Cool, Calm and Collected

Cool, Calm and Collected

Alan Ziglin’s fleet of collector cars has earned him quite the reputation.

Chana Shapiro is an educator, writer, editor and illustrator whose work has appeared in journals, newspapers and magazines. She is a regular contributor to the AJT.

  • Alan Ziglin, a.k.a. “Dr. Z,” is pictured beside his 1929 Studebaker.
    Alan Ziglin, a.k.a. “Dr. Z,” is pictured beside his 1929 Studebaker.
  • A look at the vintage dashboard inside Ziglin’s 1947 Pontiac.
    A look at the vintage dashboard inside Ziglin’s 1947 Pontiac.
  • The plush interior of Ziglin’s 1959 Pontiac Bonneville.
    The plush interior of Ziglin’s 1959 Pontiac Bonneville.
  • Garlic clove found in 1951 Studebaker
    Garlic clove found in 1951 Studebaker
  • 1929 Studebaker, Alan Ziglin’s first purchase.
    1929 Studebaker, Alan Ziglin’s first purchase.
  • Alan Ziglin in one of his fleet
    Alan Ziglin in one of his fleet
  • 1969 Pontiac
    1969 Pontiac
  • 1951 Studebaker
    1951 Studebaker
  • Fishtail 1972 Buick
    Fishtail 1972 Buick
  • 1967 Pontiac
    1967 Pontiac

Did you do a double take when you saw a two-tone, green 1947 Pontiac with whitewall tires in a parking lot? How about spotting a spunky, yellow 1951 Studebaker coupe cruising merrily down the road?

Alan Ziglin, an energetic and affable retiree with the nickname, “Dr. Z,” (PhD) is the owner of those two collector cars and five others, including a 1929 Studebaker, two convertibles — a sleek 1959 Pontiac Bonneville (that looks like it might have once carried a movie star) and a 1967 Pontiac Grand Prix –a 1972 “boat-tail” Buick Riviera; and a 1969 Pontiac Grand Prix with a six-foot long hood (designed to be longer than the hood of a luxury Lincoln Continental).

Alan Ziglin in one of his fleet

Ziglin notes, “All of my cars are more than drivable. They are reliable. If I can’t drive them, I can’t enjoy them.” His a propos motto is, “Dr. Z’s Fleet That Can’t Be Beat.”

Ziglin and his wife, Rochelle, who enjoys accompanying him on collector trips and shows, have given each of their cars a pet name, reflecting a significant aspect of each one. The 1929 Studebaker is named “Stu” (obvious); the 1947 Pontiac is “Myrtle” (purchased in Myrtle Beach); the 1951 Studebaker is “Bullet” (front protrusion); the 1959 Pontiac is “Bonnie” (Bonneville); the 1967 Pontiac is “Granny” (Grand Prix); the 1969 Pontiac is “Jay” (a Model “J”); and the 1972 Buick is “Duncan” (previously owned in Duncan, Okla.). When Ziglin relates fascinating anecdotes about each of them, he sometimes refers to them by name.

1969 Pontiac

One story involves the purchase of Bullet, the 1951 Studebaker. The original owner put a clove of garlic in the glove box for good luck. Its second owner, who bought the car when he was in high school, kept it there, and it was subsequently found in situ by Ziglin. Ziglin had the amazingly unspoiled clove encased in a small plastic display box, which he showed this reporter and visitor Howard Newman, another car enthusiast. Years later, the owner, from whom Ziglin bought the vehicle, came to Atlanta to show Bullet to his son, and they went for a ride in his old car.

A favorite anecdote took place in 1979, when Ziglin’s four-year-old son advised him not to buy a desired 1967 Pontiac Grand Prix convertible because the air conditioning louvres were broken. Thirty years later, the same model, with operable air duct louvres, was found. His son approved, and Granny is now part of the fleet.

1951 Studebaker

Whereas Ziglin’s cars would certainly fall into the often-used category of classic because of their ages, he demurs, preferring to group them together as “collector cars,” and he is philosophical about his ownership. He sees himself as the cars’ caretaker. He explains, “If I do my job correctly, the cars should last beyond me.”

All seven of his cars are totally reliable on the road. Ziglin notes, “I drive my cars all the time. Sometimes, I’ll run errands in one of them and then come home and switch to another one.” When asked if he is able to maintain his cars himself, he says he knows a lot about them, yet he has a mechanic who appreciates his cars and services them with expertise.

The first collector car he bought, while he was still in grad school, is the 1929 Studebaker. It is rare: completely original—even the seat upholstery—and still bears its 94-year-old faded factory paint, orange pin striping, and wooden floor.

There’s another way to evaluate rarity: that is, how many of a certain model were produced in a specific year. Ziglin searched for 30 years to find a 1967 Grand Prix in the condition he sought, because General Motors manufactured fewer than 6,000 Grand Prix Pontiac convertibles… ever. That was the only year it was made: it, too, is rare.

Fishtail 1972 Buick

In addition to the remarkable condition of the collection, the interiors and details of the cars are part of their allure. The 1947 Pontiac’s dashboard, with a clock centered on the glove box door, steering wheel-concentric horn, and Bakelite finials and knobs, is a perfect example of mid-century design, as is its avocado color. The “look at me” upholstery and glittery floor covering of the 1959 Pontiac convertible demand as much attention as its tail fins. The 1972 Buick features a “boat tail” as its distinguishing characteristic. The 1929 Studebaker’s running boards and external folding luggage rack (there is no trunk) are only two of its notable features.

Ziglin’s car enthusiasm extends beyond his fleet. He greets visitors sporting a car-themed shirt; the windows of the garages where his cars are parked are covered with car-patterned curtains, a long wall of a garage artistically displays dozens of spare hub caps, and another long wall holds scores of meaningful license plates, all from before the year 2000.

1967 Pontiac

Ziglin remains an active collector, looking for cars he would love to own. His expertise is evidenced in his many published articles in club newsletters and magazines. The award-winning monthly, “Smoke Signals,” featured all his current Pontiacs (and one he sold) in separate cover stories. Another award-winning magazine, “Turning Wheels,” highlighted his Studebakers in two cover stories.

The Ziglins, members of Congregation B’nai Torah, have two sons and two grandchildren, and his sons and daughter-in-law have all driven his cars. Ziglin willingly gives others memorable moments with his collection. He says, “We attract a lot of attention when we’re out and about in our collector cars. A lot of thumbs-up, a lot of pictures being taken, and a lot of questions which I enjoy answering.”

Who wouldn’t want a selfie with a 1929 Studebaker?

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