On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff
OR “A MAGNIFICENT YOGI’S Ride.” Either way, it describes the 1929 Minerva AM owned by Oom the Magnificent. This Minerva ranks as one of the largest and most lavish automobiles ever built. Oom the Magnificent, founder of yoga’s Tantrik Order of America and con man, qualifies for superlatives of quite a different sort.
Today, we’ll examine the magnificent Minerva; tomorrow, the rascal Oom the Magnificent.
My Minerva interest dates from the 1970s while researching what I envisioned as my second freelance project for R&T. The magazine had already printed my first of two Mini Moke stories back in August 1973. During another summer visit to Cleveland, I visited the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum and was captivated by the outrageousness of its 1929 Minerva AM “Throne Car.” I pitched R&T for a Salon article, but no dice.
This time around, I’m my own editor and Minerva it is. What’s more, I’ve learned more about this car and its owner.
Minerva was a legendary Belgian marque with a reputation rivaling that of Rolls-Royce. In fact, Charles S. Rolls was Minerva’s London agent before he linked up with Henry Royce in 1904.
In 1908, Minerva bought rights to the Knight Double Sleeve Valve design. From then on, its engines retained this feature offering particularly quiet operation for the era. Early in World War I, sleeve-valve Minervas were used for stealth hit-and-run raids against the Germans, trenches putting an end to this tactic.
During the 1920s, Minerva slightly undercut Rolls-Royce in price for bespoke automobiles. The Belgian marque survived the 1930s only by replacing luxurious autos with British Range Rovers built under license. It struggled along into the 1950s, with a recent resurrection, albeit primarily in name, by way of a proposed 21st-century exotic.
Minerva was doing fine in 1929 when it fulfilled a commission from American Pierre Arnold Bernard.
Oom the Magnificent?? Tomorrow, we intersperse details of this rascal with more on his fabulous car. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2016