Some people might suggest Jack Gish is fickle. After all, he’s been in love so many times.
In 1969 Gish was a high school senior, working at his father’s distributorship of industrial fasteners in Howard Beach, NY. A chance meeting with an enthusiastic salesman changed his life and introduced Jack to the world of Porsche. The salesman was driving a new 911 in Ivory white. Jack got a tour of the car.
It was love at first sight!
That memory stayed with him through college and on into dental school in Buffalo, NY. Walking into Jim Kelly Porsche in Buffalo, Jack knew he wasn’t ready for a 911…but what about a 914?
He had researched the car: two seater, mid-engined, well balanced, with a removable top. This was the car for him! Of course Gish and his wife Alice had not experienced the Buffalo winters yet, where snowfall is measured in feet per storm. So now and then he had to hitch a ride in his father-in-law’s hand-me down ’67 Oldsmobile Cutlass.
The 914 got Jack to spring break of his final year of dental school. The suspension broke on a trip to Manhattan, where a quick trade landed him a VW Super Beetle.
Early in his practice he traded the VW for a brand new 1979 Toyota Celica GT. In Gish’s own damning words, it was “one of the most boring cars I have ever driven.” The Toyota lasted six months before he took it to Pray Porsche in Greenwich, CT. Not yet able to afford a 911 but still craving that Porsche experience, he was open to suggestions. Dealer Malcolm Pray himself got the new dentist into a pre-owned 924S. Again Gish had a Porsche; again he was in love; again this was the car for him!
His practice began to prosper in 1982 and a search of the Sunday NY Times matched Jack with his first 911, a 1980 Rosewood 911SC Targa. He had his 911! He was in love! This was the car for him! In a few years he traded the Targa in on yet another 911SC Targa. The next trade led Jack to a 964 Carrera 4; now he finally had a real year-round Porsche. More Porsche trades followed.
In 1999 Gish bought a 996. This was it! He was in love! This was the car for him! It did everything a Porsche should do: it handled, it was fast, it looked good, but… Jack missed the air-cooled 911 engine. The general manager of his local Porsche dealer found him a 1983 911SC Cabriolet, the first year of convertible production since the 1965 open 356s. So the only thing Jack could do next was hunt down a 1965 356SC Cabriolet. He didn’t have to look any further than a patient – serendipitously, a car dealer – sitting in his chair. He told his patient, “I want your car. This is the car for me!” How does anyone resist a man holding a drill in his mouth? Soon after he owned a 356SC Cab.
Then the next phone call came in… Would you be interested in a 928?
Not knowing the car well, Gish went to have a look. In front of him was a white European spec 928S. Gish thought, “This could be fun.” All aluminum V8, 300 horsepower, 5 speed… Once more, this was the car for him!
Recently Gish mused over the evolution he experienced. “It’s amazing how many times you say, this is the Porsche for me! The next thing you know you have a couple Porsches in your garage. Then, the next thing you know, you have a couple of Porsches in other people’s garages. Then you’re renting a large storage space to park more of your Porsches.”
Finally, Jack had cars spread all over Connecticut. He enlarged a rental property’s garage from three- to five-car capacity; he added a carriage house to his home to store eight more cars. His existing three-car garage became a four-356 Porsche car garage. (His wife Alice’s Cayenne already sat outside. This hinted at permanency.) The walls were bursting with machines made in Zuffenhausen.
Not being able to enjoy his cars if he had to travel all over the state to see them, Gish went in search of a proper venue to house the growing collection. In 2007 the solution arrived in the guise of his children’s ex-nursery school, just a few miles down the road from his home. Jack and Alice purchased the school and they started construction on what finally became the JLG Autocrib.
The nursery school offices became an automobilia museum showcasing a signed portrait of Ferry Porsche, Hurley Haywood’s racing gloves, and the autographed windscreen of an RS Spyder that Sascha Maasen and Lucas Luhr had campaigned. Even a brake drum – signed by Derek Bell, Bob Wollek, and John Andretti from the Porsche 962 that won the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1989 – found its place. Everywhere you look: Porsches! The same goes for a former classroom, now a “Race Room.” In there is a 911 RSR, a RUF Yellowbird recreation, another 914, and the ex-Nicholas Cage 911 Speedster with framed driving suits of Peter Gregg, Hurley Haywood, and Andy Wallace looking on.
Guests to Gish’s Autocrib office relax in a pair of custom made Porsche chairs and spot more signed automobilia. The Engine Room lets visitors get up-close and personal with a variety of air-cooled power plants on display. Passing through a recreated Porsche service counter leads to the heart of the collection: The Gallery.
This is where Jack Gish’s grand design comes together. The purposefully chosen collection starts on the right side of the room with a 1958 356 coupe. It proceeds around the room showing the large and small changes in the evolution of the marque: the change of the hood and headlight height from a 356A to a T5. The change in the hood and rear grilles from a T5 to a T6. The change from a soft-window Targa to a fixed window version; from short to long wheelbase 911s. And of course there is a 912 between the 356 Cabriolet and his Bahama Yellow 911. Gish is still searching for the one 1972 example of the 911 with an exterior oil filler to add to the timeline.
The left side of the gallery continues with larger displacement cars including a factory slant-nose Turbo Cabriolet, then onto a Carrera 4, then the introduction of the water-cooled-engine cars, and a first year Boxster, ending with a twin-turbo 996 directly across the big room from where the display loop started.
Running down the center of the room are four cars that, to many Porsche enthusiasts, might not seem collectable. But to Gish they are cornerstones of the life of Porsche, the company. These are the early front-engine cars with a 924 in front of a 944, then the 968. Bringing up the rear is his 928S. These illustrate all-important details in Porsche history.
Many large collections are hidden away with only a chosen few who are invited to get a look at what rests behind locked doors. But it’s not the case at the Crib. Cars go out to concourses and Gish lends them to journalists to take on road trips and participate in rallies. His great joy is to throw open the doors to the Crib for various car clubs and other groups; he treats his guests to a guided tour that is second to none. Jack takes the lead, and with something akin to the timing and energy of an experienced stand-up comic, he conducts whirlwind tours of his world of everything Porsche.
Now, with all the “That’s the car for me!” automobiles filling the collection, the search is on for even more space nearby so Jack can add the Cayman, Cayenne, Panamera, and more race cars to the collection. It’s a sure thing: as Porsche evolves, so will the JLG Autocrib as Jack finds more cars to fall in love with.
In the meanwhile, Alice’s car is still outside.