By Mark Ambrogi
Gary and Jackie Runyon spent years building their car collection. They constructed a huge garage to house and care for their treasures.
“My attitude then was I was going to die with them,” Gary said.
Then the Carmel couple, owners of Runyon Equipment Rental and Runyon Surface Prep Rental & Supply, determined for several reasons it was time to sell the entire 52-car collection.
“My wife and I talked about what is going on with car collecting and how it’s changed dramatically over the past years, especially with the millennials coming in,” said Gary, who graduated from Carmel High School in 1968. “They’re going after a different type of car. The baby boomers are getting older, and I particularly like factory racecars. Those aren’t the cars the millennials are after.”
So the couple has restarted its collection with six cars so far. This time, the collection will be more modest.
“We’ll probably end up with 15 to 20 cars,” said Gary, who described he and Jackie as “Corvette freaks.”
Prior to selling 52 cars through Mecum Auctions in January in Kissimmee, Fla., the Runyons always bought – not sold – their cars.
“We’re collecting a totally different kind of car now,” Gary said. “People are interested in unrestored, documented real cars. That seems to the hotter trend.”
By real cars, Gary said he means they have the original engine and transmission and don’t include parts from different cars.
Gary said he has been skeptical about what has been going on with the car-collecting market for a few years.
“It’s got really soft,” Gary said. “The hot rods and muscle cars have really taken it on the chin. Corvettes will always be good. The millennials like the Corvettes as well as the baby boomers. The racecars meant something to me because I grew up with them.”
The Runyons collected factory documented drag racecars, lightweight Dodge or Chrysler racecars.
“Dana Mecum (Mecum Auctions president) asked me which cars do we want to keep,” Gary said. “If I pick and choose which ones I want to keep I’m going to keep them all. I don’t want to get rid of them. I couldn’t pick and choose. So we got rid of them all and started over.”
Gary said all the cars had a story behind them.
“In a way, it took a piece of me,” Gary said. “But the bottom line is I didn’t want to stick my kids trying to figure out what to do with them, and the older I get I was fearful that the value would start to drop.”
The couple’s three children have no interest in car collecting.
His son, Jack, raced U.S. Auto Club sprints, midgets and champ dirt cars for several years, but the collecting bug never bit. The same is true for daughters Wendy Runyon-Ricker and Carla Runyon-Fazekas.
The Runyons’ previous business sponsored Indy cars from 1986 to 1995. Gary’s father, Jack, started Jack’s Tool Rental in 1955. Gary took over the business after his father died in 1978 and sold it to a national corporation in 1999.
In 2004, the Runyons started Runyon Equipment Rental. Jack serves as president. His daughters also work in the family businesses.
The Runyons purchased a marina blue 1967 Corvette coupe from Matt Litavsky, son of the original owner, at an auction at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in May.
Keith Litavsky purchased the car after coming back from the Vietnam War with two Purple Hearts. Litavsky, who died in 1993 from cancer caused by Agent Orange exposure, seldom drove the car, which had just 8,553 miles on it.
“We liked the history on it and a lot of details,” Jackie said. “That’s why you buy collector cars, because of the background. This one is bittersweet because it’s sad to read the history on it on Matt’s father and all the things he did for our country. At the auction, they just really made a large display on it. It was very cool.”
The Fox Business Network’s TV show “Strange Inheritance with Jamie Colby” interviewed the Runyons in early July for an episode that is expected to air in early 2018.
That Corvette, purchased for more than $600,000, is stored under glass in the Runyons’ large garage.
The other two Corvettes are a 1964 model, which has won several awards, and a 2016 Corvette the couple watched getting built in Bowling Green, Ky.
“We literally watched every bolt and nut get put on the car,” Gary said. “It’s almost behind the scenes. If you are not having one built yourself and took a tour, it wouldn’t be the same thing. Jackie got to be the first one to start it.”
The Runyons also have a new Ferrari, Hemi Barracuda and Chevrolet SSR pickup truck.