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about Blackhawk Collection | Don Williams            print friendly


Don Williams

President - Blackhawk Collection, Inc.

At the very top of the multi-billion-dollar-a-year world of collector cars there is a small group of people who know practically every detail or every great car ever built, who know every major collector on a first name basis, and who buy and sell these cars, moving them like chess pieces on a board that circles the globe.

In such a group, there must be one who plays the game better than all the rest, and at this rarefied height in the world of collector cars, that man is Don Williams, head of the Blackhawk Collection - the man who buys and sells more million-dollar cars than anyone else in the business.

Don Williams began his career as a twenty-one-year-old salesman in 1966, working at Old Time Cars on La Cienega Boulevard in Los Angeles for owners Sam Bergman and Ilmars Kersels. Williams and Bergman operated the largest classic car store west of the Mississippi, and one of very few in the entire country.

In the 1970's, Williams acquired Automotive Classics, relocating the company to the former Earl C. Anthony showroom in Santa Monica, CA. Under his enthusiastic leadership, it became one of the most successful classic car dealerships in the country. In addition to selling a large volume of cars from his new establishment, Williams became an invaluable source of vintage cars for movies and television. For nearly four years, Automotive Classics was the single largest supplier of studio cars and period vehicles for films and television series such as "The Walton's", and major motion pictures including "Grease", "The Sting" and "Chinatown." In 1971, Don got involved in the auto auction business when he produced the very first collector car auction in California at Movieworld.

Unfortunately, in 1977, the City of Santa Monica decided to redevelop the downtown section, in its infinite wisdom, to construct a large parking area on the site of this historic property. To the great dismay of Williams, the building was demolished. Moving to Arizona in 1979, Don joined classic car legend Tom Barrett and became one of the founding partners of the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction with Tom Barrett, Russ Jackson and Brian Jackson. Don met millionaire land developer Ken Behring in 1981, when Ken was looking for limousines for his newly built residence and Blackhawk Country Club community. Due to their mutual love of cars and maverick personalities, the two struck up an immediate friendship. Williams moved to Northern California to accept the exciting challenge of assembling one of the finest classic and post-war car collections with Ken.

Williams began traveling internationally to buy the most desirable cars in the world and was as excited as a kid let loose in a candy store; he was in his element. As Williams has often stated "the chase" of peering into old garages, exploring the globe and coming up with the rare and unusual cars is truly one of the most stimulating aspects of the business". His ardent passion and incredible eye for automobiles brought together exactly what he was looking for; the finest quality and unique automobiles available. Williams is known worldwide for his knowledge, talent, enthusiasm, and determination in seeking out one-of-a-kind automobiles as well as a man of incredible vision. The challenge and dream continued as the architecturally acclaimed Blackhawk Museum was designed and opened in 1988 to showcase the collection.

Don formed a partnership in 1986 with long time friend, Richie Clyne. In 1987, they created one of the most prestigious classic car events, "The Auction" in Las Vegas, Nevada. Williams rose to global heights in 1988 when he presented the first American style auction in Europe as a partner in "The Sports Car Auction", in Geneva, Switzerland, with his good friend Erich Traber. Don was also prominent in Europe as being the first American to be involved with RetroMobile, the leading European classic car event held each February in Paris, with Blackhawk cars being the feature display for a number of years. His exceptional creativity came to life in 1988 with the inauguration of the Salon type Exposition held at the New Otani Hotel, in Tokyo, Japan. In 1990, this concept was again introduced in partnership with Mitsubishi at "The World Vintage Car Auction & Exposition" in Japan. In 1999, Don and Richie established the Auto Collections at the Imperial Palace Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, NV, the largest Classic Car Sales Showroom in the United States.

Over the years, Don Williams has masterfully assembled some of the greatest private and public collections of automobiles. His knowledge and contacts in the classic car world has allowed clients to either change the focus of their existing collections, or to create entirely new collections. For Don, classic cars are both a business and passion and he'd driven by his genuine love of the cars combined with the quest to search out the great cars, and in the thrill of the deal that takes place when he comes to own yet another great classic car.

In 1981 Williams was the first person to sell a classic car - a 1931 Figoni bodied "boattail" Duesenberg - for more than a million dollars. In 1992, his Blackhawk Collection achieved $100 million in private sales. In 1998 he again achieved this sales volume again, and from 2001 has quietly sold in excess of $100 million of the world's greatest automobiles annually.

Today Williams continues to focus his efforts in two areas: ongoing private sales through the Blackhawk Collection in Danville, CA and the Auto Collection in Las Vegas, NV, and the development of the Blackhawk Pavilion at the Shanghai Auto Museum. The first dedicated auto museum in China, located in the Auto Expo Park of Shanghai International Automobile City, the Shanghai Museum was founded to showcase the culture of the automobile. The joint venture with The Blackhawk Collection provided cars for the Classic Car Hall, presenting visitors the glamour of cars from different ages.

Almost every great car has passed through the hands of Don Williams, though it may have been for a short period of time. "No one in the world can afford to buy them all" comments Williams. "I just want to touch them all once. Twenty years from now, I want to be able to look at pictures of the world's most desirable classic cars and know that I was involved with them all." His mission continues.

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