By Diane Mercado; Photos by Val Schoger
Robert and Lynn Moore have amassed such a large collection of antique cars, motorcycles, accessories, vintage items and memorabilia, they need a warehouse to store them all. “I grew up in West Virginia where they didn’t have trash collection,” Robert said. “My parents always had a lot of stuff they never threw out . I think my collecting sort of grew from that.”
Robert and Lynn met fifty-three years ago while working in the same Pittsburgh hospital . Lynn was a nurse and Bob was a respiratory technician . They relocated to Panama City when he was hired to create and direct a respiratory therapy program at Gulf Coast State College . They have been married forty-eight years . “There hasn’t been a time when Robert wasn’t restoring an old car, usually an MG,” Lynn said . Bob owns ten MGs that he restored.
When they moved to Panama City in 1981, The Moores rented an old building just to store his cars and their other collections . People gave them additions to the collections as well as storage and display cases . “Back in the 1980s, a lot of the buildings in this area were depressed and neglected, so we started buying and restoring buildings,” Moore recalls . In the mid 80s, the Moores purchased and restored what had been an old tire and battery shop, built circa 1928, into the warehouse/garage they call their own “personal museum.”
It would be impossible to see everything in the museum in one day . There are many collections from the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s and some ’60s, The majority are automotive or train related, but there are other collectibles, too .
A brief tour of the building reveals collections of antique bottles from local bottling companies that are no longer in business, original gas station signs (Gulf, Texaco Exxon and more), oil cans, vending machines, manual can openers in all shapes and sizes, knives for every occasion, parking meters, old car parts, cuckoo clocks, toy train cars, sets and tracks, metal fishing rods, arrow heads, post office boxes from the defunct Cooper’s News, medicine bottles and books . Bob even has all his Boy Scout gear from when he was a boy .
Lynn enjoys collecting vintage toys and clothing, hats and costumes – men’s, women’s, and children’s . She uses what she has collected to decorate the windows in the old Gilbert building on Harrison Avenue and in the Sherman Arcade . She changes the theme two or three times a year . “We like collecting old things because we have a lot of fond memories of those times,” Lynn said . “I like the old way of life, the way people lived, the way they cooked . That’s why I like creating scenes from the past.”
Near museum entrance, an American flag with 48 stars hangs prominently from the ceiling . To the right of the garage door there is a 1962 Carter Boat (No . 761), a ski boat made of Hungarian mahogany . Even though it has not been in the water for several years, the boat is decorated as if it is ready to go, even with cooler from 1950 and 1960 and other memorabilia from that era .
In the back area there are several motorcycles dating back to the 1940s . The oldest is a 1941 James/English, the kind that was dropped out of airplanes to be used as transportation during the WW II . There are also several outboard motors dating back to the 1920s .
The real prize, at least for Robert, is the 1953 Jaguar XK 120 he purchased from the original owner and restored in 1986 . It has a double-overhead cam engine which was very unusual in 1950 . The original owner had taken the car apart and stored all the parts in boxes . The only parts that could not be reused were the seats because they had been left out and were too deteriorated .
The Moores’ car collection also includes a 1939 Big Austin, 1955 XK 140 Jaguar, 1959 and 1962 MGAs, 1967 and 1969 E-type Jaguars, 1978 MGB, and several more American and foreign models as well .
Robert’s fondness for vintage British automobiles led him to help create a club more than twenty-five years ago that evolved into today’s Bay British Car Club . The club often gathers at the Moores’ museum for special occasions or to talk shop or have fun .
Bob Lowy, president of Bay British Car Club (www .baybritishcars .com), explains the club’s approximately forty members have more than 250 cars among them . The club promotes the ownership and restoration of older British cars by keeping the cars on the road. Bob has been a member of the club for several years . He owns two classic cars, one a 2001 XK 180 Jaguar Silverstone convertible . “It’s a collector’s car . They only built them in 2001 and released 50 coupes and 50 convertibles,” Bob states . “It was built on a concept car pattern .”
Club member Terry Kent owns four cars . One of his favorites is a 1968 Triumph TR250, which he says is extremely rare . “There are only 700 left,” he states . “My wife, Sandy, was out of town when I bought this for her for Valentine’s Day . She drives it to work just about every day .”
Newcomer Willem Van Dijk, owns ten British cars, the oldest a 1935 MG PA four-seater convertible . His new wife, Mitzi, owns an MG Midget . “The most important thing is to keep these cars on the road,” Willem said . “If you leave them sit still then you have problems with the engines, brakes and seals . Other cars don’t have the same nostalgia .”