Even though I’ve spent my entire life in and around the automobile business, I still forget how much these machines are a part of our lives. How could I forget the three trillion miles we travel or the $255 billion in business we generate here in the automotive aftermarket every year alone?
Well, it’s really the 240 million vehicles on the road today that make it all possible. Along the way in the last 100 or so years, the personal automobile has become such a part of our fabric that we tend to take it for granted. Given my background, that’s really hard to imagine.
Once every year, I’m reminded of my own infatuation with it and am always glad when I am. About five years ago, a service adviser told me about a car show going on that particular night. I don’t make a habit of crashing parties, but for some reason – after some coaxing from my adviser – I loaded up the family and showed up. It turned out to be quite an evening, and I was astounded to find out that it was all done by word-of-mouth – other car enthusiasts telling each other. It was so popular, the police were there to direct traffic and help with crowds.
This was all made possible by one car lover who decided to share his collection with the rest of us. This rare individual is Bob Jones. His collection is one of the most unique I’ve ever seen. No Bentleys or Ferraris, just really cool cars that all of us either had or knew someone who had one. Of course, there were the oddballs like a 1923 air-cooled Franklin touring car and, of course, two electric cars from yesteryear (who says hybrids are new?). Bob’s favorite car is a 1939 Ford Roadster. The oldest car was a 1906 Baker electric, quite a contrast to the Art Arfons Salt Flats jet car that was there also. For those of you who remember, it was the “Green Monster.”
The diversity of the collection is impossible for me to explain here in words. The other impossible thing for me to explain is the opportunity to see them all in a casual environment. You see, Bob believes cars are meant to be driven. They all run except the Baker, and they get taken to shows and are often seen running around town. There were no “Do Not Touch” signs, and every one of them was open and ready for inspection. This is absolutely unheard of today with a collection of this magnitude.
This was all made possible by the generosity of one man. Why? Because he shares the same love of the automobile that this nation has had for the last century.
This industry is a great place to work, and if you’re reading this, I know you make your livelihood from it. It’s easy to take cars for granted, but thanks to people like Bob who give back to the industry, we can be reminded of their importance and the enduring place they hold in our country. Thanks, Bob, and see you next year!