Don Sanderson Loved His Fords

  • story by David M. Brown
  • posted on 11/2014
  • posted in: Great Garages

After World War II, Phoenix native Don Sanderson bought and sold salvage vehicles. In 1955, Sanderson started selling brand-new Fords for Grey Madison of Madison Motors, also in Phoenix.

Madison was sure as a Model T that Sanderson wouldn’t make it as a dealer and told him so before the young entrepreneur left to hang up his shingle. Six months at the most is what Grey told Sanderson, half a year, tops.

Sanderson nodded and opened his first location at 56th and Grand avenues in Glendale. Almost 60 years later, and 65 acres of Glendale dealerships (as well as a Lincoln store on Bell Road in Phoenix), the Sanderson name is running strong, like a Shelby Mustang.

And, the Sanderson collection of cars, in a 20,000-square-foot warehouse, is one of the best Ford collections anywhere.

Don married LaVerne Taylor, and had two daughters, Sue and Kay. Sue married David Kimmerle after graduating from Glendale High School. Born in New York, Kimmerle had moved to Glendale in grade school and also attended Glendale High.

“Sue has been involved in the store since she was 12 years old,” says Neil Schrock, a long-time Sanderson employee and Peoria resident who curates the collection in retirement. “The museum was Sue’s idea, so they started collecting items on trips and eventually built a new parts building and moved the items to the old parts building to start the production of the museum.”

Schrock started at Sanderson in August 1961, just out of Glendale High School. “I knew I wanted to be in the car business from the time I was little. I called Sanderson Ford and made an appointment for an interview with Mr. Sanderson,” he says.

“I started working after school washing cars, cleaning stalls, taking customers home,” he adds. In 1971, Sanderson asked him if he wanted to go into sales, and he was continuously promoted until he became general sales manager. Schrock retired in December 2012 after 51 years of service to the Sanderson companies.

Opened in April eight years ago, the museum is private, but the Sanderson family unlocks the doors on special occasions, such as when the dealership has custom car shows. Don died in December 1985 and never saw the museum, although many of his prized cars are shown. Laverne died last year in her early 90s.

Officially The Sanderson Village and Museum, it contains nostalgic items, such as a beautifully recreated old mercantile store, a kitchen from the ‘40s and a ‘50s diner with oodles of chrome and period furnishings and accessories such as Coca Cola items from the ‘30s through the ‘50s.

Schrock recently opened the Sanderson garage doors for Highline Autos; we’re glad that he did.

Here are a few of the signature cars:

1913 Model T Towncar Limousine — Ford made 15 million Model T’s, including 9,144 Towncars, which were used as limousines and taxi cabs. The Towncars sold for a significant $800, making them status vehicles owned by the fortunate few.

Assembled March 8, 1913 — Woodrow Wilson was in his first term as U.S. president —the 20-horsepower car was owned previously by Scottsdale’s Joe and Janice Dean, who magnificently restored it.

“Joe entered the car in one of the dealership shows we have and won Best of Show,” Schrock says. “He left the car in our showroom for display, David Kimmerle fell in love with it and ended up purchasing it in 2013 from Joe.” It runs and drives like new.

1967 Shelby GT 500 — The first year for the GT 500, with the 428-cubic-inch four-barrel, this classic muscle car was purchased at the 2007 Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale. Edsel Ford II and Carroll Shelby, who died two years ago, both signed the car at the auction. The Shelby came from Ron Pratte’s Collection, all of which is being auctioned at the 2015 Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale in January.

With automatic transmission and Selectaire air-conditioning, it was built in San Jose, California, on May 10, 1967, 13 days behind schedule, according to the MartiAutoWorks report of last year. On completion, it went down the highway to Mel Burns Ford in Long Beach, California. Three days later, Jim Hayes acquired the car, and, in 2003, it received a rotisserie restoration.

1968 California Special Mustang — “This was in one of Sanderson’s car shows, and David Kimmerle purchased it in 1991 for his son Matt’s first car, when he turned 16,” Schrock says. Delivered originally to Tom Sherlock Ford in South Pasadena, California, stickered at $3,911.04, it had a color change from the factory Lime Gold to red before Kimmerle purchased it.

1930 Model A — This, the second generation of Ford mass-produced cars, was sold new to a man in Ajo and was a trade-in when Don Sanderson first opened his business in May 1955. After using it at the dealership, it was sold in 1970 to a man in California.

In 2004, Schrock received a phone call from the owner, wanting to know if the dealership wanted to buy the car back. Just he and the general manager of Sanderson knew about the transaction at the time. “We wanted to surprise the family and present it back to them at the party that was being planned in May 2005 for 50 years of being in business,” he says.

The party for 600 people was held at the landmark Arizona Biltmore: “I had taken the car out at night and put it on stage behind the curtain where the party was being held. Toward the end of the party, we opened the curtains and presented it back to the family. They were all so surprised, and Mrs. Sanderson shed a few tears. She loved that car, and she used to drive the car down Grand Avenue chasing parts for Don when he first got started in business.”

The classic Ford has 47,000 miles on it and has the original shocks. After the anniversary party, the dealership restored the car completely. Mrs. Sanderson posed with this and a new 1955 Ford Thunderbird at the 1955 Arizona State Fair. Right next to the car in the museum is that picture.

1950 Merc Lead Sled — Purchased as “a basket case,” this was a six-year build with numerous custom changes. “Not one part of the body was untouched,” Schrock says.

Equipped with a roaring V-10, it has GPS, air-conditioning, a sound system that also plays DVDs, power steering and power windows. It also features a 6-inch chopped top, and the hood opens in reverse fashion from that of the original. A show winner, it has one-off wheels, and three dash boards were used to make the existing one.

1948 Ford Woody Convertible — The same night the ’67 Shelby 500 was purchased by David Kimmerle at Barrett-Jackson, this gorgeous ragtop was purchased as well for his wife, Sue, on her birthday. The car is a complete restoration, with beautiful wood detail and has power windows, a first that year for Fords. Edsel Ford II has also signed the dash of the car for David.

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