Ernest Renzetti Jr. loved cars. He collected and restored them like some people collect buttons and stamps.
And his one dream was to get all his “toys” together in one spot.
Renzetti, who died last year from colon cancer, may be gone but not before leaving behind an unusual legacy he started that his wife, Lori, finished in his memory.
Today, the “Garage Mahal” as it’s called, is a one-of-a-kind, two-story “car museum” that has 29 classic cars from Renzetti’s collection parked in it, all polished up, with a little history of the cars’ origins.
“Ernie had a history with VW(Volkswagen) and Porsche,” said Lori Renzetti, “but his love was Porsche.”
Local contractor Mike Padovano remembers being surprised when Ernest Renzetti approached him about building the mega-garage that was supposed to be attached to his weekend home in Lake June Pointe.
The Renzettis had bought the lot next to their in 2009. Ernest had found the “perfect venue,” Lori said.
“I told him, ‘OK!’” Padovano remembered. “You got plans.”
And he did.
Since the downstairs is underground, Padovano and his workers had to dig out a lot of dirt. Seventy-five truckloads, he estimates.
“You don’t know how much dirt there is on a job until you start it,” he grinned. “There were tons and tons of dirt.”
A concourse from the street leads to the basement level.
The second story is level with the house and is actually connected to it through a hallway.
Several of Ernest Renzetti’s nick-knacks are displayed all around, including a pair of his shoes next to a blue 1961 Porsche 356 B Super 90, which was very “dear” to him.
There are several limited edition Porsche GTs, 1950s-era Volkswagen Beetles and “micro-cars,” such as the 1956 Messerschmitt KR-200 Dome.
Ernest Renzetti tried to keep the cars he was restoring as original as possible, said Lori Renzetti, and every single car was “dear” to him.
Until his last days he was busy with the “Garage Mahal,” going online to find antique gas pumps, whose gleaming, red, refinished exteriors now accessorize the place.
Lori Renzetti does not want the “Garage Mahal” to be a static showroom of classic cars but a place for car enthusiasts to gather.
She is inviting car clubs to have meets there and enjoy the collection, which she said will keep changing.
Last month, more than 300 people, many from the Porsche Club of America, gathered for a soft opening.
Car clubs can email Lori Renzetti at ernieGT2@att.net to schedule an event.
Padovano, who had known Ernest Renzetti since 2000, remembered him as a man who always had a smile on his face.
Today, a plaque outside the garage has an impression of him, smiling broadly.
“Our gratefulness is fueled knowing that Ernie is now cruising the Ultimate Highway where there is no speed limit,” the plaque states.
If her husband were still alive, Lori Renzetti knows what he’d say would echo the words on the plaque: “He’ll tell people to enjoy each day. Enjoy the ride of life.”