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World's Coolest Garages: Exploring Luis Chanes' Ultimate Ford Collection
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By Dean Kirkland
Published 2 weeks ago on
June 4, 2024
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(GV Wire/Dean Kirkland)

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In the collector car world, there are memorabilia collectors, and then there’s Luis Chanes. There are people who love Fords, and then there’s Luis Chanes.

The difference? It’s like comparing someone with a garden gnome collection to the curator of the Louvre.

Dean Kirkland Portrait

Dean Kirkland

Central Octane

In the heart of Orange County, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Luis Chanes — a man whose passion for Ford is matched only by his skills with a scalpel. This ophthalmologist-turned-collector has been restoring and collecting Ford memorabilia and Mustangs since the early ’90s.

Let’s just say that if Ford had a Hall of Fame, Chanes and his Surf City Mustangs and Muscle Cars Museum would be the MVP.

Luis Chanes welcomed me into his world, “I’m an ophthalmologist by trade, and I’ve been collecting and tracking and restoring Ford products since about 1992.” Clearly, the man has been bitten by the Ford bug, and there’s no cure in sight.

His passion started young, fueled by the family cars, Falcons, his father owned. But it was the ’69 Mach 1 428 Cobra Jet that truly ignited his obsession.

“When I got out of college and out of my residency, the first thing I did was go out and buy a ’69 Mach 1 428 Cobra Jet,” he said. “The car was acquired locally and drove it a little bit, and then I decided, hey, I’m going to do a full restoration on this thing, and that’s where this all started.”

And boy, did it start something. Chanes has restored this Mach 1 three times, each time upping his game. “As I learned the process, I went back and took it apart and put it back together, and now it’s at Concours, you know, MCA gold level.”

Why Ford, you ask? According to Chanes, it’s because Ford products are more intricate: “The other products, American Muscle, weren’t as detailed as the Ford products as far as their interiors. Things were just a little more entailed with the Ford product, and I just was in love with the Mustang.”

World's Coolest Garages: Luis Chanes' Ultimate Ford Collection
Walking through Luis Chanes’ collection is like stepping into a Ford enthusiast’s dream. (GV Wire/Dean Kirkland)

Walking through his collection is like stepping into a Ford enthusiast’s dream. Chanes has everything from a ’66 K code to a ’79 pace car, and he’s got a story for each one. “I’ve got a Pinto. I’ve got a Maverick. I’ve got a King Cobra. I’ve got a ’79 pace car. I’ve kind of gone through the years and have kind of (all) the top-of-the-line Ford Muscle that you could get from the get-go.”

But it’s not just about the cars. Chanes’ collection of Ford memorabilia is second to none. His obsession with dealership signs, promos, and literature is almost as strong as his love for the cars themselves. “I have a complete collection of Ford literature. And I just love the dealership stuff that was actually there when people came in to see a car.”

He’s also got an impressive array of jackets. “I have a large collection of speed shop items and Hertz especially, and the things that were associated with Ford. So any of the products that Ford used in their cars, I have a pretty vast collection of. I have a lot of jackets — a lot of jackets.”

As we walked through his shop, Chanes pointed out his favorites, including a 76 Ranger Bronco with 12,000 original miles and a Ford GT go-kart used at Le Mans. And let’s not forget the ’70 Boss 302 drag pack. “Grabber orange, obviously, four-speed. This has got like 12,000 original miles on it. This is one of my favorite cars.”

World's Coolest Garages: Luis Chanes' Orange Cobra Jet
Luis Chanes inspects this Orange Mach 1 Cobra Jet at his Orange County garage. (GV Wire/Dean Kirkland)

Passionate About Sharing His Collection With Future Collectors

Chanes isn’t just about hoarding these beauties for himself. He’s passionate about sharing his collection with the younger generation, hoping to ignite that same spark he felt as a kid. “I enjoy showing people, especially young people, this. I love getting young people involved in the whole Ford scene. So they come in and see this, and they go, wow, this is so cool.”

So, what’s the secret to getting kids into classic cars?

According to Chanes, “You get them involved in something that is easy to work on, that’s cool. And that’s what you have to get them interested in. You get them, you know, tracking them a little bit, showing them a little bit, and doing charity events for the hospitals and things here just for smaller events.”

In essence, Chanes is not just collecting cars and memorabilia; he’s collecting stories, memories, and the wide-eyed wonder of a new generation of Ford enthusiasts. Next time you’re in Orange County, take a detour and see Chanes’ collection for yourself. Just don’t blame me if you leave with a newfound obsession for all things Ford.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to find a Pinto to restore. Don’t laugh. Every journey starts somewhere, and if Luis Chanes has taught me anything, it’s that even the humblest Ford can have a place in the pantheon of automotive legends.

World's Coolest Garages: Beautifully Restored Bronco owned by Luis Chanes

This is one of three Ford Broncos in Luis Chanes’ collection.(GV Wire/Dean Kirkland)

World's Coolest Garages: Luis Chanes

Luis Chanes regales a visitor with stories about his classic Fords and what it took to restore them.(GV Wire/Dean Kirkland)

About the Author

GV Wire Producer Dean Kirkland is the founder and director of Gas and Gears, an independent film production company that has produced numerous television series and feature films, including the award-winning documentary “Racing Through The Forest” (2014).

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