Traditional vehicles being auctioned after collector’s loss of life

SEFFNER, Fla. — Rising up because the son of a West Tampa physique store employee, Leroy Gonzalez was envious of people that drove good vehicles.

“He had little, they usually appeared to have all the things,” mentioned Richard Gonzalez, his son. “So, my dad instructed himself that he’d purchase good vehicles when he had cash.”

Gonzalez died in January at 84, having amassed modest wealth as an actual property developer. He was additionally a racetrack proprietor and automobile present promoter, might need had a hyperlink to the Cuban Missile Disaster and owned 14-foot fiberglass sharks. He can safely be described as somewhat eccentric.

Gonzalez lived as much as his childhood promise by buying greater than two dozen basic vehicles. Some stay in pristine situation. Others want work — a 1930 Ford pickup is in three items.

All might be auctioned at his Seffner ranch on Dec. 3.

The stock features a 1932 three-window Ford Coupe, a 1950 Ford Coupe convertible and Corvette convertibles from 1958, 1964, 1965 and 1967.

“He beloved crimson Fords and Corvettes from the ‘60s,” mentioned John Harris, the auctioneer and Gonzalez’ greatest buddy. “He knew what he appreciated, and he went after them.”

However neither Harris nor Richard Gonzalez have been conscious of the dimensions of the gathering. Gonzalez stored half the gathering, largely the Corvettes, at his Seffner workplace. The opposite half was hidden on his ranch in 5 barns constructed for the vehicles.

“I had by no means been contained in the barns till after he died after which my jaw dropped,” Harris mentioned. “He was buddy however was a personal man.”

Gonzalez began to restore just a few however didn’t end.

With others, he by no means had the titles transferred to his identify.

“He drove them proper off the lot to the barn,” Richard Gonzalez mentioned. “I knew he purchased them however had no thought he nonetheless had them. He by no means talked about them. For my dad, it was in regards to the chase. He discovered the automobile after which moved on to the following one. It wasn’t about getting them to brag. He simply needed to get them.”

Added Harris, “That defines who he was. He had gasoline in his veins and was all the time chasing one thing nice.”

As a child, Gonzalez frolicked with Tampa native Don Garlits, the drag racing legend credited with popularizing the game.

“Don was just a few years older,” Harris mentioned, “so he’d decide up Leroy they usually’d work on vehicles all day.”

In his early 20s, Gonzalez and a buddy bought a louver press, which punches holes in a automobile physique to assist sizzling air escape the racing engine. “They took it everywhere in the nation, particularly to automobile reveals,” Richard Gonzalez mentioned. “That’s when he discovered his love for automobile reveals.”

Again in Tampa, he began his personal. Referred to as World of Wheels, it was held yearly from the mid-Sixties by way of the early Nineteen Eighties at downtown’s Curtis Hixon Corridor and the Florida State Fairgrounds.

A 1975 commercial for a World of Wheels occasion lists marque sights as a racing Corvette that competed within the 24 Hours of Daytona endurance race, an offshore energy boat owned by skilled wrestler Mike Graham and a 1910 Rolls Royce made for England’s King Edward VII, who died earlier than it was delivered.

“At one level, I keep in mind we had 11 customized vehicles for the present in my driveway as a result of we didn’t have wherever to place them,” mentioned Richard Gonzalez, 56. “We had the Munsters automobile. We had a automobile pushed by Don Prudhomme,” who’s a corridor of fame drag automobile racer. “I used to be just a bit dude who took it without any consideration. I believed that was regular.”

From 1964 to 1970, Gonzalez owned the Twin Metropolis Dragway. The Oldsmar observe was rundown and in want of repairs. Gonzalez funded a two-story timing tower, paved the pit lanes and labored to have the observe sanctioned for NASCAR particular factors meets, in keeping with information archives.

“He additionally mentioned he as soon as had one thing to do with a dragway in Miami,” Richard Gonzalez mentioned. “Each time we’d begin consuming, he’d inform me the story of when he pulled as much as open that dragway one early morning to seek out the Nationwide Guard had gone inside with out permission to arrange missiles pointed at Cuba in the course of the missile disaster.”

Gonzalez additionally owned buying facilities in Valrico and Apollo Seashore, his son mentioned, and at the least six tire shops.

As for these fiberglass sharks: There are two of them, and they’re additionally a part of the public sale.

Within the Nineteen Seventies, Ford dealerships all through the southeast paid Gonzalez to deliver one of many sharks to their showrooms as a promotion.

“They’d promote for folks to come back see the enormous shark,” Richard Gonzalez mentioned. “They might promote extra vehicles on these weekends than another.”

Gonzalez instructed crowds that the sharks have been modeled after an actual one {that a} buddy harpooned from a helicopter in San Diego.

“Have you learnt what would occur to the helicopter if that occurred?” Harris laughed. “Growth, proper into the water. However it was an excellent story.”

Via all his exploits, Gonzalez leafed by way of commerce publications and newspapers, surfed the web and researched auctions seeking basic vehicles so as to add to his assortment.

“One time he drove to Oklahoma with a buddy for a ’56 Lincoln,” Richard Gonzalez mentioned. “They’re pulling it with a U-Haul dolly at 80 mph when the straps got here off. They don’t know the way lengthy it was however figured one other two or three miles and the automobile would have been gone.”

That automobile is within the public sale.

One other time, Gonzalez drove to Georgia for a 1970 orange Challenger.

“The proprietor additionally did physique work, so dad paid him to color the physique and do the inside,” Richard Gonzalez mentioned, “and figured he’d do the motor himself.”

He by no means did. As an alternative, Gonzalez centered on discovering one other automobile.

“That was simply dad,” the son mentioned. “It was all in regards to the hunt.”

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