Car collectors like cars, but that’s about all they have in common. Automobile enthusiasts are found in a variety of professions, have acquired their cars for unique reasons and differ in their driving habits.
Gerry Schnepf, the executive director of Keep Iowa Beautiful, said he has met many car collectors through his years of helping to coordinate annual MotorIoway tours across Iowa, during which car owners gather to create “rolling museum of motor vehicle history.” Car collectors, he said, tend to buy their cars for three reasons.
“We find out that people collect what was in their history, by and large, or what they developed a fondness for,” he said. “Sometimes people collected because they have an interest in uniqueness. Others do it because they want to help preserve a piece of history.”
For Schnepf and his wife, Pat, their reasons for buying cars are different. Her car, cream yellow 1951 Studabaker Champion Regal Deluxe convertible, is a glimpse into her younger years. He, on the other hand, did not buy a car representative of his youth, but instead, the most unusual one he could find, a 1949 Triumph 2000.
“It’s the last car in the world manufactured with a rumble seat, and it has a windshield that pops up to protect the person in a rumble seat,” he said. “I saw this one on eBay about four months ago and thought it was very unique.”
Gerry’s car, which he has had for only four months, is still being restored. Pat’s, which she has owned much longer, is fully restored and has made many appearances in the MotorIoway summer tours.
“Both of us want to share our cars with other people,” he said. “On our tours, we go past retirement homes, and from the [Ford] Model A’s to the muscle cars, every one of those cars will bring up memories for those who see them.”
Tom Juckette, a man of many trades, including a general contractor and former race car driver, also believes in sharing his cars with others, but tends to do so through car shows and by selling vehicles that have been restored by Clive-based Zach Attack, a car restoration and race car building business that he co-owns. His personal collection, he said, consists of an “undisclosed number” of cars.
“I tried to save back a number of race cars I raced over the years and restored them,” Juckette said. “They seem to be becoming more and more valuable, and they’re very special to me because of the memories I have with them, as well as their rareness.”
Juckette said some of the other cars he takes an interest in are antique Packards and Fords from the 1920s to 1940s. He describes restoring these old cars as “a resurrection.”
“Those resurrections, where you have to practically rebuild the car from scratch, are very difficult and expensive to do,” he said. “On a rare car, sometimes what you’re able to acquire on a starting point is pretty rough. You oftentimes have to build parts that don’t exist anymore. It takes a lot of skilled craftsmanship.”
Juckette said he selects the classic cars he refurbishes very carefully based on their ultimate restored value, knowing that he won’t keep every one for himself.
“I actually sell many of them after the restoration,” Juckette said. “More than once I’ve watched the buyer’s trailer disappear down my driveway with tears in my eyes. Antique cars are a very emotional thing. They are a rolling sculpture.”
For Ed Hansell, a shareholder in the Nyemaster, Goode, West, Hansell & O’Brien law firm, his three classic cars from the late 1950s stir up memories of firsthand experiences and boyhood dreams. Hansell’s father had owned a 1957 Corvette similar to the one that he now owns. As for Hansell’s 1957 and 1958 Jaguar coupes, they are prime examples of the impressive and unattainable sports car that people dreamed of having back then, he said.
“That was a time, as a young person, that I admired those cars,” Hansell said. “Now I get a great deal of pleasure out of working on them and driving them.”
Hansell said he and his wife occasionally drive the cars around town when they go out for dinner, and that they generally handle the vehicles “rather gently.”
“I drive them just a little bit every year,” he said. “I store them in the wintertime, and in the summertime, I drive them when the weather is nice. They’re fun to have around to tinker with and polish up.”