Back in October of 2011 Jalopnik readers were introduced to Alan Wilzig, a retired banker who built a mile-long racetrack on private property in upstate New York. Alan’s primary residence is in the Tribeca section of NYC; the track was built at his weekend place he calls “the farm” about two hours north of the city in Columbia County. Wilzig keeps an impressive collection of a dozen sports cars and race cars in a building adjacent to the track he calls his museum.
In late January, I spent an evening with Alan and his family at the farm with the intent of writing an article detailing his car collection. With all pre-conceived notions set aside, what I discovered was a regular guy with a passion for things that go fast, and the willingness to talk for hours about his interests with a fellow car nut. In fact, we sat on the floor by his Ariel Atom for almost half an hour discussing the rear suspension mods he’d made to control the car’s tendency to swap ends. After riding along with Alan on a tour of the track, (the previous week’s snow meant we rode in one of his enclosed ATVs) we headed down to the museum for a show & tell. Regrettably, the snow precluded any track time in the Audi RS5 loaner I drove up in. The museum is a lot to take in; an immaculate, open two-level structure with tile floors, with an eclectic mix of cars and motorcycles on the first level and the rest of the motorcycle collection and office on the second level. (In addition to the cars he keeps 65 motorcycles there; mostly Italian makes like Bimota, Ducati and Cagiva, and a few oddballs I’d never heard of)
My focus, however, was the cars. Like the kid in the proverbial candy store, I was initially suffering from over-stimulation, but tried my able best to hide it. My eyes were immediately drawn to the middle of the floor, where a black CART rolling chassis sat; this was an ex-Newman-Haas car that Alan bought thinking it had been driven by Cristiano da Matta, but that turned out to not be the case. It was part of a package deal he got surfing Ebay late one night; (a dangerous habit, he told me) the other half of the package, sitting in another building with all his snow toys was a New York Yankees-themed Top Fuel dragster that had been driven by Mike Dunn in 2001. The dragster is for sale; Wilzig says he has no use for a car that can’t turn.
Dispersed around the Newman-Haas car are a dozen or so motorcycles, and tucked up against the wall is a yellow 1988 Lamborghini Jalpa (YAL-pah for the uninitiated). This was a car purchased from the DuPont Registry as a replacement for his stolen Ferrari 308. The Lambo still had the factory plastic on the seats and door panels, and was showing just 1,000 miles on the clock. It turned out to be quite a project; as the last year of production subsequent to Chrysler purchasing Lamborghini, Wilzig says the car seems to have been put together with whatever parts were lying around the factory. In short, the quality was abysmal, and this came to light when he had the car fitted with an electronic engine management system by Electro Motive. Parts and fasteners had to be custom made, and the deeper they got into the project the worse the migraines got. It is still a bit of a work in progress.
In a row of three cars behind the Jalpa sits the Wilzig Racing Manor safety car, a Nissan 370Z with a full complement of blue and red strobes. Wilzig uses the car for track inspections and for pacing guest drivers during charity events, such as his annual hosting of the Empire State chapter of the Ferrari Club of America. The safety car keep drivers out of the gravel traps during what Alan calls “glorified parade laps”. Flanking the Z are two rally-prepped Subarus (a 2004 Impreza and 2007 Legacy) that are leftovers from the defunct Robin Hood Rally, a reality show for amateur racers that raised money for charities.
Sitting next to the Jalpa is a Diasio D962 www.diasio.com - a D Sports racer powered by a 1,000cc motorcycle engine. This car has a similar powertrain setup to the West WX10 www.westracecars.com.au that Wilzig successfully campaigned last season in the IMSA Lites L2 class. The West ran a 1,000cc Kawasaki ZX-10 engine, and can be seen in the shop photo disassembled on the lift. This season Wilzig has moved up to the more competitive L1 class in an Elan Mazda prototype.
At the opposite end of the museum in front of glass roll-up doors are three more of Wilzig’s road and track toys. A 2004 Lotus Esprit V8, last production year for the type and one of four orange cars made that year (one of two with black interior). Alongside is a reproduction Gardner Douglas Lola T70 www.gdcars.com - a 1,400lb rocket powered by a twin-turbo Chevy small block. At the far end is a 2005 Maserati Spyder Cambiocorsa. This was originally bought for Alan’s wife Karin, but apparently wasn’t her style. Her daily driver is a 2006 Mini Cooper.
The last of the track cars sits behind the Lola; a 2006 Ariel Atom www.arielatom.com. Wilzig ordered this car with a matte orange powder coated frame, and has spent a fair amount of time & energy getting the rear suspension right. This involved replacing the cast factory knuckle with an adjustable CNC-machined aluminum part. This particular car was one of the last ones made under license by Craig Bramscher of Brammo electric motorcycle fame. Wilzig says it weighs in just over 1,100lb and is powered by a 285hp Cobalt SS engine. Of all the track cars he owns, he says the Atom is the only one that can still scare him when pushed to its limits.
Last in his quartet of orange-hued vehicles is a 1971 Alfa Romeo 1750 GTV, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfa_Rome… purchased during one of his late-night Ebay splurges. What was the attraction? The pearl mica Gallardo orange paint. The seller built the car from three basket cases, and FedExed an inch-thick folder of receipts to Alan for all the work before the sale was complete.
With so many vehicles in storage, the inevitable question is do these cars get driven, or are they garage queens? For sure, the Atom and the Lola see a fair amount of time on the track, but Wilzig’s race schedule over the last two years has meant limited play time at home. This will change in 2013 as his racing schedule is not nearly as busy as last year’s. With more time to sped at the farm this summer, his in-house mechanic Peter Huber is going to be a very busy guy. In addition, the Wilzigs will be starring in a reality show produced by Lions Gate Entertainment. The pilot has already been shot at the farm, and several networks are currently bidding for the broadcast rights. It promises to be a gearhead’s dream, with lots of footage of the track and Wilzig’s racing exploits. As they say, stay tuned.