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Car Collecting 101

Buy what you like

My computer’s dictionary defines “collection” as: “an assembly of items such as works of art, pieces of writing, or natural objects, esp. one systematically ordered.” Some car collectors, like maybe comedian Jay Leno, on the other hand, may define “collection” as: “and then buying several old airplane hangars and spending millions of dollars on pristine examples of every car ever made on the face of the earth.”

Then there’s local businessman Howard Goldman, the guy who sold the Statler. He didn’t exactly own it, but it was his perseverance in not letting the aging building meet a date with the wrecker’s ball which helped convince his pal Mark Croce to buy the place and begin its long road back to respectability. Goldman was passionate about the Statler, much as he is about his modest car collection, housed in another old but slightly less ornate building in North Buffalo. A recent visit there revealed that the collection is modest in size only, when compared to Leno’s. Somehow I doubt that Leno has the connection that Goldman has to the vehicles in his garage.

Take for instance, his 1971 AMC Javelin. He bought it back in 1974 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where his sister was living at the time. Why, you ask, would anyone travel that far to buy a three-year-old Javelin? It was an ex-Alabama State Trooper car, one of 132 that were added to the fleet at a time when some other police agencies were driving Mustangs and Camaros. This alone makes it interesting. Bringing it back to Buffalo made it that much more of an oddity. After years of driving, the 401 cid V8-equipped car was retired, set to undergo a restoration. Which it’s still undergoing. “A fender-bender damaged the right rear quarter area,” Goldman told me, “and it’s still in the process of being repaired.” As anyone with an old car can tell you, often doing one repair leads to a long list of things to do.

Goldman eventually found a local shop to do some of the work on his beloved ex-cop car. While it was there, they got to talking about another Javelin in Goldman’s garage, a similar-but-different 1972 Javelin SST. “It didn’t need a lot of work,” Goldman told me, “and the guy at the shop said we should bring it over and finish that one because it wouldn’t take more than a couple of weeks.” Of course, one thing led to another, and “we ended up stripping the car down to the bare metal. Ironic, because one of the car’s main selling points when I got it was the fact that it had just gotten a new paint job,” he said. Ah, the life of a car collector. After new paint was applied, Goldman brought the ’72 back to his garage and at the same time, unceremoniously, the old police car was also brought back, unfinished, as the guy at the garage no longer had time for it. The ’72 is now undergoing a complete transformation from the original fancy SST to a base-model Javelin clone. At this point it sits with no interior or engine, but it’s wearing a beautiful Bittersweet Orange paint job, and all of the panel gaps have been painstakingly set to what are probably better-than-factory spec.

That orange paint color is worn by another car in Goldman’s garage, a 1969 AMC AMX, which is still all-original. The ’69s were the original, two-seat version of the AMX; later AMXes were an option package for the four-seat Javelin. “This one’s even got an eight-track tape player,” said Goldman, “my first one.” I asked him if it still works, but unfortunately he doesn’t have a tape to put in there. Maybe once the buzz gets out there someone will send him a gift. There’s one more AMC in the garage, another all-original red 1970 Javelin, which is very drivable—and my favorite of the Javelin body styles.

Lest you think Goldman is strictly addicted to old AMC products, there are a few other things in the garage. As do many other collectors, he owns a couple of Corvettes. Maybe not old enough for official “collectible” status for many, nonetheless they hold sentimental value for Goldman, as he bought them both new: a bronze 1984 four-speed with only 9,000 miles on the odometer, and a black 1990 ZR1 showing only 6,000.

Corvettes were produced in numbers sufficient as to not make them stand out much in a crowded parking lot. The same can’t be said for two other vehicles in Goldman’s garage. I’ll bet most readers haven’t seen an example of either of these in years, maybe decades (if ever). First off is a 1970 International-Harvester Scout. Yes, the tractor people. The Scout was a Jeep-like vehicle produced from 1961-1980. Goldman’s was bought in Arizona, and still looks showroom fresh. The entire top is removeable for fresh-air motoring. “It always gets lots of looks when the top’s off,” he told me, and although the removal process is somewhat awkward, “I’ve gotten the process down to a science.” When he took it to a local garage to have a snowplow attached, the owner was horrified and didn’t want to do it. “It’s too nice for this,” the guy said, but Goldman’s not one to buy something just to have it sit around. And the Scout is a plow-worthy vehicle.

And one more recent purchase, also over the internet, was another I-H vehicle, a 1970 pickup which the previous owner converted to a small dump truck. “I was looking for a pickup for my business,” Goldman said. (Among other ventures he owns what he’s calling “TheOldHouseDowntown” located next to the Statler, which he is restoring for use as an event venue, “and I found this one which a dealer took in a trade.” That previous owner did a frame-up restoration with all-new mechanicals, but that hasn’t stopped Goldman from letting it live the life of a work truck which it was born for. It’s carried coal, it’s carried loads to the dump, and in the future years I’m sure it will carry many memories for Howard Goldman, local businessman and modest car collector.

Read more of Jim Corbran's You Auto Know every other week in Artvoice, and more frequently on Artvoice Daily.

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