Washington State is so green that driving through it feels like being underwater. Even the sky was a sort of hazy green-gray, like it was overgrown with celestial lichen. The only splashes of other color came from hillsides of blooming yellow Scotch Broom, and the bright red hood of my borrowed Dodge Challenger GT. It was a dreamy drive, and I would have been enjoying it immensely if I wasn’t worried that I was utterly lost and about to end up in an episode of The Killing (American version, not Danish).
Just then the endless blue line on the map came to a stop, and I turned into a gravel driveway behind a small farmhouse. Suddenly there was an explosion of color. Red fenders, gold fenders, bright blue and striped fenders—sometimes all on the same car—filled the windshield. “I guess we’re here,” said my co-driver and we stepped out into a car-collector’s dreamscape.
The property we were visiting was the estate of Ben Snobar, a well-known car guy, and source for rare Mopar shaker hood original and reproduction parts. Ben had passed away unexpectedly, leaving his family and friends with the difficult decision of what to do with his overwhelming amount of vehicles and pieces. After much discussion, his wife Barbara and his friend Tom Hergert decided to auction the majority of the estate, while Tom took on the running of the reproduction parts business. We were invited up to get a preview of the estate auction, and a chance to learn more about Ben and his love of cars.
As Tom started showing us around the property, he told us a little about Ben Snobar. “I met Ben at the local car shows,” said Tom, running his hand lightly over a copper-colored Formula S Barracuda. “We’d always say hi to each other in the swap meets, and whenever I needed any shaker hood or air cleaner parts I would just drive over to his place and pick them up. With Ben though, it was never like just a business visit. He had to show you around, show you what he just picked up, show you what was for sale. If you visited Ben you’d have to plan at least an hour, maybe more.”
This enthusiasm for the new find is reflected in many online discussions of Ben. He was a big part of the Mopar community, not just in the Pacific Northwest, but internationally, due to the mail-order parts business, and the forums are full of people remembering long chats in person or on the phone about rare car combos and killer deals. Ben was known to have a sarcastic wit, but was fond of kids, and never minded if they played in or around his cars and collectibles. He wasn’t precious about the cars, and was locally famous for driving a weather-beaten Dodge Viper as a daily. He had several.
Walking through the fields and garages, you might be tempted to get huffy about the old hoarding argument–some people just get really angry about other people’s car decisions, but Ben wasn’t really a hoarder. He was happy to sell things, he just moved through a lot of things! He was always swapping and hunting, and he’d gladly get rid of a car, especially if it meant he could then pick up something else. “Ben would absolutely sell stuff,” Tom told me. “He always had cars out at the swap meets each weekend. He was a Mopar guy at heart but would buy anything he thought was going to go up in value. For example he bought a bunch of Dakota convertibles because he thought they would be collectable–little early there, but he bought a bunch of Cyclone Spoilers (including two 429 4-speed cars) and Torinos and they are quite valuable now.”
A lot of Ben’s collection is like that, a real mix of high dollar and personal interest. You’ll find a wildly rare Hemi car here, a drag-racing K-car there. He’d buy a four-door because it had a nice steering wheel, or an E-body shell because it was an unusual color. He rescued salvage title Vipers and low-mileage, brand new Challengers. And that’s just the cars! Once you get to the parts shelves things really get out of control. Need a Mopar 8 ¾? Well, there’s probably 80 of them lining the walls of the workshop. Road Runner fenders? What color you need? Not into Chrysler stuff? How about a 1963 Corvette convertible or a Mercury Cyclone? Every corner we turned and every inch of shelving had something covet-worthy stashed away in it. “I think people are going to get some good deals out of here,” said Tom. “We need to clear the place for Barbara. There’s a lot to choose from.”
How can you pick up one of these good deals? That’s where Todd Meyers and the James G Murphy auction company come into this story. Todd has been working estate sales for more than a decade, and with some organizational help from Tom, is heading up a two-day auction of the entire estate on August 1st and 2nd of 2017. There’s plenty of time to nab an airline flight if you want to pick your next project in person, or you can register to bid online at murphyauction.com. Somebody buy me the blown 426. And the Dodge A600. And the blue Viper. No, the other blue Viper. And…
Yeah, that’s pretty much how the whole day went, just saying, “I want that,” over and over. The wanting didn’t stop at Ben’s property line either. We had lunch with Tom and Todd, and then Tom offered to show us his own shop and collection. We all hopped in the car and followed Tom’s gold Dodge Polara (Seriously, could he get any cooler?) past even more green hills and green trees and green bushes until we got to Rocket Restorations in Olympia, Washington. Tom started his own resto shop almost 15 years ago, after starting out with Mopars while still in high school with a 1970 Dodge Charger. Now he has several Chargers, some A-bodies, and a fleet of ex police machines, as well as a very cool collection of dealer memorabilia and neon. “Working with Ben’s estate has been a little bit of a warning to me though,” he said. “I don’t think my wife is going to appreciate my collection of local Washington dealer plate frames like I do. I should probably trim down the collection now, while there is still time to enjoy what I have. Life is sort of crazy, you can be here today, gone tomorrow.”
That’s the truth. Hopefully you’ll get to drive something awesome while you are here. Ben certainly did. With that in mind, I took the long way home to SoCal, winding along the coast of Oregon and through the redwoods of Northern California. There are many ways to enjoy a car, from restoring ‘em to swapping ‘em, but nothing beats driving ‘em.
Keep up with the prep for the auction on the Rocket Restorations Facebook page, and tell ’em Roadkill sent you!