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James Melton Collection Blog

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I ran across an interesting blog about the singer/car collector James Melton written by his daughter Margo Melton Nutt. She often refers to her father's car collection and posts numerous photos and stories about the cars and his two museums (in Florida and Connecticut). I'm currently reading Melton's 1954 book, Bright Wheels Rolling which is full of car stories and the low prices cars sold for back then. The blog is well worth reading. Melton died too young in 1961 at age 57.

Phil

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The Melton's Christmas card from 1940 (from James Melton Musical Career and Antiqur Cars Blog).

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Thanks for the tip! The site of his collection in Norwalk is now covered by a Walmart. Ken Purdy lived about 2 miles down the road from me. I often wonder if he and Melton drove around in their MERCER Raceabouts? On a nice Sunday they could drive over to visit Briggs Cunninghan and have three Raceabouts rolling around Fairfield County. Those must have been great times.

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On a nice Sunday they could drive over to visit Briggs Cunninghan and have three Raceabouts rolling around Fairfield County. Those must have been great times.

Surely with minimal eager help it could have been 5 Raceabouts, Bob. I am sure James Melton had three.

It is not hard to find many of his recordings on the internet. Many were duets.

I reckon he had an astonishingly fine voice; and his taste in sopranos was excellent too.

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Posted (edited)

My Father met James Melton through a mutual car collector friend Henry Austin "Austie" Clark.

Melton was a very popular Radio, Movie, Recording, and TV personality during this period of time. (30s-50s)

Everyone who knew anything about James Melton in the USA, if not the world, knew he was an Antique Car Collector. He often talked about his car hobby in the media of the day. Often he was featured in magazine photos in one of his great Antique Autos.

He was also featured in many parades riding in one of his fine autos~

As a result he did not have to look very hard to find very rare Classic & early Antique autos~~

They found him !

In a very short period of time he was able to put-together a world-class collection of 150+ very rare Antique & Classic autos !

He often bought these rare autos for very little money !

You have to remember in these early days of car collecting there were lots great rare autos to choose from and very few early collector buyers !

The rule of Supply and Demand~

The Supply was great~ The Demand was very low !

Old cars had very little value then~

Mostly just scrap value !

It was a buyer's market !

Most antique Auto collectors were thought to be just "Nuts" who collected old junk in those early days.

If you think about it James Melton was the Jay Leno of Antique Car collecting in his day ! Everybody knows Jay is a big car collector today~

In his day Melton was the high-profile car collecor~

Only today Jay has to pay very high prices for his rare car finds ! James Melton was able to put together his entire collecion for the price Jay must pay for one single car . Times & demand have sure changed ~

So have the car's values !

James Melton was also friends of Jim Hoe who ran his famous "Sports Car Garage" in Weston Ct.

Hoe was famous for Duesenberg Model "J" & Rolls~Royce Silver Ghost & Phantom repair & restoration~.

Jim Hoe did quite a bit of mechanical work for Melton.

James Melton also was great friends with Sam Adelman who ran an all Classics Wrecking yard in the NY area.

Many of Melton's grand Classic cars were found by Sam !

Several of James Melton's cars were first found in the Philadelphia and South New Jersey area by my Father !

I never had the chance to meet James Melton as he became very ill early in his life and moved his entire collection to florida and set-up his new museum there.

Sadly he passed away not long after setting up his new Florida museum; and soon after he passed the great Melton collection was sold-off ~

I remember well his fantastic 1907 Rolls~Royce Silver Ghost ! It was said to be Melton's favorite Classic car ! It was the very first Rolls~Royce Silver Ghost ever shipped to the USA~

Today some of the finest, rarest, and most valuable Antique & Classic autos in many of the largest and best collections in the USA & the world were once owned & restored first by James Melton.

I would have liked to have met him and seen his great museum collection !

I am glad my Father was frends with James and knew his auto collection very well!

Edited by Silverghost (see edit history)

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James Melton's 1913 Peugeot Type 150 at the Seal Cove Auto Museum - This magnificent automobile is an outstanding example of the coachbuilders’ art at its finest and was designed by Carosserie Henri Labourdette. Its beautifully sculpted 'skiff' design is crafted in layers of mahogany. Manufactured by SA des Automobiles Et Cycles Peugeot, Lille, France the car boasts a 40 HP, 4 cylinder, 7478 cc engine, with a single camshaft married to a 4-speed gearbox. This car, along with dozens of other wonderful examples of early brass cars, is owned by the Richard C. Paine, Jr. Automobile Collection Charitable Trust and displayed at the Seal Cove Auto Museum, located in Seal Cove, Maine. The Seal Cove Auto Museum was founded by Richard Paine in 1968 to house his collection. Paine acquired the Peugeot when he purchased the fabled Dr. Samuel L Scher collection. Dr. Scher had, in turn, acquired the car from his close friend, James Melton after the closing of Melton’s Autorama museum. Melton described the Peugeot as “one of the finest cars in our collection” in his book, ‘Bright Wheels Rolling’ (page 146).

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My grandfather , Theo D. Moore sold several cars to James Melton in the late 30s thru 50s , in Red Bank , N.J. I have local newspaper arcticles about a White steamer he bought , and family pics with him , and pics of a Stanley Mountain steamer , circa war time 40s. Also have a brass ' door bell' (Front of car with rachet crank) marked Meryy Christmas - James Melton

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The 1907 Rolls was at Pebble this year, displayed by Robert Lee of NV. (It is now a dark burgundy.) Last I heard, the 1952 Rolls was owned by a collector in KS.

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Chris, As I remember things there were two 1907 Rolls-Royce touring cars that were originally imported by someone in upstate New York. The Melton car was restored in the early 1950's, the other was later found and partially restored by Millard Newman, later sold and rerestored by Rich Carroll. Rick also owned the Melton '07 Rolls, so the two cars got to sit side by side again. Just wondering if the Robert Lee Rolls is in fact the red one Rick Carroll had?

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Margo Melton Nutt's blog is extremely interesting to follow.

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You're correct West, the blog is quite interesting...what a way for a young girl grow up, surrounded by real*

celebrities and the famous auto collection. I'm sure there are a lot of them around (circa 1952),

but I wonder if she has this Las Vegas post card? She may have been staying there during her father's gig!

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Larger

* To paraphrase Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, real celebrities,

"not like this new Hollywood trash!"

TG

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I guess a record collector could figure out how to date this.

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The two Ghosts were imported by early race car driver,,,S,B,Stevens,,Rome Ny

Had an entry in 04 Vanderbilt I think,,Ben

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I understand Meltonhad a 1911 Olds Limited. Does anyone know where it is today? Was it possibly the one Matt Browning had?

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I'm looking at a photo of the Melton Olds Limited in Bright Wheels Rolling. He found the car in 1945 with 4,000 miles on it, is the Browning car a low milage one? Melton restored the car in 5 days, and Firestone made the new tires at the same time.

I understand Meltonhad a 1911 Olds Limited. Does anyone know where it is today? Was it possibly the one Matt Browning had?

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When the Browning limited was sold, it mentioned in the catalog that it had only 5000 miles. It also mentioned that previous owners were Sam Sher and Richard Paine. My guess is that Melton bought it from the Olds dealer mentioned in your previos blog and then it went to Sher. From there to the Paine collection and on to Brownings. It sold at the Browning auction for 644K to Stan Lucas, and I think that is where it is now. I had a chance to see it at the auction and then again at Pebble beach and Hillsborough concours and it appears to be very original and complete.

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Posted (edited)

Melton had a 1910 Limited which I believe is now the one in the National Automobile Museum in Reno (correct me if I'm wrong). A lot of the best brass stuff at Harrah's was Melton's, and found its way into the museum in Reno.

The two Ghosts are indeed together again in a prominent NV-based collection.

Also note the ex-Melton Paige Daytona Speedster prototype in the latest AA.

He had some great cars, and he USED them...and he let other people use them. Visitors to the Autorama in Florida were given rides.

Edited by ChrisSummers (see edit history)

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Thought you might like this photo from my uncle's ( Robert D.Wild) collection. I think it was taken 1949 perhaps at Raceland ( Framingham,MA.)

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Posted (edited)

Those were wonderful days. Living in the '60s in greater NYC, i was able to catch, just barely, the tail end of that era by visiting Ed Jurist's wonderful Vintage Car Store in Nyack. Locomobiles, Simplex Speed Cars, Loziers and such were the heavyweights of car collecting then. The big '30s CCCA Classics hadn't yet taken off. It wasn't until 1972 when Greta Garbo's Duesenberg was the first such car to eclipse more than $100,000 at auction.

Cars were enthusiastically enjoyed, driven occasionally in the real world. Once, we were driving down the Saw Mill River Parkway late one weekday afternoon, saw a burly fellow in tweeds, complete with RAF moustache, driving in the other direction in a big, green of course, Cricklewood Bentley 4 1/2-liter. None of these lovely cars that still retained something of their original aura, even when fastidiously restored, would score 85 points at one of today's cosmetic overkill d' nonelegances, as where Ralph Lauren brings a Bugatti Type 57 to the Pebble Beach tournament of credit lines, which originally had painted wire wheels, now gaudily chromed.

A friend who runs a Packard shop spends half his time making such cars run like the automobiles they once were. Once, a customer had him run a die grinder over the entire engine block of a '34 Packard Graber-bodied 1101 that took best in class at Pebble.

That's the sort of nonsense that goes on today.

Even restoration shop owner Phil Hill said he'd seen more fine cars forever ruined for the sake of a few more points at a concours.

Most people in the "hobby" today just don't get it.

Ah, thanks for the memories!

Edited by Water Jacket (see edit history)

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It wasn't until 1972 when Greta Garbo's Duesenberg was the first such car to eclipse more than $100,000 at auction.

Are you sure about that? I always thought it was the 1929 Duesenberg J-101 that was the first to achieve more than $100,00 at auction when it was bid to $105,000 in Atlanta, 1974.

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The "Garbo"* car sold for $90,000 in 1972. Another Duesenberg sold for $100,000 in 1973, and "J-101" sold for $205,000 in 1974.

*Never owned by Garbo

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James Melton's daughter, Margo, has just published a wonderful book about her father, his musical career, and his cars, James Melton: The Tenor of His Times.

To quote from the release... "The James Melton story is the story of an era—the first half of the twentieth century: from the Roaring Twenties, through the Depression, WWII, and post-war prosperity. It is also a rags-to-riches-to-rags story of a talented, confident young man who raised himself from obscure beginnings in a tiny Florida town to the height of fame on stage, screen and airwaves—but who could not live without the adulation of an adoring public, and who had nothing to fall back on as he aged and musical tastes changed."

"The Tenor of His Times is a daughter’s attempt to rediscover the fascinating man who was her father—to understand what motivated his successes and to sympathize with the many pressures that brought him down."

Paperback, 268 pages (with 35 photos), ISBN #1482391449, April 2013

Copies of the book can be ordered through Amazon.com, or from the author, at a cost of $20.00 plus $3.99 shipping.

Contact: Margo Melton Nutt, 560 Hawk Pine Road, Norwich, VT 05055 or tenorofhistimes@gmail.com for further information.

Direct link to the book on Amazon:

James Melton: The Tenor of His Times: Margo Melton Nutt: 9781482391442: Amazon.com: Books

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