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By Jan Wagner - syndicated weekly columnist/photojournalist
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Astor Classics Event Center
Living Automotive & Communication Museum

 

  

A fellow by the name of Dicken Wear has a real knack for finding fascinating locations to visit. He was the person who, when I met him at last year’s SEMA SHOW in Las Vegas, invited me to join him for a tour of the Desert Correctional Center, where I saw highly skilled inmates in the midst of fabricating Shelby Cobras and restoring other vehicles (see AutoMatters # 165 in the 2005 Column Archives at www.AutoMatters.net). Later in the year he was able to get me a ride in a shifter kart, courtesy of Mike Manning Karting, and also a guided tour of XCOR Aerospace, a company heavily involved in rocket racing vehicles for the Rocket Racing League (for both stories, see AutoMatters # 173 in the 2005 AutoMatters Column Archives).

  

Well, Dicken did it again. This time, thanks to his very accommodating contacts, he helped to arrange a tour of the Astor Classic Event Center, which they describe as a “Living Automotive & Communication Museum.” The occasion was the Motor Press Guild’s Power Tour VII.

 
                                                                        This car was once owned by Clark Gable

The collection’s official Web site (www.astorclassics.com) provides great visuals of this wonderful collection of automobiles and communications equipment (vintage TV sets, radios, phonographs and telephones).

 

Astor Classics is located in a spacious, modern and out-of-the-way location in Anaheim, California. If you didn’t already know that it is there, I doubt that you would see it. I think that is the way they want it to be.

              
One of many scale model trains                                                               .

The owner of the collection is Art Astor. He was born in Fresno and has lived in Southern California for most of his life. Art’s background is in broadcasting, as is mine. However, with over 50 years experience in the business, Art has been at it a lot longer than I have and he has been much more successful at it too. Currently he owns several radio stations, two of which are located right here in San Diego County. Clearly Art shares my love of automobiles and communications memorabilia.

 

 

According to its Web site, Art’s automobile collection includes about 270 vehicles, ranging from highly collectable classics to what you and I would consider daily drivers. It makes perfect sense that vehicles in the latter category would be included in his collection because Art drives all of these vehicles. Jay Leno’s is another such “living” collection (see AutoMatters # 146 in the 2005 AutoMatters Column Archives). Unfortunately, most museums seem to treat their once mobile collections strictly as static works of art, not meant to be driven anymore and only to be viewed from a distance. Thankfully, Art and Jay ‘get it.’

  

I ended up spending a whole day editing photos, most of which I will never be able to show you due to a lack of space. Perhaps someday I’ll have a photo exhibition.

      
                                                    I think I had one of these once                                                                  .

The settings for the large collection of automobiles include vintage gas pumps, period furniture, signs, artwork and even pedal cars!

 

  

As good as the automobile collection is, in some ways I actually prefer the collections of communications devices. In addition to the large numbers of tastefully displayed radios, phonographs and telephones, I saw TV sets dating back all the way to the very beginning of television.

 

Oh how I wish that I somehow had my parents’ old tube type, black & white TV set, with its beautiful wooden cabinet, complete with fluted wooden columns bordering a large, fabric- and wood-covered speaker. Those TV sets were very different from today’s mass produced, metal and plastic, high tech devices. I still remember when, while growing up in Alberta, Canada, color TV was introduced there back in 1966 (Canada got color TV later than the U.S. did). I still remember how I enjoyed going to the house of a friend whose parents had bought one of those first color TV sets. As I recall, that first year’s shows included such classics as “The Monkees” and “The Iron Horse.” My early fascination with TV eventually led me to study television production and then I worked for several years in the industry as a Writer/Producer.

  

You can contact Art’s museum by email (info@astorclassics.com) or by phone (714-502-9494). As I wrote earlier, they are also on the Web at www.astorclassics.com. As long as you make arrangements ahead of time their collections are open to groups both large and small, and they have a banquet hall.

 

I don’t know when but I do know that I will be making a return visit. There is far too much to absorb in just one day.

                   
                  Vintage candy machine                                                                                  .

As always, please share your stories and send your comments to AutoMatters@gmail.com. Enjoy the archives and more at www.AutoMatters.net.  Drive safely and do join me again next time.

Copyright © 2006 Jan R. Wagner – #191 AutoMatters

 

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