Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


THE ART of Leo Bestgen enriched the pages of Road & Track for four decades. His illustrations entertained readers of R&T columns ranging from “Miscellaneous Ramblings” through “Side Glances” to my own “Tech Tidbits.” In fact, his loose-but-not-careless style found its informative way into purely technical articles.

Here are several of my favorite Bestgen pieces. Also, another has already appeared at this website: includes Leo’s Sherlock Holmes.

His fine character study of friend Innes Ireland was inspired by a post-race photograph of this grand prix driver. Leo recognized immediately that intensity and determination were the theme.

Innes Ireland, illustration by Leo Bestgen; Road & Track, March 1994.

It was always good fun to give Leo the manuscript of a story and see what he’d conjure up. One “Tech Tidbits” column bounced around concepts of iconic industrial design: Raymond Loewy’s Studebakers, Lurelle Guild’s Electrolux vacuum cleaner and other stuff.


Blond Admirer of Industrial Design, illustration by Leo Bestgen; “Tech Tidbits,” Road & Track.

Leo and I had a good chuckle over his artistic interpretation of “and other stuff.”

One of Leo’s last contributions to R&T came within two months of his death, at age 61, from a heart attack in 2002. “Tech Tidbits” reviewed a book on Wunderkabinetten, shadowboxes of miscellaneous art and collage. The same column also had details of Mercedes-Benz offering full-size operating replicas of the 1886 Benz Patent-Motorwagen, generally regarded as the world’s first automobile.

The Patent-Motorwagen of Karl Benz, 1886.

Leo and I chatted about an illustration, but instead he proposed his own interpretation of the Wunderkabinett theme.

Benz Patent-Motorwagen Wunderkabinett, by Leo Bestgen; Road & Track, June 2002.

The pastoral scene in his Wunderkabinett arose through Leo learning that Karl’s wife, Bertha, took the car on a 121-mile round-trip driving adventure in 1888.

Detail of Benz Patent-Motorwagen Wunderkabinett, by Leo Bestgen.

I’m not surprised by the dog chasing Bertha and her Patent-Motorwagen. The cowboy encouraging her on? He’s part of the wizardry and charm of Leo Bestgen, rest his soul. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2012

2 comments on “LEO’S ART

  1. Pat
    December 6, 2022

    Have you ever heard if any of Mr. Bestgen’s artwork has ever come up for sale?

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This entry was posted on November 11, 2012 by in And Furthermore..., Classic Bits and tagged , , .
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