Classic cars can be both seen and restored atnew Lake Forest facility
October 14, 2010, from the Lake Forester
By Mary Kelly, Correspondent
The industrial area tucked off Bradley Road on Ballard Drive in Lake Forest is the last place you would expect to find a vintage car collection, but that’s just where Paul Burt of Lake Forest has placed one.
A former New York City stand-up comedian, author of a published book of poetry and CEO of WestLake Financial Group, Burt has founded a facility for the restoration of classic, exotic and special-interest vehicles, and a destination for people to enjoy 70 of the 130 cars of The Burt Collection.
His office is surrounded by glass cases stocked with model cars, vibrant paintings of race cars, framed vintage car photos and dozens of awards. A large desk holds four oversized computer screens – one for every business venture, as well as one dedicated to personal use and family.
His childhood fascination with cars spiked about 10 years ago when he returned a run-away puppy to a neighbor named Rick Mancuso of Lake Forest Sports Cars.
“He asked me, ‘When are you going to buy a classic car?’” recalled Burt. “The next thing I knew, I was the proud owner of a 1983 Ferrari 512 BBI Boxer.”
It was then that Burt, an avid art lover, realized his passion was to collect cars as that were “aesthetically pleasing, told a unique story and represented some part of automotive history.”
He began collecting cars until his collection of 130 cars was being stored in various warehouses. The problem with that, said Burt, is that no one could ever really admire and appreciate them.
“I wanted my family and friends to be able to celebrate the collection as well,” said Burt.
He purchased the Ballard Drive building last December and held a grand opening on Sept. 24 this year.
In addition to housing The Burt Collection, the facility offers a variety of services, including everything from frame-off restorations to superior bodywork and paint repairs, motor, transmission and brake work. The Burt Collection also offers winter tire rotation collector car storage, and a location service to help a buyer find the car of his or her dreams.
“As a personal collector, I saw a pressing need on the North Shore for a dealer and restoration shop that offered superior craftsmanship at reasonable rates,” Burt explained.
Burt’s personal collection includes: a 1953 Mercedes Benz 300S Roadster of which only 158 were made between 1953 and 1958; a silver 1947 Delahaye 135 MS 20CV, and a yellow 1952 Allard K2. A number of exotic cars are being offered for sale, including a 1971 Lancia Fulvia Zagato Sport, a 1965 Chevrolet Biscayne, and a 1999 Shelby Series 1.
Burt is especially fond of cars of the 1950s.
“That’s when the mad race for building sports cars began. GIs traveling through England saw the MGs and other sports cars, and when the war was over and won, that’s what they wanted to drive.” he said.
“I like to see some of the older people talk about their memories of these cars. They are transported back in time. I even sit in these cars from time to time, wondering what the first owner was thinking the first time he got behind the wheel, and did he feel as excited as I am at that moment.”
Children will want to visit the Burt Collection, as well. To that end, But offers a variety of video games, pinball machines and sporting activities. The fun begins with #34, a race car once partially owned by Chicago Bears great Walter Payton.
In addition to welcoming visitors, Burt is making his facility available to local not-for-profits as a site for fundraisers. In fact, proceeds from the grand opening benefited research in a hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a disorder known all to well by Burt, his wife Janet, his grown children Erica and Brian, and his young children, Sophia, 8 and Hudson 4. Sophia is afflicted with HCM, a heart muscle disease in which the muscular walls of the ventricles become abnormally thickened, resulting in a variety of heart problems, including sudden cardiac arrest. She underwent successful surgery at the Mayo Clinic this summer.
“For that I am most grateful,” said Burt.
For more information on The Burt Collection, go to www.theburtcollection.com or call (847) 816-1300.