Photos by Anna Goodson
I pulled up to the “garage” behind Robert Watson’s home near Livingston. “This used to be a tennis court. I don’t play tennis so I convinced my wife I needed a garage” said Robert.
Standing in front of something way more than just a garage, with its lightly tinted windows, I could make out different pastel-colored cars and some beautiful garage art. The climate- controlled space was almost more than the average person could comprehend.
I have spent a good part of my life in “man caves” all over the United States. From simple open-air back yard shops to elaborate car displays, men love to find ways to enjoy their passion for motorsports and showcase their toys.
Robert is a New Orleans native but moved to Mississippi when his father started his dealership in Jackson over 30 years ago. Robert has bucked the statistics against generational ownership and has grown his second generation Ford dealership into one of the top forty-five largest Ford dealers in the nation.
Good car salesmen know and love cars. If you are a car enthusiast, there is nothing worse than going into a dealership and knowing more about the car you are looking at than anyone you can find in the dealership. That won’t be the case with Robert Watson. His knowledge of cars is incredible, and not just Fords as you can see from his world-class collection.
Often when you see the collection of a dealership owner, you will only see the vehicles that person has a personal stake in. That is not the case with the Watson collection.
The garage itself was designed for 20 vehicles, but of course there were 22 cars and trucks in the garage. These are not your average cars and trucks, but some of the rarest, most perfect cars of their type in the world. You know a collection is remarkable when the 2005 Ford GT with less than 100 miles on it seems ordinary. Of course, it is worth more than $400,000 but, still, it seemed like it belonged in a lifelong Ford dealer’s inventory.
How could that be? Well, it is because Robert Watson is the consummate collector. Instead of collecting Fords because he is a Ford dealer, he describes it like this: “I consider my collector’s taste as one that is maturing. Done right, collectability means being more selective and defining what is in your collection.”
This mentality made sense immediately upon closer inspection of his collection. In addition to some of the most incredible Ford, Lincoln and Mercury automobiles on the planet, Robert Watson’s collection includes a 1927 Pierce Arrow, two extremely rare Jaguars, an insanely cool Fiat Joker, a 1954 MG, a 100M Aston Martin Le Mans Roadster and his wife Rebecca’s favorite, a 1959 Mercedes convertible. Robert jokes, “If I died tomorrow, Rebecca would sell all of these cars and would keep the Mercedes. That is the most over-the-top restoration I have.” Complete down to the Mercedes-supplied luggage in the boot, this car is truly one of the most magnificent restorations I have ever seen.
But on to the Fords and Mercurys in his collection. Muscle- car guys would immediately gravitate to the 1969 Mustang Boss 429. This remarkable machine is one of only 852 that were ever built and its restoration was external only. Robert says this is a taste of collectors. Some want a full restoration, some want as little done as possible to show the low use of the original vehicle. The interior on this car showed a few slight scratches but knowing it was built the year after I was born, I can assure you this machine was well cared for.
Among the vehicles representing the Ford Motor Company, he has models on every spectrum from a Model A Roadster Pickup to a 2014 anniversary edition Mustang. I could have spent hours with him pouring over every tiny detail of these cars and trucks and he was more than willing to share his collection and his knowledge.
As I was about to leave, he pointed out an old F100 pickup across the driveway that his wife uses around the property and in her famous chicken house. He told the story of its coming from his father’s dealership new and that he was able to reaquire it. His trusty Labrador Retriever Buzz was sitting by the tailgate waiting for Robert to stop talking so he could take him to the lake to toss bumpers until it was time again for duck season.