PARIS – Unique. Stunning. Priceless.

When describing Robert Bahre’s collection of 66 classic cars, only superlatives will do.

“It’s one of the finest car collections in the world, to be sure,” said the collection’s full-time curator, Jeff Orwig. So fine, he said, that more than a few car enthusiasts from other states plan their vacations around the chance to view this collection up close.

That chance will be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, as part of the 25th annual Founders’ Day Celebration on Paris Hill. All of the proceeds from the $8 admission (under 12, $2) to the car exhibit goes to support the operation of the Hamlin Memorial Library on Paris Hill.

Many of the cars, which include Packards, Duesenbergs, Stutz Bearcats, Mercedes Benz, a Tucker, Thomas Flyer and vintage race cars, are in completely original, unrestored condition.

Others have been meticulously restored down to the most minute detail and have won prizes at vintage car events around the country.

“The whole crux of what we’re doing is, we’re preserving automotive history,” Orwig said. “When you win a prize, it’s a stamp of approval that the car is authentic, nicely done.”

Bahre’s collection of nine 12-cylinder Packards of the early 1930s, said Orwig, is “unquestionably the finest Packard collection in the world.” He has examples of all of the different body styles created by the custom coach builders of the time.

One of the Packards was once owned by Clark Gable. Another sedan was custom-built for the World’s Fair.

Three years ago, Bahre acquired a 1940 Mercedes-Benz 770 Tourenwagen that was initially commissioned to the German general responsible for the invasion of Norway in World War II. After the war, it became one of the king of Norway’s official vehicles.

The car’s odometer reads slightly more than 9,000 original miles.

Another Mercedes Benz touring car in Bahre’s collection, from 1921, inspired the book and movie “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.”

The cars travel with Orwig “quite a bit” in a year’s time, he said, to events in Florida, California, Vermont and Maryland, among others. “It just keeps the cars in the action” of the vintage car world, “and gives them some exposure.”

The South Paris man has been curator for Bahre’s collection for the past 14 years.

“It’s an awful lot of fun, and it’s a real honor and privilege to be here,” he said.

The cars are housed in two buildings to the left of Bahre’s estate, which was once the home of former Vice President Hannibal Hamlin, a Paris Hill native. Around 24 or 25 cars will be exhibited outside, overlooking a breathtaking view of the White Mountains.

Along with the car collection, those paying the admission fee will also be able to see an impressive antique doll and toy collection.

The rest of the Founder’s Day events are free. The festivities include a horse and wagon tour of Paris Hill Village; a couple dressed as Mr. and Mrs. Hannibal Hamlin, a tour of the old jail, now a museum; antiques and collectibles; food and other historic displays.

For more information, call 743-2980.


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