So, just what is the Turtle Invitational?
The Turtle Invitational spawned from my side project, Turtle Garage, where I keep cars and motorcycles on the family farm. With 140 acres available, why not have a show? The idea is to hold an event every two years; we started in 2017 with a humble show where we made mistakes. We had great cars and support, lots of fun, but it was very rudimentary. 2019 took it up another level, and, this year, I feel we were better prepared and had a very successful event.
We have a great group of volunteers, with committees focused on everything from judging to facilities, and entertainment to awards. For 2021, we also had a flurry of entries that I didn’t expect. This year, we had some pretty major collectors who brought some beautiful cars.
We usually cap the show at 75 cars and 25 motorcycles, taking a page from the Radnor [Hunt Concours] that puts motorcycles front and center. At Turtle, motorcycles are treated as equal citizens. This year, we exceeded our limits to 110 invited vehicles.
There was an awesome non-judged show field, with The Lime Rock Drivers Club and a designated parking area for vintage automobiles where Hagerty youth judges picked winners.
We had an explosion of sponsorships this year, including Putnam Leasing, Hagerty, and Danbury Porsche — parking and entry were free for anyone driving a Porsche, Audi, or Volkswagen.
Tell us a bit about the philanthropic angle of your event.
Malcolm Pray was a good friend; the board I have now is made up of people who met each other because of him so the show benefits the Malcolm Pray Achievement Center. Our goal is to raise awareness of how the Malcolm Pray Achievement Center inspires people to succeed.
We have a unique concept of entrepreneurship that makes America different. In our culture, it’s okay to fail, get back up, and try again. The Achievement Center is on fire, with a great executive director, sharing the lessons that Malcolm espoused. As we spread the word, we’re raising money.
The Piston Foundation’s mission also focuses on the next generation, funding skilled trade education for the collector car craftspeople of tomorrow. What is are your thoughts on the need in this area?
Obviously, the Piston Foundation mission is extremely important. I have a 1933 Packard 12 and although it’s a reliable machine, I can’t take it to just anyone. I’m lucky because I work with a young man in Massachusetts — Parkers Packards — who does nothing but Packards. Without people like him, I couldn’t enjoy my car.
In this year’s Turtle Invitational, we had a Mercer Raceabout, a Cadillac race car from 1918, and cars from the late 20s and mid 30s. All of these cars need TLC from experts. It’s really important that the younger generation stays interested in our hobby and that some make career choices within it, to preserve and protect these artifacts for future generations. If we don’t do something now, we’ll be in trouble later.
For someone who’s unaware of your contribution to car culture, what would you want that person to know about Phil Richter?
I write my weekly blog at turtlegarage.com and contribute to Sports Car Market. I supposed that’s a contribution but I see myself as someone who benefits more than I contribute. I enjoy meeting people through cars. They’re wonderful, beautiful objects; even something as ugly as the AMC Pacer has an interesting story that you can extrapolate to the period, such as the oil crisis. But, for me, it’s more about the people. The guy or gal who owns a Gremlin and the person who owns a 12 cylinder Duesenberg have the same disease, just a different car. The real value of the car collector hobby is who you meet.
We appreciate you taking the time to talk with us. What would you want to say to wrap up this interview?
I think the concept of raising funds to help the next generation become trained and our hobby rolling, so to speak, is a challenge. The Piston Foundation mission is almost ahead of its time; looking ahead, it will become harder and harder to find someone who knows what a valve adjustment is.
I ask myself where I want my collection of pre-war BMW motorcycles to go after I’m gone. I don’t want them to go to someone who doesn’t care about or for them. I think collectors today have to think very hard about what will happen and the Piston Foundation could make that question easier to answer because there will be stewards available for these mechanical beauties.