DEARBORN - Some people collect stamps.
Some people collect baseball cards.
Ryan Newman collects classic cars.
It all started as a kid growing up near the Michigan-Indiana border, known as Michiana to those in the region. Newman’s father, Greg, owned an auto repair business called G & G Auto Service in Niles, MI, a town approximately 10 miles north from the golden dome that symbolizes you’re on the campus of the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, IN.
“We’d have customers that would come in with old cars and my dad would get to drive them every once in a while when he had to work on them,” recalled Newman, who eventually shunned the iconic university nearby to attend rival Purdue, where he earned a degree in engineering. “I just always enjoyed classic cars through him because of his auto repair business, and getting a chance to work on them every once in a while was just fun.”
As a kid, Newman watched as his father went through a number of vintage cars, including a variety of MGA’s and MGB’s, but it was a 1949 Ford truck that stuck in his son’s memory. However, as Ryan got older and began racing, all of Greg’s money went to support that endeavor, making the allure of buying classic cars more of a wish than a reality.
That has changed now that Ryan has gone on to great success in the NASCAR Cup Series, winning 18 races over a 20-year career, including the 50th running of the Daytona 500 in 2008. He’s inherited his dad’s love for those vehicles and with a collection that has grown steadily through the years, seemingly has a story for each one of them.
There’s the ’28 Ford Roadster: “My first real hot rod was a ’28 Ford Roadster, which I still have. My dad found it at the Auburn Auction and Car Show up there in Indiana.”
The ’57 Ford Thunderbird: “I ended up getting a ’57 T-Bird in 2003 because my dad had one and always regretted selling it.”
The ’39 Ford Trade: “I bought a ’39 Ford and swapped it out for two ’36 Fords from Don Miller, who used to work at Team Penske and now is on the board of directors at the North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame.”
The ’37 Ford: “Don’s buddy had a ’37 Ford and I wanted it, and he wanted to get rid of it, so I bought it from him.”
The ’49 Ford Pickup: “My dad had a ’49 Ford pickup truck when I was a kid in school and I always thought it would be cool to have one of them, so I ended up with two of them. One is a Sanford & Son replica, and the other is a nice ’49 Ford I got a long time ago for one of my birthdays.”
The ’57 Ford: “I ended up getting a ’57 Ford from a buddy of mine that wasn’t driving it and wanted to get rid of it.”
There are many reasons Newman, whose overall collection numbers somewhere in the twenties, loves these cars but all of them have one common denominator.
“I just think there’s a level of simplicity,” said Newman, who is currently trying to help his former crew chief, Luke Lambert, find an old Ford wagon for him to drive his family around. “I appreciate the technology, but I probably more so appreciate the simplicity of old cars and the fact that you can work with them a lot easier.”
His latest purchase is a 1964 Ford Galaxie that he got this past winter and while it runs, like all of the cars in his collection, he admits there are way too many to drive and keep up with on a regular basis. As a result, he just enjoys having them around for the unique characteristics each one offers.
“When I get bored I look up websites and kind of keep in touch with what’s out there, but it’s obviously not what I make a living at,” said Newman, who registered his first NASCAR Cup Series win with Ford in 2002 while driving for Team Penske. “I like to keep an eye on things, but there’s no particular car I’m looking for right now. I’m happy with what I’ve got.”