This Dream Garage Is More Than Just A Place To Store Classic Cars
Story and photography by Rob Shingle
When Jim and I purchased our first classic car—a 1940 Packard Super 8 Club Sedan 1806—in the spring of 2013, we had no idea that was just the beginning.
We actually discovered our shared an interest in classic cars by chance; one weekend back in 2012, I suggested we go to a local car gathering and check out the show field, and that one event grew into an all-consuming passion that has grown our collection to a (current) total of nine classic cars of all different makes and models.
As our budding car collection grew, it became evident that we couldn’t keep squirreling them away in barns and carriage houses throughout the county; we were going to have to build something on our home property to corral it all in a reasonable manner.
The thing is, until we built our “Garage Mahal” (Jim hates that nickname) he had never had a garage for his daily drivers. He’s had two huge spaces for his landscaping business to house his trucks and equipment, but until we broke ground his cars were always parked outside. When we started making plans to build, I was thinking three, maybe four bays tops, but Jim tends to think on a much grander scale; our final count came to eight bays, twelve doors, and more than 3,000 sq. ft. of floor space and 1,500 of additional storage.
To get the creative process started, we spend months searching and sketching, dreaming of what the garage should and would look like. Scouring magazines and online sources, saving clippings of dream garages and noting what we liked and disliked, the final form of ours slowly started to gel. Our property includes an 1840s farm house, and we wanted our garage exterior to complement the existing structure, and of course, it needed to be as special as the cars it would shelter too. But more than anything, it needed to be a place we could sit amongst our cars and relax and enjoy them with our family and friends.
We contacted a talented local architect, Dwight Miller, when we thought we were ready to describe what we wanted—Dwight then took our initial scribbles and made sense of them before finally, in the late summer of 2014 (we’d purchase 2 more cars in the meantime: a 1936 Auburn reproduction, and a 1954 Packard Caribbean–a Queen of the chrome era!) we broke ground and then spent the subsequent fall and winter dealing with stone masons, plumbers, electricians, and contractors of all specialties who helped bring our vision to life.
We made the decision that most of the exterior and interior finishes would be constructed from recycled materials; inside, we applied used brick to accent the walls, along with remnant corrugated aluminum siding, tongue and grove siding, and chalkboards from a demolished school, all carefully design and considered to make the result an eclectic mix of industrial and old-world esthetic. On the outside, the siding of our garage is a siding product called Boral, which is made from 70% recycled material (coal ash), mixed with a polymer binder. It’s impervious to moisture and insects. The roof material we chose looks like traditional slate tiles but is actually a composite material made from recycled tires. We mixed selected colors and patterns to give the garage a sense of history, even though it was a new construction.
The biggest challenge we faced (because the components of this project tended to gravitate toward tailored vs off the rack) was finding craftsmen and contractors who could or would make our ideas come to life. So many are used to stock jobs that they shy away from anything custom or out of their comfort zone. We heard “No, we can’t get that,” or No, I’ve never done that,” many, many times. But we persevered and found some talented local craftsmen who took our ideas, and in some cases delivered above and beyond our expectations.
By the time we could park in the garage in the summer of 2015, we had the good fortune to purchase two more extraordinary cars: a 1957 Jaguar XK140, and crossing the pond, a 1946 Ford pickup.
While the space under construction, Jim and I spent almost every free moment going to local auctions and secondhand and antique shops looking for automobilia; signs, tools, seasoned workbenches, and whatever else we thought would complete our garage’s aesthetic. Our interior color pallet of primary red, yellow, and blue pops off the background of galvanized corrugated aluminum and recycled rough wood siding. It also makes a great setting for the vintage advertising signage we’ve collected.
Jim’s talent as a landscape designer is really what sets our garage apart though. Most people don’t consider the setting and layout of the surroundings of their garage; you plant some grass, maybe a few bushes, and you’re done. Our garage is totally integrated into the character of our property now.
My skills in package and graphic design have also helped bring the interior to life just as the outside has been carefully enhanced. For example, I created photographic art from old family car photos to cover the interior of our garage doors. I also designed wraps to turn our Fujitsu HVAC wall units into vintage radios so they would blend more with the garage’s period aesthetic.
Our extensive project has cause more than a few people to question our judgement, but, to each his own—everyone has a passion that drives them and this is ours. We have friends who have vacation homes, boats or other hobbies where they spend their money, time, and energies. We chose the route of classic cars and a focus on taking care of them and housing them appropriately. Cliche as it may be, we realize that we’re caretakers, not real owners of these amazing machines. While we’re enjoying these cars, sharing them at shows and with other enthusiasts, we understand that at some point we’ll pass them on, just as they were to us.
For now though, we’re enjoying them! We’ve met a lot of remarkable people through the car hobby, it’s taken us all over the country (and hopefully the world!). For us it’s not about buying cars and parking them in a garage and locking them away. Most cars shows and concours we attend are associated with a charity or fundraiser event of some kind. We’re heavily involved with The Elegance at Hershey for instance, a wonderful concours which raises funds for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JFRF), the AACA Museum, and the AACA Library. It allows us the opportunity to transfer our love of classic automobiles to help others in a meaningful way.
And that brings us back to the beginning, the cars themselves. Each one is special to us, each has a story of how we came to be the current owner, and our latest purchase is a 1946 Delahaye, bodied by Guilloré. Investigating and finding out the history of this and our other cars has been, and is, such a pleasure. You find out about the owners and who they were, about the car manufacturer and what role they played in automotive history, it’s endlessly fascinating. We add what information we discover to our cars’ individual catalogs and build up our understanding of their provenance. This way, their future owners will be able to appreciate the car right from the start!
The garage is a place where all of the things in our minds live in the physical world, and so why not try to make the real-life manifestation as close as possible to our dreams?