All Muscle

It was a hot, muggy day, and Washington Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs trudged off the field after a mini-camp session during off-season training. “We were scheduled to have an interview,” recalls sports commentator James Brown, who watched with anticipation as his subject drew near. As Gibbs came closer, Brown mentioned, “I also brought some pictures of my 1937 street rod I want you to look at.”

“Well, like a little kid,” recalls Brown of Gibbs’ response, “his eyes lit up. [He had] a completely different disposition. ‘Oh man!’ Gibbs exclaimed. ‘Let me show you my pictures.'”

Aside from the power, the speed, and the thumbs-ups he receives from wowed passersby, Brown enjoys the camaraderie he shares with fellow collectors who, he says, come from all walks of life. “Prince and pauper alike,” offers Brown, who belongs to Unity Thunder, a Christian car club that does charitable work for young people. “When we get together, it’s the car collection that matters, not what we do for a living.”

Brown began his hobby of collecting muscle cars (American-made sports coupes with powerful engines) roughly nine years ago with a great introductory deal: a 1969 Camaro for $9,500. In fact, the most he ever spent was $50,000 for a 1937 Ford Coupe with a Chevy engine. He spent another $10,000 refurbishing it but says it’s currently worth close to $90,000. Brown is a lover of Camaros and a self-described “Chevy guy.”

And as much as he enjoys classic car competitions, Brown prefers “Drivers,” classic cars that are custom-designed and upgraded to handle highway road trips, to “Trailer Queens,” which are transported by trailer to various shows and competitions, because “they are so squeaky-clean, so high-dollar oriented in terms of their parts and products.”

“I don’t go fast,” adds Brown. “But I like a car that’s capable of going fast, a car that sounds throaty,” he says, describing the indication of power in an engine. “Just to feel that power is good enough for me.”