Tom Brown grew up watching the local cars tearing up the pavement in and around Cincinnati, Ohio, and wanted to join in, finally finding an early ‘50s Ford sedan to get him into the action.
But Brown was disappointed. He just couldn’t win a race. So he decided to join the world of Chevys, buying his first “big block,” a 1961 Impala with a W-motor, 348cid and 4-speed. Now he could compete.
Little did Brown know at the time as he prowled the back roads around Cincinnati, he’d eventually put together a collection of big blocks that would reflect an era where big cubic inches ruled drag strips and race tracks and most every car enthusiast’s dreams.
But first, Brown needed to raise a family so early on the 348 Impala was sold off. That didn’t deterBrown from pursuing his passion for big engines and GM muscle. Once his son was old enough, the two of them, father and son, got serious about finding and restoring anything Chevrolet and the Brown collection grew to include not only some rare vehicles, but also a sizable hoard of parts found during his relentless search for anything and everything GM muscle. It wasn’t unusual for Brown to fly all over the country to retrieve cars and parts, and it wasn’t long before the accumulation became massive.
Brown’s son died unexpectedly and suddenly his dreams of sharing his love of muscle cars was pushed aside, though he hasn’t lost the passion for the era and all it provided for power hungry enthusiasts. He continued to devote time to the hobby along with his son’s best friend, but he knew things would never be quite what he imagined.
Brown decided it was the time to open the collection up to public inspection and sale. Selling can be an emotional experience and he wanted someone to handle things in a way that he could be totally comfortable with the result.
Yvette Vanderbrink of Hardwick, Minnesota, has established herself as a “barn find” specialist and her auction company has handled collections throughout the central United States. Brown knew about her and decided she was the one to come and evaluate what he had and set up the sale, which takes place August 25 in Vicksburg, Michigan.
Vanderbrink headed to Michigan to see what the collection might contain and was caught off guard when the shed doors opened and she was presented with “horsepower as far as you could see!”
“I’m a Chevelle and Camaro girl,” Vanderbrink said, “and this collection just blew me away. The whole place was packed full of Camaros, Chevelles, Corvettes and even a 1933 Ford 5-window coupe.”
Vanderbrink began the task of documenting the entire collection of vehicles and parts and came up with some rare, hard-to-find vehicles. The majority of the collection, obviously, was GM with multiple Chevelles, Monte Carlos, Impalas, Novas, El Caminos, Camaros and Corvettes. But Brown loves anything most anything with wheels and an engine and it wasn’t unusual for him to see something interested driving down the road and he’d chase it down to haggle with the owner about selling it to him.
That resulted in a 1993 Ford 5-window coupe that is an old-school hot rod, a 1949 Mercury 2-door sedan project car perfect for a custom treatment or a 1940 Ford 5-window coupe that at one time in the 1960s was an award winning show car. There’s a plethora of others… Plymouth, Desoto, Pontiac Firebirds and GTO, Oldsmobiles and Buicks.
But the main attraction for Brown was anything and everything big block. Tri-power 427 ‘67 and ’68 Corvettes head the list of seven ‘60s and ‘70s Chevrolet sports cars and there are 10 Camaros, including a former Berger Chevrolet ’68 drag car still sporting its 396 4-speed drivetrain, 4.10 rear gears and just 10,000+ miles on the odometer.
And, of course, there are piles of parts — 396 engines, a ’69 COPO 427 warranty motor, carbs, trannys, intakes, heads, shifters, sheetmetal. Brown even had eight open and closed trailers used to transport cars and parts and they are being sold off as well.
Though this isn’t the largest collection Vanderbrink has handled, it is one of the more unusual due to its primary focus on GM muscle of the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Tom Brown gathered up some of the most iconic big-block power of the muscle car era and now is opening his stash to bring it back out into the world.