In 1994, Dick Marconi bought up an old salad dressing factory in California and filled it with 75 pieces of classic American muscle and European automotive exotica so he could rent it out and donate the proceeds to charity
1991 Cizeta V16T
Back in the 1990s, if you wanted a supercar with the most of everything, you’d be interested in the Cizeta V16T. As its name suggests, it has 16 cylinders, but the specs don’t end there. Its transversely mounted 6.0-litre engine also has eight camshafts, two crankshafts, and 64 valves. Hence, it was capable of producing 560 hp and 398 lb-ft of torque, without the use of any turbochargers or superchargers. It also had four pop-up headlamps, more than any other production car.
However, due to the recession of the early ’90s, the newly formed Cizeta Automobili didn’t manage to secure many orders, and money soon ran out. Only 13 examples are believed to have ever been completed—this stunning black example at the Marconi is a right-hand-drive unit with its V16 swapped out for a flat-12 from a Ferrari F512M.
1992 Ferrari 512 TR
From a car with a retro-fitted Ferrari 12-cylinder motor to an actual Prancing Horse! The 512 TR was an updated version of the Testarossa (you know, the car Sonny Crockett drove in Miami Vice) and featured a 4.9-litre motor Ferrari referred to in brochures as a “180-degree V12”—yes, that’s a flat motor!
Thanks to 48 valves and dry-sump lubrication, this motor was capable of producing 428 hp and 362 lb-ft of torque, enough to propel this 1,656-kg exotic to a top speed of 314 km/h. Only 2,261 examples of the 512 TR were produced over its three-year run. The model was replaced by the F512M in 1995.
1981 Ferrari 512 BBi
Meet the Berlinetta Boxer—with fuel injection! In the battle for supercar supremacy, Ferrari beat out archrival Lamborghini by first introducing a 12-cylinder supercar featuring fuel injection rather than carburetors.
Hence, the 512 BB became the 512 BBi in 1981. Rated at 335 hp and 333 lb-ft of torque, the fuel injected 5.0-litre flat-12 didn’t make any more power than the older carbureted motor, but it was cleaner to the environment, and was less temperamental in daily driving. The example at the Marconi is one of just 1,007 BBi’s produced by Ferrari between 1981 and 1984.
1989 Lamborghini Countach 25th Anniversary Edition
Lamborghini eventually caught up with Ferrari, and introduced a fuel-injected version of the Countach back in 1985 with their 5000QV model. However, rather than fitting the tech to Marcello Gandini’s design a Countach replacement – that car eventually became the Cizeta V16T – the then-Chrysler-owned Italian supercar manufacturer turned to new employee Horacio Pagani and asked him to give the Countach a makeover.
The end result is the Countach 25th Anniversary Edition, which, apart from its beefed-up styling – which many Countach purists hate – also had the best engine to ever be featured in a Countach, a 5.2-litre V12 with 48 valves and dual overhead camshafts. The result was 455 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque.
Even this wasn’t enough to push the Countach to 200 mph (322 km/h)—it didn’t even hit 300 km/h, instead topping out at just 295! However, the rich didn’t care, and snapped them up as quickly as Lamborghini could make them. A total of 658 Anniversary Edition units were sold, making it the most popular version of the model in its 19 years.
1981 BMW M1
Lamborghini was supposed to build the M1 for BMW, but conflicts arose between the two companies, forcing BMW to take matters into their own hands and build the car themselves. That’s probably a good thing, because the M1 has better build quality than any Italian supercar from the ’70s and ’80s.
The Italians, who made their supercars with V8s and V12s, probably snickered at the M1’s inline-six—but what a motor it was. This 3.5-litre unit featured dry-sump lubrication, four valves per cylinder, mechanical fuel injection, individual throttle bodies, and six velocity stacks. The end result was 272 hp and 243 lb-ft of torque. At 1,300 kg, the car was quite light, and hence made good use of its power, maxing out at about 260 km/h—fast enough. It also had a chassis set up by BMW’s M Sport division, so it handled very well, and a body penned by the legendary Giorgetto Giugiaro.
Only 457 examples of the M1 were ever produced between 1978 and ’81, including racing versions for the Procar Championship. Nowadays M1s change hands for over $500,000, though they cost just $60,000 new.
1993 Ferrari 348tb Challenge
For the most part, motor racing is for professionals only—that’s why, for example, BMW had the Procar series and not the “Novicecar” series. But Ferrari had a bright idea! They figured rich playboys around the world all fancied being racing drivers, and have the financial resources to support their egos. So they set up the Ferrari Challenge series!
The 348tb was the first car Ferrari turned into a Challenge racer, in 1993. The race cars had slick tires, better brakes, roll bars, a smaller battery, and a slightly tweaked 3.4-litre V8 motor that produced 320 hp rather than 300 hp of the standard road car. The car at the museum was raced by Priscilla Marconi, the first woman to partake in the Ferrari Challenge series.
2002 Bentley Azure
Priscilla Marconi now probably prefers her cars a tad more comfortable than the old 348tb Challenge racer, which explains her Bentley Azure convertible. This is a true modern land yacht – 210 inches long and 2,610 kg – with a similarly large engine.
Under the long hood is a turbocharged 6.75-litre V8 capable of 385 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque. Power went to the rear wheels via a four-speed automatic gearbox. Despite its girth, the Azure can sprint from zero to 100 km/h in a respectable 6.5 seconds, and can top out at 241 km/h. However, going quickly is not the point of the Azure—it’s better suited to cruising the California freeways, or pulling up on Rodeo Drive for some shopping!
1973 De Tomaso Pantera L
From a cruiser to a bruiser! The De Tomaso Pantera was a marriage between Italian style and chassis dynamics, with American power. It featured a mid-mounted 5.8-litre V8 from Ford (aka a 351 Cleveland) that was good for 380 hp in standard trim, and power was sent to the rear wheels via a five-speed ZF gearbox. Use the power correctly and you’d see 100 km/h flash by from zero in 5.5 seconds, with a top speed in the region of 280 km/h. A fast car then, and one ti be driven cautiously.
Legend has it when Dick Marconi bought the car, its seller told him to not use full throttle in second gear, and always make sure the car is pointed straight when you do. The eager new owner couldn’t resist, and planted the pedal to the metal on Jamboree Rd, blowing up the transaxle. The repair cost him more than he paid for the car. Dick often tells this story to guests, ending it “And that’s when I learned to listen.”
1965 Ford Mustang GT350
The Marconi Museum has many models of Mustangs, but their GT350 is a bit of a “star” car. Shannon Randol from the Marconi Museum says it’s this car provided the engine noises for Eleanor in the Gone In Sixty Seconds movie. It “rattles the entire museum when its fired up,” she says.
1972 Ferrari Dino 246 GT
We’ll end the list with the beginning! The beautiful brown Dino 246 GT you’re looking at here was the very first Ferrari that Dick Marconi bought. He would drive around in it with his dog, also named Dino, riding shotgun.
Powered by a 2.4-litre V6 engine partly designed by Enzo Ferrari’s son, Alfredo Dino Ferrari, this unit was good for producing 192 hp at 7,600 rpm. Between 1969 and 1974, Ferrari built 3,569 examples of the Dino, making it the most successful model from the Modena-based firm at the time.
After Dick Marconi made a fortune manufacturing vitamins, supplements, and weight loss products, he decided to channel his money into two things: collecting cars and helping children’s charities. His father had taught him to “learn, earn, and return,” which is why Marconi’s raised millions for various causes.
In 1994, Marconi purchased a former salad oil manufacturing facility, took it apart, and turned it into an automotive museum, with the goal of renting it out for private events and donating the income. It’s now open to the public seven days a week, and entry’ll only cost you a donation of any size you’d like.
What will you find inside? A good mix of American muscle and European exotica—about 75 cars in total. There’s really something for everyone to drool over, so if you’re in Tustin, California – about 60 km southeast of Los Angeles – make the time to visit the Marconi Museum.