If only Mr. Toad could motor to Hyannis Port
HYANNIS PORT — The only thing more striking than the low, sleek lines of Toad Hall’s 55 classic racing cars is the myriad shades of red. Every car but one — a 1960 Lotus Elite S1 — is a sassy crimson or cranberry or cherry.
Toad Hall is the personal collection of Bill Putman, owner of the Simmons Homestead Inn on the same property. He says the name and the color come from a favorite book, “The Wind in the Willows,’’ published in 1908. The protagonist was Mr. Toad, lord of Toad Hall, who was fascinated by the then-new motorcar. And all of Mr. Toad’s cars were red.
The beautifully restored vehicles are displayed in a rambling outbuilding created when Putman cobbled together several sheds behind the inn. License plates, grilles, neon lights in the shape of racing cars, and toad paraphernalia cover the walls. Models include Lotus, MG, Triumph, Jaguar, Austin-Healey, Datsun,
Affixed to each car is a placard that describes the engine, tells when it was built, and includes a few facts about what made the car distinctive and how it fared in the marketplace.
Putman said he has always been interested in cars, but it wasn’t until he was racing Datsuns in the 1970s that he got to know the English cars and began to collect them.
“I looked for cars that were interesting drivers,’’ he said, not necessarily show cars or antiques. He chose to brand them Minuteman Racing because he was living on Minuteman Road in Hingham at the time. He bought about half the collection on
The cars’ artistry is in their details: the sensual curve of a 1953 Jaguar XK-120 fender, leather straps with buckles to secure the hood (or bonnet) of a 1960 Daimler SP 250 “Dart,’’ the long, low profile of a 1967 Triumph Spitfire Mark 2.
All the cars run, Putman said. He does most of the mechanical work himself.
The oldest model in the collection is an 1951 MG-TD, and the newest is a 2005 Lotus Elise that Putman drives every day. And what kind of mileage does that get?
“Irrelevant,’’ Putman answers.
He estimates that the rarest is the green 1960 Lotus Elite S1, since fewer than 1,000 of the model were made over a three-year period, and there are probably only 100 or so left.
And, no, he’s not planning to paint it.
Ellen Albanese can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.