The Classic Car collections of Peter F Baumberger

Peter Frederic Baumberger was born in London in 1925. The heir to a two century old brewing dynasty, he went to study Law at Basle in Switzerland before moving to the USA, and became known for his jovial manner.

Over two decades, Baumberger made his inexorable rise through the music business at RCA Overseas, which allowed him to meet a number of stars including the King himself, Elvis Presley, even eating at a luxury banquet at his huge home with the strange combination of hamburgers on silver platters.

Baumberger became passionate about motor cars at an early age. He began motor racing in 1955 with a Porsche 1600, becoming 2-litre Class Champion in the SCCA East Coastseries in 1957 and then went on to race a Jaguar XK120.

 In 1958 he turned to the Lotus. In fact he ordered six of them from the company's founder Colin Chapman CBE to form Team Lotus USA with some friends, who then raced at Watkins Glen, Lime Rock and Bridgehampton.

One of Baumberger's friends made through the driving circuit was one Walter Cronkite, then an ambitious driver, and together with Warren Rohlfs they got together to drive a Lancia Appia Zagato in the 1959 12 Hours of Sebring - an annual motorsport endurance race held at Sebring International Raceway, a former Army Air Force base in Sebring, Florida.

(Walter Cronkite, as all Americans will know, went on to become a legendary broadcaster. Just a few years later he was commentating on the assassination of John F Kennedy and, a few years after that, on the Apollo moonlandings.)

A break in competitive driving followed, as RCA were not keen on the publicity it was generating. But in 1966, a re-married Baumberger broke free of such restrictions and bought three new Ferrari 275GTB/4s, two in steel and one in alloy, for himself and his two stepsons.

They raced as a team for one year, 1967, adopting the bear of the Swiss canton of Bern as their emblem; they ran under the Three Bears banner, indicating 'Bear right, bear left and Papa Bear'. Peter was also a founder of the Swiss Ferrari Club in 1972.

In 1987, he made yet one more return to motorsport, starting with the Mille Miglia retrospective in which he drove his Ferrari 250GT Tour de France. He continued rallying until the last year of his life, 2009.

Now Baumberger's accumulated collection is set to be sold by Bonhams auctioneers in Switzerland on August 20. All cars in the 19-strong motor car collection will be offered without reserve.

2009 Ferrari California (top); 1996 Bentley Continental T

Highlights of the sale include a classic 1973 Porsche 911 RS 2.7 Carrera (estimated at CHF100,000-140,000); and modern high performance cars such as a 2009 Ferrari California (estimate CHF220,000-250,000) and a 1996 Bentley Continental T (estimate CHF80,000-100,000).

Topping off the sale is a 1962 Mercedes Benz 300SL Roadster, one of the final 209 cars built which featured the ultra-desirable aluminium engine. Fascinatingly, this example was dispatched new to Kuwait painted in blue-grey with a cream trim. It has a keen pre-sale estimate of CHF400,000-600,000 (US$578,000).

1962 Mercedes Benz 300SL Roadster (top); 1973 Porsche 911 RS 2.7 Carrera

"Peter was a good friend and a generous host," said Simon Kidston of Kidston SA, the Baumberger family's agent, under whose instruction Bonhams is conducting the sale.

"Although it's sad to see his collection dispersed, he loved sharing his passion and would have wanted that his cars continue to give pleasure to others.


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