Visiting the Gleeson Collection
“Find something you love to do and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” Anonymous
Recently the famed BMW car collector Peter Gleeson graciously hosted club members in a private tour of his spectacular Seattle-area collection. I was fortunate to be able to go and, having never been before, I felt I needed to share my experience and sense of wonder with the broader collective. To be clear up front, this article isn’t going to go into details on any particular car or its history. Peter tells it better in person, anyway. And there are numerous articles and videos online that detail most of the collection. This article is about the *experience* of being invited into the inner sanctum of a man who loves and collects cars (among other things!), especially BMWs. But not exclusively, as I will discuss below.
Visiting Peter’s collection is very different from visiting a car museum or a more formal curated collection. And I do not mean this as a negative and it is why I felt compelled to write about it. It is hard to describe, but I will attempt it. The garage is relatively small but is carefully packed with cars, model cars, memorabilia (including a significant boxing collection; Peter has a long relationship with The Fitzroy Lodge in London and youth boxing programs), and even a boat! More on that later. It is clearly a collection of passion—it is not about the investment (although there are many investment quality cars there), or to put it coldly, “completing something.” The cars, for the most part, have a personal connection for Peter. As does the memorabilia. He is all about relationships and has many friendships across the spectrum of car building, collecting, restoring, showing, racing, and writing. It is this aspect that makes experiencing his collection so special. It is less a tour of a car museum and more a visit to a good friend’s house and he says, “let me show you my man cave,” with a twinkle in his eye. It is Peter’s affable nature which really makes the tour come to life.
Let me say a little about the specifics of the collection (which is always being updated.) Clearly Peter has a special place in his heart for the E9 CSL and its several incarnations. He likes to say he keeps trading up until he gets to the pinnacle of a particular collectible type. There were six unique specimens on display and Peter had the story behind each of them. There is also a striking Z4M GT Racecar (among other racecars). The centerpiece of the collection to most would be the Frank Stella’s M1 Art car (Peter loves art as much as cars and the intersection of both seem to particularly please him), but I was more impressed with the eclectic nature of the collection ... from my perspective, Peter acquires things that strike his fancy, and while he is clearly driven to build some parts of his collection with a strategy, others seem much more “spur of the moment” or emotional. For example, he owns a classic Mustang Mach 1, which seems a little out of place amongst all the German stahl, but it was there because of a childhood memory of the first time hearing an American V8 in one of those cars in South London. So, he found one. He also has a beautiful Plymouth Roadrunner, which to me, represents the pinnacle of American braggadocio and over-the-top excess in the muscle car era. You can’t not smile and chuckle just being in its presence.
The most interesting thing to me personally (and make no mistake, everything was interesting!) was not the CSLs or the eclectic models like the Ford or the Plymouth (or the Bentley, or the two BMW motorcycles, or … but I digress). Believe it or not, it was a boat (and I am not even a little bit a boat guy). I had no idea BMW dabbled in using the 507 engine in a sporty wooden-hulled boat in the ‘50s. Only a few were made and Peter has one. It is the unique things that make the collection so varied and special.
This collection is not something you can fully absorb in one two-hour visit. So, if you ever get the opportunity to see Peter’s collection, jump at the chance. It is so worth it, and I can’t fully express my gratitude and the gratitude of the club that he continues to be willing to share his time and collection with us. You will be hard-pressed to find a more down-to-earth and unpretentious person in the car collector world. Or a more passion-driven collection. Thanks, Peter!
President, BMW CCA PSR
(Subsequent to our visits, the chapter board decided to have the chapter cover the MotorsportReg.com registration fees of $146.90, so that the gross amount of the event charges could be donated to the BMW CCA Foundation. That amount was $2,440.00!)
To view more photos, please visit the album created by photographer Christian Bouchet: https://www.bouchezphotography.com/Cars-1/BMW-Car-Shows/Munich-Evolution-/