When It Comes to Street Rods & Custom Cars, When Does the World of Reality Really Begin?

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I remember back in the late fifties and on into the early sixties, when you attended your first new car show that came to town, and the promoters would brighten up the show by featuring some old classic custom cars and a hand full of unbelievable street-rods. In a lot of communities this was the beginning of the now famous annual street rod and custom car shows that attract tens of thousands of car enthusiasts in most cities throughout the United States and Canada every year.

Thus the story begins. I am fortunate enough to have owed my little 1926 model “T” coupe for the past fifty some years and she has treated me well since back in the mid-fifties when we tore her all apart. And thanks to a very special high school auto shop teacher, Mr. Emery, we recreated a little safer car than old Henry Ford could build back in the twenties. She has been in quite a few street rod and custom car shows over the years from Spokane to Seattle, Portland, Sacramento, Boise and even down to Hot August Nights in Reno, Nevada—some 25 plus years ago.

That’s where and when I first met Roy Collier. Roy was driving his dad’s 1950 Ford 2Dr Coupe that was showing off a pretty nice candy apple red paint job.  He was still running the little flathead in it for power and the rest of the ride was pretty much stock. In fact, it still had the hood ornament in place that looked a little out of place over that candy paint job, but Roy and his dad liked the all Ford stock look. Mr. Collier made his home in Salem, Oregon and this was just one of several cars, street rods, trucks and bikes that Roy and his dad apparently owned together.

I was making my home in Portland at the time and frequented several custom car and street rod cruise-ins as well as the world class Portland Roadster Show always held in late winter. I ran into Roy again at the Portland Show that year, but he wasn’t showing his Dad’s Ford off—he was just checking out all the rides. I spent a little time enjoying the show with him and it seemed that  every time I would pick out a car that really caught my eye, I’ll be darn if Roy and his dad would have one just like it, but just a little bit different color. I’d see a ’39 Willy’s coupe all tricked out running a big blower and sure enough Roy had one in his collection, same color and everything.

Now, I had not been to the Collier estate in South Salem before, but it sounded like from the number of cars, trucks and bikes that Roy’s family had acquired over the years that they would have to have a pretty large piece of real estate to accommodate a fantastic collection of this size. We’re talking 60 to 80 vehicles at least. “Wow! Just how private is your families car collection,” I questioned with a little more than some excitement in my voice to old Roy? “Any chance I could drive the old model ”T” down to South Salem some time and take a quick look at your world class car collection?”
“Well, of course you can,” was his reply, with or without the Model ”T”, I was always welcome.
“OK if I bring my camera?“
“Of course bring it!”

Now I have been to a few personal one-owner car collections over the years, including the Lemay in Tacoma, Harrah’s in Sparks, and the Davis family’s Pa Pa’s Toys in Cornelius, but I have got to see this very private collection at the Collier Estate in South Salem, Oregon.  We established a date that would be comfortable for all parties in question to make the trip down to Salem and it was OK to bring along my son Mike, who was visiting from California. Wow! This was going to be a fantastic day.
It was late March and there was still a cool nip in the air as Mike and I headed for South Salem. The address he directed us to was out in the area of the South Salem Golf course and I expected to find a large gated entry to this very private estate! However, as we approached we found ourselves not in a gated community but in an average little middle class housing development with medium size two car garage homes and no gated entry at this address! We were at the correct estate as there sat the candy apple red 2DR Ford a little dirtier and not quite as shiny as she looked in Reno. Well they must have the big car collection at a more secure location.

Roy saw us pull in and was at the door in no time at all, welcoming us into his dad’s home. Now where is the world class 60-80 car collection I pondered in my mind?  Roy was so busy introducing us around the table, then he asked me where the model “T” was and why hadn’t I brought it, as he had all his buddies there wanting to see it! We satisfied his request with the excuse it looked like snow in Portland and not a good drive for the “T” in questionable weather.  
My big question is “where is that big car collection of yours, Mr. Collier?”
“Oh, there all in the basement on display, awaiting your camera.”

Wow! All 92 stock cars, custom cars, street rods, trucks and bikes were downstairs awaiting my camera, with the average size of 1.18% in scale size. I truly had been snookered by my own digestive thoughts of automobile collective wonderment, and never questioned the dimensional size of the vehicles that this family had been collecting for the past 25 plus years. To this Collier family, this was a fantastic collection of American custom cars of vehicles on display that included every popular Ford, Chevy and Mopar, as well as Packards, Willy’s and Studabakers etc. in both cars and trucks. Some fantastic custom show cars, street rods, trucks and quite a few good old classic stockers.

In addition, Ron had identified each ride with a spec tab of year, engine size, mfg. number and estimated MSRP value displayed on each ride.

My son Mike and I had quite a laugh over a couple of beers when we got back to Portland that afternoon. Boy did I learn a lesson in size and dimension that day. I also learned that I wasn’t the only guy that still had his car from high school. Roy’s father Ron had his little ’50 Ford 2DR back in school also. I sure hope she’s still in their family today.
All in all it was a fantastic collection of memorable vehicles (despite the size) as well as a super fun day with my son.

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