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A Collection of Exotic and Classic Cars of the Hamptons

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author photo by Sam Keller October 2017

The summer has flown by -- and, since Memorial Day, I've resided in the Hamptons, a summer beach enclave on the easternmost tip of Long Island. With one year of classic-car spotting under my belt, I've set out again to capture the unique cars of the summer. It's hard not to notice when exotic and classic cars, ostensibly rare, turn out in numbers -- a testament to the excess and luxury of the Hamptons.

One sunny June afternoon, I heard a loud, exotic rev in the distance. I peered down East Hampton's Main Street and was greeted by a passing Ferrari. I can't remember the first model that drove by, because as I pulled my iPhone out to film, another Ferrari shot by, followed by another, and another. Within one minute, I counted 24 Ferrari and one Maserati that had just passed me. There were 458s, 488s, Californias, an F40 and even an Enzo, driving as a pack to Montauk, the end of the island. I stood there, drooling, my jaw on the floor with a minute-long video that I immediately sent to Doug. Here are a few other interesting cars I've spotted this summer.

280 SE W111 Cabriolet

The Mercedes 230/280 SL W113 Pagoda and the larger 280 SE W111 Cabriolet (pictured above) are two of the most common summer cars seen in the Hamptons. These stately convertibles are the last of the hand-built Mercedes-Benz models, which rolled out of the factory throughout the 1960s at a pace of 13 cars per week. I regularly see pristine examples in brown, green, red, silver and white. The most desirable "W111" version is the 280 SE 3.5, the V8 model produced from 1968 to 1971. Production numbers were limited on the top-of-the-line 280 SE; only 1,390 examples of the 280 SE Cabriolet were produced, along with an extra 1,232 with the 3.5-liter V8. Yet despite its low production, I regularly see pristine examples.

Understandably, the V8 is the more sought-after model, as the V6 was only rated a sluggish 120 bhp. Still, it makes up for the lack of power with its comfortable ride and tight steering radius (and gorgeous styling). Although the 3.5 280 SE is the most valuable of the Mercedes-Benz models, power is not as important for the classic cars of the Hamptons. The beautiful, windblown beach dunes and winding, wooded roads are limited to 30 mph and are best enjoyed in an open-topped classic-car cruiser.

International Harvester Scout

International Harvester Scout

Sticking to style over speed, open-top classic 4x4s are also a common sight. Driving on the beach is a rare privilege afforded in the Hamptons, with some restriction. Bonfires are also allowed -- so making a sunset drive down the beach in a classic 4x4, followed by a clambake, is an essential rite of the summer. I've never seen so many International Harvester Scouts before. A few weeks ago, I saw two in the same parking lot! There are Jeep models from every era, including the Jeep CJ5A Tuxedo Park Edition pictured above, which was Jeep's first-ever trim package! Seeking a rebrand in 1961, Kaiser (Jeep's manufacturer at the time) started producing add-ons to tame their 4x4 with a reputation for ruggedness on the farm, trails and beyond. By 1964, the add-ons became a separate model, called the Tuxedo Park Mark IV, which included a chrome bumper, chrome taillights, model-specific hubcaps and an upgraded interior. Imagine how all Jeep's subsequent trim packages started with this one model!

Mini Moke

Last year I saw my first Mini Moke, a stripped-down golf-cart-like cabriolet based on the original Mini. It was a notable moment because I was in shock over how strange it was. It was barely a car. It had loose canvas doors that rolled up like a camping tent, and it looked barely street-legal, sitting on the tiniest wheels with moon hubcaps the size of espresso-cup saucers. This summer I've seen many more Mokes. One had a camouflage paint job, one had a completely customized interior, and one was very raggedy. Just the other day, I saw three parked in a row on the side of the road! The concentration of these rare machines is incredible, and their existence here is a testament to the unique environment and driving experience of the Hamptons.

Sam Keller is a visual artist from Brooklyn. He runs the Instagram account @hamptonwhipz, capturing classic cars in the Hamptons, NYC and anywhere else his travels take him.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
A Collection of Exotic and Classic Cars of the Hamptons - Autotrader