BY GARY STRAUSS
EVERY COLLECTIBLE category has its heroes,
stars and visionaries.
In the rarefied world of American car collecting, concept show cars are where it’s at, and
Costco member Joe Bortz is the go-to guy for the
category. The retired Chicago biochemist and
restaurant entrepreneur has one of the
world’s largest American classic concept-car collections.
Concept cars, called Dream
Cars in the ;;;;s, were popularized after World War II, when
automaker General Motors
began to feature them in its
Motorama shows that traveled
throughout the United States.
Ford and Chrysler soon followed.
Featuring futuristic, gee-whiz
designs that offered eye-popping styl-ing cues, concept cars were usually one of a
kind, hand-built by top automotive designers,
often from fiberglass. They were never tested for
the road and rarely made for mass production.
After they served their purpose attracting
throngs to car shows, they were destined for
Bortz, ;;, fell in love with concept cars when
he began attending the Chicago Auto Show as a
youngster. “They were the Rembrandts and
Picassos of the greatest American automotive
design period yet known,” he says.
Bortz , who considers cars more works of art
than a mode of transportation, began collecting cars while he was in high school in
the early ;;;;s. His first was a ;;;;
Chevy. He later collected ;;;;s and
’;;s classics, then ’;;s muscle
cars. When he learned an unrestored ;;;; fiberglass Pontiac
Bonneville Special concept car
was available, his collection was
transformed into something more
in line with the space-age Jetsons.
He eventually acquired almost ;;
concept cars as word spread of his interest. Enthusiasts, designers and even industry
executives tipped him off on their locations.
Each has been a treasure hunt with its own
unique history and storyline.
“My timing was perfect and my luck was like
winning the lottery,” Bortz says. “I never
expected that I could own any of them. They
Joe Bortz’s concept-
car collection is
Clockwise from above: Joe Bortz
with his 1953 Buick Wildcat;1955
LaSalle roadster; 1954 Pontiac Bonneville; 1953 Pontiac
Parisienne; 1955 Chevrolet
Biscayne XP- 37 with, left to
right: Bortz, former GM designer
Chuck Jordan, GM design staffer
Larry Faloon and Marty Martino,
automotive restorer. See more
of Bortz’s cars at bortzauto
Blasts from the past
ing cars w
BORTZ AU TO COLLEC TION HIS TORIC ARCHIVES
Costco and Costco.com offer a
variety of tools and supplies to
keep any car looking spectacular.
OUR DIGITAL EDITIONS
Click here for a video of a
1955 LaSalle roadster. (See
page 13 for details.)