TROY — Troy resident Blaich Zeller has taken an intense interest in all things antique and turned it into a lifelong hobby.
For the past 20 years, he has collected memorabilia, relics, souvenirs, and vehicles of a bygone era, even turning his garage, on LeFevre road in Troy, into something reminiscent of an early- to mid-20th century filling station.
“I just like old stuff,” Zeller said. “I love the vintage look.”
Zeller, 62, boasts quite the collection of old vehicles, all of which were manufactured prior to the year 1958.
“I don’t have one car that has key-less entry or electric windows; all of them have old school keys and crank windows,” he said. “I’ve always been into cars, and I used to work on and restore them. I just have so much love for these types of cars.”
Included in the collection are a 1957 Chevy 210 4-door Wagon, a 1960 Chevy Bel Air, a 1939 Dodge Coup, a 1919 Dodge Brothers Rat Rod, and a 1957 Chevy golf cart.
Zeller’s love for the vintage vehicles knows no bounds.
“To get the ‘57 golf cart, I drove 1,500 miles, one way, to Arizona,” he said. “In 2004, I drove five hours to Michigan, spent five hours looking at the ‘57 Wagon, and I drove it home.”
While Zeller does has a work van and newer-model car to drive on a day-to-day basis, he said all of his five cars are driven regularly. All the cars are kept clean and stored on top of cardboard in his garage, which has a fan blowing at all times to keep the air flow.
While Zeller has an affinity for his turquoise and white Chevy Wagon, he considers all of his vintage vehicles as prized possessions.
“I just like the look of these old cars,” he said. “They’re head-turners and eye-catching; people just love them. You don’t see these old cars on the road much anymore and, when you do, people stop and look.”
Before acquiring his car collection, Zeller said he had been collecting vintage signs and gas station-related items for years.
“I built the garage in 2005 by myself for my business, but as you can see when you’re out there, it didn’t stay business-related for long,” he said. “I had been collecting items for years, but had no where to put it, so I’ve turned that into a vintage gas station.”
On one wall of the garage, there are gas station-related items displayed, including vintage signs and car parts, and another wall homes various ‘60s decor, toys, and miscellaneous items from the past.
The decor is not confined to the interior of the garage, however, and a large collection of signs — advertisement-type signage you’d see at an old gas or service station — hang out front, along with vintage pieces like antique gas pumps and car battery chargers, an old Pepsi vending machine, Coca-Cola memorabilia, a telephone booth, old gas cans, and numerous other items, all neatly arranged.
Zeller said he often purchases signs at garage sales, flea markets, or through online rummage sales. He said he’s also occasionally approached by someone with an item for sale that they think he’d enjoy.
“I’ve got a story for every one of the signs,” he said. “I know where they all came from, I know what I paid for them. I’ve even had people stop by and ask if I was interested in buying a sign from them.”
Zeller said he has no plans to get rid of any of his collection, even if some may be of high value as time goes on.
“I’m never going to sell it,” he said. “When I’m gone, someone will have to deal with my stuff.”
For now, Zeller enjoys sharing his collection with those around him, and he says his garage/gas station often entices passersby to stop.
“I’ll be inside the house and will see people pull into the driveway just to take a closer look,” he said. “A couple from Arcanum stopped while out looking at Christmas lights … they ended up staying for 45 minutes, and we talked and drank a beer in the garage.”
For those interested in an up-close look at Zeller’s vintage cars, along with a small assortment of his antique decor, they can find him each year at the Tipp City Mum Festival Car Show. This year, the festival will be held Sept. 25 through 27.