A Fashionable Ode to Naples’ Revs Institute

In the 1930s, Barron G. Collier’s completed Tamiami Trail linked Southwest Florida to the east coast—today, his grandson's museum pays tribute to the car culture in America.

BY July 1, 2023
1937 Delahaye Type 135MS Special Roadster
As motorists made their way down Tamiami Trail to the palm-lined streets of Naples, so did the refined fashion of the 1930s. Today, we channel the hyper femme aesthetic with tucked button-up blouses and textured mini dresses. Model Alena poses in the Revs Institute’s storied 1937 Delahaye Type 135MS Special Roadster, known as one of the most glamorous rides in the ‘30s. The Theory top and Zimmermann dress are both from Saks Fifth Avenue; jewelry from Yamron Jewelers. (Photo by Omar Cruz)

The 1930s were a pivotal moment for cars in America and for us in Collier County, as Barron G. Collier’s completed Tamiami Trail linked Southwest Florida to the east coast—allowing automobiles to flow freely into the region for the first time. “His efforts to develop an area that he fell in love with were incredible,” says Scott George, the curator of collections at Revs Institute, founded by Barron’s grandson, Miles C. Collier. “The connection from Tampa to Miami—and to connect that route to this area and what it meant is unbelievable.” Also around this time, Thomas Edison cut the ribbon for the Edison Bridge over the Caloosahatchee River, drawing more folks from Fort Myers to Naples. Marco Island swapped its ferry for a bridge to easily welcome motorists. Fifth Avenue South was shaping up to be a destination for the thousands of visitors that flocked to the fledgling town each winter, and Naples opened its first 9-hole golf course near Naples Pier.

The next generation of Colliers, Barron’s sons, recognized a national trend that fit perfectly in Naples: the European automobile and sportscar racing craze. Barron Jr., Samuel and Cowles “Miles” Collier were instrumental in bringing racing to the U.S. with the formation of the Automobile Racing Club of America in 1933 and the Sports Cars Club of America (SCCA) in 1944.

Fast-forward to the early 2000s. Miles C. Collier opened the doors to the Revs Institute in Naples. With 115 cars in the collection spanning from 1896 to 1995, Revs celebrates 100 years of automotive excellence. As we celebrate Collier County’s centennial, it’s a fitting time to recognize this car-centric family’s connection. The three-story museum houses, restores and preserves cars (including keeping them all running), and allows visitors to experience the moments our cultural relationship with automobiles shifted. From its curated collection of some of the most historically significant cars made to an ever-expanding library with more than 1.5 million images, prints, manuals, books and periodicals (much of which is digitally archived and available online), Revs is a must-see for history and auto-lovers. “Even though it doesn’t get the attention it deserves, the library is a key component to the museum,” Scott says. “We have researchers coming in from around the world.”

Not surprisingly, Miles grew up appreciating automobiles. Coming from a family with such historical significance in his hometown, it’s fitting that Miles would fixate not only on automobiles’ aesthetics but also on their historical context.

The collection clearly shows the turning point in the ’30s, when automobiles started being seen as more than just practical tools of transport. Designers began crafting rolling works of art, like the museum’s 1937 Delahaye Roadster and 1938 Alfa Romeo Tipo 8C, that helped fuel the automotive love affair that burns strong today. These 1930s beauties were a far cry from the collection’s oldest car, the carriage-like 1896 Panhard et Levassor Wagonette, or the boxy 1914 Simplex that Miles’ grandfather and Collier County founder Barron Collier drove. As the decade progressed, cars got rounder, sleeker, more aerodynamic—just as Collier County was coming in its own.

Miles built the museum on Horseshoe Drive, then expanded into Revs Institute in 2009, with a focus on automobile conservation, antique car maintenance skills and deepening the appreciation of automobiles’ legacy in America. Through Revs, Miles preserves his forefathers’ legacy while cementing the importance of automobiles in the human experience. “And allowing them to live beyond our time,” George adds.

1934 Chrysler Airflow Imperial CV-8 Coupe
Inspired by the Art Deco movement, curves were huge in 1930s design. Car makers tapped into aerodynamics to create sloping designs like the 1934 Chrysler Airflow Imperial CV-8 Coupe, while fashion houses used dramatic peplum silhouettes to accentuate the female body, as seen in this ruffled Aje dress (below), perfectly paired with Jimmy Choo heels. A laced-up Aje dress (above) recalls the shoes racers wear to keep their toes snug when they’re putting pedal to the metal. Dresses from Saks Fifth Avenue, jewelry from Yamron Jewelers. (Photography by Omar Cruz)


1950 Cisitalia 202 SC Coupe
Some trends last for decades. As is the case with this 1950 Cisitalia 202 SC Coupe, which dates to before Cistalia founder Piero Dusio made the jump from clothing manufacturing to automotive design. For a modern twist on vintage-inspired fashion, look for light-reflecting stones, like seen in this chic Self-Portrait blouse, paired with pin-straight pants from Alice + Olivia and timeless Christian Louboutin pumps. Clothing from Saks Fifth Avenue; jewelry from Yamron Jewelers. (Photo by Omar Cruz)


pea-green 1938 Alfa Romeo Tipo 8C 2900B Berlinetta
While buttoned-up looks were big in the era, modern interpretations put a cheeky spin on the classic silhouettes. It’s business in the front and party in the back with Cami NYC’s suit (below), with a heart carved out of the blazer. Speaking of cutouts, peek-a-boo details on this sky-blue Jonathan Simkhai dress (above) pack a punch. The cheery shade is a perfect complement to the pea-green 1950 Cisitalia 202 SC Coupe. Clothing from Saks Fifth Avenue, jewelry from Yamron Jewelers. (Photography by Omar Cruz)

Model: Alena Gorbacheva
HMUA: Dani Taverna and Kayla Rasmussen, Duality Artistry
Photographer: Omar Cruz
Photo Assistant: Andres Beligoy
Shot on location at Revs Institute.

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