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Off Campus: Classic Car Enthusiast Rolls Hobby Into Fundraiser for RIMGC
mccannn [at] email.chop.edu (By Nancy McCann)
Editor’s Note: It’s time to restart our seasonal “Off Campus” series on Cornerstone. Last summer, we shared fun stories and photos about our colleagues and what they do to de-stress and reset. Get to know your colleagues — even if you’re working remotely! Learn who among us is an avid skier, tango dancer, bird watcher, baker, and more. These easy-to-read stories help us connect with each other in new ways and build community, particularly now during the coronavirus pandemic. If you know of someone with an unusual hobby or interest in your department or lab, the Research Creative Services writers want to hear from you. Or nominate yourself! Send us an researchcomm [at] email.chop.edu (email). Maybe you’ll be our next “Off Campus” celebrity.
The Roberts Individualized Medical Genetics Center (RIMGC) at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is leading the way for genomic research and access to centralized genetic testing for pediatrics. It’s where genetics experts explain complicated test results to CHOP patients and their families and the RIMGC team provides interpretative and educational support to clinicians pursuing this testing for their patients.
“The RIMGC is the first-of-its-type built in a focused way in the country in a pediatric setting,” said Ian Krantz, MD, director of the RIMGC and a professor of Genetics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “Centralizing it allowed us to develop the expertise, not only to navigate this whole process and to work closely with the Division of Genomic Diagnostics, but also to become familiar with the genetic causes of isolated pediatric conditions that were not traditionally referred to and seen in genetics.”
After spending his days focused on finding the causes of rare genetic conditions, how does this physician-scientist unwind? Dr. Krantz trades his DNA sequencers for driving gloves and sunglasses, grabs vintage car keys, slides onto the patinaed leather seat, and takes a spin in his classic car: a 1984 Jaguar XJS coupe, a rare U.S. spec model with manual transmission, of which only 33 were made.
A Passion Since Childhood
Growing up in Montreal and with a penchant for all things related to the 1950s — Doo Wop music, clothes, and cars — he would spend the long, cold months going to car shows with his dad and uncle.
“It’s a sickness, being a car enthusiast,” Dr. Krantz said with a laugh. “It’s an infection, really. My dad would take me to the Montreal Auto Show every year from when I was 6- or 7- years-old. I always gravitated to the classic car section. As my interest grew, he would take me to classic car events in Canada and New York. The car shows were like going to a museum — these classic cars were like rolling sculptures.”
Feeding his fever, Dr. Krantz subscribed to classic car magazines and dreamed about buying an old beat-up car to restore.
“I liked the idea of lovingly preserving our history — American history is so dependent and intertwined with personal transportation,” he said.
But for a kid from a family without much money, this was purely a fantasy.
“My connection with cars at that time was mostly obsessively cleaning and polishing our family’s 1972 Ford Country Squire station wagon,” Dr. Krantz said.
Although he was “obsessed” with cars, especially sports cars, buying his first classic automobile would take a back seat to his education and training. In 1997, after joining CHOP and the Perelman School of Medicine faculty, and with the means to finally make his dream come true, Dr. Krantz bought a nearly show-condition, “minus a few tweaks,” 1954 MGA.
“When the car rolled off the transporter from California, I was elated!” Dr. Krantz said. “That moment was the culmination of many years of dreaming about owning a classic. I sold the car 10 years later to someone in Switzerland and bought the 1984 Jaguar XJS. I’d been looking for one for many years, and I made the ‘classic’ classic car mistake of buying with my heart and not my head. It needed a total restoration and is now, what I call, the most expensive 1984 Jaguar XJS in the world! It’s close to new condition, but something else always needs to be done. And now, I’m looking for the next old car.”
A 1950s Aston Martin DB3 or a 1960s Aston Martin DB5 — think James Bond — are at the top of his wish list.
Cool Cars for Kids Philadelphia Concours d’Elegance
Dr. Krantz’s car hobby evolved and merged into his clinical world. In 2017, wanting to bring awareness to the Rare Diagnosis Program of the RIMGC, he started an annual car show fundraiser called Philadelphia Concours d’Elegance. Cool Cars for Kids, a nonprofit whose mission is to “provide help and hope to children born with rare genetic diagnoses and to support research that will identify the best possible treatments,” hosts the event at the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum. Last year, the car show raised over $50,000 for CHOP.
The competition features some of the best antique, classic, and limited production sports and racing cars from collectors all over the United States. This year’s event, unfortunately canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, was themed, “Ford versus Ferrari.” Some of the original racecars from the infamous 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans, one of the most prestigious automobile races in the world, were to be displayed.
In addition to the Concours, the weekend event includes the family-friendly Car Corral, which features a broad range of cars from all periods and classes, with representation from local car clubs. But don’t despair, racing car fans, this special event has been rescheduled to April 30 through May 1, 2021.
“It’s been fun for me,” Dr. Krantz said. “I’ve been able to have my hobby and passion link with my work.”