The Carroll Collection
There are as many kinds of collections as there are collectors. SAAC member William Deary’s has to be one of the nicer ones. Deary lives in Michigan and his collection is housed in a beautiful, 8,000 square-foot clear-span building that is pretty much a collector’s dream facility.
Virtually every Shelby enthusiast can pinpoint exactly where his or her interest began; where and when they were first bitten by the snake. For Deary it was when he was a 17 year-old high school student visiting his uncle in Michigan. The next- door neighbor had a 1968 GT350 convertible and Deary was immediately captivated. It was love at first sight.
The neighbor, SAAC member and long-time Shelby enthusiast Mike Reimenschneider, was a Ford employee. He invited the young man for a ride in his Acapulco Blue convertible. Deary recalls that it was like nothing he had even been in before. He had an epiphany.
“It rode like nothing I had ever been in,” recalls Deary. “It was a loud, fast convertible full of power and beauty. From that moment on, I wanted one.”
Growing up in an average, middle-class family, Deary realized that the chances of his ever owning a car like that were remote. But that did not stop him from joining SAAC, attending as many conventions as he could, meeting car owners and collecting Shelby-related literature, memorabilia and models.
He attended Michigan State University and with his nose close to the grindstone, finished with a B.A. and M.A. degree in three-and-a-half years. He immediately went to work as an executive at a Fortune 500 publishing company, moving to Texas. Fifteen years later, with his wife Cheri Lyn, a registered nurse, they founded Great Lakes Caring, one of the largest independent home health and hospice services in the Midwest. The business continued to grow through the 1990s but the Shelby dream, and that first ride in a 1968 GT350, was never far away.
The turning point came when his wife and daughter, Kylyn, gave him a surprise 50th birthday present: a 1968 Shelby GT500 convertible. The car came up in an auction, straight out of a Texas museum. It was a Lime Gold 17,000 original mile concours “survivor” in perfect condition. His wife had realized that her husband had put his dream of owning a Shelby aside for thirty years as he raised a family and built a successful business and it was now time to recognize that dedication.
Like many Shelby owners, having one of these cars brings with it some unintended consequences. One immediate one was, “where do you put it?” While a car like this must be stored in a garage, the thought of leaning shovels and rakes against the fenders or parking lawnmowers and bicycles around it are enough to send shivers up the back of any owner. For the present it was relegated to a three-car garage attached to Deary’s home.
There is a saying in the collector car world: “The number of cars you have is only limited by the space you have to store them.” Deary’s friends had pole barns. Once the ice was broken with the KR convertible, he started adding to his collection. The day came, of course, when he was out of room. It was time to step up to the next plateau.
As the CEO of a successful and continually growing company, he found himself in the position to build a “dream garage.” He hired an architect and sought input from a number of friends who had been involved with Shelbys and Cobras from early-on. Like the dream of how to spend the winnings of the lottery, every car enthusiast has ideas about what a dream garage would look like. Deary’s result was an 8,000 square-foot next to his home which was to become much more than simply a place to store some cars.
There is a difference, after all, between a warehouse that stores cars and a museum that displays them, and that’s what Deary’s collection was moving towards. Even the largest automobile museums reflect the tastes and desires of the people who put them together. There is a common thread in every collection of cars; some reason why an owner will choose one car and reject another. The Henry Ford Museum was based on the industrialist’s desire to preserve items of historical significance, initially from this country’s industrial revolution but as it grew, it became a showcase for tangible objects which illustrated the evolution of our twentieth century society. The museum was started in 1929 but Ford had been an intenerate collector since 1906. It probably has more cars than any other museum— and not all of them are Fords. Each one is a part of the history of this country.
The late Bill Harrah had an amazing collection of 1,400 vehicles in his museum in Nevada prior to his death in 1974. He decided which cars were important to him, and why. Miles Collier has put together a major collection of race cars in Naples, Florida. And let’s not forget the Shelby American Collection in Boulder, Colorado and the Larry Miller Museum in Tooele, Utah.
A museum is more than a group of cars. To cross the line between a cluster of cars and a museum means there are exhibits, displays and collections of things that pertain to these cars. This is the stuff we all have collected to some extent: books, magazines, posters, models, key chains and t-shirts. The main difference is not so much in quantity, but the ability to display everything. Items are not stored in boxes, closets, file cabinets or on shelves. Pictures and posters are framed and hung on walls, models and trinkets are displayed in lighted glass cabinets.
William Deary has been enthusiastic about Carroll Shelby and his cars since that very first ride in Mike Reimenschneider’s 1968 GT350. In 1981 he was able to meet Carroll Shelby at a SAAC convention in Michigan. It was another turning point. Owning a Ferrari is one thing: meeting Enzo Ferrari is something else, again. Not many Ferrari owners can make that claim. But Carroll Shelby made himself available to the owners of the cars he created. He also bounced back into the performance car business in the 1980s and remained a presence until he was in his late 80s, inspiring another generation of owners. Like William Deary.