Classic cars to be auctioned off after collector’s death – CT Insider | CarTailz

SEFFNER, Fla. (AP) — Growing up the son of a bodyworker in West Tampa, Leroy Gonzalez was jealous of people who drove nice cars.

“He had little and they seemed to have everything,” said Richard Gonzalez, his son. “So my father said to himself that if he had money, he would buy nice cars.”

Gonzalez died in January at the age of 84 after amassing a modest fortune as a real estate developer. He was also a racetrack owner and car show organizer, may have had a connection to the Cuban Missile Crisis, and owned 14-foot fiberglass sharks. He can safely be described as somewhat eccentric.

Gonzalez made good on his childhood promise and bought more than two dozen classic cars. Some remain in pristine condition. Others need work – a 1930 Ford pickup is broken into three parts.

All will be auctioned off at his Seffner Ranch on December 3rd.

The inventory includes a 1932 Ford three window coupe, a 1950 Ford coupe convertible and 1958, 1964, 1965 and 1967 Corvette convertibles.

“He loved red ’60s Fords and Corvettes,” said John Harris, the auctioneer and Gonzalez’s best friend. “He knew what he liked and he went after them.”

But neither Harris nor Richard Gonzalez realized the size of the collection. Gonzalez kept half the collection, mostly the Corvettes, in his Seffner office. The other half was hidden on his ranch in five barns built for the cars.

“I had never been in the barns until he died, and then my jaw dropped,” Harris said. “He was a good friend but a private citizen.”

Gonzalez started fixing a few but didn’t finish.

For others, he never had the title transferred to his name.

“He drove her straight from the property to the barn,” Richard Gonzalez said. “I knew he bought it but had no idea he still had it. He never spoke about her. For my father it was about hunting. He found the car and then moved on to the next one. It wasn’t about making her brag. He just wanted her.”

Harris added, “That defines who he was. He had petrol in his blood and was always on the hunt for something great.”

As a kid, Gonzalez hung out with Tampa native Don Garlits, the drag racing legend credited with popularizing the sport.

“Don was a few years older,” Harris said, “so he picked up Leroy and they worked on cars all day.”

In his early 20s, Gonzalez and a friend bought a lamella press that punches holes in a car body to allow hot air to escape from a racing engine. “They took it all over the country, especially to car shows,” Richard Gonzalez said. “That’s when he discovered his love for car shows.”

Back in Tampa he started his own. Called the World of Wheels, it was held annually from the mid-1960s through the early 1980s at downtown Curtis Hixon Hall and the Florida State Fairgrounds.

A 1975 advertisement for a World of Wheels event lists as branded attractions a racing Corvette that competed in the Daytona 24 Hours, an offshore motorboat owned by professional wrestler Mike Graham, and a 1910 Rolls Royce , which was manufactured for the English King Edward VII died before delivery.

“I remember we once had 11 custom cars in my driveway for the show because we had nowhere to put them,” said Richard Gonzalez, 56. “We had the Munsters car. We had a car driven by Don Prudhomme, who is a Hall of Fame drag car racer. “I was just a little guy who took it for granted. I thought that was normal.”

From 1964 to 1970, Gonzalez owned the Twin City Dragway. The Oldsmar track was run down and in need of repairs. According to news archives, Gonzalez funded a two-story timing tower, paved the pit lanes and worked to get the track approved for NASCAR special points.

“He also said he was involved with a dragway in Miami,” said Richard Gonzalez. “Every time we started drinking, he told me the story of stopping to open this towing bridge early one morning and realizing that the National Guard had gone in without permission to aim missiles at Cuba during the missile crisis. “

Gonzalez also owned shopping centers in Valrico and Apollo Beach, his son said, and at least six tire stores.

As for the fiberglass sharks, there are two of them and they are also part of the auction.

In the 1970s, Ford dealerships throughout the Southeast paid Gonzalez to put one of the sharks in their showrooms as an advertisement.

“They advertised it so people would see the basking shark,” Richard Gonzalez said. “They sold more cars that weekend than any other.”

Gonzalez told the crowd that the sharks were modeled after a real one that a friend harpooned from a helicopter in San Diego.

“Do you know what would happen to the helicopter if that happened?” Harris laughed. “Boom, straight into the water. But it was a great story.”

In all his exploits, Gonzalez would flick through trade publications and newspapers, surf the internet, and research auctions in search of classic cars to add to his collection.

“Once he drove to Oklahoma with a buddy for a ’56 Lincoln,” Richard Gonzalez said. “They’re pulling it with a U-Haul dolly at 80mph when the straps came loose. They don’t know how long it took, but they figured another two or three miles and the car would be gone.”

The car is in the auction.

Another time, Gonzalez drove to Georgia for an orange 1970 Challenger.

“The owner also did body work, so Dad paid him to paint the body and do the interior,” said Richard Gonzalez, “and figured he’d do the engine himself.”

He never did. Instead, Gonzalez focused on finding another car.

“It was just dad,” said the son. “It was all about the hunt.”

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