One of America's best car collections going, going, gone this spring

Marco R. della Cava
·Automotive Contributor
One of America's best car collections going, going, gone this spring
One of America's best car collections going, going, gone this spring

Chris Andrews grew up missing his father, Paul, who was so immersed in a new business venture that he didn’t have as much time as he would have liked to spend with his family. But now four decades later, the two Fort Worth, Texas, men couldn’t be closer, all thanks to automobiles.

“I wasn’t around my dad much as a kid, so it’s been really great to know him and what moves him as an adult,” says Chris. “Cars did that.”

Nearly 100 cars to be more specific. Over the past ten years, Chris, now in his early 40s, and his father — who sold a majority share of TTI, his once-small-turned-global family electronics business, to investor Warren Buffett in 2007 — have amassed one of the finest and most diverse automotive collections in the country. The bulk of those gems, some 75 cars in all, will be sold with no reserve by RM Auctions in Fort Worth between April 30 and May 2.

The 1963 Shelby 289 Competition Cobra
The 1963 Shelby 289 Competition Cobra

Let’s hit you with three notable highlights: A 1935 Duesenberg Model SJ Town Car built for screen siren Mae West but bought new by candy heiress and equestrian Ethel Mars; a pristine 1962 covered-headlight Ferrari 400 Superamerica SWB Cabriolet; and a 1963 Shelby 289 Competition Cobra still adorned with Bahamian stickers from early races.

RM hasn’t yet provided any estimates, but suffice to say similar machines have in the past fetched, respectively, more than $4 million, $3 million and around $500,000.

So if that’s what’s going, what are the dozen or so jewels that are staying?

Chris laughs. “Yeah, we’re keepin’ some good stuff,” he says with a soft Texas drawl. “We like to go on rallies as a family, me, my dad, my sisters, things like the Colorado Grand. So we’ll still have an old Ferrari, three Aston Martins and a Duesenberg. Plus a ‘56 Chevy Bel Air, because it was the first car my dad bought, the car he had in high school.”

By all accounts, Paul Andrews was always smitten with cars. Whether it was that Chevy or a 1963 Corvair, unique and powerful machines had a way of getting to him. As did a good business idea when he saw one.

In 1971, Andrews thought he spied an opportunity in the field of electronics. Tex-Tronics, Inc., soon was selling capacitors and other such parts to General Dynamics, which led to a rapid expansion into European and Asian markets.

Although he ceded the bulk of TTI, which was renamed in 1973, to Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway a few years back, Andrews continues to put in time at the office overseeing operational details of the company he built. “They’re really as much family to him as we are,” says Chris.

But when the big corporate sale provided Andrews with a bit more time and money, his long-held passion for cars took root. A watershed moment was attending a 2007 RM Auctions event in Marshall, Texas.

“Paul made quite an impression,” says RM’s Ian Kelleher, who first met Andrews at that gathering, which marked the beginning of a prolific if odd buying spree.

“Dad at first was just on a hunt for random stuff, he had no plan, no strategy, he just bought what he had memories of and wound up with a lot of automotive recreations,” says Chris, who decided to quit his Internet-related job in order to take control of the growing Collection. The new focus was simple: interesting cars that, when possible, represent the best of the best.

A 1956 Ford F-100 Custom
A 1956 Ford F-100 Custom

The new Andrews Collection grew quickly. A glance through the 75 lots going on the block tells the varied story. American metal such as a 1970 Chevy El Camino SS, 1963 Split-Window Corvette and a 1938 Lincoln Model K Coupe by LeBaron. European classics that include a 1959 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster, a 1990 Lamborghini Countach 25th Anniversary Edition and a 1962 MG MGB Factory Lightweight racer.

“This is by far the most unique collection with the least amount of cars that I’ve seen in a long time,” says Kelleher. “From MGs to pick-ups to sprint cars to Bentley R Type, you’ve got all areas of collecting represented.”

Of particular note, he adds, is a mean-looking and perfectly restored 1956 Ford F-100 Custom and the Superamerica, which is a gleaming example of the work done by noted Ferrari restoration expert Brian Hoyt.

Says Chris: “This experience has been great, with all the back and forth between me and my Dad, and getting to know so many great people in the collecting hobby.”

RM’s Kelleher adds that while he’s seen plenty of husband and wife car collecting duos, fathers and sons are rare. “What’s great is the collection really showcases their combined passions,” he says.

Chris concurs, noting that he “came into the picture as a real hot-rod guy, and my dad was into classics, but we wound up crossing paths.”

Up to a point. If there is one car that Chris clearly would rather not sell it’s the Shelby Cobra, his personal favorite for classic rallies. Then there’s the fact that his dad became close friends with fellow Texan, Carroll Shelby. “They used to talk about dogs a lot,” recalls Chris.

But the time has come for the collection to be winnowed down, leaving a few great cars and countless memories of a father and son playing with their cars. The money raised from the auction will in large part find its way to the family’s foundation, which funds education and medical programs in a few big Texas cities.

“It’s time,” says Chris. “We could barely keep the cars running because there were so many, so now they need to find homes where they can hit the road.”

He pauses, then laughs. “I’d still like to keep the Shelby,” he sighs. “But oh well, it’s goin’.”