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A Special Year for the Academy's Car Collection

The collection wows with 32 cars on display during the annual auto show

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The 1959 Cadillac 62 Coupe DeVille was in the spotlight at this year’s reception. Photo by Bob Toy.

For over a decade, the Stephens family has hosted a reception in honor of the annual San Francisco Chronicle International Auto Show, which took place this year at the Moscone Center on Nov. 19–27. 

Academy of Art University Chairman Emeritus Richard A. Stephens has always had a passion for cars and never dreamed that one day he’d be able to host a collection this huge. Now, at 91 years old, his dream has come true and he is able to share his love for cars with not only his family, but other car enthusiasts in the area.

With over 250 cars in the Academy’s collection, the display of about 32 cars continues to change at each year’s event. “Time travels on, it’s been at least 10 years,” said Scott Stephens. “The first time there was only three or four cars here.”

It has been amazing for the Stephens family to see how this annual event has evolved over time, and how it’s brought their passion for cars to life. “I’m so proud of the Academy of Art University Automobile Museum collection,” said Academy of Art University President Elisa Stephens. “We were honored to show it at the San Francisco Chronicle 59th Annual International Auto Show. What made this year so special was displaying the Packard collection by year. The responses were overwhelming, praising the design and beauty of the collection. Hats off to my dad, Chairman Emeritus, Richard A. Stephens, as this year’s show is a testament to his creativity and well-trained eye for detail.”

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1939 Packard Collapsible. Photo by Bob Toy.

Held on Nov. 18, the reception welcomed family and friends of the Academy and Stephens family and treated them to the first glimpse of the cars participating in this year’s display.

“It’s all about Packards,” said Timothy McGrane, executive director of Blackhawk Automotive Museum in Danville, Calif. “As usual, they come out with a great line-up of cars. This has always been a great event—both the cars you get to see and the car people you get to see as well. … I think San Francisco is probably one of the only shows that has a classic car display of this significance, I mean, by far.”

Throughout the evening, there was a sense of kinship amongst the attendees, while they viewed and discussed the many classic cars on display.

“That’s our connection,” said Wayne Barnes, who has been a part of the Academy for 12 years. “The car hobby is a big family, because there is always someone that knows somebody else.” He shared that it’s great to be able to give back and raise money for scout groups and 4-H clubs and encourage others to get involved with the car community.

Barnes works closely with the Academy’s Auto Museum Coordinator, Paul Borgwardt, when putting together this event, and both were very excited to get some of Mr. Stephens’ favorite type of cars out on display this year, all the while honoring Raymond Dietrich—one of the original American coachbuilders.

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Photo by Bob Toy.

“You don’t see a Packard selection like this too much anywhere,” Borgwardt remarked. Barnes shared that it was great to be able to put a selection of Packards on display this year, seeing as they never quite get enough space to be shown off in this fashion.

Pat Pirone, who works at the Academy’s Auto Museum, said that there is an eight-person team for these cars. Commenting about 1932 Packard coupe, Pirone said it’s a “normal everyday car for the everyday guy.”

Pirone also discussed the spotlight car, a 1959 Kustom Cadillac, new to the Academy’s collection. “That Cadillac drew a lot of attention,” said Pirone. “It’s such a milestone car. With the attention and excitement it drew, we knew we had to bring it to Moscone. It’s unique and it’s beautiful, and it’s something people remember. Once you see it, you never forget it.”


For more information about the Academy's classic car collection, please visit www.academyautomuseum.org.