Bob Gardner, Historian for Gardner Automobile:
Have you ever wondered how a person becomes a car buff, or even a car magazine editor? How about a historian or maybe a collector? Well, here is a story about a husband and wife who both have a love for, not only preservation, but the circulation of information, for all to enjoy; Bob and Kim Gardner.
I met the Gardner’s through a friend who has a beautiful 1931 Gardner model 158 that was in need of some TLC in order for this gem to once again get its “rubber on the road.” I was blessed to have had the opportunity to be the one who was asked to perform the mechanical repairs to get the car running. During the process, my friend Bernie sent an inquiry to Bob Gardner, since he was the one who took on the task a few years ago to preserve the history and mechanical information for these automobiles.
Bob Gardner was so excited to forward any and all technical data and history about the Gardner to me. He was a wealth of information, along with some guidance. It was then that Bob and I connected and a friendship was born. Bob’s love for these Gardner’s can only be measured by talking, or in my case emailing him, to understand just how much knowledge Bob has about them.
Let me give you a little insight to Bob’s passion and how it all began. Some get the bug at an early age, but Bob waited until he was four. When he was fourteen he found a reference to a Gardner car. He was excited to learn that there was once a car with the same name as his. He could not wait to share it with his dad. Bob was amazed to find out that not only did his father know about the Gardner car, he was also once the proud owner of one. It was at that moment that Bob Gardner knew he had to see one, in hopes of one day owning one. How cool would that be?
Bob owned more than one Ford model A but was always on the lookout for a Gardner. One day in 1982, he traveled to Iola, Wisconsin with three friends to check out a car show. While walking around the show, as they crested the top of a hill, Bob caught a glimpse of a car in the distance and said, “That’s it!” It was the most magnificent car he’d ever seen. One of his friends asked if he meant the Duisenberg? No, it was the one next to it. Bob had no idea what type of car it was, but to him it was a sight to see. They all walked closer to the car. You guessed it. It was a Gardner; a 1928 Cabriolet Gardner, sitting there proud and beautiful for all to see.
One day while surfing the internet, Bob Gardner discovered that someone was blogging that there was almost no information on 1931 Gardner’s. Bob is a history buff and passionate about the American car being such a large part of American history. He felt the need to fill in the gaps. What followed was way beyond anything he could have imagined.
Today, Bob Gardner is the “go to guy” for any Gardner automobile history or restoration data. Collecting everything Gardner he could get his hands on became his number one priority. So much so, in fact, that Bob was locating and buying all the magazines that he could find from the 1920s in hopes of finding articles or ads pertaining to the Gardner.
While at the Hershey car show one year, Bob met George Breckenridge who just so happens to own a 1928 Gardner. It did not take long for the two to spark up a friendship. The following year, Bob Gardner returned to Hershey hoping to surprise George with all of the articles he had collected. But when George arrived, he surprised Bob with 3 large boxes of literature on Gardner’s that he had collected for over forty years. George was so gracious that he offered Bob the opportunity to copy everything that he had. Bob anxiously said yes. Bob wonders today that if it hadn’t been for George Breckenridge, whether he would have continued to gather Gardner history documents?
In 2007 George was ready to sell his 1928 Gardner and wanted to offer it to Bob Gardner first, for the mere sum of his investment. George knew that he needed to find a good home for his Gardner to give her the love she needed. What better person than Bob? The deal was made and Bob finally found the second love of his life, the girl he always wanted, a Gardner Automobile, which he still owns to this day. Bob’s first love of course, his wife Kim.
We really never know what our destiny might be, but in this case, without Bob’s love for history, and the Gardner which bares his last name, this car might be somewhat forgotten. Thanks Bob Gardner, from all of us who could not keep these types of vehicles up and running without you.
Check back for more on Kim Gardner and her involvement with the Gardner Automobile.