The "car barn," as Mike and Ivy Guarise call it, has been a dream in the making for several decades.
"For many years, I only had a two-bay car garage," Mike said. "Any 'fun' car I had sat outside" in the year-round elements.
Yet it was always his desire to have a proper facility to store and display a collection. During the 1980s, the Barrington-area resident got his wish, or at least partially.
It started with his building a five-car garage at his previous home in Batavia. Next he worked up to a 15-car coach house on his Lake Geneva waterfront property. Soon it, too, was overflowing. Those trial runs come in handy for when the couple moved back to Illinois in the early 2000s.
"After looking across our new, untouched property, this section was blank and looked ideal," he said. Mike's imagination took flight, resulting in a nine-month build.
Ivy recalls the thought Mike poured into it. "During the planning, he would get up early every day and walk laps of the area," she said. "He would even draw out possible layout options for cars and the wall art and vintage signs," she said.
For design inspiration, Mike looked to the equine community around him. "Lots of barn influences were incorporated due to the Barrington horse heritage," he said.
A lot of materials used in the construction you would find in a barn, such as natural cedar and even exterior stall doors. The infrastructure was built so that one day someone could convert it into a guesthouse or turn it into a proper horse barn.
Construction was completed in 2003 and soon the space was ready to be filled with four-wheeled stallions.
"I'm a lifelong car guy and over the years have gone through phases," Mike said. "I'll get tunnel vision and focus in on one particular kind of vehicle. People ask what is my favorite car and the best answer is the next one."
Initially, the garage was packed with potent performance machines from the likes of Nickey, Yenko, and big engine, big body 1960s Chevys and Pontiacs. Mike's interests then segued into famous drag racing cars and in particular the vehicles used by such distinguished drivers as Grumpy Jenkins, Ronnie Sox, Dick Landy and Arnie Beswick. The next phase was more close to home.
"I grew up in Niles and had fond memories of seeing high-performance Chicago dealer cars on the streets." So he set out acquiring legendary vehicles from Nickey Chevrolet and Grand Spaulding Dodge.
That last assortment was sold in May 2011, making room for the current crop of muscle machines. "Ivy and I were returning from a Lombard cruise night in a Buick Gran Sport Stage 1 convertible. It dawned on us just how nice and comfy Buicks are."
That realization turned into seventeen of the rare V-8 bruisers, all dating from 1969-72. "You'll find a lot of clones out there but all of these are the real deal," he said.
The Guarises purchased the cars from owners all along the East Coast, Las Vegas and even Canada. Just as the collection has evolved, tweaks to the car barn are also made.
Their collection of automotive art has expanded, a checkered tile floor was added along with new paint and additional light fixtures. A separate clubhouse area displays Mike's die-cast collection and racetrack photos.
While many cars have passed through his hands, Mike has commissioned a lasting memento as a tribute to the special ones: a painted mural on the garage door.
"An art student painted my 'fantasy street' full of cars I once owned. They're all cruising down a boulevard with many of the Chicago dealerships and the familiar places I used to go when I was younger, such as Skip's and Super Dawg."