As the old saying goes, enjoy your job and you’ll never work a day in your life. From what we could gather after spending a few hours with Beau Boeckmann, president and COO of Galpin Motors in Los Angeles, and his team, this is a group of folks who embody that mantra. In fact, as Boeckmann and some of his crew walked us through Galpin’s shop and automobile collection, explaining where this barn find came from or how long that restoration took, they were having so much fun reminiscing they forgot we were there half the time.
In addition to his day-to-day duties, Boeckmann also serves on Ford’s product committee and was the first-ever recipient of the Petersen Automotive Museum’s Visionary award. He is the definition of a car guy. Aside from Galpin Ford being the No. 1 volume dealer in the world for Ford cars and trucks, Galpin Auto Sports is a full-service automotive shop that will take on just about any project, from fabrication to restoration to repair. They pride themselves on working with orphans, unusual one-offs, and special cases. We can attest to that. When we were there they had everything from the first Saleen S7 produced in for service to a ’51 Muntz that was being overhauled and prepped for sale.
Then there’s the Galpin collection, which is as quirky as the guys who run it. A more singular collection of cars may not exist in the U.S. While it’s not open to the general public, all of the cars are for sale, and if you’re a Galpin customer you can give them a call to schedule a tour. (These guys are so cool they might let you poke your head in and take a peek). At least it’d be worth a try.
1965 Shelby GT350 Garage Find
Not so much a barn find as a garage find, this all-original 1965 Shelby GT350 was originally sold by Galpin. Rediscovered in Burbank where it had been stored for some 40 years, Galpin eventually reacquired it for the collection. The original 289 cu-in V-8 engine that made a whopping (for its day) 306 horsepower has only 44,000 original miles racked up. Other than a major tuneup, it miraculously didn’t need a lot of work. The brake system was overhauled using original parts, fluids were changed, the wheel alignment was set to spec, and it was ready to go. It features the original Wimbledon White paint with Guardsman Blue stripes that have just the right amount of patina. The interior is also all original. Other components include a four-speed Borg Warner T10 transmission and 9.5-inch Kelsey Hayes front disc brakes. Anyone in their right mind would pony up big bucks for this prize horse.
Von Dutch Toad
No, Von Dutch wasn’t just a logo on trucker hats that Ashton Kutcher wore when he was punking celebrities circa 2003. Kenny “Von Dutch” Howard was a legendary artist and creator and an integral part of the Kustom Kulture movement in the 1950s and ’60s. To make his road Toad, Von Dutch used old road signs, Harley Davidson parts, and a BMW Isetta engine. He taught his kids how to drive in it and used it to go on beer runs. Boeckmann digs that it has a little of everything Von Dutch was famous for: the eyeball painting, the mechanical work, and the pinstriping and louvering on the bodywork. It represents several of his unique art forms all on one car. Von Dutch was something of a da Vinci of the garage — with a sharp sense of humor. JL Box was a pseudonym he used that stood for Joe Lunch Box. The collection also has a collection of his tools in addition to his gorgeous Jaguar XK 140.
Liberace’s Zimmer Golden Spirit
Boeckmann first heard Liberace play when he was 9 years old at the MGM Grand hotel and casino in Las Vegas. Impressed by anyone who’s a master of their craft, Boeckmann instantly became a fan. “Excuse me while I change into something a little more spectacular,” Boeckmann says with a whimsical flair as he dances in front of us like Liberace gliding across a stage in a mink coat. Everyone has a hearty laugh at Boeckmann’s expense as he does. When Hemmings offered up Liberace’s 1981 Zimmer Golden Spirit, one of the first ever produced, Boeckmann jumped at it. And it gets more attention than he expected. In case you didn’t know, a Zimmer is essentially a loaded V-8 Ford Mustang with a wheelbase stretched to 142 inches and dressed up, well, like Liberace. “It’s so awful, but I appreciate awful. Awesomely awful,” Boeckmann says. It comes with a plaque on the glove box stating it was especially built for Liberace, as if there could be any question.
Ed Roth’s 1956 Shop Truck
The restoration of Ed Roth’s 1956 shop truck was actually a restoration of a restoration. A true barn find, the truck was found in Oklahoma and had been painted green save for the grille and the taillights. Dave Shuten, the custom shop foreman for Galpin Auto Sports, did all the resto work, first taking it back to what the original truck would have been, then restoring what Roth — the iconic artist, cartoonist, illustrator, pinstriper, custom car designer, and Rat Fink creator — did. Some things look wrong, but they’re dead right. Brand-new and unmolested, the truck was Neptune Green. Shuten taped it off exactly the way Roth had done and then painted the flames, the pearl, and the stripes. If you look closely, you can see a green glow between the bed and the cab in places where original paint remained. Robert Williams, founder of Juxtaposed magazine and Roth’s art director from the early to the late ’60s, was brought in to help recreate Roth’s original artwork on the dash. The shop truck is Roth’s last vehicle to have been found.
Even though a father shouldn’t pick favorites, Boeckmann says the Winfield truck is his. Lost for about 25 years, it was found parked in the middle of a field in Nebraska. When we ask Boeckmann what specifically makes it so special, his reply is definitive: “The whole thing is special. The design is well executed. The louvering is perfect. The paint, the woodwork, it’s the whole package.” The truck is back in its original color. Hot-rodding legend Gene Winfield, who built the 1935 Ford truck (which was restored to its original glory by Gary Hatfield), had painted it blue in order to take it back on the circuit because he couldn’t take the same truck to the same car show without doing something major. Complete with a 1946 penny glued next to the gas tank, this truck certainly was one lucky find.
Ed Roth’s Orbitron
This Ed Roth one-off was found and rescued from Juarez, Mexico, where it was being used as a dumpster outside of a sex shop. The front of the car was torn off because, the story goes, the owner at the time got trapped in the bubble. When he kicked the bubble off and they tried to tow it, they ripped off the front of the car. As Boeckmann does with most of his special projects, he reassembled as much of the original team who worked on it as possible in an effort to get the car back to its original state. Though Roth passed away in 2001, most of the Orbitron team was still around. Joe Perez reworked the interior in the same garage where he did the initial work in 1964. Painters Larry Watson and Billy Carter restyled the exterior to spec, and designer Ed “Newt” Newton oversaw the entire project, making sure everything was just right. The hardest thing to find was the retro television inside the car. The three colored front headlights were intended to emulate the tech of the day, which was the color TV. Color us impressed.
Gary Weckesser’s Mach IV was originally built as an exhibition car for Weckesser to run the drag circuit from 1969 to 1975. Galpin did all the original servicing on this special four-engine Mustang. After some time, Galpin had lost track of this one-off wonder and called Weckesser, inquiring where it had gone. Turns out it was hiding out in a trailer in his backyard. Weckesser got it up and running again and brought it out for SEMA in 2013. Boeckmann brought in the original painter/pinstriper and gold leafer from 1970 to redo the original paint. As if this Mustang needed anything else to make it more special, all four engines work back to back with a single clutch. Boeckmann estimates the engines combined make an insane 2,000 horsepower.
Necessity is the mother of invention. Microcars seem to be excellent illustrators of this adage. The Scootacar was the product of a British company of the same name that made the three-wheeled micros from 1957 to 1964. It was a division of The Hunslet Engine Company, an outfit that originally made locomotives. As the story goes, the first Scootacar was built because the wife of one of the company’s directors needed a car smaller and easier to park than her Jaguar. Roughly 1,000 in all were produced in several variations.
Messerschmitt, no, not the metal band but the name of the cute three-wheeled bubble car, was developed and sold by the German aircraft manufacturer of the same name in the wake of restrictions placed on the company after World War II. About 40,000 of the KR200 model you see here were built from 1955 to 1964. During that run, a slightly modified version of the KR200 ran for 24 hours straight at the Hockenheimring and broke 22 speed records in its class.
By the late 1950s, BMW’s automotive operations were flagging, and it was looking for a way to revive its fortunes. Microcars were popular at the time, so BMW set its sights on Italian microcar phenomenon Iso Isetta, eventually buying the rights to the brand and producing its own version of the car using a modified version of its motorcycle engine. It turned out to be a moderate success for the automaker. You’re welcome, current Bimmer owners, because this micro effort helped get Bayerische Motoren Werke AG back on its feet in a macro way.