It's the kind of thing that grabs you when you're young and never lets go: A desire—a lust, really—for vintage luxury automobiles. Sleek and beautiful, these road warriors are a testament to an ability to combine art and mechanical prowess.
For Rodger Van Ness, the compulsion began to leave its tread marks on him when he was a young, especially after he purchased his first Porsche. It wasn't an everyday Porsche, but a rare, magnificent car normally only seen on the glossy pages of car magazines.
But then Van Ness got married and had children. His Porsche could only seat two, so something had to change.
“I couldn't fit my family in a Porsche,” Van Ness said. “So, I gravitated to the Mercedes.”
He now owns seven of the luxury autos. Van Ness is the president for the Mercedes-Benz Club of America, a community with a passion for the cars. And as the executive director of the , he oversees a collection of 45 rare luxury autos.
The museum began in 2005 with Fred Kemp's private collection of 42 Mercedes-Benz automobiles, all rare and historically valuable. Since Van Ness became the director in 2008, the museum has acquired three more vehicles through private donations.
“There just aren't that many available,” Van Ness said. “If one comes on the market—which is rare—we'll look into acquiring it.”
The value of the collection and many of the vehicles isn't known, but it is significant, Van Ness said. But it's more than their value that draws visitors to the museum.
“They're very rare,” Van Ness said. “Most people haven't seen cars like this up close, and the history of them is tremendous.”
Each notable neighbor is asked a series of unrelated questions to offer us some insight into what makes them who they are.
What's your favorite movie of all time? Gone With the Wind
What movie have you seen most recently? Casino Jack
Do you like to dance? Yeah.
Is your life a Fox Trot? Tango? Twist? Hip Hop? Waltz? All of the above.
If you were shipwrecked on a desert island, what single thing would you most want with you? My wife.
What time did you go to bed last night? 11 p.m.
What do you use a computer for? Everything. E-mail, banking, searching for cars, communicating with friends, Mercedes-Benz work...that's just a few.
What is your favorite TV show? 60 Minutes
What did you have for breakfast this morning? A piece of toast.
Would you say you are handsome? pretty? cute? hunka-hunka burnin' love? I've been referred to as cute. I can only go by what the girls say.
If you were a superhero, which one would you be? Superman.
What kind of music do you listen to? Jazz.
Who was your role model for life? My father
Would you describe yourself as quiet, outgoing, gregarious, pleasant or grouchy? Outgoing.
Wool, cotton or silk? Cotton.
What's your favorite book? I just read that book on the Bush family.
Who is your favorite poet? Maya Angelou
What is your favorite kitchen utensil, tool or machine? A knife.
Each person Patch interviews is asked to say a word, which then becomes part of a continuous thread. We'll attempt to make sentences, or possibly a poem, when we have enough words.
Say any word that pops into your head. Cars.
The thread so far:
Surprise soccer Indian purple love hard going sunshine frolic why helicopter solution happy glitter cars.
Correction 12:29 p.m. Feb. 17: The spelling of Rodger Van Ness has been corrected. An earlier version of this article incorrectly spelled his name.