By ELAINE BEAN
The Daily Times of Salisbury
WEST OCEAN CITY, Md. (AP) — “I don’t know how many times, nor would I want to count, that I have driven past this place over the years and never stopped,” blogged Tara M. on Yelp in 2010.
“I’ve heard that over and over,” recalled Doug Trimper.
That opportunity has now passed as the Trimper’s Wheels of Yesterday Antique and Classic Car Museum closes its doors for good.
Since 1996, anyone driving on Route 50 into the resort passed the low-key Wheels of Yesterday Museum on the right. Visitors stuck in summer traffic may have fondly recalled Greyhound’s “leave the driving to us” slogan evoked by the big 1956 double-decker Scenicruiser bus parked out front.
This past summer, a sign quietly went up at the museum announcing the cars inside were for sale, and the property itself was listed with Coldwell-Banker Real Estate. Granville Trimper’s personal automobile collection was being sold off car by car.
Trimper, who died in 2008 at age 79, is well know in the coastal community as patriarch of his family’s Boardwalk amusement park, former Ocean City council president, former Worcester County commissioner and lifetime volunteer firefighter.
What many didn’t know is Trimper was also an avid car collector who loved to hunt for old autos and restore them to their former glory.
Trimper’s car collecting passion began 40 years ago when son Doug presented his father with the gift of a 1931 Model A Ford coupe. “He had always liked Model As and Model Ts,” recalled Doug Trimper, “and every time he’d see one, he’d point it out.”
Granville spent a year and a half taking apart the old Model A and putting it back together. A new hobby was born, which soon outgrew Trimper’s garage.
“We needed a place to store them,” said Doug Trimper. The huge I. Villani & Sons furniture store on the main highway in then-undeveloped West Ocean City was available, and the Trimper family acquired it in 1996.
“When we started, we only had about 12 cars,” Doug Trimper recalled, “so we contacted local car collectors to help fill the building. As our collection grew, they took out their cars and we put ours in.”
At the museum’s peak, 45 antique cars and trucks that Granville Trimper had collected and restored were housed in the big white building. Admission to see the collection was $4, up from $3 when the museum first opened.
Flickr still posts a gallery of photos taken there in January 2008. Frommer’s continues to show the museum as an active listing where “Car enthusiasts will enjoy strolling through the rows and rows of classic cars, plus a few kiddie cars and even a replica of a 1950s service station.” The station was a copy of Granville Trimper’s father’s gas station in Sharptown.
Trimper’s collection was vast and varied and went beyond automobiles. Costumed mannequins lounged in back seats and on fire trucks. Flying A gasoline pumps with their round glass tops glowed brightly. Old gasoline and road signs lined the walls and support posts.
Antique cars from the Boardwalk — a 1953 Dodge M bumper car and a 1929 Ford Model A fire truck bumper ride — evoked summer vacation memories. And the black-and-white checkerboard floor seemed to hold everything together.
Jack Jarvis was curator of the museum for 14 years. He was a close personal friend of Granville Trimper’s since they attended first grade together, and Jarvis worked for the family’s businesses for 69 years.
Jarvis helped Trimper restore many of the antique cars, and also drove for Trimper in the annual Christmas parades. “Me and a couple guys would go to the Christmas parades in Berlin and Snow Hill. We’d win first or second prize every year,” Jarvis said.
“I’m sad to see museum close,” Jarvis continued. “But I’m old now. I’m 82. Everything has to come to an end. I met wonderful people there. Everybody that came in there had a memory of some type of car that was important in their life.”
“For 15 years, it was a hobby,” said Doug Trimper. “When my father passed away, a business decision just had to be made. The economy was poor, and today’s younger generation isn’t quite into antique and classic cars as people were yesterday.
“When you have 45 vehicles and property on Route 50, the overhead was incredible,” continued Trimper. “It was a difficult summer, selling these cars off that we had collected and valued over the years.”
Since the summer sell-off, all that remains in the museum is the black-and-white checkerboard floor, an array of trophies from the Christmas parades, and seven cars left to sell. They include Jack Benny’s 1917 Overland with the license plate “I M 39,” a shiny 1949 cream-colored Packard, and a legendary 1966 white Ford Mustang. The iconic Greyhound Scenicruiser, moved to a warehouse after vandals broke the windshield this summer, is also available.
Trimper family members purchased a few of the cars to keep “for nostalgic sake,” said Trimper. “I kept a 1951 Willy station wagon.” Two classic Corvettes will be passed on to Doug Trimper’s two sons.
“We could have sold them many times this summer,” he said.
The property at 12708 Ocean Gateway is for sale for $1.9 million. The 2.27-acre parcel with 200 feet of highway frontage holds two buildings totaling 19,000 sq. ft.
“The Route 50 corridor has been building up, so in the next year or two, we expect to find a buyer,” Trimper said.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)