G ordon Apker is a classic American success story. Hard work, a little business savvy, and good timing were the ingredients that helped this former assistant-manager of a Shakey's franchise end up owning and selling the entire company back in 1989.

Today he's enjoying the fruits of his labor and the dream garage lifestyle. He's assembled a collection of extremely rare automobiles and memorabilia that are garaged in a 17,000 sq.ft. converted barn on a compound with a postcard view of Washington's Puget Sound.

VEHICLES INSIDE:
Oldsmobile F-88 prototype, Chrysler D'Eleganc e Idea Car, 1947 Delahaye Coupe, '55 DeSoto Fireflite Convertible, '37 Cord 812 Sportsman, '57 Dual Ghia among many others.

Select the STORY tab above for the full story by Stuart Leuthner. Photography by William Taylor , from their book, Wheels: A Passion for Collecting Cars

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G ordon Apker's first vehicle was a 1922 Dodge truck. "It was given to me by a neighbor," he says, "for cleaning out their chicken coops. I was twelve, and my father wouldn't let me drive it on a real road, so I cleared away some trees and drove it around our property." His next ride was a 1936 Ford four-door sedan that he bought from another neighbor for $10, making payments of $2.50 for four months. "It was a pretty nice car," Apker says, "but I really wanted a convertible, so I cut the top of the car off with a hacksaw." He laughs, "It didn't take me long to realize the need for a metal top on a sedan. The car sagged so bad in the middle that the doors had to be tied together to keep them shut." To combat the elements, Apker built a frame out of two-by-fours and covered it with a green Army tent. It's a shame he never took a photograph of the Ford because it must have been one ugly automobile.

"Some friends and myself would go what we called 'stump jumping' on the logging roads," Apker says. "We would built a ramp with logs and dirt and then go over it as fast as we could get the car going. One time we actually landed on a stump, and that was the end of that car."

Apker grew up in Mukileto, a small town north of Seattle. His father was a millwright for the Scott Paper Company. "My dad had three brothers," he says. "None of them reached fifty. Each time one died, we inherited his family. We raised our own food - cows for our milk, chickens, a large vegetable garden.

We didn't have indoor plumbing until 1952."

Although money was scarce, Apker has fond memories of his childhood. "I had," he says, "one of those rare families where the parents actually liked each other. They were married sixty-six years. My brother and sister were older, so I kind of grew up as an only child. All I saw was their taillights in the distance."

When he was fourteen, Apker went to work in a gas station. "I would go down to the Texaco station, hang around, and offer to do anything - wash the owner's car, sweep up, whatever. He must have felt sorry for me because he gave me a job. I loved it because I was around cars. When I was in high school, a buddy of mine had a 1940 Mercury coupe. He had money but didn't know anything about mechanics. I didn't have money, but I did know how to work on cars. We put a 1954 Cadillac motor - with three carburetors - and a 1939 LeSalle tranny in that Merc."

Buy Wheels: A Passion for Collecting Cars

Apker shrugs. "I made a deal with him that if he ever wanted to sell the car I would get first crack. I think it was during my third year of college he called and said he was going to sell it for $1500. He might as well have said $10 million."

In 1962, Apker enrolled at Pacific Lutheran University, a liberal-arts school located in Tacoma, Washington. "I was studying to be a Lutheran minister," he says. "I was still working in a service station, but I left Texaco and began working at a Veltex station."

Now that he was a college student, Apker stepped up to a 1955 Chrysler New Yorker two-door hardtop.

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A Collection Bought With Pizza Dough

A Collection Bought With Pizza Dough

Gordon Apker started out collecting Shakey's Pizza Parlors. After selling the entire company, he turned his attention to one-of-a-kind American classics.

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