As the morning sun began to show itself over the mountaintops of the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, an old gas station sign beside a windowless building stole my attention. I pulled over to stretch after a night of driving to find several antiques gathering rust and a small sign which read: Alpha and Omega Antique Mall. The proprietor, Mike, came outside, wiping the sleep from his eyes, asking what I was doing there so early in the morning. Once I explained that I was out on tour, looking for unique collections to talk about and photograph with my old Rolleiflex, he immediately invited me in. He put up a fresh pot of coffee and opened the door to one of the most incredible car collections to ever be housed within an antique shop hidden behind and old gas station.
“Back in the 1960s and 1970s, there was a show called ABC’s Wide World of Sports,” Mike says. “Every now and then, they would have a drag racing segment. It was very popular back then. Big Daddy ‘Don’ Garlits was king of the rails… the wheel-stands, smoke and everything. But, Sox and Martin Racing, what they did is they went around the country and did exhibitions. You could pay $25 or $50 or whatever it was, the story changes a little bit all the time, but you would pay a little bit of money and you’d get to race against Ronnie Sox. You never won, but you got to race against him and you got a color photograph. Well, Sox and Martin came to a local drag strip over here in Waynesboro. Petie Eavers paid his money, whatever it was, and signed up. Petie beat him. First time he had lost all summer long, and Petie won $500. So, Ronnie comes over to him and asks him, ‘What did you do to that car, boy?’ Petie said, ‘I’ll never tell.’ And they established, from that point on, a lifetime friendship. When Ronnie Sox passed away several years ago, his wife called Petie and said, ‘Petie, Ronnie is having me send you one of his dragsters.’ Well, that dragster sits over here now in the little museum. Jay Leno is interested in buying that car. He hasn’t been in here yet, but when he does, I’ll know who he is. He will be the guy with his jaw on the floor. If you ask Petie how much these cars are, he will tell you they are not for sale. But, if Leno comes in with about $600,000, he is going to be able to get that.”
As the personal tour continued, Mike introduces me to a Corvette. “This 1957 Corvette belonged to one of the Statler Brothers,” he explains. “It is a big hit locally. This is number 67 off of the assembly line. Petie’s dad gave this to him and he drove it very rarely because he thought it was too pretty to drive. All these cars belonged to Petie. Petie was quite a guy.”
“I have one of Elvis Presley’s Cadillacs here,” Mike says with pride. “Elvis bought three cars at a time generally, and he gave them away. Everyone who hears I have one of his cars asks if it is pink, but, no. It is one of the ugliest Cadillacs ever made. It is either a 1976 or 1977 Seville and it looks like a Monte Carlo. It looks like a used car right now. And it looked that way brand new too. But, the cool thing about it is he actually did drive that off the lot. It was one of the three. Somebody else drove the other two cars and Elvis drove that one, so his DNA is in that car.”