By: Natalie Harrington
On a rainy Cape Cod weekend, what’s a visiting car guy or gal to do? Here’s a great option: consider hitting up the Toad Hall Classic Sports Car Collection. Named for the car-loving batrachian from the classic novel The Wind in the Willows, this charming spot is chock-full of autos, whimsy, and clear joy of purpose.
The proprietor, Bill Putman, has owned some 60 cars in his lifetime. He’s been paring his collection down in recent years, but he still has over 40 cars for visitors to enjoy—”mostly British, and all red,” as his site says. (The color is an homage to the character Toad, whose cars were also all red.)
To picture Bill, imagine the kind of guy who would name his first car “The Titian” (after the famous painter of redheads) because it, too, was red. If you’re picturing a pretentious fop now, it’s only because you don’t have enough information yet: let me quickly add that Bill is also a true gearhead. He hotrodded the ’49 Ford “Titian,” modded at least two Datsun Zs for racing, and spent enough time on the track in the seventies to start putting “MINUTEMAN RACING” stickers on all of his cars. He also has 8 cats, and he told me that he has had as many as 30 at a time. Needless to say, Bill is quite the character, but he’s also warm, welcoming, and more than willing to share his stories. His whole persona is unaffected, and his collection is entirely unfussy.
I have to assume this is why he has stuck resolutely to the “collection” label—he just doesn’t seem to want the rigamarole, or, perhaps, the prestige, that attends the word “museum.” But a racecar collection of this size and caliber is not something you see every day. The place has certainly earned the “museum” title it’s picked up on various sites across the internet, even if entry does cost only $8 per adult (with a generous 50% discount for bored spouses!)
Tramp over the welcome mat into the garage and crunch over the gravel as you take in the cars. You’ll see that the main hangar is jam-packed with British sports cars: they’re two deep on one side. There’s also a wing dedicated to Japanese cars, with a sign labeling this annex the “House of the Rising Sun.” Watch your head! There are cautions everywhere, but I was still distracted enough to bang my head backing out of a bay (and I was the shortest one in our party, by far).
The racecars are all running and all stunning, and the collection’s caretakers are as willing as its owner to chat with guests and tell a few favorite tales of their own. This singular experience is well worth the trip.
Toad Hall is an easy drive from many points on the Cape, including the ferry, which docks just 2 miles away. The collection is just 5 minutes by car from Hyannis Port, where you can treat bored companions to a stroll along the water, browse the offerings in the famous Hyannis Artist Shanties, or pop in to one of the many local restaurants for a bite or a drink. Need a place to stay? You’re in luck: Bill is also the proprietor of the Simmons Homestead Inn, and he offers free collection admission for his overnight guests. Just keep an eye out for cats.