Beyond the Pond: Antique Car Collecting

Published on December 30, 2023

This is a new series that showcases what pond builders like to do in their free time when they’re not building ponds.

Grumman Kubvan
I climbed on top of this Grumman Kubvan when I found it in Ohio. She’s number 413 of 500

Since my childhood in the suburbs of Ohio, I have possessed an unwavering passion for water. As far back as 1984, I remember when I pleasantly surprised my parents by creating a 3-foot-wide pond with my friends in the woods next to their house. We even ventured to the creek to catch fish to populate the pond — unaware of the fact that it was not conducive to supporting life. Unfortunately, the fish perished within a mere two days, but this setback did not deter my enthusiasm for constructing ponds. It is this unyielding drive and determination that has contributed to the success of my company, Liquid Landscapes.

Finding My Passion(s) for Antique Car Collecting

Antique cars with familY
Having my daughter Brooke be a part of these adventures has been so rewarding.

In 2018, I discovered a Christmas list from 1985 in the memories my mom had saved over the years. It was a typical list for a kid from that era, with requests for a Santa Cruz skateboard, an Atari, a soccer ball and a few other period toys. About halfway down the list there were two things that made me smile when I read them. (It actually makes me smile every time I think about it!) There in the bullet-point list were two gems that spoke to my love for all things vintage: a vintage bike and golf cart. Reading this solidified my other passion and lifelong hobby of collecting antiques and cars.

My work ethic and view on business hasn’t wavered much over the years. I gained a tremendous amount of knowledge and passion for running a business from my immigrant father. Though indirectly, I also learned that you must have time for other passions. There’s a saying I picked up many years ago that I repeat at least once a week. “I own a business; it doesn’t own me.” I have always believed in the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance. This saying is a constant reminder to prioritize my personal interests and passions outside of running my business. It allows me to stay grounded and maintain a sense of fulfillment and enjoyment in both my professional and personal endeavors. By nurturing my love for antique car collecting, I recharge and can bring a fresh perspective to work. This ultimately benefits both myself and my business.

More Than a Hobby

Garage for repairing antique cars
Hanging around the garage and decompressing after work is my Zen time.

I find great enjoyment in exploring the world of vintage car hunting and antique collecting during my free time. This hobby has allowed me to travel extensively, both within the country and abroad. It has provided me with the opportunity to connect with remarkable individuals along the way.

In fact, I have even collaborated with fellow pond builders to acquire specific items for my collection. For instance, Dominic Carrone from Socal Ponds assisted me in shipping early MK1 VW wheels from California. These wheels helped me finish a period-correct Kubvan. John Magyar of Universal Aquatics helped me obtain vintage Bosch plugs from Georgia, to complete a vintage Bosch cabinet display. Additionally, Lloyd Lightsey from The Pond Monster went above and beyond by towing a 1975 Sears Clamshell trailer to his location for me. This vintage trailer would accompany my 1975 camper. Having a network of contacts across the country within the pond building community has been invaluable. I continuously receive valuable tips and leads to further enhance my hobby.

A Trunkful of Memories

My collecting and picking has taken me from coast to coast and across both U.S. borders. Chasing down my 1985 Rabbit GTI (top) took me up to Canada. I really enjoy exploring Mom and Pop stops and small towns along the way. Getting into the big city of Brooklyn to get this 1960s 8-foot VW sign (middle) was also an adventure. A big part of the journey is getting the items (bottom) safely back to the shop.

I’ve had the opportunity to participate in several memorable hunts and trips over the years, one of which was life changing. After I had been hunting for six months I discovered a 1975 VW Riviera camper in Washington state and purchased it sight unseen. I flew to Washington with my daughter, Brooke, with the intention of driving it back. Although I had allowed three days for the journey, it ultimately took us five days to traverse the 2,700 miles. This adventure was truly unforgettable, and the memories I made will stay with both of us forever.

This past year, I stumbled across a very low-mile 1997 OBS Ford F250 located in Colorado. While attending the Water Garden Expo in Oklahoma, I decided to change my flight to Denver to inspect the vehicle. I ultimately purchased it. Despite minor diesel issues, I drove the truck for 21 hours back home. When my daughter was 8, we flew out to obtain the VW camper, and when she turned 15, the Ford OBS truck was a surprise birthday gift. After fixing some minor engine issues and upgrading the truck with a lift and bigger tires, I kept it hidden from my daughter for over a month. We surprised her at a truck show when we threw her the keys. She cried, and so did I.

One of the more notable trips I had was when I received a call from an individual in Brooklyn, New York, who had heard about my collection of vintage VW signs. They had unsuccessfully attempted to get Mike Wolfe from American Pickers to come out and look at an 8-foot VW lighted sign on their building. I decided to take them up on the offer and made the journey in my work truck the following day. I stopped in New Jersey overnight to meet for drinks with Mike Hall of Waterline Designs. The next day, I found myself driving into the closed-down VW dealership building in Brooklyn and discovering the 1960s 8-foot VW sign on the second level. After negotiating a price of $800, the seller generously allowed me to grab anything else in the building. Let’s just say I barely had room to sit in the truck when I left! The pick turned out to be incredibly profitable. It remains one of the most successful picks I have had to date.

It wasn’t even a year later that I got word of another sign up in New Jersey. Mike Hall loaded that one on his truck and drove it down to North Carolina to me. Pond builders are the best!

In 2020, I found the year and make of the first car I ever owned coming out of high school. I bought this 1985 VW Rabbit GTI sight unseen as well. However, there were a few challenges to overcome. The car was in Canada, but due to the closed border, I was unable to fly in and drive it back myself. After waiting for three months for the border to reopen, it became apparent that it would not be happening anytime soon. The seller was eager to have the car gone, so I made the decision to drive to the Sweetgrass border crossing in Montana with a trailer. I contracted a commercial hauler to drive the car across the border, and off I went. This was a 68-hour round trip that I completed in less than four days. This experience holds a special place in my heart. It brings back wild memories of my early years of driving.

Antique Car Collecting Brings Work-Life Balance

75 Riviera
A year after repairing Rae, our 75 Riviera, we drove for 3 weeks to the west coast and back covering over 7000 miles. We even got to take Rae through a Redwood.

The hunt for cars and antiques is indeed an adventure filled with excitement and unknowns. The process of searching for and acquiring these items adds to the thrill of the hobby. However, the journey doesn’t end with the acquisition. The process of wrenching and repairing these vehicles and antiques is another enjoyable aspect of the hobby. It’s fulfilling to take something in need of repair and restore it to a better condition. Having a dedicated space like a shop, where I can work on these projects at any time, is a great way to decompress and indulge in my hobby.

With multiple projects in various stages, there’s always something to work on and improve. Although some projects in the hobby of car and antique hunting may seem never-ending, this is a common experience that adds to the ongoing enjoyment and challenge. I was able to locate and acquire the vintage bike and golf cart, allowing me to fulfill the childhood dream captured on that list. It is immensely satisfying to see these vintage treasures brought back to life and to have them as a part of my collection.

Engaging in a hobby has proven to be instrumental in maintaining a healthy work-life balance for me. The time dedicated to my hobby provides a much-needed break from the demands and pressures of running a business, reducing stress and fatigue. Additionally, my hobby has allowed me to acquire new skills and knowledge, which has translated into increased confidence in various aspects of my professional life. The sense of accomplishment I derive from pursuing my hobby is distinct from the satisfaction I experience in my waterscape work. It serves as a sort of mental and emotional vacation, rejuvenating me both mentally and physically. Overall, I firmly believe that hobbies contribute to a more fulfilling and enjoyable life. (P.S. If you know any picking honey holes, call me!)

Leave the Driving to Us…

In 2021, I had the opportunity to acquire a 1948 GM Silversides bus without an engine from Massachusetts. To restore this vintage beauty, I embarked on a journey to locate the original engine, reaching out to various diesel shops in the tri-state area. Eventually, I found the engine in New Hampshire and, with the help of my friend Gene, spent 18 months meticulously restoring and installing it. In addition to the engine, we also refurbished the wheels, air brakes, and electrical system. Our first adventure with the restored bus will be a road trip to Maine!

About the Author

Benjamin Timmermans is president and lead designer of Liquid Landscapes Incorporated, a national leader in the waterscape industry. He has a passion for creating aquatic environments that captivate and extend the senses. Degrees in recreation and wildlife management led him to a passion for aquatic ecology and the balance of natural ecosystems. His love for anything water started in his early childhood. He grew up on a wooded property adjacent to a watershed area in rural Ohio. 

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