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Feature Story


by Bob Hagin

May 30,1997

I'm the type of person who never throws anything away. To me, most everything is a potential treasure.

Being a car guy by avocation as well as profession, almost all of those "treasures" have something to do with the automobile. It's an eclectic collection of items and I've come to the conclusion that most aficionados of my ilk are collectors too.

In perusing the reams of material coming in from organizations such as the Harrah's Museum in Reno, the Peterson Museum in Los Angeles and the Ford Museum in Dearborn, I now believe that what I have is a disorganized, but educational automobilia museum. Items that I have stashed in boxes and cupboards throughout the house are displayed under glass or in organized bookshelves at those prestigious institutions.

So in order to formalize my own collection and to help liberate the minds of my peers who have not yet brought their own collections out of their cupboards or attics, I offer this list of my museum pieces and explain their intrinsic historical value:

COFFEE CUPS - As I sit here assembling this tome, I am, as usual, drinking coffee. Needless to say, the cup has an automotive theme and carries the image of a '57 Buick Roadmaster convertible set against a picturesque mountain backdrop. I also have a cup with the picture of a '12 Rambler along with my name (a birthday present from a grandchild), one that commemorates Acura's 10th birthday (a promotional gift), but my favorite is one that simply states "Automobile."

LITERATURE - Printed matter is always popular with car buffs and over the years, I've collected nearly 1000 auto magazines, some foreign ("Autosport" - February 1957), some obscure ("Your Car" - October 1953), some rare ("Road & Track" - June 1947), and some ancient ("Motor" - June 1936). I've also acquired hundreds of car books that range from "The High-Roads of the Alps," a travel guide revolving around a 1908 Daimler and published in 1910, to contemporary puff-pieces like "Pontiac: They Build Excitement." This category includes an attic full of aftermarket repair manuals on such popular makes as the Renault R5 and Simca 1100.

Having had a great multitude of autos pass through my hands on their journey to The Great Wrecking Yard in the Sky, I've rescued a large number of owner's handbooks from doomed glove boxes and have them squirreled away. My collection of sales brochures is limited but includes some rare ones like the 1958 Fiat 2300 station wagon.

CAR MODELS - You know that you're a genuine car person if the first toy you remember having was a model auto. Mine was a small green sedan that my dad insisted was a '36 Ford since he was a Ford fan. I don't have a great number of model cars (an acquaintance has over 5000 Matchbox cars on display in a converted bedroom) but they range from a treasured plastic do-it-yourself Lotus Seven built by my son Terry, to a highly detailed Franklin Mint Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost that came with a fancy display case. The folks at Hemmings Motor News sent me a Ford Model AA Beck's Beer truck model (it's my wife's favorite) but my most useful model is the only Ferrari in my collection. Push its front license plate holder and it pops open to become a video rewinder.

LICENSE PLATES - I've been in home shops that have their walls covered with license plates of all years and states. My own collection is small but significant and each of them has a personal meaning for me. Above my work bench is mounted a single California plate that's dated 1933, the year of my birth. Alongside of it is the wartime licence from a '37 Buick Special that I owned long ago and the plate still carries the metal "V" tab that was issued for the duration of the war. Until then, new plates had been issued annually but steel was needed for the war effort. A third is a British number plaque that came with a wrecked Sunbeam that I built into my first somewhat successful racer.

HUB CAPS - When my son Matt was barely able to look over the sill of the rear window of our family car, he'd watch for hub caps that had fallen by the roadside and cajole me into stopping to pick them up. Being an the entrepreneurial type even then, he would sell them at our local flea market or from a roadside stand. I drew the line, however, when he came across a hub cap I had kept from my first car, a '37 Dodge, another that was from the aforementioned Buick and a third that was from the '60 Hillman station wagon that my children still consider the "family car" that we used when they were growing up.

My automobilia museum includes a wide variety of items: a bit of asphalt from the dismantled Riverside Raceway; a copy of the tongue-in- cheek 1958 recording of Peter Ustinov's "The Grand Prix of Gibraltar;" an audio transcription of highlights from the Indy 500 up to 1974.

An antique dealer once told me that one person's junk may be another person's treasure, so look into the corners of your own garage and see what you can find. You may have an uncataloged automotive educational museum of your own.