Last month we had the privilege of visiting the Palmaz Winery, home of one of the most impressive Porsche collections on the planet. The owner, Dr. Julio Palmaz, is an Argentinian-born vascular surgeon who co-developed the Palmaz-Schatz Stent: a key invention of the 20th century.
Dr. Palmaz’s love for machines and engineering is all over the place; the winery itself is a clear example of creativity and ingenious thinking with a gravity-driven system that delivers an amazing final product.
But even if the amazing wine making complex in itself in its beautiful Napa Valley surroundings is well worth a visit, the 12-car collection we were lucky to admire simply took our breath away.
The first jewel of this collection is a hybrid: A Cooper-Porsche ( also known as “Pooper” R3) from 1956. The car is based on a started Cooper 1100cc Bobtail sports racer and as the story goes Porsche local dealer John Von Neumann was not able to get a Porsche 550 Spyder to bring into competition so he bought the Cooper for racer Ken Miles in order to adapt a Porsche engine to it.
Many problems needed to be overcome during the building of the car as the Porsche engine and the Cooper chassis were not exactly made for each other. However, when put together, this 1500cc little monster was practically unbeatable in its class and a challenger for overall results.
As soon as the “Pooper” was on the track it managed to get excellent results: a class winner in its first three events and top 4 overall positions (including an absolute win at Paramount Ranch) clearly indicated that Ken Miles meant business when driving the silver hybrid.
Such a track record clearly got Porsche’s attention and in 1957 a 550A Spyder was promptly delivered to Von Neumann in order for Ken Miles to start winning on a Porsche. Miles went on to a successful career that would end abruptly in 1966. Read more here. Having been carefully conserved and restored only where needed, this car is a real jewel and makes a wonderful introduction to Dr. Palmaz’s unique collection.