A sight for sore eyes

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

Current page

149

Current page

150

Current page

151

Current page

152

Current page

153

Current page

154

Current page

155

Current page

156

Current page

157

Current page

158

Current page

159

Current page

160

Current page

161

Current page

162

Current page

163

Current page

164

Current page

165

Current page

166

Current page

167

Current page

168

Current page

169

Current page

170

Current page

171

Current page

172

Current page

173

Current page

174

Current page

175

Current page

176

Current page

177

Current page

178

Current page

179

Current page

180

Current page

181

Current page

182

Vision Express founder Dean Butler has put his fortune to good use – with a collection of classic cars and a restoration business in Cincinnati
By Damien Smith

The directions were excellent, and it’s just as well. You’d never spot Zakira’s Garage from the road. Yes, here’s another humble motoring business that doesn’t go in for the big image. Perhaps it’s better that way, because behind the doors of this nondescript building in a quiet Cincinnati suburb lies a feast of auto Americana – and cars much more familiar to my side of the Atlantic – all of which are worth a tidy dollar or three.

Zakira’s is the creation of regular Goodwood racer and committed Anglophile Dean Butler, founder of optician chain Vision Express. The garage was born from passion and the necessity to service his own incredible collection of cars, raced in the UK under the moniker EDB Racing.

Here’s just some of the highlights of what he owns: the ex-Tim Birkin/Whitney Straight Maserati 26M Grand Prix car; Louis Chiron’s 1931 Monaco GP-winning Bugatti Type 51; one of the three Allard-Cadillac JRs that raced at Le Mans in 1953; one of only two Scirocco-BRM 1.5-litre F1 cars ever built; an ex-factory Maserati 8CTF, which also won the Pikes Peak hillclimb in 1948 driven by Louis Unser; and of course ERA R1A. Wow.

But at Zakira’s the business is much less selective, which actually makes it all the more fascinating. As I’m greeted by Don Butler, brother of Dean and the man who runs the garage day to day, I can’t help but note the eclectic mix: an in-restoration Austin Healey and a replica Jaguar D-type, Mercer and Regal Edwardian racers, Miller and Duesenberg dirt/Indy racers, a ZZ Top-style hot rodder and a giant 1934 V16-powered Cadillac Centennial. And in the middle of it all a humble MG TD.

“That’s the first car my brother restored,” explains Don. “He’s four years older than me and I can’t remember when he wasn’t interested in cars.”

The brothers grew up in blue-collar Philadelphia in the 1950s, hardly a Eurocentric environment for a pair of impressionable young petrolheads. But they were never interested in the obvious. “Everyone else was into Chevys and Fords, but we were different,” says Don. “Dean bought the MG when he was 16 in 1960. The car was seven years old and the engine was finished, but he rebuilt it.”

The Butlers grew up inspired and infatuated with European motor racing, and when Dean had built up his fortune it was only natural he would spend some of it on his passion for cars from both home and abroad.

The result was the founding of Zakira’s Garage, the name inspired by Dean’s children Zachary and Kira. “The business grew out of Dean’s race experience,” says Don. “People know us for tackling oddball jobs…”

In other words, this is much more than a company interested only in turning a profit. Don is keen to emphasise this is a business which must justify itself like any other, but while Zakira’s looks after ‘common’ classics for a regular client base, it also accepts special long-term projects. One example is a 1923 Miller 122 Indy racer. “It’s been in the shop for over five years,” says Don. “The owner doesn’t have an endless supply of money, but he wants it done right.” To put it another way, it’ll be finished when it’s finished.

“We’re Miller nuts here,” admits Don, as he points me towards something special owned by Dean. It’s a 1935 Miller-Ford, one of only 10 built and a car that put Henry Ford off racing pretty much for life after the four that qualified for the Indy 500 failed miserably in the race, all hobbled by seized steering gearboxes which had overheated because of their proximity to the exhaust. “This is the car Andy Granatelli drove at Indy in 1948 fitted with a 270cui Offenhauser,” claims Don. “He wrecked it in practice, breaking his arm. He’d been unimpressed with his driver and wanted to show him how it was done. It was the last time he was on a race track.”

Time and attention to detail: key ingredients for the best restorers. Having shown me the long-term projects, Don now leads me into the office where the groundwork is covered. I’ve never seen such an impressive library of motoring books, bolstered by a completist’s magazine archive. I’d heard Dean was a keen collector of the automotive written word – here’s the proof.

Don is as versed in British culture and motor sport as his brother. As I leave Zakira’s Garage and head for the nearest Interstate, it feels odd to have the echoes of our conversation about the world of Goodwood rattling around my head as I drive through the world of Wendy’s and Denny’s. But in a small part of Cincinnati, it seems there were will always be an England.

You may also like

Related products