HYANNIS PORT, MA – At one point Bill Putman had 58 cars in his collection. All but one of them is red and all trimmed with “Minuteman Racing” decals, it’s come down to about 40 or so now though. He calls it the “Toad Hall Sports Car Collection” and its located right behind the Simmons Homestead Inn on Cape Cod. My fellow car blogger and friend, Chris Raymond, from Chris on Cars told me about this place and in no time I began making plans for a little Breakdown Lane field trip.
I grew up on the cape so when I learned of it, I just had to go see it. When I arrived I was pretty excited, this guy collects mostly British sports cars but there are a few old Datsun’s, a Mazda, a Porsche, and a couple very interesting American made cars. I parked and had my door open about to exit my car when I was immediately greeted by an overly friendly tiger cat who was very vocal in requesting attention, so I had a follower right off the bat.
It turns out this collection didn’t start to take form until the very year I left the Cape to join the US Navy, 1993. The owner, Bill, greeted me with a smile and without hesitation allowed me to sit in any of the cars, provided I was careful or course. I knew this was going to be worth every penny of the $8 entry fee right then. You never get to sit in the display cars, right? He told me he tries to get them all running a few times a year and I imagine that it is almost too much to handle with so many of them to keep up with. Initially Bill started building his collection to serve both a personal passion and for a financial investment. He operates the Inn and a gift shop along with keeping the car collection open to visitors and that is a lot of work for anyone if you ask me. He was an SCCA racer back in the 70’s and his team was named Minuteman Racing, and he has pretty much put the decals on every car he’s owned since then. There are a few story boards in the entrance that tell the story of the Toad and a little background on Bill himself.
Here’s where this boring story starts to get interesting. As I approached the very first car in the line up outside the barn I was stopped dead in my flip flops, overcome with shock. My expectations were to see high quality restorations but what I found was something very different. My first impressions were focused on surface rust. There seemed to be a lot of it creeping around and infecting the chrome bits like bumpers, wheels and some trim on a lot of these cars. Many of the cars were dirty and the cats have free roam through the barn. I’m sure they keep the mouse at bay, but it’s a bitter sweet exchange. Bill has some really amazing cars in here and they all have so much character in what looks like an unrestored state, although some of them have had work done to them. See the end of this post for a full list, but here are a few that have some significance, at least in my mind. First, I almost lost is when I saw the ’55 Austin-Healey, then I found the 64 Porsche 356, the ’60 Lotus Elite and probably the most valuable car in the barn…an original 1960 AC Cobra, before they were Shelby’s! Take a look, these cars are just amazing.
Another couple of cars that I really loved were the pair of Lotus Esprit’s, an ’88 Turbo and an 87 S2. The crappy part about these cars was simply the dirt and dust. I think the cats really like hanging out in the Lotus’ for some reason. I had posters of these cars on my bedroom wall in Jr High alongside many others. Surprisingly enough, these cars can be had for under $30k and even less for the ones that need some love.
My intentions are not to criticize, but to just tell it the way I saw it. These cars are valuable and they look good, they just need a little love here and there. Looking at all these cars as I was shooting photos, I realized that not all was lost. I quickly overcame my shock and began feeling really impressed with every single car in here. They all appear to be original or at least somewhat preserved. They all look like they could be great drivers with a little sprucing up. I like to see these types of cars when they appear to have been driven with pleasure for years on end then parked. I really enjoyed looking through the interiors. For me, much of the character is in the interior. The gauges and the shiny metal dashboards, old leather and steering wheel tell the story decade’s old driving pleasure. Some of these were full on race cars and I would pay good money to pilot one of the Lotus 7’s he’s got here. I especially a big fan of the ’55 Austin-Healy with the grass growing up through the shifter!
The barn was a low ceiling structure that Bill has had to add onto in order to make more room for cars, the only down fall is the lack of a floor or foundation. The surface is ¾ inch crushed stone and that is probably one of the biggest offenders in the corrosion issue. The barn is filled with automobile related memorabilia and I think every car in there has MA state vanity plates as well. There is a certain element of character that is far more dynamic in an original unrestored car that you just can’t get out of a fully restored one. It’s a look back into the past, a time capsule. Bill has some work to do out in the barn and I hope he can pull it off and keep the rust at bay. He even said it himself; he’s running out of resources to keep up with these cars. I wanted to chat with Bill some more but he had two other businesses on the site he had to run and I didn’t want to impose.
The Toad Hall website showed a few more cars than were here but I suspect that most of the “missing” cars were liquidated in order to preserve the rest of the pack. Not in the collection were a few recent model Lotus’s, a Ferrari Testarossa, a TVR Griffith, a BMW 2002, and a handful of other cars. For such a low entry price you can be sure I’ll stop in again next time I am down on the cape. One of the best parts of the Toad Hall is the fact that it’s pretty quiet in there and you can really get lost sitting in the cars and looking at all the automobilia all over the walls. I think every car in here has its own MA. State vanity plate. He registered every single car. Your mind just takes off from reality and wanders into the past going from car to car. It’s a great trip for any car guy or gal and a really nice change from a typical “untouchable” museum setting. I figured that a list of these cars would be nice and my observations will follow along with some pictures. Click HERE for the full gallery of photos. Below is a list of all the cars that were on site:
|British MarquesLotus1960 Lotus Elite1965 Lotus Seven S2
1968 Lotus Elan S4 Roadster
1969 Lotus Elan Plus 2 Series 2 Coupe
1969 Lotus Elan S4 Coupe
1971 Lotus Europa
1974 Lotus Super Seven S4
1978 Lotus Esprit S2
1988 Lotus Esprit Turbo
1991 Lotus Elan M110
2005 Lotus Elise Mk2
1953 Jaguar XK120 Fixed Head Coupe
1968 Jaguar XKE Roadster mkII
1970 Jaguar XKE mkII Coupe
1976 Jaguar XJ12 Hardtop Coupe
1976 Jaguar XJS V12 Hardtop Coupe
1954 Triumph TR2
1962 Triumph TR3B
1964 Triumph TR4
1967 Triumph Spitfire mkII
1972 Triumph GT6 mkIII
1976 Triumph TR6
1951 MG TD D Series Midget
1958 MGA Roadster
1958 MGA Coupe
1965 MGB Roadster
1974 MG Midget mkIV
1974½ MGB GT Coupe
1955 Austin Healey 100-4 BN1
1959 Austin Healey 100-6 BN6
1959 Austin Healey Bug-Eye Sprite
1968 Austin Healey Sprite mkIV