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Home People A Piece of Automotive History, Commissioned by Rye Resident, Gone

A Piece of Automotive History, Commissioned by Rye Resident, Gone

A piece of automotive history, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and commissioned by Rye resident Max Hoffman, is gone. Hoffman also had Wright design his house on Rye's Island Drive.

"A small landmark of New York City architectural and automotive history disappeared recently, almost without notice. The theatrical auto showroom designed by Frank Lloyd Wright at 430 Park Avenue, at 56th Street, had displayed a number of European brands over the years, notably Mercedes-Benz from 1957 to 2012.

The space, with a spiral ramp and turntable interior, was designed in 1954 for the pioneering auto importer Max Hoffman…

Born in Austria, Maximilian Hoffman immigrated to New York with the outbreak of World War II. In 1947, he established a firm to import little-known European brands to New York and the West Coast.

Hoffman first intended the showroom for Jaguars. Drawings from the Wright archives show a leaping Jaguar sculpture and planters. But by the time the showroom was completed, Jaguar had set up its own sales space. Instead, the Hoffman space was filled with a mix of cars, including Porsches, for which he was the official importer to the United States…

Part of Wright’s fee for the design work was two Mercedes-Benzes, according to Douglas Steiner, who has written extensively about the architect. Wright also designed a house for Hoffman in Rye, N.Y.

Almost alone, it seems, Mr. Hoffman saw a market for European luxury models in New York and Beverly Hills. Beginning in the late 1940s, he imported a wide range of brands, including Delahaye and Austin.

He was willing to take a chance on the former Third Reich’s people’s car, the Volkswagen, which eventually became a huge hit. He also offered the Jowett Jupiter, which was not.

Hoffman met Ferry Porsche, son of the company’s founder, in 1950 and began importing Porsches to New York. He often raced cars himself to publicize the brands."

See the entire piece in the NY Times.

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