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Classic & Vintage Automobile Luggage

by , January 31, 2011

It doesn't get any better

A real treat as we look into a very special carry category

When Carryology contributor Brian Park started some work with Spirited Automobiles, he was not quite ready for just how special a carry culture he would be introduced to. Thanks to the good folk there, we now have a small introduction to the world of classic and vintage automobile luggage to share. We hope you love it as much as we do…

Brian: We use cars to transport ourselves and, more often than not, our things. To this end our cars have trunks, folding seats, roof racks, armrest stow compartments and cup holders. However, before all these carry compartments were standard, automobile manufacturers supplemented their vehicles’ carrying capacities with luggage that strove to do justice to their vehicles. We’ve put together a brief history of the beautiful, unique luggage that can be found in classic and vintage automobiles.

An external trunk for a classic Rolls Royce

Many early automobiles did not have enclosed trunks, so manufacturers addressed their customers’ carrying needs by simply mounting traditional traveling luggage onto their vehicles. Like carriage makers, automobile manufacturers mounted trunks on the roofs and backs of their cars. The Rolls-Royce above has a very distinctive touring trunk. I can only assume that the storage drawers underneath the beautiful decanter set are full of expensive cigars and other luxurious vices.

Cavernous touring options

There was a period of overlap between mounted luggage and the modern enclosed trunk. The enclosed trunk offered manufacturers an additional challenge, as they had to build fitted luggage for their cars. This 1935 Mercedes-Benz 500K Touren Wagen has fitted luggage recreated by Taris Charysyn to the exact specifications of the original. Taris has a small workshop in upstate New York where he builds luggage for classic and vintage automobiles using the original techniques and materials. His luggage is indistinguishable from the originals, and his work restoring original luggage is very fine as well.

Mercedes Gullwing

Red Leather never looked so good

Post-war Mercedes-Benz luggage was made by Karl Baisch until 1958.

For the tiny boot option

The golf bag carrier was an option from the factory on Mercedes-Benz 300SLs. The trunk is not large enough to accommodate a handbag, let alone a set of clubs. The design of this carrier is quite clever in that one can open the trunk without removing the carrier. This particular photo was taken at a concours over a decade ago. Today, a carrier like this on a 300SL would significantly increase its value. It is presently owned by 300SL restorer Mark Passarelli.

The rarest of luggage options on the 300SL was the ski rack. They made one, and it is owned by Frank Spellmann. The image introduces this post, or you can read about it in the article “1963 300SL Roadster”, by Frank Spellman, Frank Barrett, Star, July/August 2001 (archived at PaulRussell.com).

Mercedes-Benz HEPCO luggage

In 1959 Mercedes-Benz switched from Karl Baisch luggage to HEPCO. This later luggage was criticized for being of poorer construction than the artisanal work of Baisch. Although this 1964 300SL is fitted with its original HEPCO luggage, it is still quite a special car in that it has Chassis 003257. That is the second-last 300SL chassis constructed, but in fact the last car to leave the production line in early 1964. It was a US model Roadster that was delayed on the line to be converted to European specifications before being sold to a German client who, I believe, still owns it today.

Breathless beauty

Leather luggage for a very special car

This 1964 Ferrari 500 Superfast Series I is another example of Taris Charysyn luggage.

Much of this luggage is not practical by today’s standards. Having to undo all kinds of buckles and then lug wheel-less bags through a hotel, or having to uncouple an enormous traveling trunk from the back of your car and get it onto an airplane, are daunting tasks. However this impracticality probably mattered less in the days when porters and bellboys were taking care of much of the carrying. Just as classic cars have value far beyond their driveability and lack of temperature controls, I think there is something intangibly amazing about this crafted luggage.

Brian Park and Robert Dening curate a collection of vintage and classic cars and run a blog about it called Spirited Automobiles. We highly recommend checking it out.

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