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Extreme Garages: The WSJ Visits Turtle Garage

Amelia Island, FL: The last seven days have been an immersion into the collector car world. After four days at the Revs Institute’s 10th Biennial Meaningful Car Symposium in Naples, I flew north to attend the annual Amelia Island Concours de’ Elegance. During these travels, the Wall Street Journal published a comprehensive article on custom garages. Turtle Garage was interviewed for the article several weeks ago by author Candace Taylor. The WSJ article is posted below.

Article By Candace Taylor Friday March 8th 2019 (All photos courtesy of the WSJ)

At his home near Kansas City, Carter Buschardt loves to sit in his living room and take in the cozy surroundings—including a view of his black ’59 Thunderbird convertible.

An auto enthusiast, Mr. Buschardt bought the Liberty, Mo., house—for $164,428 in 2012—in part because the living room looks into the garage through a two-story wall of glass. He spent about $7,500 doing upgrades to the space. Now Mr. Buschardt, 67, a real-estate agent at ReeceNichols, and his wife, Sheila, can see their beloved Thunderbird even during the winter months, when they avoid driving the car because of the chemicals on the road.

“If you don’t like what’s on TV,” he said, “you turn around and look at your car.”

Car lovers have long built custom garages to house their prized possessions. But with the price of rare vehicles now rivaling some fine-art paintings, collectors want to appreciate their cars in a similar way, creating elaborate, museum-like rooms on view from inside their homes. 

For some owners, this means a wall of glass separating the garage from the living spaces; for others it’s a retractable wall or a spinning display area, or a specially designed elevator that provides quick access to the vehicles.

It’s a far cry from the traditional image of the garage with grease-streaked floors and stacks of forgotten boxes. Show garages are part of the house, so owners spare no expense in making them as beautiful as the rest of the home. 

California architect Malika Junaid, who has designed a number of show garages for clients, put one in her own Silicon Valley home. Her husband’s Bentley GT and Ducati Panigale 959 motorcycle are visible from the family’s living room. The backdrop behind the vehicles is a mural of a photograph of the Golden Gate Bridge.

But the house, like most homes with show garages, also has a separate, two-car garage for everyday use, “where we can be messy,” Ms. Junaid said.

The show-garage trend is being driven (so to speak) by rising prices for collector cars. In the past decade, prices for rare autos have climbed to levels never before seen, prompting new collectors to enter the market, said Dietrich Hatlapa of the investment-research company Historic Automobile Group International. In August 2018, a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO sold at auction for a record-breaking $48.4 million, he said, while another Ferrari GTO sold in a private transaction last year for about $70 million.

With more people paying seven figures for cars rarely driven, it stands to reason they would want to display them in exalted fashion.

“It’s no different than having a Warhol on the wall,” said Philip Richter, 48, a passionate collector of German cars and motorcycles. Mr. Richter spent about $500,000 building a climate-controlled garage on his family’s 115-acre horse farm in the rolling hills of Bedford, N.Y. The structure has a comfortable second-floor space with a wet bar, couches and a large glass window overlooking the vehicles. That way he can sit on the couch and sip red wine with friends while gazing at his cherry-red Porsche 911 Carrera.

“These are multimillion-dollar pieces of art, so why would you hide them away?” said Gerald Alexander, 52, an orthopedic spine surgeon who spent more than $1 million to build an underground garage with a turntable at his home in Orange County, Calif. “You wouldn’t take a Chagall and put it in your laundry room.”

Dr. Alexander’s 4,000-square-foot, oval garage—visible from the game room through two custom steel-framed windows—has salvaged European cobblestones on the floor and two iron chandeliers overhead. About 100 adjustable low-voltage spotlights are trained on his cars, including vintage Ferraris from the 1950s and 1960s, two Aston Martins and a 1927 Bugatti.

Dr. Alexander said the average cost of the cars in his garage is “several million dollars,” and the total collection is likely worth more than the $14 million it cost to build his house.

When Robert and Paula Boykin built their roughly 13,000-square-foot, $7.5 million house in North Carolina in 2010, they included a four-car display garage where the cars can be admired through glass in a corridor and through a window in Mr. Boykin’s knotty pine-paneled office.

Mr. Boykin, 69, is semiretired from his family business, Boykin Lodging, and often works in his home office, where he can see his 2013 Mercedes SLS AMG GT, his 2018 Dodge Demon, a 2002 BMW Z8 and a 2019 Lamborghini Urus.

The inspiration for the interior design, he said, was a 1920s car dealership. The air-conditioned space has antique brick flooring, with a carriage-style door for each car. The ceiling is pressed tin with a decorative circular motif and more than a dozen schoolhouse-style pendant lights. Mr. Boykin estimates the 1,300-square-foot show garage was about double the cost of a regular garage space.

The Boykins also designed a mirrored corner to display Mr. Boykin’s 1961 Triumph Bonneville T120R motorcycle. In a nod to the British brand, the couple had wallpaper made from a photograph of London’s Bloomsbury Tavern.

“This is a bike that probably could have been seen outside that pub back in the day,” Mr. Boykin said.

Showcasing the vehicles inside the house provides “another dimension to enjoying them, rather than just having them locked in a garage,” he said. “When they’re in your home and on display, you’re able to really enjoy them every day.”

In Calabasas, Calif., Jason Kuipers, 34, keeps his Lamborghini in a glass-wall garage at his home.

Mr. Kuipers, founder of the children’s clothing brand And Sven, bought the home for $1.045 million about four years ago, in part because it had enough space to store the family’s cars. Currently there are three. He recently sold his Lamborghini Murciélago and is anxiously awaiting its replacement, a Lamborghini Aventador SVJ, which has a suggested retail price of $517,770.

After buying the property, Mr. Kuipers and his wife, Kara, built a show garage by enclosing an outdoor patio and replacing the tile floor with polished concrete. Spanning about 50 feet with room for two cars, the space also has custom-made glass windows to provide a sweeping view of the cars from the backyard.

The exterior view allows Mr. Kuipers to catch glimpses of the cars during his frequent outdoor play sessions with his two sons. From the same vantage point he also can see cars parked in a second glass-door guesthouse garage.

“When the car is easily visible from outside, it’s constant,” he said. “You can appreciate it all the time, versus just every time you go into the garage.”

He added that the setup has allowed him to share his love of his cars with his sons. One of 2-year-old Sven’s first words was “ghini” (for Lamborghini). 

Mr. Kuipers also installed LED lighting in the garage ceiling so the cars can be seen after dark. “It almost looks like a car showroom at night,” he said. “If we’re hanging out and it’s lit up, it’s the coolest thing ever.”

The property has a third, regular garage where the family puts their everyday cars. Mr. Kuipers estimates he spent about $300,000 to outfit all three of the garages.

But cars and interior design don’t always mix. Local fire codes often place restrictions on glass walls in garages, and materials have to be sturdy enough to handle a lot of traffic (literally).

Jeremy Witte has a show garage at his home in Granbury, Texas, where his two BMWs are visible from his home office through tempered-glass panels bordered with brick. Both the office and the garage have the same eye-catching, high-shine epoxy floor.

Mr. Witte, a 42-year-old executive at Best Buy , said the show garage added about $30,000 to the cost of building the home, which was $700,000.

But while the floor draws many compliments, he said he ended up partially covering it with an indoor-outdoor rug to protect it from puddles from the cars’ air conditioning and scratches from road debris.

When it comes to resale, however, show garages can be a turnoff. “It’s not for everybody—you have to appreciate it,” said Gil Dezer, developer of the 60-story Porsche Design Tower condominium in Miami, where roughly half of the units have an adjacent glass-walled garage accessed by a specially designed car elevator.

“A lot of people said, ‘What do I need my car next to me for?’” said Mr. Dezer. “There were guys whose wives didn’t want to know anything about it.”

But Mr. Dezer said he lured enough car lovers to make the building a success. The condominium is now mostly sold out and he is working on another project that will have similar show garages. 

And unlike other highly customized home features, show garages can be converted to other uses, such as gyms or party rooms, to attract buyers who aren’t car lovers. 

In the ultracontemporary home that he built in Jupiter, Fla., Christian Demers said he often threw parties in the glass-wall show garage he created for his black Ferrari 488. The garage, separated from a game room by a retractable, transparent wall, has a gray porcelain tile floor and a custom chandelier. While he sometimes removed the car for parties, more often it stayed in place for his guests to admire.

“Anytime people come over, that’s what we gravitate toward,” Mr. Demers said, noting that the game room—with a poker table—was one of the home’s most-used rooms. “I never understood the showroom garage built underground where you wouldn’t get the day-to-day appreciation of it.”

After living in the home for several years, Mr. Demers sold it to professional golfer Rickie Fowler for $12.55 million in 2016, according to public records. Mr. Demers recently finished building another home nearby for his family that has a similar, $100,000 show garage/game room.

For the right buyer, a display garage can be a selling point, as the Boykins discovered after putting their home on the market. The couple are now downsizing into a condo and listed the house for $5.9 million. It recently went into contract, and while Mr. Boykin declined to disclose the sale price, he said the buyer is “a big car guy.”

Write to Candace Taylor at Candace.Taylor@wsj.com

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