THE TOY BARN
To anyone who has walked along Main Street, U.S.A. in the Magic Kingdom, Bill Amos’ garage will look familiar.
Although it’s filled with cars, it’s not really a garage at all. It is an airplane hangar suited up to look like a Disney cityscape. Amos simply calls it his “toy barn.” From the entrance, cartoonish replica buildings are visible on either side, and a stunning black and white checkerboard floor sets off the colorful menagerie of cars. To the right, there is a red barn with a hayloft and, to the left, a fishpond. Above the pond, hangs a sign that says, “Bill’s Garage.” Street lamps caricaturing small-town America line the walkways around the cars, and an “open” sign flashes from the diner, which stands at the back of the garage. Adjacent to the diner is a traditional-looking bookshop with a glass door.
This hangar/house also has a theatre, a game room, a sports bar and a “car room” filled with tiny racetracks, toy cars and memorabilia. Amos explains that he bought it like this. “I don’t have the imagination to do this; I don’t take any credit,” he says. The previous owners designed and built it this way. “They went to Disney and fell in love with Main Street, U.S.A, and decided to recreate it as a 3,800-square-foot home.” For the most part, Amos has kept the original layout intact. Even the wall hangings stayed. He added the sports bar, and he turned what was a music room into a car room. The garage flooring is also a recent renovation.
Originally, he was looking for a more typical garage near his Amelia Island home to store his growing car collection, but his son saw an ad for the hangar online. When they came out to see it, the grandkids loved it so much that Amos scooped it up.
Amos has been collecting cars for only a decade, but from looking at his “toy barn” you would think it was a life-long hobby. He usually identifies the cars he’s going to purchase through either Brumos or the auctions at the Concours d’Elegance in Amelia Island.
The hangar is undoubtedly a show garage, not a working one. Brumos services all of Amos’ cars except for the two Ferraris. “I’m not a tinkerer. I don’t restore them; I don’t fix them up; I don’t repair them; I don’t even do basic things like change the oil,” he says. “That’s what a trained technician is for.”
If he doesn’t collect cars to fix them up, why does he do it? Not for investment purposes, he claims. “I collect them to have fun. I don’t want a car that is so expensive or so rare that I feel like I can’t take it out and drive it. I don’t collect cars to make money. If I make money that’s fine, but that’s not my goal.” He drives every car he owns at least every couple of weeks. “If you don’t drive them on a regular basis they tend not to work very well.” Two of his cars, he says, were bought as a way to “relive my youth”: the 1962 Austin-Healey and the 1968 Shelby Cobra GT500 KR. In college he had an MG, but only because he couldn’t afford an Austin Healy, he remembers. So 50 years after graduating from college, he bought the real thing.
His most interesting purchase took place at the Brumos Museum in Jacksonville a couple of years ago. It was a B59 911 GTS, a Brumos special edition made by the Porsche factory to commemorate Hurley Haywood’s five victories at the 24 Hours of Daytona. They only made five of them, one for each year Haywood won. “We all bought them sight unseen from Brumos.” They were dramatically unveiled in style, all arranged in a semicircle around the original model. Afterward, Amos recalls, they went down to the track with Haywood, which, if you’re unfamiliar with the racing legend, is “like shooting free throws with Michael Jordan.” One of the most competitive drivers in the world, Haywood is now Vice President of Brumos.
Amos and his family attend the Concours every year together. They usually take a couple of cars to show, and, afterward, host a private party at the hangar house.
In the next town over, Fernandina friends Wayne Bazar, Gus Gustafson, and Bob Whitter are definitely what you would call car buddies. Not only do they have head-turning car collections, but their garages are pretty amazing too.
Bazar has always been interested in cars; he “swapped out” his first engine when he was fifteen years old. His is an immaculate garage. In fact, it’s hardly recognizable as a garage, completely free of clutter and tools. One side is tall enough to house a car lift. At 12-feet high, his lift is 18-inches taller than a standard one. He has restored several Corvettes; he’s always had a Corvette of some kind in his garage.
In his professional life, Bazar worked for CSX Railroad for 34 years, but cars and racing have always been his passion.
This is the fifth garage he’s built. “My wife had a deal. If she let me have the garage I wanted, I would let her have the house she wanted.” They had the garage custom-built along with the house. It includes useful features for working on cars such as the lift and a ventilation fan. It also has a full bathroom (“my wife insisted on that”) and accommodations for an electric car. It also has Wi-Fi, a flat screen television with a nice sound system and a stocked refrigerator.
“There are a lot of things you need to look for when building a garage,” Bazar explains. “You have to have the right concrete.” Four-inches is standard in the building code, but six-inches and 4,000 PSI is what Bazar recommends.
Down the street, Bazar’s neighbor and friend, Gus Gustafson (not pictured), has more of a show garage. He has several shiny Corvettes lined up in his 7-car garage with all generations of the mark (make) represented up to the new seventh edition. He says that, although he knows cars and engines, his garage is less of a working garage than it used to be.
Their friend Bob Whitter, on the other hand, is a full-time tinkerer. He has projects lined up for the foreseeable future, and he always seems to have new auto-related interests on the horizon. His most recent plans include the restoration of vintage trucksters, the scooters that have been used in manufacturing to cart around inventory.
Whitter is a collector, not only of cars, but also of automobilia and commercial items. He has an entire barbershop installed in his garage. It used to sit on the corner of Eighth and Main in Springfield. He bought it from the owner when the shop closed several years ago. An engraving underneath the chairs indicates they were manufactured in 1894.
Whitter’s garage is the size of a large house, although shaped more like a commercial storage facility. It is packed from one end to the other with novelties. In addition to the full barbershop, complete with shaving sinks and mirrors, countless cars and car parts, items from commercial establishments, toys, games, lamps and a pool table fill this unique building. But despite all of this stuff, and the size of the garage, Whitter’s Fernandina tree-filled lot is picturesque. The brick garage is inconspicuously tucked away behind the beautiful home where he and his wife live.