
When the finished Harley was scheduled to be delivered, Grisanti sat on the porch, ready to celebrate with a good bottle of red wine with his best friend and Brigitte. His new ride arrived damaged in the rear. The driver didn’t accept responsibility, so Grisanti refused delivery and sent it trucking back to Pratt, Kansas. Six months later, the Sportster arrived as it had left Richardson’s shop. Uncork and celebrate.
•1959 Porsche 356A Convertible –– Ivory on Red, this is one of the 1,331 built. A 100-point car, it was completely restored by a master metal expert.
“The search for this car was one of the most difficult, as I finally decided to buy one at the peak of the market,” he says. “I waited a year and a half for a one-owner example that was part of an estate sale. Every document from the window sticker to the original purchase documents were still with the car.”
He owned this Silver-on-Black car for approximately eight months but wasn’t happy. “It was the first classic car I purchased that wasn’t near mint condition,” he recalls. “I thought I could get accustomed to the patina, but it never happened. I finally decided to sell her and start my search all over again.”
For this 356A, he flew to Sacramento and meticulously examined the car for three days. This one makes him happy. “It has the original colors and has been done to the exact specifications that Porsche first created,” Smith says. “It is a spectacular example and fits perfectly in the space.”
•1968 Porsche 912 –– Restored by Mark Allen, who owns Vintage Excellence, the matching-numbers coupe is in extremely rare Golden Green with Black interior, one of just six delivered with this body color. Also rare for its time, the car has factory air-conditioning.
Grisanti has photos of the restoration showing every part laid out on the restoration shop’s floor prior to reassembly. In addition, he has the history, documentation and vintage photos including one of the first owner taking delivery.
“This car gets the most use in my collection, including doing many rallies in the Northeast. She looks brand new, and once I complete a rally, I do a complete wheels-off detail from the underside to the brake calipers. It is also my wife’s favorite car and viewed as a part of our family.”
•1970 Porsche 914-6 Targa –– In another rare color for this model, Adriatic Blue (on Black), this is one of 3,331 built. “She is one of my favorites, as the 914 was my first love when it comes to Porsches,” he says.
He doesn’t have as much documented history on this car as on the others. He does know that a former owner, Dan Wyland, who had a Christmas tree farm in the Northwest, was working on a restoration for eight years before he died. The estate sold it to a 914 expert Craig Laughlin, who completed the restoration.
He purchased this car the same day he found the 1968 912. “I was selling my 1986 930 Turbo and saw an ad for the Golden Green 912,” he recalls. “I took my young daughter with me to take a look, and when I arrived at the garage, I saw the 912 sitting alongside the most beautiful Adriatic Blue 914-6.”
Grisanti went home and showed pictures of the 914-6 and the 912 to Brigitte. She asked, “Is there any way we can do both?” she asked. How could Grisanti deny her, and him?
“The 914-6,” Smith says, “was a connection to his early teens, the realization of a childhood dream.”
•1998 Porsche 993 C2S –– This Ocean Blue-on-Cashmere coupe represents the final year of the air-cooled Porsche and is one of 993 built. The very low mileage makes it rare and valuable, and the car has all of the factory components. Grisanti: “She is truly stunning.”
Of all the classic cars he’s purchased, this one happened spontaneously. Every other car was sought and sourced from another state. “I was riding on my train into Manhattan and reading a Porsche 912 magazine,” he recalls. “An older gentleman who I had seen for many years tapped my knee and said, ‘I have a Porsche.’ He seemed to light up, so I asked what model.”
When he discovered that the man, in his 80s, owned a 1998 C2S with very low mileage and in beautiful condition, Grisanti asked to see it as they lived just five minutes apart.
“After learning about my love and passion for Porsches and understanding that I was only interested in buying it as an addition to my collection, we made a deal,” Grisanti recalls. “I believe that it was meant to be mine as the next caretaker.”
•2003 Harley-Davidson 100th Anniversary –– In 2013, Grisanti purchased this Ultra Classic edition in rare Pearl White with just 1,300 miles from the original owner who had lost his sight in one eye, and, following surgery, placed it on a motorcycle lift where it remained for a decade. Grisanti and his wife use it regularly for long runs, posting between 5,000–10,000 miles per year.
He also recently rode with his 30-year-old daughter, Hope, not on this Harley but a Tri-Glide he rented from motorcycle legend Buddy Stubbs in Arizona. “I have been riding for most of my life, but no trip was as special as this one,” he recalls. “Spending time with my daughter on the road was something that every parent should experience. I call her, by the way, ‘Hopester,’ after Sportster.”
•2011 Harley-Davidson Fatboy Low –– He purchased this Silver cycle from the original owner in 2017; it was six years old and only had 1,400 miles. “I love the bad-boy look of this machine, and it gives me the full sense of freedom as she is designed in the truest form,” he says. “Riding this type of bike is pure wind in the face and full exposure to the elements.”
•2012 Harley-Davidson Seventy-Two –– Grisanti recently purchased it from the original owner; it had only 1,053 miles, a factory chopper/bobber. “This model was discontinued and far different from all my larger bikes,” he says. “In fact, it is a blast to ride and so light compared to my touring bikes. I bought it for several reasons: I wanted something that was lighter, had more of a lean angle and in memory of my ’84 Sportster that I loved but sold.”
•2014 Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special –– In 2018, he purchased this motorcycle, in rare Sand Camo Denim. Then four years old, it only had 2,600 miles. He purchased the model specifically for the very long runs he does solo. “The Street Glide is the same type of motorcycle as the Fatboy in terms of weight and combines power and comfort,” he says. That makes it just perfect for those excursions into two-wheel ecstasy.
Grisanti’s not a man of speed, so you’ll often find him cruising, not careening, on area highways and byways. “The real pleasure comes from being a caretaker, from the required nurturing and of course, driving them,” he says. “The saying, ‘It is more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow’: Well, that’s how I enjoy my collection.”
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