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Boutwell’s lifelong hobby finds a place in new showroom

Remind Joe Boutwell that the difference between a man and a boy is the price of his toys, and he’ll laugh.

No one knows the truth of that better than Boutwell.

He has seen the price of his “toys” escalate from a model car kit marked 79 cents at the corner dime store to fully restored classic cars with a price tag with a few more zeroes on it.

“Some people play golf and some people fish and hunt, I collect cars,” Boutwell said as he glanced across the museum on South Three Notch Street in Troy that houses 12 of his classic cars, primarily Chevrolet Corvettes and “muscle” cars.

But Boutwell was quick to say he has buddies who are even more avid collectors than he is.

“Three of us went to a huge auction down in Florida recently and we all bought a car,” he said. “That’s our hobby.”

Boutwell traces has love of cars back to his boyhood days when he “put together” model cars from kits.

He grew up in Springhill, graduated from Troy State and accepted Uncle Sam’s invitation and joined the U.S. Air Force.

While based in California, Boutwell went out on a limb and bought a 1970 Corvette for a whopping $5,800.

“I don’t know how I got that Corvette financed on my paycheck but I did,” Boutwell said, laughing. “When I came home my daddy asked how much I owed on the car. I told him $3,200. He told me he would pay the car off and I could pay him back at no interest. That was a good deal for me.”

Over the years, Boutwell’s interest in classic cars, mainly Corvettes, grew and so did his collection that he started with a starter kit.

The kit included a fiberglass body and the interior parts, actually everything needed to build a “street rod” except what was necessary to make it run.

“I got a motor from an old Mustang and hunted around for the other parts I needed to make the car run,” Boutwell said. “But, I wasn’t too mechanically inclined in those days so I enlisted some of my buddies to help me get it going.”

After that Boutwell went “car crazy.”

His first main interest was in muscle cars.

“Those are cars with big motors that are used for racing on drag strips,” he said. “I bought several, seven or eight, muscle cars— mainly Fords and Plymouths.  For a while, muscle cars were my interest and I still like muscle cars but Corvettes — they are America’s Sports Cars and are the only sports car made in America. A Corvette was my first car so Corvettes are special to me.”

As Boutwell’s interest in classic cars grew his interest also expanded to include anything related to them, advertising signs, tools, oil cans and old pumps.

“And puzzles,” Boutwell said, laughing. “I started putting puzzles together that had anything to do with the cars.”

As Boutwell’s interest in classic cars grew so did his collection of memorabilia. He purchased a Roc-Ola, a wooden telephone booth and a traffic light with  red, yellow and green lights.

And, he opened a personal movie theater in his home, complete with a big screen, speakers and an old-timey popcorn machine. And, of course, the theater featured classic car seating.

His car collection outgrew the backyard make-shift garage where it was housed. So, he eventually moved several cars to a vacant space in a building he owns on South Three Notch Street in Troy. But even that was not enough space. So, when the tenant moved out of the adjacent part of the building, Boutwell decided not to rent the space rather use it to house more of his classic car collection.

The building had floor space for 12 classic cars and his collection of related memorabilia, including a life-sized likeness of Elvis, the King of Rock’n Roll, the Roc-Ola and the telephone booth. And, there was also enough space for Boutwell’s office that showcases awards he has received at car shows and caps, photos and other souvenirs for remembering. And, of course, a TV and a comfortable chair for resting and reflecting.

For Boutwell, the building is an ideal place to house what is a favored portion of his collection. The other cars in his collection remain his backyard. The large “picture window” showcases a collection of classic cars that are show-stoppers along busy South Three Notch Street in Troy. Peepers are welcome at the Boutwell’s Classic Car Museum.