New Classic Car Museum Opens in Scottsdale
By Larry Edsall
The temptation is to call them the new kids on the (classic car auction) block. However, Leo Gephart is in his early 80s and "Cactus" Jack Gartley is just a couple years younger, and their involvement in classic car sales dates back more than 40 years.
In fact, Hemmings Classic Car, a magazine that is part of the Hemmings Motor News organization that has been reporting on vintage vehicles and those who buy them since 1954, has identified Gephart as "The architect of the collector-car hobby."
Gephart was among the first in the country to operate a dealership that specialized in collectible cars, first in his native Ohio, later in his adopted home of Arizona. In a long interview and article in 2008, Hemmings Classic Car said Gephart encouraged Russell Kruse, who had been doing estate and farm equipment auctions in Auburn, Ind., and Scottsdale car collectors Tom Barrett and Russ Jackson to stage the first major national classic car auctions.
Although his day jobs were primarily in mobile home sales and, for many years, in casino and hotel development in the western United States and Costa Rica, "Cactus Jack" has been associated with Gephart and classic cars since at least the early 1970s.
Gephart and Gartley comprise the "Gs" in GRG, which recently celebrated the grand opening of the new GRG Scottsdale International Auto Museum and Scottsdale Museum Club Event Theater by staging the first GRG International Classic Car Auction.
The "R" in GRG is Tommee Ranger, who is several decades younger than his partners. Some simply describe Mr. Ranger as a "promoter," but that's a term he doesn't like. He describes himself as someone whose business is "connecting the dots," putting people together with projects he anticipates will be profitable while also producing benefits for the surrounding community and its charities.
The museum and event theater are housed in what had been the empty shell of a former Mervyns Department Store in the Scottsdale Pavilions shopping center.
Although GRG has been working on the museum for several months, it was less than a month before the grand opening that Gephart decided to open the facility with a classic car auction. He called on many of his long-time friends and customers to make available the 210 vehicles that crossed the auction block January 1-2.
Although only 40 of those vehicles sold, those unsold – and several of those that did sell -- will remain in the museum throughout the month of January. GRG anticipates those vehicles will benefit from good exposure as people arrive for the Barrett-Jackson, RM, Gooding & Co., Russo and Steele, and other classic car auctions scheduled in the Phoenix area this month.
Those vehicles not only will provide the bulk of the first set of cars on display at the museum, but those that didn't sell at the auction will remain available for sale.
After January, the plan is to fill the 75,000 square feet of museum space with a rotating display of collector vehicles, some owned by Gephart and his friends, others on loan from a variety of car enthusiasts.
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