Retired businessman takes car hobby to new level with Tucson Auto Museum

Wayne Gould with his 1961 Messerschmitt KR200, made from airplane parts, at the Tucson Auto Museum (Karen Schaffner/AJP)

Some men go fishing when they retire. Some play golf. When Wayne Gould sold his steel bar manufacturing company and retired, he opened a car museum.

“It started out as a man cave in a smaller building,” Gould says. “I retired and I wanted to pick up a couple of cars as a hobby and my building held eight or nine [cars] so I ended up with more than a couple. Of course, when you have cars you need a building and when you have a building you need to fill it. I ended up with 15 cars. Then we moved here and I needed to fill it again. We’re about full.”

You can see Gould’s love affair with unusual and classic car design and construction at the brand new Tucson Auto Museum, 990 S. Cherry Ave., just a quick turn off 22nd Street. In a cleaned-up, industrial space, Gould has parked more than 50 of his own beautifully restored cars that are more like works of art than just four wheels and an engine.

Gould’s collection ranges from the quirky — a 1961 Messerschmitt KR200 bubble car made from airplane parts, including a plane yoke for a steering wheel — to the truly beautiful — a 1955 Pontiac Star Chief, red and white and convertible, of course. It’s the same model Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel drove across the country to California. There’s a ’52 Hudson Hornet, only one year younger than Doc Hudson from the movie “Cars,” and a 1981 DeLorean, which everyone remembers from the “Back to the Future” movie franchise. The oldest car in the collection is a 1913 Ford.

“We like to say we have something for everyone,” Gould said.

Side by side are a 1954 Chevy Corvette — the 375th Corvette ever made, according to Gould — and its younger brother, a 1974 Corvette. The difference in body style is significant.

Which one would Gould rather drive? The ’54, of course.

“All day,” he said. “[The ’74] has better performance. It will leave the ’54 in the dust but I don’t think there’s anything more gorgeous than [the ’54.]”

These cars are great, beautiful, Gould says, but by far his favorite is a rare Chrysler 1948 Town & Country deep green sedan, called the car of the stars. No wonder it’s his favorite, with the polished wood trim on the sides and in back, a deep green convertible top and all that chrome. Its base price was $3,420 and it weighs in at a massive 4,338 pounds. It is said Clark Gable had two, one for town driving and one for country driving. The Classic Car Club of America considers this Town & Country to be a Full Classic™, which means it was built between 1915 and 1948 and was distinguished by its fine design, high engineering standards and superior workmanship.

Gould says he acquires his cars through auctions, such as the Barrett-Jackson car auction in Scottsdale, and other dealers and auctions from around the country and he strives to get them in fully restored condition. Oddly, many of cars in the museum are worth less than the actual amount restorers put into them. According to Gould, the owners just get carried away with the restoration.

“People get so wrapped up in these restorations,” he says. “People ask, ‘Do we restore them?’ and we don’t. It’s hard to restore them and get your money out of them.”

Because Gould understands that for some just looking is not enough, he has a few Cadillacs available to rent. There is one, a white 1959 Seville, with fins so high they could poke your eye out if you’re not careful. The others include a blue ’61 Sedan Deville and a white ’50 Fleetwood. You don’t get to drive any of them, though. Gould furnishes the drivers.

The museum space is also available for events. Recently the Men’s Next Generation group affiiliated with the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona met for its annual social dinner there. Gould brought in a barbecue food truck and in between brisket and dessert, the members strolled the aisles and ogled the cars.

“Everybody looked around and it was interesting because you could tell what kind of car somebody owned when they were younger because they would stop in front of that car and have a story,” Gary Kippur says. He’s a member of the Next Generation group and a car lover. He had a hard time pinning down just one favorite car.

“He had a Hudson Hornet that I was interested in,” Kippur says. “I would like one of the those. I like them all. That’s like saying, ‘What kind of candy is your favorite?’”

Still, after some thought he came up with one.

“You know, I liked the Hudson but you know what was my favorite?” Kippur asked. “It was that little amphibious car. How fun would that be to have?”

He was referring to the 1967 Amphicar, which not only travels the roads but can be used as a boat as well.

This is not the first museum in Tucson the Gould family has been involved with. He and his wife, Amy, are major backers of the newly renovated Gould Family Holocaust History Center on the Jewish History museum campus. The Goulds also facilitated the installation of the Butterfly Project, part of a global Holocaust remembrance effort, at the University of Arizona Hillel Foundation.

“We have lived in a lot of communities and we always like to make the communities we are in a little better than we found them,” Gould says. Profits from the car museum will be donated locally.

The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays from November through May or by appointment. Admission is $10, seniors and veterans are $8 and active military members can get in for $5. For information, call 520-207-5715 or visit tucsonautomuseum.com.