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Thursday, April 20th, 2017

Fascination with automobiles drives St. Marys man's hobby

By Sydney Albert

Ned Lawler, St. Marys, a lifelong enthusiast of automobiles and photography, sha. . .

ST. MARYS - Ned J. Lawler has combined a lifelong interest in cars and photography by capturing collectors and their classic cars, and on Wednesday he shared those passions with St. Marys Rotary Club members.
"Usually collector cars are 25 years and older, so if we say that's 1992 and we go back to 1886, then that gives us 106 years of history," Lawler said. He was referring to the 1886 Benz Motor Wagon patent that, he said, covered the first true automobile.
Lawler reached out for information from Hagerty Classic Car Insurance, a company that specializes in insuring collector cars, conducts regular surveys of thousands of hobbyists and publishes a magazine on the hobby. Hagerty estimates more than 10 million collector cars exist in North America and about 10 percent of those change hands every year. The survey found that an average hobbyist spends about $12,000 per year to buy or repair cars, buy books or magazines or travel.
Hobbyists do more than just fix up cars to look pretty, he said. They may take their cars on casual drives, work on them, show them at different events or go on tours.
"In a few weeks, one of the major tours of the country is going to be coming right through this area, The Great Race, which is a timed, controlled-speed endurance rally," Lawler said.
Participants are provided with an average speed, given a stopwatch and are required to pass through checkpoints. If they're ahead of or behind the perfect time, seconds are deducted from their score, he explained.
"Some people will finish this with just a handful of seconds off, and, of course, other people are hours (off)," Lawler said. "They're using vehicles built 1972 or older, could be trucks, cars, and they're leaving Jacksonville, Florida, on June 24. They'll be ending at Traverse City, Michigan, on July 2, and on June 28, they'll have a lunch stop in Wapakoneta."
Fans also race their vintage race cars at places such as Laguna Seca in Monterey, California, or the Goodwood Motor Circuit in England, which Lawler described as the "granddaddy of them all."
While many collectors have only a few cars, rich and famous hobbyists are able to buy and maintain entire buildings full of historic cars. Lawler showed photos of some of the largest collections in the United States, including those belonging to Bruce Meyer, Jay Leno, Jack and Helen Nethercutt as well as Peter and Merle Mullin.
"I think it's interesting to see what car folks do in the real world. Bruce lives in Beverly Hills. He has quite a bit of real estate there, he has five retail stores," Lawler said. "And, of course, Jay Leno, a man who needs no introduction."
Jack Nethercutt served as president of Merle Norman Cosmetics. He and his wife, Helen, also run the Nethercutt Collection, a museum of more than 130 classic and special-interest automobiles, Lawler said. Peter Mullin also made his collection into the Mullin Automotive Museum, with his focus on vintage French cars. Leno hosts "Jay Leno's Garage" on CNBC that focuses on him, his team and their automotive adventures.
Lawler ended his presentation with a quote from Mario Andretti: "If everything seems under control, you're not going fast enough."
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