Ralph Lauren is one of the most famous fashion designers in the world. He was born Ralph Lifshitz in the Bronx, New York to Jewish immigrants from Belarus; his father was a house painter.
Ralph changed to his more familiar surname at the age of 16 along with one of his brothers, by which time he was already working after school to earn the money to buy suits. His idols were British and American style setters: the Duke of Windsor, for example, and Katharine Hepburn.
After dropping out of business school and a short spell in the army, Lauren opened a necktie store where he also sold ties of his own design, under the label 'Polo' and from there just went from strength to strength.
The Financial Times reported in its edition of January 2-3, 2010 that the firm had revenues of 5 billion for the fiscal year 2009. Forbes estimates his current wealth at $4.6 billion, and Lauren was recently decorated Chevalier de la Legion d'honneur by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in Paris.
Whilst Lauren's sense of style in fashion is legendary, his appreciation extends far beyond that, most famously to a world-class collection of classic cars, inspired by their style.
"I've always seen cars as art. Moving art," Lauren commented. The 29 cars which Lauren had to his name certainly seemed to bear that out and the Discovery Channel made a series about them entitled Speed, Style and Beauty: The Ralph Lauren Car Collection.
Some of those he owns include: a 1929 Blower Bentley, a 1930 Mercedes-Benz "Count Trossi" SSK, a 1938 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic Coupe, a 1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 Mille Miglia, a Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing, a 1958 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa, a 1961 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa 61 Spyder Fantuzzi, a 2005 McLaren F1LM and even a Bugatti Veyron.
It's difficult to imagine a more impressive selection. Let's take a look at some of those in turn: the Blower Bentley was the car Ian Fleming initially chose to place James Bond in in his novel. Built like a tank, but with a supercharger fitted (hence 'blower') it was built to blast its way to the winning line and proved more than capable.
Four identical Alfa Romeos were made in the 1938 8C 2900 style for the legendary Mille Miglia race - a thousand-mile course along Italian public roads. The design accentuates speed, due to the symmetry in the the body panels and the teardrop-shaped fenders and tapering tail.
The Jaguar XKD was synonymous with speed in the 1950s and chalked up three consecutive wins between 1955 and 1957 at Le Mans. It could exceed 190mph thanks to its extraordinary aerodynamics. Lauren is one of only ten long-nose D-types built.
Whilst the Jaguar XKD may have ruled the 1950s, the 1996 McLaren F1LM is the world's fastest production car, capable of 225mph. One of just five made, it is a relatively recent highlight of Lauren's collection.
"Cars have always been a source of design inspiration for me. The cars I collect have a message of timeless beauty." Lauren noted.
The collection has been put on display at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (in 2005) and his cars have won best in show at the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance several times.
Now, an opportunity is being offered on the charity auction website CharityBuzz, to be taken on a tour of the whole collection. The sale is in support of cancer charities (Lauren himself had a benign tumour removed several years ago), and bidding closes tomorrow.
Already the bids for the tour, which is to be given by Ralph himself stands at $42,500 - just one more endorsement of the quality of Lauren's collection.