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Elegance Personified

Gary Wales is a man on a mission. He is this nation's number one Bentley enthusiast. He should be since he owns more than anyone except the factory. Gary is basically a vehicle enthusiast and anything with wheels holds his fascination.

It is of no surprise that when on a recent visit to Germany and the estate of Count von Hokenberg, he found a treasure trove of original horse-drawn coaches, traps and sleighs. Some of the coaches dated back to the mid-19th century and one had just finished a full ground-up restoration.

Von Hokenbergâs estate is outside Landau in Bavaria. That is where the type of horse-drawn coach called the Landau originated. This coach, one of many in the collection, was built in 1870 for the Duke of Baden Wurttenberg. It would have cost several thousand dollars -- a fortune in those times. A coach like this one would have been the exclusive personal transportation of a member of the aristocracy. But it was only a two-seater inside. The driver and groom rode outside in the rain.

In the stables of wealthy European countries, the head coachman held a position of authority, controlling a staff of underlings ranging from under-coachman to stable boy, each with clearly defined duties and distinctive clothing. Even families without claim to a coat-of-arms would provide livery for their coachmen and grooms -- clearly defined duties and distinctive clothing.

With independent four-wheel suspension and either one or two horsepower, the Landau requires little or no maintenance other than a little grease, some polish and, of course, hay, water and a few carrots.

This collection is for sale, either as a whole or in part. It comprises over ten unique vehicles that are legal to use on the roads in the U.S. Anyone interested in owning a coach should investigate the type of driver's license needed before committing to a purchase.

A coach like this Landau should sell for at least $25,000 and wouldn't it be the talk of the neighborhood.

Imagine going to a party, local event, or even the market in this German, two-seater. It beats the BMW that the neighbors have! In the classic car world, where Wales spends much of his time, classic cars worth millions are often bought or sold from just a photograph and a description. In antique terms -- a provenance.

Wales has a full description of the collection and hundreds of photographs that he is only too willing to share with anyone interested.