Malcolm Pray: An Inspirational Collector

Malcolm Pray touched so many of our lives and is missed by us all. I feel fortunate to have known him and to have celebrated his generous spirit in my article in the 2010 Fairfield County Concours d’Elegance program.

With contagious enthusiasm, Malcolm Pray invites visitors to experience, not just view, his spectacular collection of cars. Sixty-five examples of the finest in automobile art and engineering that have met his criteria of “having some importance in history” are housed at his home in Greenwich, Connecticut, and his Pray Achievement Center in Bedford, New York. Ranging from a Model T to an early Ford station wagon to MG and Packard and Rolls-Royce, all cars in his stable are drivable and loved and used by him as well as enjoyed by others.

Malcolm’s passion for cars was sparked at age 11 by a visit with his family to the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. The theme of the “World of Tomorrow” came alive as he toured the French Pavilion whose presentation of the best in French custom coachwork included a 1937 Delahaye Type 135M Roadster. He began to collect photographs of European cars and sketched the Delahaye from memory for a high school mechanical drawing class.

After completing school and service in the Air Force, Malcolm began to sell cars, ultimately owning six dealerships, including Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, Saab, Nissan and Infiniti, which he sold in 1999.

In 1964, Malcolm answered a New York Times advertisement for a 1939 Delahaye (misdated, he later learned) being sold by a broker in New York. He bought the then red-toned automobile for $5,000, becoming the car’s second owner after Bob Greer who purchased it at the World’s Fair. He had it repainted to restore it to its original cream and blue finish.

Malcolm Pray with BugattiThe 1937 Delahaye is the cornerstone of his collection with its coachwork designed by Figoni et Falaschi. Malcolm’s is the seventh of the eleven built and one of the three extant today. In 1995, Malcolm and his wife Natalie exhibited the car at the Concours d’Elegance in the Parc de Bagatelle, Paris, where it won the People’s Choice Award. André Vaucourt, Delahaye Club archivist, conducted a thorough examination of the car and determined it to be the same 1937 Delahaye that Malcolm fell in love with at the World’s Fair. The magnificent car secured Best in Show at the 2005 Fairfield County Concours d’Elegance and stars again at this year’s event in an exhibition of former Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance winners, having earned their Best in Class award in 2008.

“Malcolm’s French Mistress,” as fondly nicknamed by Natalie, is a favorite for driving around Greenwich and Palm Beach as well as on rallies throughout Europe. Best in Class awards have been bestowed on the car in numerous concours, including Barrington, Hilton Head, Meadow Brook and Radnor Hunt.

Malcolm’s 1935 Amilcar Pegase Roadster, also created by Figoni et Falaschi, is rare with only six built to the best of his knowledge. The Amilcar is also showing at the Fairfield County Concours d’Elegance in a special judging class for CCCA cars.

Malcolm generously shares his automobiles, kindling memories for some and instilling interest in future generations of collectors. His Delahaye led 35 other CCCA cars on drives on the Merritt Parkway, Connecticut, that he organized in 2003 and 2004 to raise awareness of the history and conservation of one of America’s earliest parkways.

It is his Pray Achievement Center that gives Malcolm his most pride. Since 2001, he has welcomed over 4,000 young people from groups as diverse as the Boys and Girls Club, the South Bronx Educational Foundation, and the Manhattan Christian Academy at his two-showroom garage facility to inspire them to “Be Somebody and Make It Happen.” The cars serve as a springboard for discussions on setting goals and working to attain them to be successful in life. After climbing in the cars and perusing his extensive library of original product literature, books and periodicals, they eat lunch and reflect on how they might also “become millionaires” and own such fabulous cars. Malcolm offers guidance and inspiration through his 18 tenets for success, which are outlined in a brochure that they take home with them. His lessons raise such thought-provoking questions as “What are you good at and what do you like to do?” and “Why do you go to school?” and provide encouragement to “Set goals and follow them” and “Respect people and they will respect you.”

Upon parting, Malcolm and his guests put into practice his rule, “Look people in the eyes when you shake hands or greet them.” Heartfelt letters pour in with thanks for touching their lives; one student wrote, “Every other car show only lets us look at the car, but you gave us the privilege of going inside the car and we really appreciated that. One thing I learned is that the one who makes it happen is also the one who makes his dreams come true.”

Philanthropy also extends to hosting fundraisers for local schools and charities as well as supporting the Greenwich Boy Scouts by raising $1.4 million since 2001.

Malcolm Pray touches us all with his dedication to preserving these iconic classic automobiles and his commitment to motivating young people with his message that “There is Nothing in Life That You Cannot Achieve If You Really Want To.”