RING: A Look Inside New England’s ‘Racing Attic’

Thom Ring New England, Thom Ring Blog 2 Comments

A look at the Sonny Koszela coupe inside Rhode Island’s Pro Nyne Museum. (Thom Ring photo)

PAWTUCKET, R.I. — Visit any museums lately?

If you did, here’s hoping you displayed the proper reverence. You know, when they display a painting or sculpture under carefully-focused spotlights, with velvet ropes surrounding it and a uniformed guard keeping a suspicious eye out for patrons who might dare to breathe on their priceless piece of art … that’s when you ought to pay attention and absorb some of the presented information.

You wouldn’t expect that sort of conceit at an auto museum. We love cars because of the enjoyment they give us, whether they’re racing, driving cross country, or just sitting in the driveway. There’s no room for stuffiness here, or reverence, for that matter.

Yet when this writer goes to a sports car museum in Newport, Rhode Island, he is taken to task for leaning over the velvet rope to peer into a car. Nothing was touched, but evidently just my aura was a real hazard. Never mind that the car in question was an F1 Ferrari. You’d think a Formula 1 car could handle a little drool, wouldn’t you?

They call the Smithsonian Institute “The Nations’s Attic.” Then you go to D.C. to visit and – to give you just one example – they’re giving the diva-treatment to a chair; the ragged item Archie Bunker sat in on All in the Family.

But some will tell you that if you could get into the Smithsonian’s archives, that’s where you’ll find the nation’s attic; rooms randomly cluttered and overfilled with interesting stuff they have no room to display or think few people would find interesting. And yet I hear it’s the most interesting part of the museum.

Pawtucket, Rhode Island’s Pro Nyne Museum is the attic of New England racing. There are no carefully-groomed and fretted-over displays designed to be looked at but not touched. There is no expanse of polished, open floor provided to give you room to consider different perspectives of a painting or ponder the image from a mile away. There’s no room for any of that.

Seemingly there’s no room for anything more than what’s already stuffed into the place. Yet the museum’s Ric Marascal always seems to find a spot for whatever he gets his hands on.

The museum started out simply as Ric’s collection of racing stuff, stuff he started collecting as a kid. This stuff served as a way to connect with a sport he loved but to which the rest of his family was indifferent. It wasn’t a collection, it was a connection.

The collection got bigger, and the connection stronger, as Ric got older. Then he acquired his first race car, one of the famed Sonny Koszela-built modified coupes driven by New Englanders Fred DeSarro and Bugsy Stevens, but even that didn’t inspire him to create a museum to display his artifacts.

Nope, that’s what the second car did.

That coupe was one of the oldest of Lennie Boehler’s creations, collectively known among modified race fans as the “Ole Blue” modifieds. Ric’s car, uncharacteristically painted white, was driven by DeSarro and Stevens.

“I just felt those two cars needed to be together,” he admitted to a recent visitor to the museum, “and we needed a place to do it.”

Continued on the next page…

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