Driven by passion
Jim Taylor’s car collection keeps growing
By RON HEDGER
Businessman Jim Taylor has homes in Gloversville, on the Great Sacandaga Reservoir, in Saratoga Springs and in Aspen, Colo. But ask him where he prefers to spend his time, and the answer is always the same. “Driving my cars!”
With well over 100 vehicles in his 30,000-square foot “garage” in Gloversville, picking just one to jump into is hard.
“I’ve got more Jaguars than anything else,” he says. “I’ve got 25 or 30, so I guess they’re my first choice. I really like the way the old ones look and there are some great performers there, too.”
But Taylor didn’t always focus on his beloved Jaguars.
“I started out collecting Corvairs. At one point, you could buy them for 50 bucks. Then, about 20 years ago, I bought a couple of Austin Healys and an MG-A. I’ve gotten more serious the last five or six years, and I’ve added a lot to the collection.”
Serious, indeed. During guided tours, Taylor walks right by a flock of Corvettes, saying “they’re just Corvettes” as he guides visitors to a gaggle of Aston-Martins that would make James Bond envious. But don’t think everything is upscale. Across the aisle sits an ancient Ford truck fitted out for revival meetings.
“It’s a 1935 that my dad bought in 1970 from the people who traveled around the United States preaching out of it. He towed it from one barn to another. Then, when he passed away, I bought it from his estate.
“A few years ago, we decided to take it to the American Historic Truck Association show in Syracuse. We changed the plugs and points and it started right up, so we put new rubber on it and drove it out there, even though it hadn’t been run since 1958.
“A high school friend, Terry Warner, saw it and gave me a scrapbook that belonged to the original owner’s family. The wife had died and had no descendents and Terry, her neighbor, ended up with it. That prompted me to begin acquiring memorabilia that goes with the vehicles in my collection — signs, posters, models, old gas pumps — because I love the historical aspect almost as much as the vehicles themselves.”
Taylor is liable to show up in almost anything for the Saturday Morning Drives organized by the Saratoga Automobile Museum. But unlike many others, he also participates in road rallies around the world.
“The first large rally I did was in 2001,” Taylor recalls. “I had a Chevy Avalanche that we drove to the end of South America. We crossed the Straits of Magellan and went all the way to Tierra del Fuego. Last year, I did Hong Kong to Beijing and then Beijing to Paris in a 1941 Buick. I like the cars and I love the sights along the way. I’ve been all over the world, except for parts of Africa and the Middle East.
This month, Taylor is headed to China for a Louis Vuitton rally.
“From there, we’re going to do the New York to Paris rally, a recreation of the Great Race, in a Jaguar sedan. With the exception of Khahzikstan and going across Canada, I’ve been on the whole route before. My wife is going to do the Canadian portion with me, then meet me in Berlin and ride to Paris.”
To follow Taylor’s exploits without leaving home, log onto www.seamus.cc for rally updates and related information.
Along with his automotive adventures and business commitments at Taylor Made Products, a leading manufacturer of boating accessories, Jim also devotes a great deal of time to community service. He sits on the boards of the Double H Hole in the Woods Ranch, which provides recreation for severely ill children; his alma mater, Union College; the Gloversville YMCA and the Caron Foundation, a substance abuse rehabilitation facility in Pennsylvania. He’s also on the foundation board of Nathan Littauer Hospital in Gloversville and was a founding director of the Saratoga Automobile Museum.
His museum involvement grew out of friendships with Bob Bailey, owner of Racemark in Malta, and Price Chopper CEO Lewis Golub.
“I knew both socially, and Lewis is on the board of my company,” Taylor said. “I think the museum was a great addition to Saratoga and eastern New York. Besides automobiles, the attraction for me is that we do a great deal with kids from area schools. Any time you can expand a youngster’s mind, it’s a positive step.
“We also bring together hobbyists from all walks of life. My hopes for the immediate future are to get our debt from renovating the building paid off and continue the expansion of our educational programs. When I do the Great Race people will be able to go on the Web and pledge money to help support the museum’s educational program and the Double H camp.”
The museum was an
offshoot of a proposal to start a Concours d'Elegance in Saratoga.
Carroll Cook, who became the auto museum’s first director, had a vision of
elegant automobiles, wealthy owners and interested spectators joining the
“Eventually, I’d like to get back to the idea of a Saratoga Concours. Amelia Island in Florida and Pebble Beach, Calif., are the premier events in the nation, but with our setting, I think we could develop a world-class event, as well.”
Talk of the concours brings
the conversation to the people he’s met at Amelia Island and Pebble Beach,
where one of his cars was a class winner two years ago.
“To me, my collection seems large and I’ve been selling off some duplicates lately, though I find it hard. Some of the least expensive cars are the ones I love the most, and I always suffer separation anxiety. In the end, I usually use the income to upgrade the collection. I’ve met men with 1,500 cars and found that we all share that same anxiety as well as the passion for interesting automobiles.”
How about women? Are they car lovers, too?
“I know a few,” Taylor says, breaking into a smile. “And I’ve found out that my younger daughter, Kaitlyn, has the gene. She went through some denial, because people don’t think women should like cars, but now she’s really into them. My older daughter has two kids, and my 5-year-old grandson calls me ‘car grandpa,’ so I’ve got another prospect there, too.
“I just bought a little 1946 Crosley that had been made into a parade car. I’m hoping to get it ready and teach my grandson how to drive it around the outside of the garage this summer.
With Taylor’s stepson, Kip Smith, in charge of the collection, family involvement for years to come is assured. And everyone may well get busier yet in the near future.
“I have 23 acres where the garage sits and we just installed our first outdoor sculpture there,” says Taylor. “My assistant’s husband is a sculptor and I commissioned a piece from him. I’m playing with the idea of doing a sculpture park around the outside of my garage.”
More additions are planned for the inside of the garage, too.
“I’m going to an auction in Texas that has a Model ‘A’ popcorn wagon for sale, similar to the one the museum just acquired on a Model ‘T’ chassis. If I could get that for a reasonable price, I’d buy it.”
With that, Taylor prepared to hit the slopes of Aspen again before the ski season drew to an end. But first, we asked him for his bottom line, something every successful businessman watches closely.
“I try to keep busy, and I move around a lot, whether it’s rally events around the world, skiing in Colorado, driving around Saratoga or sailing my boat on the Sacandaga. If I can leave any legacy to my kids, it’s live your life! ”