Coastal Classic Car Collector

Story by Greg Zschomler

Greg Z_Challnger

A Dodge Challenger, like the one shown here at Scoops, was John’s first car as a teen. This one is the first car of his collection. Photo by Gregory E. Zschomler

“You have to drive them if you want to keep them.” ~John Yonich

John Yonich of Grays Harbor, Washington is a visionary entrepreneur and vehicle enthusiast. He has a dozen classic automobiles in his assemblage, and, though he has a warehouse to store them, he regularly drives and shares them with the community he’s a part of.

Greg Z_Yonich introducing Kansas at the D and R

John Yonich introduces Kansas at his D and R Theatre in Aberdeen, Wash. Phot courtesy of the D and R Theatre.

 

This morning he drove into work, from his Westport home, in a teal 1955 Ford Fairlane “woody” (his latest acquisition) which he’s parked at the Aberdeen, Wash. Scoops—one of the coffee and ice cream shops he owns. In his office on the third floor of the D and R Theatre (which he owns), he’s enjoying a cup of Grays Harbor Coffee (which he also owns) while answering emails and calls and catching up on O.J. Simpson. Now, I’m catching up with him—or trying to—while drinking my own Americano from the barista downstairs.

 

Greg Z_Yonich with Fab Four

John Yonich with Beatles tribute band, Fab Four, at his D and R Theatre in Aberdeen, Wash. Photo courtesy of the D and R Theatre.

Yonich, a warm and giving man with a sense of humor and a nose for business, is also known for his dogged activism and tenacious development. He owns several businesses in the area—among them the growing Scoops Ice Cream & Espresso chain (there are now two locations with a third in the works), Amore Italian Restaurant, a soon to be opened bakery, and, perhaps his most well-known, the aforementioned D and R Theatre. And while he’s occasionally ruffled a few feathers in his commercial pursuits, the businessman isn’t about selfishly building an empire; he gives a lot to the community and genuinely works hard for its betterment.

 

He’s also known for his collection of distinct “vintage” automobiles.

“I’ve always had a passion [for cars],” he says. “In high school, I had a Challenger much like I have now.” It took him thirty-one years to find that baby. The first classic he bought was a 1952 MG TD in 1978.

Greg Z_DNR truck in parade

The D & R Chevy 3100, shown here in the 2017 Aberdeen Founder’s Day Parade, is often seen about town. Photo by Elijah Zschomler

 

The local tycoon and car collector, who says he rarely goes to auto auctions, frequently rubs shoulders with nationally well-known performers who have appeared at the D and R. More than eighty big names have done shows at his theater since 2009; names like Kansas, Air Supply, White Snake and Fleetwood Mac. [Yonich bought and restored the 1923 Vaudevillian venue, which closed in 1980, in 2009.] And many artists such as Bad Company, Bill Cosby, Bret Michaels and LeAnne Rimes have ridden from the Sea-Tac airport to the theater in his classic black 1990 Lincoln limousine—just one of the vehicles in his myriad of motorcars.

When I asked him about what makes and models he owned he had trouble naming them all off the top of his head.

The most commonly seen among them is the cream-colored 1950 Chevy 3100 truck with the D and R logo painted on the side. That one pretty much stays in town and frequently appears in local parades. Of the classics he owns there are the 1950 Ford 3100, a 1952 MG TD Roadster, 1955 Ford Fairlane, a 1955 Buick, a 1955 Packard Caribbean, a 1958 Oldsmobile 88, a 1962 Corvette (red, of course), a 1957 Chevy Bel Air (naturally), a 1964 Lincoln Continental, a 1970 Dodge Challenger and the 1990 limo. He also cruises town in his black 2010 Mercedes SL63 AMG—which isn’t quite yet a classic (it has two and a half years to go) —with the top down, when it’s not raining.

As for entering his vehicles in cars shows he says, “I’ve only entered…on occasion. Car shows, it’s the time. I’m so busy, [but] I’d love to do more of them.” He’s entered his Buick in a couple of shows and won first in a local show and third in a national.

What’s it like buying, restoring and owning classic cars?

“There’s so much info out there now,” he says of the Internet, indicating that it’s easier to shop vintage cars than it ever was. He says the market for cars from the 50s is “softening up now that baby boomers are seeking cars from the 60s and 70s.”

Buying, restoring, owning and “having work done is expensive,” says Yonich, noting that a good paint job alone can “cost around $20K because a good restorer takes the car apart piece by piece for painting” before reassembling. Plus there’s the cost of keeping them in good running shape.

“You have to do some of the tinkering,” he says. “They don’t always just start up and go down the road. There’s weeks I don’t have to do anything [and] some weeks you wonder what [repair] you’ll have to do next. You have to drive them if you want to keep them.”

Greg Z_woody and truck

John’s classic woody, shown at his Scoops Espresso and Ice Cream shop, is just one of the twelve in his classic collection that cycle through the popular drive-in, Photo by Gregory E. Zschomler

 

Lower cost collector’s licensing allows for infrequent driving; that is, to shows, in parades, and for maintenance (especially vintage or replica parts). And, “it’s not like you can plug them into computers,” to see what’s wrong says Yonich, who regularly displays his vehicles at Scoops for the historical effect (see photo). He says that, though the cars need driven regularly, they aren’t really a picnic to drive.

“I like driving them and I don’t,” he says. “It’s not like you’re driving your F-250 or Taurus; you don’t drive these cars, they drive you. There’s a reason they had ten and two [positions on the wheel].”

“Up in the Seattle area you never know what to expect with traffic,” he says. “Sitting on a freeway [in heavy traffic] in hot weather isn’t what [the older cars] are designed for.” He says, “There’s some worry about driving,” his classics in traffic. For him, 55 mph is tops, not only to keep from stressing the engines but for safety in traffic.

Plus, there’s insurance, maintenance, and storage. This week he’s cycling each of his cars in for an oil change. Twelve oil changes; that’s at least $300 right there.

So, if it takes all that time and money, I asked, why buy them? And what’s next?

“I buy them for the joy and the investment,” says the man with fingers in all sorts of business investments. “Some of them go up [in value], but that’s not important.” For Yonich it’s all about beauty and nostalgia.

“If I was looking now,” says Yonich, who’s currently tied up with reopening a restaurant, opening a new bakery and working on a project that will bring a music-technology branch of Grays Harbor College to downtown Aberdeen, “I’d buy a 1963 Corvette split-window.”

Autonomous Driving Vehicles Update: Part 4

The Testimonial

Andy_Self driving car_4 interviewThe Kicker is hoping to make a regular feature out of interviewing owners of interesting, exotic, rare or vehicles so we thought it fitting to start off by talking to a Tesla owner. We want to thank Jeanine Jackson, business owner/manager, wife, mom and proud grandma for taking time to answer our questions.

What type of vehicle do you own?

~ I own a Tesla Model S

How long have you owned it?

~ I have owned it since December 2016

Do you use the self-driving capabilities of the car?

~ Yes, I use the self-driving capabilities

If so, how often? In what types of situations?

~ I use the capabilities daily on my commute to and from work. Right now on the surface streets, the self-driving is only available 35 MPH and under, so I take advantage of it as frequently as I can. It is especially awesome in bumper-to-bumper traffic as it will start and stop on its own. When I’m on the freeway I can use them up to 80 mph. The smart cruise control is always available and I use that nearly all the time on surface streets when I go over 35 mph – currently with some limitations, i.e. it can’t recognize a stop sign or light unless there is a car already stopped.

Do you feel safe using the self-driving features of your car?

~ The first few times I used the self-driving features were exhilarating! I lacked the confidence that the car would stop on its own and coming up behind another vehicle and not using the brake is unnerving. With experience, I’ve realized that the car is very reliable to stop. Currently, the software is in a beta test mode that Tesla is updating over the air frequently. A couple months ago I compared the self-driving capabilities to that of a toddler; now it’s a responsible adolescent! With improvements all the time.

Was the self-driving option part of your decision to choose this vehicle over other options?

~ The self-driving option was definitely part of my decision. I like my car to be smarter than me and see all around the vehicle at all times and communicate risks from blind spots. I look forward to learning new features like parking itself, summoning my vehicle, etc.

In the time you’ve been using it, do you feel like the technology has improved?

~ Since I got my Tesla in December, the technology increase is phenomenal! It has been incremental – which I appreciate the concern for safety as new upgrades are rolled out. I love that I don’t have to take my car anywhere to get the upgrades as they become available. It just sits in my garage, or in my parking spot at work, and receives new downloads – just like software updates for a smartphone.

What sort of problems have you noticed?

~ Problems – my car doesn’t recognize stop signs or stop lights. Which means if no one is in front of me, I have to stop the car – auto pilot won’t. If lanes aren’t well marked, sometimes it is hard for my car to know where its lane is. For a while when on the freeway, when the right lane exited, the car couldn’t figure out where it was supposed to be – it thought the exit lane and the right lane of the freeway was just one big lane. That was corrected in a recent firmware release.

What’s your favorite thing about the self-driving feature?

~ My favorite thing… hmmmm. I love so many things about the Tesla – the 17″ screen, never going to a gas station, the ease of charging at home or on the road, the unbeatable acceleration, the regenerative braking system… But I really like the feeling of security that comes from partnering with my Tesla via the autopilot features, the cameras all around, and the collision avoidance technology that makes being in this amazing vehicle safe for me, my family, and others in the road.

If you have a cool car, rare, classic, exotic, etc. and you’re willing to be interviewed (live or remotely) we’d love to hear from you on this site or at our FaceBook Page.

PS Note: Our Op-Ed guy has known Dr. and Mrs. Jackson since he was seven years old (now in his mid-forties) and he claims they do not appear to age. The Jacksons own a day spa among other things, so here’s a shameless plug, since she would never ask us to do it. If you live in the area of Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington you should try out Ashbrook Aesthetics and maybe roll back a few years.