Classic car man cave holds much of Vancouver’s neon sign history
The 'GarageMahal' also features more than 50 collectible and sentimental vehicles
Long-time friends Jeff Budnick and Danny Amoroso met more than three decades ago over their shared interest in collector cars and neon signs Jeff became a neon electrician out of high school. His job was to install and repair many of Vancouver’s neon.
“I used to hang on the side of high rises on a swing stage or in a bosun’s chair installing many of Vancouver’s best-known neon like on the Scotia Tower and RBC building,” he says.
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Classic car man cave holds much of Vancouver’s neon sign history Back to video
In the Fifties, Vancouver had approximately 19,000 neon signs – more than Las Vegas. There was more neon signage in Vancouver than anywhere else on the planet with one sign for every 18 residents and 12 neon factories, including the world’s largest. But by 1974, Vancouver had adopted its first comprehensive sign control bylaw, severely restricting new and replacement neon signage.
“A lot of the work we did was to take the signs down, smash them with sledgehammers and throw them in the dump,” Jeff Budnick recalls. “I would save the good neon signs and take them home in the back of my pickup truck.”
His passion was rewiring and repairing the neon he collected. He ended up with a warehouse full of historical neon signs.
Danny also collected neon signs and the two friends began talking about a purpose-built building to house their classic car collections and hundreds of neon signs they had acquired. Jeff is a movie car coordinator whose sideline is playing guitar in a band. They spent months working on the design of the building with a large open area to display the cars with the neon signage as the background, The building would have a mezzanine floor with a full kitchen for entertaining. Now completed, there is no place like the interior of this building when the signs are all lit up. It’s like a museum of Vancouver’s neon history.
“Among my favourites are the neon bird from the Drake Hotel strip club, the high-wheel bicycle sign from Cap’s Cycles and the sign from Federico’s Supper Club on Commercial Drive,” Jeff says, adding that some of his favorite cars from the 50 classics he owns are front and centre including his 1970 ‘Cuda and 1971 Mustang Boss 351. Danny’s 1962 Lincoln Continental and 1965 Mustang convertibles also have prominence in the car display. Cars owned by friends are also on display.
“We built this to have a place to go that’s five minutes from our homes, so we didn’t have to go downtown to restaurants and bars. We come here with our families and friends,” Jeff says.
Outside the ‘neon garagemahal’ is a hidden courtyard with a kitchen and bandstand for Jeff and his friends to entertain. There is only one thing Jeff Budnick wants for his display that has eluded him. It dates back to when he was in mid teens.
“My dad helped me buy a Springtime Yellow 1966 Mustang he found while on a golfing trip to New Mexico. I would love to buy that car back and add it to the collection. It would bring back a lot of memories,” he says.
Alyn Edwards is a classic car enthusiast and partner in Peak Communicators, a Vancouver-based public relations company. email@example.com