When 79-year-old Jim Collier was just 16, he was given a ’36 Ford — and that was the last Ford he ever owned. He actually became a Chevy man, and not a casual one by any stretch.
His desire for cars that were readily accessible, reliable, and something he could afford within a low-income town increased enough to grow a collection that he continued to enjoy for more than four decades. This collection has spanned an ownership of 60 cars throughout his life – with a remarkable 30 currently parked in his home – and since 1953, all being of the “bowtie” persuasion.
Born and bred on the farms of Georgia, Mr. Collier grew up in the “mule era” and worked his way through the “machine era,” always believing that technology would keep improving. And when it came to automotive machinery, there was nothing more impressive to him than the Small Block Chevrolet – and specifically the 350-ci version of the engine – a design that in his opinion, based on cost and service, was the best powerplant ever made.
Collier’s entire collection began with and continues to be only Chevrolet – and each are in show condition. His garage holds a bundle of awards from numerous car shows to prove it, as well as five Platinum Certified Vehicles.
But this year, for Mr. Collier, there’ll be something new, as he partakes in his own true debut by attending his first Concours. In fact, for the very first time he’ll be entering an assortment of his own — six of the rarest Chevy models one can find — in the inaugural Atlanta Concours, October 8-9 at Chateau Elan. Each holds significance from an historical perspective, ranging from a 1925 Coupe and a ’32 Phaeton, to a ’63 Corvette split window. Included will also be his ’59 Impala convertible, (one of six ever made) — one that was a nut-and-bolt restoration that he personally completed — with a 4-speed stick.
“Witnessing the transition from the farm animal era to the machine era, I developed a knowledge early on that technology was going to take over the world — and keep making improvements,” said Collier. “And what we see today is not even the tip of the iceberg of what technology is going to do for the world.”
But with that said, he and his collection are still a rarity, even in the collector car world. As one of the few African-American car collectors in the U.S., Collier hopes his humble background will have an impact on the future of car collecting, especially as an inspiration to today’s youth.
“For me, cars were always a hobby of value – I put any money I had in cars, knowing I could enjoy them and they would go up in worth – and that’s a big value to me.” According to Collier, he’s put his faith in two key things in his life – his wife of more than 50 years, and Chevy cars – both giving him more pleasure than a perfectly tied “bowtie.”