Today's yards just aren't as exciting.
April 21, 2009 5:10 PM   Subscribe

The Merkel brothers are the grandsons of steam car makers and sons of an African art collector, and each have carried forward the love of collecting and an interest in cars from the previous generations. Henry Merkel is a recognized White expert, who continues to share knowledge of his family's productions and his knowledge of White steam cars has been published. Ben Merkel focused on collecting Checkered Cabs, and has has a love for peaceful rural junkyards. The youngest grandson of Walter White is Tom Merkel, and his love for collecting old cars outstrips his brothers by miles (print view). Somewhere in the Cuyama Valley, just outside of Los Padres National Forest land is his "car garden," which is also where the snowman that once adorned Santa Claus Lane now resides. His other love is 91+ year old cabin, which he indicates is "Santa Barbara's oldest cabin!" and a "Folk Art Magic Museum!" on the signs around the property, but which the Forest Service wants to tear down.

Family history: Thomas Howard White founded White Sewing Machine Company, and later the White Motor Company, which began producing steam cars after finding the Locomobile unreliable. Thomas' youngest son was Walter White, who became vice president of the White Company when it split from its parent the White Sewing Machine Company in 1906, and then president of the White Motor Company in 1921. Walter's daugter, Katherine White, was renowned for her African art collection, which was donated to the Seattle Art Museum.
posted by filthy light thief (6 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Thanks to dreamyshade for the "The Last Man in Paradise" link that gave birth to this post.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:11 PM on April 21, 2009

That's how Merkel, 47, wants it. He sees the conglomeration as massive art. His Car Garden isn't visible from the road, it doesn't have an address, and it isn't in Santa Barbara County. To be permitted entry into his garden (and his head), Car and Driver had to promise Merkel, in writing, not to reveal the location. And even if you knew where it was on a map, you'd probably still need to bring Merkel along to lead you to it.

Anyone find that place in google earth yet?
posted by delmoi at 6:34 PM on April 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oooh, thanks for making a great post out of this. More Los Padres National Forest interestingness for non-local people: the ruined Sunbird Quicksilver Mine, Cold Spring Canyon Bridge, Knapp's Castle (another ruin), and the Chumash painted cave.
posted by dreamyshade at 7:39 PM on April 21, 2009

delmoi, that snowman link mentions New Cuyama, but I couldn't find a mile of cars. I was thinking that some Santa Barbara County website would have a feature where you could look at the County as parcels, because an 80 acre parcel adjacent to national park land might stand out.

His mountain cabin is somewhere around here, but I haven't found it yet.

Thanks for the additional links, dreamyshade. I've hiked to Knapp's Castle in the past, and it's been a while since I've been to the painted cave, but the Sunbird Quicksilver mine is new to me.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:35 PM on April 21, 2009

This might be the car garden. The patch of yellow shapes seems to match up with this image of several taxis next to the dirt road.

The location is in Ventura county just East of the Santa Barbara county line.
posted by euphorb at 1:12 PM on April 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

euphorb, I think you win. I'm just a bit sad there's no clear evidence of the "Lost Highway" (described as "a mile-long, four-lane clot of cars that snake through the garden with some precision").

What do you say to a roadtrip? I'll drive!
posted by filthy light thief at 4:49 PM on April 22, 2009

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