BLOOMINGTON, Illinois: After years of helping others pick out a classic auto for their cruising adventures, Bob and Pattie Taylor plan to take a road trip of their own.
Bob Taylor’s Classic Auto will close after 37 years in Bloomington. An auction of remaining cars and memorabilia will be October 22.
“It’s time to call it quits and enjoy life a little more and go out and see the world more,” said Bob Taylor, 71.
“We haven’t been able to take that Route 66 trip or just get out and drive because we’re here six days a week from 7 in the morning to 7 o’clock at night,” added Pattie Taylor. “We can do it now.”
The business specialized in buying and selling Corvettes, muscle cars, street rods, hot rods and collectibles. The auction will include Mustangs, Chevrolet Impalas, street rods, Corvettes and even an Amish buggy.
The showroom at 2812 Tractor Lane is filled with shiny, restored classic autos and memorabilia dating to when many of the cars were brand new.
That nostalgia was the whole point, said Bob Taylor.
“A lot of people walk through the door and say, ‘Wow, I remember when.’ Back in the ‘50s and ‘60s they drove these cars, and they relive their youth through buying these cars,” said Bob Taylor.
He usually kept 50 to 60 cars on hand, but has been selling his inventory in anticipation of retiring. About 20 remain listed on his website.
Of the memorabilia, a gravity-flow Phillips 66 gas pump is among Bob Taylor’s favorite items, which include Shell, Texaco and Sinclair gas pumps; a Rock-Ola juke box; Big Boy statue; neon signs; “Vette” and Route 66 clocks; a gum ball machine; a diner booth; a Coca-Cola cooler made into a couch; toys; and vintage motors.
The Apostolic Pentecostal Church, located next door, has purchased the land and building, but no one showed an interest in buying the classic auto business.
“It’s kind of heartbreaking that nobody bought and continued this business. It’s like a museum,” said Bob Taylor. “There’s no other place like this within a 150-mile radius. We ship cars all over the world. Most of our inventory does go out of state, out of country — Brazil, Japan, Switzerland, Australia, Dubai.”
Starting off as a mechanic
Bob Taylor was a mechanic and owned a Phillips 66 gas station in Normal before opening Classic Auto in 1979. But his fascination with cars started when he purchased a 1960 Corvette in 1969.
“It’s a car I paid roughly $800 for and today it’s worth over $100,000,” said Bob Taylor.
In 2005, the Taylors purchased the former Tractor Supply Co. building just off US 51 south. The business had outgrown its previous building up the road at 1308 S. Main Street.
The showroom is a magnet for Sam Flynn of Goodfield and Eldon Conn of Clinton, who come by regularly to see the Taylors’ cars. TNS
“I love cars and he has nice stuff,” said Conn, who owns a couple classic cars. “Some of us never quit driving them. These cars are going to go some place. There are always going to be people collecting them. It’s never going to end.”
Flynn, a co-owner of Scott Leman Autos in Goodfield, likes to look for models that might sell on his own car lot. But he’s most interested in the classic muscle cars — the first-generation Camaros, the old Mustangs and Corvettes.
“They just don’t make them to look like this anymore,” said Flynn. “Every muscle car has a little unique part about it. And that sound — you never get that sound out of a car today.”
“I would hate to see muscle cars not displayed in the way they are here. You have to travel farther now,” added Flynn. “Bob put a whole lot of time in and he’s done a great job. He deserves the retirement.”
The Taylors said closing the shop is bittersweet.
“It’s very hard to part with something you started and owned all of these years,” added Bob Taylor. “We’ve rebuilt a lot of cars and restored them over the years, but our main thing here was buy and sell.”
The Taylors appreciate the many loyal, repeat customers that they have had over the years.
There are a couple of cars that the Taylors can’t bear to part with, including that first Corvette from 47 years ago.
“We’re going to enjoy the cars that we are taking home,” said Bob Taylor. “We’re going to go to car shows and cruise and do that kind of thing for a change.”