David Jacobson runs GrooveCar, a firm that helps credit unions finance automobile purchases and leases. He embarked on a new road as well, opening the Collector Car Showcase, a car museum complete with alternating exhibits. Jacobson talked about how he turned his hobby into a business and a part of the region’s car culture scene.
Do you see this more as a car museum or a showcase? I like to call it a “showcase of achievements in design and functionality.” The stuff here has been created for a purpose, yet it’s beautiful enough to be art. It talks about the country’s history. There’s a collection from the late 1800s to the 1900s.
How big is the place and how’d you end up here? We have 18,000 square feet. It’s on two levels. This was fate. We were in the process of looking at three other locations. We finally found Oyster Bay. This was a two-story woodworking manufacturer. They did kitchen cabinets. The building was able to withstand the weight of the cars. The way the building was designed, we had access to the top and bottom level with vehicles. You could not pick a better village.
How’d you become interested in cars? My interest evolved. I’ve collected stuff for many years. My father was a car guy. Not a mechanic, but he loved vehicles. One of my brothers is a big car guy. When I was able to, I bought a ’69 Corvette, sold it and made a couple of dollars. I realized these cars could be a good investment. I bought another car here and there.
Car Collectors from Long Island Business News on Vimeo.
Where’d you get the idea of putting cars, pumps and signs together like this? I got into car collecting years ago. The items here are not mine. They’re a lot of people’s cars. The idea of this came to me, traveling around the country, seeing places like this in Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, San Diego, Florida, Texas. I realized with Long Island’s car culture, why don’t we have something like this?
Can you discuss the exhibits? Exhibits last for two months. We just finished our American muscle car exhibit. We’re running “The Century of Speed: 100 years of racing and competition cars.” Cars in the exhibit range from as old as a 1909 Alco six up to a current racecar. We have 40 cars that will rotate through the two-month period. People forget the history of Long Island auto racing. When you look at Bridgehampton, Islip, Riverhead, Freeport, the cars and drivers represent a tremendous amount of history of Long Island auto racing.
Do the racecars in the current exhibit work? They’re all working racecars. They’re here for a few weeks. They’re on the track. This is race season. We’ve had cars in here that were trailered and had to be pulled up with our racecar crew vehicle. Other cars were driven from Westchester on the LIE with the old race helmet and glasses.
Do objects beyond the cars have stories? Every sign has a story: where it was found – a barn, an old garage, online. We have a 1920s gas pump, Coca-Cola signs and a New York City cafe sign from the ’30s. (We have) Packard signs. The Pegasus sign is an important figure in gas and oil that still exists today. Mergers brought Mobil to where it is today. Esso turns into Exxon, Exxon-Mobil and Mobil gas.
What are some wow factors? I think the wow factors are different for the collector and the untrained eye. It’s amazing the different items that attract people. You’ll rarely find some of these signs. I love to use the term, “This is the Mona Lisa of gas pumps.” The condition is tremendous.
Who comes here? We have senior groups, senior homes, Boy Scouts, car clubs coming here. The Porsche club, Triumph club, Corvette club. We’re peeling the onion. The greatest thing about being here is when somebody walks in and they are blown away. When a grandfather brings in a grandchild, the grandfather can penetrate the grandchild’s interest. When the husbands are diligent about looking at certain items, women are blown away by the beauty, creativity, passion. More women are into this than I thought.
How and where do you find things? I did the picking like you see on TV shows. I found things in barns from Maine to Virginia. If I travel on business, I make appointments to see collectors who may know where other collectors are. It turns into a two-or three-day process. Ever since we started construction, people started knocking on the door and offering us things that I was traveling 3,000 miles for. I just went 2,600 miles for a gas pump and found one in a living room in Bellmore. You don’t know what lurks in your neighbor’s garage.
Can you mention an example? A woman came in here two months ago. Her father had passed away. They were selling the house. She asked me to look at a car. It was beat-up. I wasn’t interested in that. The grandmother called me back and said, “We’ll go through the garage.” We peeled back some tarps. We bought five or six items from this family. One of the things we purchased is a 1947 Favor French motor bike, which is historic.
How do you make money here beyond charging admission? We have some cars for sale. A 1928 Packard, a 1989 Mercedes 560, an old Aston Martin, a Porsche. We have a detail shop. I took a partner, James Belmonte. He has a tremendous history on Long Island. This is his retail location in the back of the museum. We have paint protection. The big thing today is putting clear film on the car, so rocks don’t chip the paint. We do private events as well as produce in-house events and entertainment. This Friday night we have “Cars & Comedy” featuring live music and comedians from Gotham Comedy Club in New York City. We also have gourmet pizza from the Lower East Side.
Where do you go from here? We purchased property next door where we can put 70 cars, do events, car shows. We want to do an auto building competition, maybe with Long Island schools. Kids can build a car. No motor. We want to have sponsors give away a scholarship or something. We want to become more educational. Every day when I walk into this place, I have no idea what’s going to happen. We want to talk to companies, brainstorm and let this place be a beacon of the history, the current and future of the automotive industry.
Video produced by Eric Santiago