Driving through time
Story by Sheila Paz + Photography by Guido Flueck
Step into Ron Nelson’s automotive sanctuary, where nostalgia meets car aficionado dreams. Since moving to Bluffton in 1990, Nelson has curated a garage that’s more time capsule than storage, where memories are painted on walls and tales are told through metal and rubber.
Ron’s fervor for cars goes back to cherished memories with his father. Their bond grew deeper beneath the hoods of various cars. One such memory hails from 2009, after his father moved from Indiana. Together they embarked on a meticulous two-year journey, building Nelson’s pride and joy: a 1946 Ford pickup. Every piece is authentic Ford, every brush stroke a testament to Nelson’s own hands. Their dedication saw them burning the midnight oil, tirelessly working until late hours.
Then there’s the classic green 1931 Model A pickup, a restoration project that bore its own tale. After sitting idle for over a decade, this vehicle was brought back to life, its blemishes turned into badges of honor. “One day I came home to find Dad had painted it. Even though it wasn’t perfect (Dad was in his mid-80s), I couldn’t ask for more. It was perfect to me,” Nelson reminisces. Both vehicles, oozing charm, have clinched awards across the Lowcountry. Today they continue to be champions on the car show circuit, with Nelson’s daughter ensuring the legacy thrives.
But it’s not just cars. One corner of this magical space pays homage to NASCAR. Through a fortuitous friendship with a NASCAR team owner (a client from Nelson’s landscaping business), Nelson’s collection swelled with racing treasures — fire suits, trophies, posters and even race car side panels and hoods. Highlights include a side panel from Kasey Kahne’s #38, a truck back from Chase Elliot’s #94 and a signed piece from James Buecher’s #31. And let’s not forget the Daytona 500 final lap flag, among others.
However, ask Nelson for his personal favorite, and he’d point you to the fire suits. Specifically, those worn by Justin Allgaier, Dave Blaney, Reed Sorenson and Jeb Burton. Two of these suits even mirror the ones depicted in Nelson’s cherished posters.
As years roll by, Nelson’s joy finds new avenues. His daughter and grandchildren, fellow car enthusiasts, are destined to be the future custodians of this collection. Through the stories of old trucks, the glint of trophies and the vibrant hues of NASCAR memorabilia, Ron Nelson’s garage stands as a tribute, celebrating the undying passion for the world of automobiles.