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Poor mans Chevys a hit at Chateau Elan car show
A restored Chevrolet owned by the Collier Collection was one of hundreds on display Saturday during the inaugural Atlanta Concours d’Elegance at Chateau Elan in Braselton. - photo by Michelle Boaen Jameson

For more coverage of the Atlanta Concours d' Elegance, check out the upcoming issue of Home Living in North Georgia Magazine.

A “poor man’s” car once found on every street in America was among good company Saturday at the inaugural Atlanta Concours d’Elegance at Chateau Elan in Braselton.

Thousands of car enthusiasts filed through the winery grounds to view and test-drive more than 170 rare and antique cars. At the center of this whirl of festivities sat a small group of vehicles: rare antique Chevrolets rippling with chrome, looking as if they just rolled off an assembly line.

Their owner, James Collier, started collecting classic Chevys in 1975, and in the past 40 years he has collected an impressive collection from the early 1900s through to the 1970s.

Collier says that after all these years he couldn’t imagine collecting anything but Chevy.

“Chevy is all I own. A poor man can’t own but one type of car,” Collier said with a grin.

Collier grew up in South Georgia, the son of a sharecropper, and one of 10 siblings. He says that his earliest roots of his car collection come from the influence of his three older brothers, who introduced him to Chevy cars.

“Growing up under them was being the kid brother who wanted to be just like the older brother,” he said.

Collier said at a certain point when he grew older and decided that he wanted to continue pursuing cars as a hobby, he was stuck choosing between what he calls the three “poor man’s cars:” Chevrolet, Ford and Plymouth.

But half a century later, he is glad he stuck with Chevy.

“Today, Chevy parts are more readily available than any other car around,” he said, a fact that makes repairing and restoring Chevy vehicles much easier than other car brands.

“Lord knows, don’t try and go out there and restore a Chrysler. You’ll fight tooth and nail trying to get the parts for it, and some of the parts you may never get some of them,” he said.

Collier no longer restores cars, and he has no patience for waiting to have an older car worked on for what could take years, saying that “life is too short for that.”

Now he strictly collects cars that catch his eye and he purchases outright, finding exactly what he is looking for before making any new purchase.

“And then I know I’m satisfied because I saw the finished product before I bought it,” he said.

He said though he no longer tinkers with cars, he considers restoring a car to be one of the greatest things a parent can do with a child.

“The best is to work on a car with your son when he is 13-20,” he said. “Not only does he learn something about mechanics, but you get to develop a good working relationship with him.”

Collier worked on cars with his son Phildon as soon as he started to show interest in the work.

“And now he knows more than me probably,” Collier said, laughing.

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