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Singletons Seek Museum Quality; Emphasis on Entrepreneurship, Philanthropy

Will Singleton has a new hobby that his children don’t quite understand: car collecting.

“My kids think I’ve gone crazy,” Singleton told the Business Journal. “It’s a great way to bring people in to appreciate the spirit of innovation.”

About two years ago, Singleton and his wife, Cary Singleton, bought a Costa Mesa building that previously hosted a collection owned by Donnie Crevier.

The result is the Singleton Collection, a 35,000-square-foot facility that provides access to 48 classic American vehicles, ranging from a 1912 Simplex to a 1970 Chevelle.

“We both really love American cars,” Cary Singleton said during a tour of the facility.

Car Mad OC

The Singleton Collection is the latest example of a growing interest in classic car collections in Orange County.

The Segerstrom Shelby Event Center opened in 2021 in Irvine to highlight the Mustangs modified by legendary builder Carroll Shelby.

The Marconi Automotive Museum in Tustin holds a reported $30 million in collector cars.

The Lyon Air Museum next to John Wayne Airport includes a 1939 Mercedes-Benz used by Adolph Hitler among other vehicles, as well as vintage aircraft.

Near the Singleton Collection is the Finish Line Car Club, which recently opened an 80,000-square-foot facility in Costa Mesa. The car club complex houses 32 individualized “car condos” where private owners can store their vehicles in garages that range from 1,200 to 6,300 square feet.

“You wouldn’t believe how many collections there are within a mile of us,” Will Singleton said.

The couple also has a dealership for older vehicles called Singleton Classics.

Teledyne Son

Will Singleton is the son of Henry Singleton, who in 1960 founded Teledyne Inc., which became an industrial conglomerate, known for its work as a defense contractor.

Will Singleton worked as a computer programmer before focusing full time on the family’s ranching business. The family owns about 1 million acres in California and New Mexico, according to Singleton.

“We are the seventh-largest landowner in the U.S. and the third-largest cattle producer,” he said.

The couple are involved in several charities. Their Singleton Foundation for Financial Literacy and Entrepreneurship has a variety of programs, such as millionstories.com that highlight video stories about money.

It recently launched “Slyngshot,” a free web app that aims to make it easy for anyone to launch an idea by walking users through creation of a shareable business plan in a matter of minutes.

They are also passionate about healthcare. In 2020, the couple donated $40 million to support Alzheimer’s research at the Pacific Neuroscience Institute Brain Center at Santa Monica’s Providence St. John’s Health Center, where Cary Singleton is a trustee on its board.

The couple, who live in Newport Beach, decided they needed a showcase to highlight their charitable work.

“Cary and I have always talked about doing something interesting to help further our fundraising and philanthropy,” Will Singleton said.

“The plan is to use the car collection as a means for fundraising for our various organizations that we’re involved with.

“We try to do it in a fun way.”

Locally, the Singletons support the Wooden Floor and the Orange County Rescue Mission and are currently exploring opportunities with the Orange County Community Foundation.

Bulk Buys

Since starting their collection, the couple have gone about looking for classic American vehicles. They quickly decided buying one vehicle or so a year wouldn’t work.

“If we only buy one or two cars a year, we’ll be 100 by the time we have a collection,” Cary Singleton said.

In one swoop, they picked up 20 cars from one collector and are constantly on the lookout for more classics.

The Singletons were the winning bidder at an auction in Scottsdale earlier this year when they purchased a 1912 Simplex Torpedo Tourer for $4.8 million.

Will Singleton can discuss every one of the cars in the collection, such as the 1937 Packard, which just had its engine restored, saying it’s “a beautiful car, very smooth.”

His first car was a 1967 Volkswagen Bug and he has a “weakness” for late 1950s Chryslers.

“They’re not that collectible, but they’re pretty and fun to drive.”

All the vehicles are in working condition.

“We drive all these cars,” Will Singleton said.

Earlier this year, the pair entered their Simplex, which has 50 horsepower, in the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. It was nerve-wracking because the couple had to drive the windowless vehicle 50 miles from Pebble Beach to Big Sur and back.

“We kept watching younger cars pull off side of the road” to get repaired, Cary Singleton said.

The pair were rewarded with a second-place medal in antiques.

“It was fun to bring something home,” she said.

Problem Solving

Cary Singleton said the collection highlights the ability of Americans to innovate new ideas.

“The changes that occur over time all came about because someone was solving a problem. Everybody learned from everybody else,” she said.

“It’s a perfect example of entrepreneurship.”

The collection is already winning notice. Last month, the center hosted the CEO Leadership Alliance of Orange County.

The couple recently entertained at their center 50 people who were all collectors and members of the Checker Flag Club, the premier membership organization at Los Angeles’ Petersen Museum, one of the world’s most famous collections of classic cars.

The pair plans to expand their building to become “museum quality.”

“We hope we can turn it into a place where people can learn about the entrepreneurship in automobiles and learn about our philanthropies and become involved in them,” Will Singleton said.

Classic Cars Remain Hot Market, Local Lender Says

Interest rates may have soared, but that hasn’t stopped car enthusiasts from taking out loans to buy classic antiques.

“Our business has continued to grow,” said Mitch Shatzen, president and chief operating officer at Woodside Credit. “The space has stayed fairly resilient through recent economic challenges.

“If we stay on track, we should cross $500 million in originations for the year, which would be a company record.”

The Newport Beach-based provider of loans for classic cars is now in its 14th year of consecutive growth, he said.

The company is approaching $30 million in revenue this year.

Woodside has surpassed $3 billion in loan volume since its founding in 2003 by Roger Kirwan, a financial services industry veteran who started Ganis Credit Corp. in 1980 and is credited with revolutionizing financing in the recreational vehicle and boating space, as the first to offer 15-year loans. He sold Ganis to Bank of Boston in a 1995 deal.

The company primarily originates loans by pairing with dealerships in 17 states. It also offers direct loans through dealerships in all 50 states.

Woodside, which has grown to more than 50 employees, has also found customers in recent years by sponsoring two iconic car shows: Pebble Beach’s Concourse d’Elegance and Florida’s The Amelia.

Another customer source for Woodside is auction buyers; the company has been the exclusive loan provider for more than a decade for the Barrett-Jackson Auction Co., which hosts four auctions per year with about $200 million in total sales volume.

It’s also sponsoring charity events, such as the 2023 Cruisin’ for a Cure, a car event that raised funds to fight prostate cancer.

At Woodside, Kirwan introduced 12-year loan terms for cars priced over $100,000 and 15-year terms for cars over $200,000.

While the loans don’t have a tax advantage like mortgages, they provide cash flow advantages where borrowers don’t have to take $100,000 or more out of their investments or bank accounts.

“We talk the language of the people we give loans to,” Shatzen said. “In our space for what we do, rising interest rates haven’t had a major impact.”

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