The Engine Of Emotion

“It stood at the pinnacle of American car racing during the golden age of the sport in the ’50s and ’60s. They called it ‘The Bridge’ and mostly they loved and feared the place,” so goes a memory of the Bridgehampton Road Races Corporation Circuit.

Before there were 20 mph speed limits in the Hamptons, racing would take place on the public streets. When this was banned in New York, The Bridge Raceway was built in 1957 and saw the likes of Mario Andretti, Paul Newman, Bruce McLaren, and Richard Petty. You can almost hear the roar of the crowds and squeal of the wheels when you pass under the Chevron bridge to what is now The Bridge Golf Club on the Peconic Bay. On Saturday, September 14, those ghosts, as well as mere mortals, perused rare and classic cars and the newest cutting-edge luxury autos gracing the hills of the 18th hole.

In its fourth year, The Bridge event, presented by Richard Mille, showcased 250 cars from those of the hallowed racing era to classics like a 1955 Mercedes Benz, 300 SL Gullwing, and a 1967 Lamborghini Miura S. For car enthusiasts, this is the most coveted invitation in town. One of my favorite aspects of this classy event is the droves of men. Their enthusiasm was palpable. As they were ogling the cars, I was ogling them. I observed men having a full sensory experience: appreciating the lines and proportions, the smell of the leather, and the distinctive sound of the classic engine. Luckily, no one was actually licking the cars, but you could still say they had good taste.

I got sidetracked by a classic Corvette and a particularly vivid memory of an old boyfriend, but then got a glass of champagne Henriot from Sherry-Lehmann’s portfolio and got back to research.

My interviews with the men on their favorite cars ranged from a Miami baseball player’s pick, the Aston Martin One-77 (only 77 made in the world, with one of the most powerful engines) to another enthusiast’s conversation with Preston Tucker’s descendants who had one of the Tucker 48s on display, which at auction can fetch almost $3 million (remember the movie with Jeff Bridges?). One man pointed to a vintage Porsche and said when he was 13, that car owned by a guy down the block ruined him for any future car purchase. I wondered if the little girl being pulled in a baby McLaren by her dad would face the same great automotive expectations. One man looking at the newest De Tomaso P 72, a truly sexy beast and ode to the company’s past formula one racers, said succinctly, “That scratches a lot of itch.”

As a relative neophyte, with my personal classic car references being mostly influenced by my first car, a Ford Pinto, or by “Harold and Maude” (a vintage Jag gets me every time), it was fascinating to watch the true heartfelt passion of generations of men for these classic and futuristic cars. With, of course, women’s appreciation as well.

The founders of the event — Robert Rubin, Shamin Abas, and Jeffrey Einhorn — have their fingers on a pulse that transcends a first-class luxury experience event by hitting an emotional responsive chord. The car is about freedom, aspiration, power, pushing limits, romance, sex appeal, fantasy, status, investment, family, memories, jealousy, fortune, and failure. Those ghostly emotions of love and fear from years ago mingle with all of this to pay homage to the car, and that moment you take a deep breath, step on the pedal, and drive (hopefully more than 20 mph).

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