Rides Deluxe 

Tire-kickers beware -- the cars at Blackhawk are works of art.

"I'm car-centric," deadpans Jon Hart of the Blackhawk Automotive Museum. That's an understatement. Ever since real-estate developers Kenneth Behring and Kenneth Hofmann (current co-owner of the Oakland A's) founded the museum in 1988 with the aim of creating a world-class automotive showplace, it's been a magnet for motor enthusiasts, from Joe Six-Pack (adult admission is $8) to millionaire collectors from nearby gated communities. Everything from classic Tucker exhibits to the Datsun Z Owners' show have graced the site, and beginning in 1999 the museum has been affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution.

Hart, a veteran auto show promoter who serves as the museum's director of marketing as well as curating most of the exhibitions, is throwing Blackhawk's Fifteenth Anniversary Open House, Monday, August 18 (10 a.m.-4 p.m.) on the heels of the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. He has lined up some ninety of Blackhawk's finest vehicles, including post-WWII Delahayes and '60s-era twelve-cylinder Ferraris. Observes Hart: "Previous collectors were interested in Duesenbergs and older cars, but there's a whole generation that likes racing cars from the 1960s, like the Briggs Cunningham cars, from the only American organization to mount a team at Le Mans." Museum member Howden Ganley, a former McLaren team driver, will be on hand to discuss his career and show off Gulf Mirage racers. Ask him to explain why American cars in international competition are always white with blue stripes (likewise, British: green, Italian: red, German: silver). In addition, authors Jean-Paul Caron and Richard Adatto will sign copies of their new photo book, From Passion to Perfection: The Story of French Streamlined Styling, 1930-1939. Also, the Bay Area Engine Modelers will display their 1/4-scale working engines.

The Blackhawk Museum, which is now showing nature paintings and children's exhibits too, just to keep things well-rounded, is open Wednesday through Sundays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at 3700 Blackhawk Plaza Circle, Danville. 925-736-2280 or BlackhawkMuseum.org

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