- A view at the private garage space, 'La Bodega." Image: Rick Tate

Where Motoring & Memories Meet

When three Texas friends made a space for their impressive car collections, they also created space to memorialize the area's past businesses

3w ago
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Hidden in a former print shop in El Paso, three car-loving friends formed a space to keep their vast collection of classic automobiles, and in the process created a time capsule for the region’s past businesses and a haven for imaginative and practical upcycling.

A circa 1958 Volvo hanging out with relics like the Bob's Big Boy statue.

A circa 1958 Volvo hanging out with relics like the Bob's Big Boy statue.

The private garage space, affectionately titled “La Bodega”, begin in 2010 inspired by a giant photomural the three friends had custom made. The space now has well over 30 pristine cars of various makes (including at least 12 Mercedes).

Mercedes and more at home in La Bodega.

Mercedes and more at home in La Bodega.

There are also several signs from former local businesses, most still in working condition, illuminating the walls and ceiling. These include hand-painted wooden designs, more contemporary Halo-lit “Channel Signs” and colorful nostalgic neon. There are also some custom neon designs denoting the specialized car collections for each of the three owners.

Most of the cars are still being driven, and there are battery maintainers located neatly throughout the space. The garage includes a maintenance section, and is laid out for easy access to every car when the owners’ have the desire to take one for a spin.

Classic Ford Pickup (circa 1959) in the garage's well-kept maintenance area.

Classic Ford Pickup (circa 1959) in the garage's well-kept maintenance area.

Cars are the central focus, but there is much more to this space of particular interest to those who appreciate the fine art of repurposing and upcycling. Hidden throughout the garage are such reused treasures as rock-like wall paneling rescued from a former bank building, and rows of movie theatre seats taken from a now-closed cinema.

Lining the walls is a mini museum for hubcap and steering wheel design, and more local business rescues including light fixtures and menus from restaurants, and a rustic wood gate entrance that now serves as wall art next to a full size street light.

Business signs range from restaurants and hotels to game shops and musicsellers.

Business signs range from restaurants and hotels to game shops and musicsellers.

Collectors can also find several miniature car models and vintage memorabilia in display cases, along with a still-working “10 Cent” Coke machine, and barber shop chairs.

Some of the more unusual items include a turnstile from Yankee Stadium at the bathroom entrance, a steampunk-like pneumatic train whistle, and a grandfather clock made from K’Nex style construction toys. There is also a not-too-often seen VW “Bus Truck” hybrid among the vehicles.

A turnstile from Yankee Stadium, a grandfather clock made with construction toys and working vintage soda machine are just a few of the unique items waiting to be noticed in the garage.

A turnstile from Yankee Stadium, a grandfather clock made with construction toys and working vintage soda machine are just a few of the unique items waiting to be noticed in the garage.

One of the garage’s owners was kind enough to give a private tour of the facility, and its car residents. He let us know he has also been happy to do his part in preserving the memories of his city’s businesses of the past while supporting current local venues.

“When I see a new business opening up, I always tell them ‘I don’t want to see your sign up in my garage soon,’” he said.

Detail on a classic 1960s Ford Thunderbird.

Detail on a classic 1960s Ford Thunderbird.

Here are a few of the residents who make La Bodega their home (all images by Rick Tate):

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Comments (3)

  • As a lifelong gearhead and professional sign designer, this place sounds perfect! Retirement garage goals... except all my stuff would be from the '70s-80s, my era.

      22 days ago
  • Great article. What an incredible place. I would love to just hang out in there and get an ice cold pop from the vending machine

      22 days ago
    • I know...the owner was great enough to let us hang out about an hour, but I could have just stayed there all day.

        22 days ago
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