Garagistry Meets John Hovas - At The Hemi Hideout

Southern Texas Classic Car collectors and Car Clubs probably already know of John Hovas' "Hemi Hideout". Still others worldwide may know of it, thanks to the Internet. Regardless, seeing is believing, and his facility and collection is anything except typical. By it's name, one would expect to see dozens of MOPAR Hemi's sitting side-by-side. There are nearly two dozen Hemi's inside, but so are farm tractors, motorcycles, antique gas pumps and more than 600 porcelain, painted and neon signs, some dating back to the early 1900's.
Located on his family's ranch a few miles west of Houston, one gets an idea of something special as you approach along his long driveway. Passing private fish ponds (with a catch & release policy for all fishermen with permission), the impressive 27,000 square foot Hemi Hideout can't be missed. Once you enter, the feeling of space and magnitude take on a whole new meaning. Featuring heavy Timberframe construction, the Hideout building is the largest of its kind in Texas. The Amish-inspired barn-like structure uses mortise and tenon joinery with all timber pieces secured together with oak dowels. Thankfully, the center copula rises 54' off the floor - the neon signs hung from the ceiling needed every inch to be well-displayed.
When asked what he considered himself to be - a collector, an investor, a professional collector, etc. - John acknowledged he is a "Caretaker"; a term we previously heard used by Tim Wellborn. "My goal is to pass my collection on to others in a condition equal to or better than I acquired it." Not surprising, perhaps due to their passion for MOPAR Hemi classic cars, John and Tim are well acquainted.

What was surprising, was the fact John looks at his classic car collection as the "other" collection - his real pride and passion lies in his fantastic collection or antique painted metal, porcelain, neon signs and gas pumps.
Attesting to the fact he describes himself as "a blue collar guy who got very lucky", his initial decision to buy a classic car (a 1970 Yellow Super Bee) was based on his desire to recapture a piece of his youth. "I once had a car identical to the one now sitting in the Hideout, and always wanted to have that car again. 

That opened the door for me to acquire a few more cars, but I noticed other collectors and collections would have car manufacturer or dealership signs, and they really finished off the presentation for me. Soon, I found myself seeking more and more signage, having it restored and placed throughout my building."

His modesty is genuine - he views himself as someone fortunate enough to acquire pieces with special memories or have an appeal for him, but does not view himself as anyone special or entitled to any special treatment. "To me, some of the greatest memories of another time in my life are held together by the music and the cars.  How much better can it get - classic rock n' roll and classic cars? And that gave me the idea for the Hemi Hideout  of today."

John is also very quick to point out that he could not have conceived and built his Hideout alone. Again, he shares credit with a special team that made this a reality. He credits Bill Seitz as his project coordinator and for his artistic contributions. Shelly Gates provided the interior design and is now the Hideout's Event Coordinator. Last, but certainly not least, was Don Looney for the architecture and landscape design. "All four of us are equally proud of what we achieved at the Hemi Hideout, and I am totally indebted to them for their dedication, creativity and pursuit of perfection." The Hemi Hideout is actually an event facility perfectly camouflaged as a classic car garage. Nested within the cars, bikes, pumps and signs is a perfect replica - and functioning - '50's era diner setting, a spacious and very inviting gathering area in front of a massive fireplace. 

Outside is a casual outdoor BBQ patio area where many regional car clubs have gathered. Just beyond the front entrance is a carefully designed water-feature with a mini-waterfall and lily ponds - perfect for many wedding pictures. And that's what the Hemi Hideout spends many hours fulfilling; an event facility for corporate, company, family, club or wedding events.

Want to come see the classic cars, no problem! Want to come and see the signage and other collectible memorabilia, absolutely. The Hemi Hideout is also a fully functioning "museum" open to the public. The only criteria is to call ahead to arrange for a visit without a conflict for a previously arranged private event.

"The smile I see on the faces of visitors as they first enter the Hideout is priceless! That's what gives me the most joy - watching someone recognize a sign they recall from a by-gone day and can't help but smile." John commented. 

Recycled 100 year old siding 
Before we left, John took us aside and pointed out a photograph of a building members of his family not only lived in, but some were born in. As a testament to the legacy of opportunities his family provided him, John bought the building and had the original and very worn 132 year old exterior siding carefully removed. That siding was then installed on several interior walls of the Hemi Hideout - reminding John his roots are always close-by.

John Hovas & The Hemi Hideout Elephant
As they say, "Texan's always do things bigger and better..." and we highly recommend you put the Hemi Hideout on your list of places to see and John Hovas as someone to meet.

To arrange a visit to the Hemi Hideout Contact:

Ya'all enjoy - ya-hear?