COLUMBUS, Ohio — Nineteen vintage cars crammed into a downtown garage provided quite a Thursday tour for Verizon IndyCar Series driver Marco Andretti.
The Wagner-Hagans Auto Museum collection included eight Packards, two Edsels, a Pierce Arrow, Chevy Nomad, 1956 Continental, 1956 Cadillac, Nash and even an AMC Pacer. Old license plates and signs lined the walls to provide more nostalgia. Co-owners Mark Hagans and Steve Wagner gave Andretti the tour ahead of this weekend’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, where he will drive the No. 27 Snapple Honda for Andretti Autosport.
“This is my step to getting knowledge about ‘em, the different years, the different decades of the Packards and so on,” Andretti said. “I definitely appreciated the tour.
“This is actually going to spark my interest, which is going to end up costing me money, which I’m mad about.”
Well, not that mad. He made the suggestion with a smile on his face.
Hagans has collected for 45 years and Wagner for more than two decades. Ask Hagans his favorite car and he names two — a yellow and black 1931 Packard Deluxe 8 model 840 and a 1934 black Packard Super 8 convertible Victoria.
“What’s neat about this car is it has two windshields,” Hagans said of the 840.
After showing Andretti those Packards, Hagans pointed out an old, yellow newspaper clipping from Lewiston, Maine, in 1934 which reported with a banner headline the rumor that gangster John Dillinger intended to kidnap Ohio Gov. George White.
Hagans doesn’t just collect old cars, he likes to decorate them with newspaper clippings and other period pieces.
“Have you seen the remake with Johnny Depp?” Andretti asks, referring to the 2009 film “Public Enemies” about Dillinger. “I love that.”
Another car with a story to tell is a 1931 Pierce Arrow cab sedan, which back in the day of prohibition was used to import Canadian whiskey. An extra tank for the booze is still mounted in the trunk.
“It really was a bootlegger’s car,” Hagans said.
The two car collectors met in 1988 when Wagner the mortgage lender gave Hagans the client a loan. They became friends in 2000 as members of the Buckeye Packards club and then created their museum.
Wagner points out his favorite car, an orange 1955 Chevy Bel Air Nomad station wagon, which had an original asking price of $2,429.
“We don’t get too many celebrities here,” Wagner said, looking from a distance at his interested guest.
Before the tour ended, Wagner had Andretti walk to a particular area to show the driver an old license plate from Pennsylvania. Andretti is from Nazareth, Pa.
“This is real cool stuff,” Andretti said.
“We’ll root for you on Sunday,” Hagans said of The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.