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John Van Buiten is a World War II veteran with a love of Fords, his country and anything car-related, no matter the shape or size.
The 93-year-old retired contractor spent decades collecting classic Fords along with thousands of toy cars, oil cans, license plates, vintage signs and gas pumps. He eventually transformed his family’s garage in Wyckoff, New Jersey into a car museum that his family dubbed “Gramps Grille.”
“When you get older, you get more money, you can do things. One thing led to another,” Van Buiten said.
He was married to his wife Hester for 65 years, but when she died earlier this year, he realized it was time to sell the home. Van Buiten hopes to sell a large chunk of the collection along with it so he can return to visit his treasures. He and his children have already sold some of the items piece by piece.
His classic car collection includes a 1936 Ford Phaeton. It’s the same model and color Henry Ford gifted to President Roosevelt. “(Roosevelt) could shift it, apply the brakes and gas and everything with his hands,” said Van Buiten, who stayed loyal to Ford his adult life. At one point, he had 15 of them. He has six left.
“If you had a Chevy you didn’t come in my driveway. You park out on the road,” he said.
Other models include a 1938 Ford V-8 Deluxe Roadster, a 1911 Ford Model T, a 1931 Model A, a 1936 Ford 4-door sedan, and a 1929 Ford mail truck, of which only 400 were produced.
All of the vehicles still run, and Van Buiten has driven them in parades and loaned them out for weddings.
When Hester passed away in May, he decided to move into an assisted living facility nearby. He brought several of the smaller items with him, but he couldn’t keep them all.
“Everything in here, I could tell you a million little stories,” he told Fox News during a tour this summer.
Not all of the remaining items in "Gramps Grille" are for sale. He's saving some for his family, including a toy truck he gave to his son John for Christmas in 1954. Van Buiten bought it for $18.75. In today’s dollars, that’s more than $160. Alongside the truck is a photo of his son playing with the toy on the day he unwrapped it.
Van Buiten said letting go of the collection he's spent decades building is one of the most difficult challenges of his life.
“(I) had a lot of fun doing this - it's all going to disappear.”