Weekly Feature



2018-02-08 / Lifestyles

BUFFALO TR PIERCE-ARROW MUSEUM RECENTLY FEATURED IN ‘AMERICAN PICKERS’

by JOE KIRCHMYER


This original Jell-O wagon was recently acquired by the Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum in downtown Buffalo. It is closed in February except for special events and reopens in March with regular hours. This original Jell-O wagon was recently acquired by the Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum in downtown Buffalo. It is closed in February except for special events and reopens in March with regular hours. Jim Sandoro and his wife, Mary Ann, have spent more than 45 years collecting memorabilia, antique vehicles and historic artifacts to visually display the rich transportation history of Western New York, according to a statement on their website.

That statement says a lot, yet somehow, it doesn’t come close to capturing the enormity of that collection, a portion of which is on display at the Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum in downtown Buffalo.

After recently making my first jaw-dropping visit to the museum, I was able to return just a few days later to interview Jim about his impressive collection and everything from his childhood in Buffalo — the birthplace of the majestic Pierce-Arrow automobile — to his plans for a major expansion along Seneca Street.

Joe Kirchmyer: For those who haven’t visited the museum before, how would you describe this facility?

Jim Sandoro: Eclectic, in a way, because I don’t want people to have the perception that we are just a Pierce-Arrow museum. We are the Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum, and now we also have the Frank Lloyd Wright Filling Station. It’s not just Pierce-Arrow cars; we have muscle cars, bicycles, motorcycles and Buffalo history.

We do take some things on loan and we buy things, too, but over $10 million worth of items have been donated to us this year — everything from Corvettes and Pierce-Arrows to bicycles and memorabilia.

JK: You’ve been collecting for decades. Do you recall the one piece that started all of this? JS: When I was a child the man next door was a chauffeur for a wealthy family. His granddaughter and I would play in their two-car garage with other kids in the neighborhood, and I still remember the smell of mothballs and stale gas. There was a tarp that separated two cars. Being inquisitive I pulled the tarp back and there was this magnificent Pierce-Arrow Town Car up on blocks. It was so majestic and was the biggest thing that I had ever seen. Well, it was taboo to even be in there, and once he caught me I kept asking, ‘Well, why can’t we play on it?’ To shut me up he would give me a button or a pin or a program from a car show in the early days and I’d take it home and show my mother.


A gleaming Duesenberg sits on the display floor of the Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum. A gleaming Duesenberg sits on the display floor of the Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum. By the time I was 9, the basement was filled, and my mother said, ‘What are you going to do with all these things?’ I said I was going to have a car museum and that’s what I want to do for the rest of my life -— play with old cars.

JK: There is so much to see here, so much history on display. Which piece would you say you’re most proud of?

JS: There’s two guys racing on a high-wheel bicycle in a showcase over there, a German bronze that I bought in New York City in 1972 from the window of an antique shop. It was $1,000, which was a lot of money in 1972, and I carried it home on my lap.

JK: Of all the pieces currently on display, what was the most difficult to acquire?

JS: Well, the Thomas Flyer car is because there are only 32 in the world. I bought mine in 1974. Those are $1 million minimum, and we never would have been able to afford one now.

JK: Were you familiar with the “American Pickers” television show before they contacted you about acquiring the Jell-O wagon for the museum?

JS: Yes, I was a fan of the show and knew the boys. I met Mike [Wolfe], and I actually sold him a motorcycle engine a couple of years ago, not part of the show but as a friend. I also got to know his brother, Robbie. They told me about the wagon, and I went out to Iowa to buy it. They keep repeating that episode all the time, and it enabled us to bring in Danielle [Colby] for the unveiling. Three hundred people came to see Danielle, which helped us to raise funds for the conservation of the wagon.

The Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum, located at 263 Michigan Ave. in Buffalo, is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday and is also available for special events. It is closed in January and February, aside for special events. It will reopen in March with regular hours.

For more information, visit www.pierce-arrow.com or call 853-0084.

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