Spend one second in George Keller’s garage and you’ll easily be able to deduce his favorite make of car.
You need not even look at the sleek sports cars on the ground. Evidence all over the walls shows Keller’s abiding love of Jaguars.
Keller’s interest in Jaguars he blames on his mother; when he was in college, he went with her to look at Jaguars when she was hunting for a new car, and though she eventually decided on a Chevrolet Monte Carlo, it was the Jaguars that made a lasting impression on Keller. He bought his first Jaguar, an E-type, after he graduated in 1977.
But his fascination with cars far pre-dates his fascination with Jaguars; he’s “been a car guy from the very beginning,” he says, building models and collecting the toy cars that came as prizes in cereal boxes.
“I ate cereal every morning so I could get a new car,” says Keller.
The barn in southern Delaware County once housed a landscaping business, but now it is completely dedicated to Keller’s collection.
Vehicles in the collection include:
-A race-ready, 600-horsepower car that was driven by Paul Gentilozzi in the 2011-12 American Le Mans Series races as well as in China;
-An X-type concept car designed by Jaguar and built by Rocketsports Racing, complete with a TV screen in the windshield, for the 2003 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) car show in Las Vegas;
-A concept car built by Rocketsports for the 2004 Chicago Auto Show featuring the same roll bars used in the rocket launcher-equipped Jaguar XKR driven by bad guy Zao in the 2002 James Bond film Die Another Day;
-A 1961 Mark IX Saloon with an all-leather interior;
-A 1950 Mark V Saloon, complete with a helmet signed by longtime Jaguar factory test driver Norman Dewis;
-A 1965 E-type with a fixed-head coupe; and
-A 1973 E-type with V12 engine.
A 1998 Harley Davidson motorcycle and a supercharged X-type engine built as a prototype just before Jaguar dropped the X-type round out the collection.
“This is the only supercharged engine that Jaguar ever built for the X-type,” Keller says.
Off the main garage is a lounge Keller added on to accommodate more memorabilia and hold get-togethers, from meetings of the Jaguar Association of Central Ohio to Super Bowl parties.
“Between Ohio State football and cars, we decided we needed to add a wing,” Keller says.
Keller has dubbed the lounge the Formula One room, and it’s not hard to see why – it’s ringed with all manner of racing memorabilia, and the centerpiece is a glass-top table with a 1971 V12 engine as the base. Jumpsuits, helmets, racing prints, photos, bumpers and hood ornaments – some of them signed by the likes of Eddie Irvine, Martin Brundle and John Nielsen – line the walls.
Keller is particularly proud of a jumpsuit from a Monaco race accompanied by a photo featuring the Jaguar the driver raced. The photo was taken on the set of Ocean’s Twelve, which was filming at the time of the race, and George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon appear in it.
“As a promotion, one of the diamond promoters put a big diamond into the nose of the race car, but the driver lost control and hit a pylon,” Keller says. “They never did find that diamond.”
The walls of the main barn are also packed with memorabilia, some of it obscure – for example, signs for Jaguar malt liquor, a 1980s attempt to cash in on the Jaguar name that was aborted when it lost a taste test to competitor King Cobra. More jumpsuits, helmets and photos can be seen in the barn, along with dealership signs, racing jackets, car parts, old signs and logos, license plates, and posters, including one from the 1994 Arthritis Foundation of Central Ohio Classic Auto Show and Cruise-in in which the local Jaguar club was featured.
The club participates in the auto show every year now, bringing its most impressive specimens for visitors to gawk at.
A whiteboard displays the scores from the Jaguar club’s most recent slalom, held May 18 at St. Joan of Arc Church in northwest Columbus. A stoplight hangs over the center of the room, and an old-fashioned Shell gas pump is situated near one of the bathrooms.
Both bathrooms have their share of memorabilia, and the signs on the doors are from Sinclair gas station restrooms.
A storage room on the side of the garage opposite the lounge also holds a few cars, as well as a motor coach.
Garth Bishop is editor of CityScene Magazine. Feedback welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.