Center Square’s biggest car collection

By Mike Fourcher | Monday, February 22, 2010

Joe Hayes and his 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster. Credit: Mike Fourcher

It may not look like much from the street, but inside the former Manz printing company warehouse at 4043 N. Ravenswood is probably the neighborhood?s best car collection. Although property owner and collector Joe Hayes loves owning his cars, he?s just as pleased to show them off. ?I?d been looking for a way to store them,? said Hayes. ?So when we saw this space, we thought it would be a fun and creative way to have an event space.?

Hayes? collection of 30 cars and two motorcycles in the Ravenswood Event Center ranges from classic touring cars like the 1948 Ford Sportsman ?Woody? to a 1957 Mercedes gull wing road racer to recent American muscle cars like a 2006 Ford GT. Every car is in pristine working condition. And Hayes is quick to point out that he has taken every one of the cars out for a long ride.

Most of the collection has a history, like a 1964 Ferrari 250 GT bought from baseball Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, and a red 1957 250 GT Ferrari convertible bought from Nicolas Cage.

The ?57 Ferrari was originally a gift from Woolworth?s heiress Barbara Hutton to her then-husband Porfirio Rubirosa. Their marriage was short, and didn?t last more than two months. But Rubirosa kept the car in the divorce – along with a lot of other things.

Rubirosa ultimately died in another Ferrari car crash in 1965.

Some of Joe Hayes' car collection at the Ravenswood Event Center. Credit: Mike Fourcher

One of the North Side?s largest property owners, Joe Hayes left Continental Illinois Bank in the 1970?s to focus on real estate. But it wasn?t until the early 90?s that he began to collect cars. As he explains how he got into collecting, it?s clear that the collector and investor are one man.

?We like to drive and take tours for classic cars, so I bought a couple of classic cars,? said Hayes. ?After being in the hobby for a couple of years I could sense what the values were and if I was going to continuing buying, it would be nice to make sure [I would get something that] would go up in value, rather than lose money.?

Joe Hayes' car collection ranges from a Z28 to a Ford '48 "Woody". Credit: Mike Fourcher

That?s when Hayes started looking for a place to keep his collection ? and also when he switched from buying 1920?s and 1940?s American touring cars to European sports cars. ?With European sports cars, it?s a worldwide collector market,? said Hayes. ?With American sports cars, those really only appeal to Americans. Europeans could care less about Corvettes. You could hardly give it away [in Europe]. But Americans love European sports cars, that?s kinda why [my collection?s] theme is more European.?

But Hayes does have some soft spots ? but he?s shy to admit it. ?There are some oddballs [in my collection], like the ?67 [Chevrolet? Camero] Z28. I graduated from high school in 1968, and I remember some buddies in high school that had one of these,? Hayes pauses. ?If you had one the original Z28s in 1968, you were, you know.? Another pause, ?I couldn?t afford it back then?but it was just a fabulous car.?

Hayes biggest lesson learned from his collection? Reggie Jackson. ?Don?t ever buy a car from him?He?s [like] a used car salesman.? When Hayes bought a 1964 Ferrari from Jackson, ?I asked, does the motor run? ?Oh yeah,? Jackson said. So we bought it and when we got it out to Florida [for a drive] it started to smoke so much you could fumigate the everglades.?

It seems that caveat emptor applies to everyone. Even among high-end classic car collectors.

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  • Anonymous

    Hello great page My name is Dan and I have been doing cars for 30 years I am looking for someone with enough cars to stay in one place all the time I all so manage Estates. I would think I am in the hand full of people that are the best in the world no brag just fact I dont stop till every thing on a car is perfect. If you or some one you know is looking for someone like me please contact Dan
    Thank you love the cars

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