March 30, 2010 – On October 29, 2009 the collector car world lost one of its leading citizens, and Keels & Wheels lost one of its most passionate supporters – Houston, Texas attorney John O’Quinn. We here at Keels & Wheels didn’t know John O’Quinn as a wealthy attorney, or local philanthropist/celebrity. We knew John O’Quinn as a friend and fellow car collector.
To anyone who met John, his car collecting passion was always evident. He and his soul mate Darla Lexington founded the O’Quinn Classic Car Collection in 2003. John and Darla decided it was important to share these wonderful cars with the public. They quickly became a fixture on the classic car Concours circuit.
We are proud that they displayed so many wonderful examples of their collection at Keels & Wheels. Other major Concours benefited as well, including Pebble Beach, Amelia Island and Meadowbrook. The O’Quinn cars quickly became a major component of any successful concours event, winning many major awards and helped raised large sums for many worthy charities.
The genesis of his car collecting passion came from his auto mechanic father. As a child O’Quinn’s father took him to a classic car show at the Houston Coliseum, and imparted a love of collector cars and Duesenberg’s in particular. Eventually O’Quinn amassed a collection of 27 Duesenberg’s that is unlikely to ever be surpassed.
Someone once said that O’Quinn had made his career from his legal opponents underestimating him. To those of us who knew him it was hard to understand how that could be true. John was a commanding presence standing over six feet tall. But his demeanor was an everyman. If you encountered John casually I doubt you would surmise his tremendous career successes and wealth. Perhaps this casual countenance of the auto mechanics son is what so unnerved his legal opponents.
A tour of the O’Quinn collection was a jaw dropping experience. The main showroom was resplendent with some of most noteworthy collector car in existence and off to one side a lowly Ford Escort previously owned by John Paul II. The rear of the building was bumper to bumper with any and every kind of collector car you can imagine. John wasn’t just crazy for Duesenberg’s, he loved anything on wheels.
There were plans in the works for a car museum…and what a museum is was to be. John stated on multiple occasions that it was his goal to create the greatest auto museum the world had ever seen for his beloved hometown of Houston, TX. It was his goal to teach the history of the 20th century through the automobile. Had he lived, there is no doubt he would have achieved this just as he did with every other goal in his life.
On behalf of myself and the Concours Board of Directors, we are product to pay Special Tribute to John on May 2nd by presenting to Darla Lexington a lifetime achievement award honoring John O’Quinn’s contribution to the collector car hobby and Keels & Wheels Concours d’Elegance. Keels & Wheels will also make a $5,000 donation to Boys and Girls Harbor in the name of John O’Quinn.
-Robert L. Fuller, Concours Chairman