Anyone who knows Weatherford's Tom Moncrief knows that he loves cars.
As a matter of fact, just a little more than a year ago, he opened a restaurant and car museum dedicated to that passion, Vintage Grill & Car Museum.
The original idea came when he and his wife, Therese, became engaged while in Sydney, Australia, back in 1988. The couple saw that very idea of a combination restaurant/car museum, something Moncrief had dreamt of since he was little.
“I remember thinking, 'What a great concept,'” Moncrief said. “As this was all coming about, I had originally planned on opening a car museum in Fort Worth when someone mentioned to me that I should make it look like an old gas station.”
He said as soon as he heard those words he thought of property he had been eying for more than a decade in Weatherford that actually mimicked the suggestion. Later he bought it.
Work began in the middle of August 2014 that included a major overhaul to the building; such as raising the floor 24 inches in the dining room and 36 inches in the bar. If that wasn’t enough, they had to raise a sagging ceiling by more than 10 inches as well.
Despite those factors, Moncrief’s vision had been fulfilled...at least for the moment.
Just across the street, beside the restaurant/museum, was a property better known as the old Hobson building which hadn’t been in use for quite some time.
“When I started the grill and museum, I wanted to see what the interest was in the car museum; to talk to people and see their reaction,” Moncrief said. “From what we’ve seen, there seems to be a lot of interest.”
So, Moncrief said it was “convenient” to purchase the old building, restore it and expand the car museum. If it were only that easy.
“The whole process has been interesting,” said museum curator Terry Mann. “Taking what’s basically a 100-year-old building and meeting the American Disabilities Act requirements, updating the restrooms and marrying three buildings together has been a challenge.”
Mann said they have done all they can to preserve the charm of the building, which will house an event center capable of seating more than 200 guests. If that’s not enough room, an adjacent patio can also be opened for additional seating.
“We’ve had to update the plumbing, electrical and both heat and air,” Mann said. “I’ve laid awake at night wondering if I picked out the right paint. It’s one thing to paint a room in your home, but it’s another thing when you paint a building that’s 13,000 square feet.”
Mann said the new building gives them much more room to showcase cars
“We believe this gives a major draw to the development that is coming to Weatherford and we'd like to be the hub for that,” Mann added. “Everyone that has toured this has been so excited, there’s just nothing else like it.”
In the corner office of the building, nearest to the restaurant, will be a special area for the Bankhead Highway Authority to office as well as the city’s Main Street Project office.
The museum will contain between 45-50 cars, depending on size, and is expected to open by mid-June.
“The city has been wonderful to work with...its really made it fun,” Moncrief said. “This isn’t going to be just a building with old cars in it. It’s going to have some history...some stories to tell.”
Dennis Clayton, Weatherford Economic Development Director, said that Vintage Grill and Car Museum is a great redevelopment on the Fort Worth highway and to the east-gateway to the “Main Street,” historic downtown Weatherford.
“We are pleased to have worked with Mr. Moncrief on the redevelopment of the “old Hobson Building” west of the Vintage Grill last summer with a historic downtown tax abatement agreement,” Clayton said.
“New attractions and destinations in and near downtown advance, enhance and fulfill elements of the 2013 Planning Department ‘Downtown Action Plan’ and our efforts to maintain and grow our active downtown. The ‘historic facades’ and the automotive heritage connects, restores and advances the Historic Heritage of downtown Weatherford.”
Already at the museum is a car driven by former President Lyndon B. Johnson. The museum also has cars on display that have been used in movies, such as the Godfather and Pearl Harbor.
“Some people ask me why I collect cars,” Moncrief explained. "It’s the same thing as those that collect art. Cars are art. They portray a period of time and what’s going on during that time.