Lifestyle

Photography by ChiChi Ubiña

Michael Grunberg was born in Caracas, Venezuela of Eastern European parents and became a US Citizen in the early 90’s. Early education in England and graduated from Vassar College. He is the proud single father of four kids and the Managing Partner of a family investment firm, Grunberg Realty, based in New York City, which owns and manages real estate in four states, as well as other ventures. He recently returned to Greenwich and was reunited with many of his cars and the home he built here 15 years ago.

Michael sits on the boards of The Bruce Museum, Greenwich Riding Trail Association (GRTA), Greater Hartford Arts Council, The Bushnell, Hartford Stage and donates to many other charities.

He has 20 yr old triplets, Zachary, Tatiana and Allegra and 14 yr old Skyler. The triplets graduated from Greenwich High School where Skyler attends today.

When did you start collecting cars?
I bought my first antique car when I was eighteen. It was as coincidence would have it, a Fiat 124 Spider, the very same first car my youngest son Skyler has bought (though he was better funded) and much younger at age fourteen.

What was your first “nice” car?
It was without a doubt a 1965 Gold Mercedes 300SE Coupe, 5 passenger in mint condition! I was a junior in college and my father was driving a newish Cadillac of similar color, yet when he rode in my car he saw the difference in quality and attention from passersby. From that day forward, he didn’t complain too vociferously about my collecting cars and it eventually influenced him to buy better cars like Jaguars and Roll Royces.

How does your collection reflect who you are?
My cars like me, are eclectic. I like kiddy, toy like cars like my bubble car (BMW Isseta 600) but have also owned concurrently some stately Packard limousine type vehicles, as well. Whatever moves me, I’ll buy (according to available garaging of course). The underlying reflection in a person who drives vintage cars is patience and stability. To have cars that are road worthy and safe from the 30’s to the 50’s, takes some deep pockets, tremendous patience and a willingness to go the distance that can often take years to accomplish. This is not for the faint of heart. I also collect and appreciate antiques of all kinds and enjoy the beauty of unique designs.

Are you involved in car clubs or groups?
I belong to the Mercedes 300, BMW 600, Woody, Porsche and ALFA groups via the internet as well as by subscription/membership. Many of these clubs allow and facilitate member interaction via armchair and occasionally in the flesh as schedules allow. Probably the most memorable for me was a meet I attended a few years back when 20 or so 300 Model Mercedes gathered from around the country in Vermont. On the way up there, I developed transmission problems and had to be flat bedded to the meeting dinner, arriving an hour late. Every driver (most competent mechanics in their own right) piled out of the restaurant to assist me and my vehicle. Within an hour, it was determined that I could drive my car so long as it was under 40 miles an hour and that I would in fact lead the parade the next day, so that we would all travel together. That’s the kind of people that collect these kinds of cars.

What is your personal style and how does your collection reflect that?
Like the story above, it illustrates a conservative style yet benevolent, and certainly charitable side that results in having these four door convertibles to tool around town with lots of kids in tow, yet have micro cars to peek the interest of kids in collecting and the smiles they inspire when a grown man and usually a kid or two get out of what appears to be a toy car. Most collectors remain kids at heart, no different than me.

What part of being a collector do you like best – purchasing, restoring, driving, maintaining?
Purchasing is always fun, but the reality and hard work of restoration that occurs after, coupled with “buyers remorse” can dampen the most enthusiastic purchase. The driving wipes clean the past and only good thoughts and feelings prevail, almost like amnesia. I would consider it similar to what happens when women give birth. No one would do it again if they truly remembered the pain. Driving a fine running vintage automobile of your choosing is such an elixir. Allowing others to enjoy the vehicles - either in shows or in passing, and have their memories recalled and have them share them with you compounds the beneficial effects of driving. As an owner of an antique car, we become facilitators to many others’ memories and enjoyment. The maintenance of the vehicle is part and parcel of the responsibility of being the caretaker of a historical object, the differing degrees of maintenance and restoration sets owners apart and results in less or more interaction with the public and in different forums. My cars are drivers and so my forum is gas stations, parking lots and lines to pick up kids . . . and occasionally a Concours.

Any favorite places you like to buy your cars?
Auctions are by far the most fun, but result in a higher probability of buyer's remorse. The most savvy and experienced collector and dealer gets caught up in the moment resulting in a windfall for the auction house, but like a fine wine, or a night out on the town, there is a price to pay the next day.