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RON SALTZMAN'S GARAGE

Ron Saltzman: A man and his cars

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Tucked away in quiet cul-de-sac in Las Cruces is a house with a normal looking two-car garage, but when the doors open, the normalcy vanishes in an instant.

Ron Saltzman’s garage is deep enough for three cars to park one behind the other on one side and two deep on the other side. As if that weren’t enough, he has a lift on one side that lets him pack one more car up top, near the ceiling.

“They all run, and they all need work,” he said with a chuckle, standing next to his 1968 AMC AMX, a muscle car that he said he drives when he feels the need for speed.  For the most part, he said has done the mechanical work himself.

AMC produced fewer than 20,000 AMX models between 1968 and 1970, and not many are left on the road.

Up on the lift, above the AMX, is his 1967 Jaguar XKE, which he has owned for the last 50 years. He said he has won awards in both showing and racing, with himself behind the wheel. Most recently, he took a third-place speed-trial trophy in Truth or Consequences, coming in just 2 seconds behind the first-place finisher.

“The track was set up with pylons in a configuration that matches courses all over the country,” he said. “I did five runs, and three of them counted. The crazy thing about that course was the finish line, which was right up next to a fence, so you had to get there quick and then stop quickly, too.”

Saltzman also has a completely restored 1979 Volkswagen Super Beetle convertible. He calls it his favorite car to drive between Mesilla and El Paso on N.M. 28. 

“With the top down, going through the pecan orchards, you just can’t beat that feeling,” he said.

In addition to his three classic cars, Saltzman has a Ford Expedition, a Honda Element, a Jeep Cherokee and a smattering of bicycles, as well as a motorcycle and an ATV.  They all fit in the garage together. Adjacent to the line of classic cars and the lift, Saltzman has a work bench and tool boxes that would give any grease monkey a hard case of mechanical envy.

“I work out here on these cars all the time,” he said. “The lift really makes things easy, because I don’t have to get down on the ground and slide around on my back.”

When he was designing the house, Saltzman said he knew exactly what he wanted in terms of the garage space. His builder wanted to construct a full deck over the garage, but Saltzman insisted that the deck be smaller, so that the lift could accommodate any of his vehicles without bringing the ceiling into play.

“I have to remember to remove the radio antennas, but otherwise, they all fit,” he said.

The left upright arm of the lift – where the motor is located – is marked with neat white paint at all the stopping points for each vehicle. 

“The trickiest part is moving everything around when I want to work on one of them,” he said. “It’s like one of those puzzles where there’s one piece missing and you have to move all the other pieces around to get the blank spot where you need it.”

Saltzman cracked a wry smile remembering one afternoon when he was moving all the cars around for one reason or another. 

“The next day, my neighbor came over and said he was hurt that I had a party and didn’t invite him, but then he realized they were all my cars.”

Although the Jaguar, the AMX and the VW are his current darlings, Saltzman said he estimates that he’s tinkered with dozens of other cars he’s owned through the years, including MGs, Triumphs and Alfa Romeos, just to name a few of  40+ cars he has owned in the past.

“It’s a long list,” he said.

Recently retired – he sold his business last summer – Saltzman said his garage is his refuge, and the place he goes to tinker and toil, regardless of the weather outside.

“It’s completely climate-controlled in here,” he said. “I tried a swamp cooler at first, but it just made everything muggy and rusty. That wasn’t going to work, so I put in a central heating and cooling unit. Now, I can regulate the garage as easily as I can the house. Even the garage doors have a ridiculous R-rating to help keep the heat and cold out.”

Saltzman said he drives all of his vehicles fairly regularly, and he shows the vintage ones from time to time. He considers them works of art.

“Look for me at a car show,” he said. “I’ll talk your ear off about these machines.”

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