A Grandfather’s Car Collection


Kirk Wilmes may seem like your average gearhead, he loves lead sled Mercury’s, hot rod fords and classic Cadillac’s.  However Kirk has an unique story to tell about his late Grandfather Don Kizziar and his enormous collection of classic cars!


Kirk Wilmes hails from Atlus, Oklahoma where he had the privilege to grew up around his grandfather  and his grandfather’s car collection. His grandfather started collecting cars in the early 70s and never stopped! Don’s collection contained over 40 cars that spanned over 7 decades of automotive history! His collection contained everything from Lead Sled Merc’s to Hot Rod Ford’s to Muscle Mopars and even rare cars such as Cord Aubruns! He was able to afford this enormous collection due to the fact that he founded and owned a Cattle Business known as Cattle Management Systems.


Sadly Don passed away in 2010, and  his entire collection was left to his wife Ruth.  She was unable to take care of the cars, so the entire collection was auctioned off in a series known as the Kizziar Collection Auctions in the summer of 2011. While the cars may have been sold away, the stories behind them still remain with Kirk. He has decided to share with us some of the stories of a few of his favorite cars from his grandfather’s collection.


The first story Kirk told us was of his grandfather’s cherry red 1950 Mercury.   The Mercury was last customized in the late 1960’s and is Kirk’s personal favorite car from the collection. Kirk loves this car because of the old school lead sled look it has. She has been customized with a louvered hood, and the door handles, trunk and hood emblems have been shaved for a smooth lead sled look. Not only is this Mercury a classic on the outside but it is under the hood as well where an Olds 324 Rocket 88 engine is hooked up to the original factory 3 speed transmission. Kirk was able to purchase this car  at one of the Auctions, he loved this Mercury so much that he was willing to mortgage his house if that’s what it took to owner her!

Another story Kirk told us was of his grandfather’s 1936 Ford roadster that was fully restored from the ground up. Kirk loves this car because it’s a time capsule of a post war hot rod. The 1936 Ford is built like a hot rod from the late 40s. Power comes from it’s original Flathead V8 engine modified with two single barrel carbs and vintage Eddie Meyer Speed Equipment intake manifold and valve covers. Eddie Meyer parts were popular among post war rodders with flathead engines, but Eddie left the parts business in the 60s making these parts very rare to find today.



Kirk then told us the tale of the wildest and most unique car in Don’s collection, a rare 1937 Cord roadster that has been hot rodded! Cords are rare cars to begin with and a hot rodded Cord is even rarer! This Cord is built on a 1953 Cadillac frame gets power from a 1953 Cadillac V8 hooked to a 1953 Caddy trans.  To further hot rod the car, the Cord  was converted to rear wheel drive by adding a period Chrysler rear end.  The Cord was missing the bows for the soft top so Don hand fabricated them himself out of aluminum and wood.  After she was finished, Don enjoyed taking her to the HAMB Drags because the people attending never new what kind of car it was! Most assumed that the Cord was a one off custom car! — sorry about the blurry picture, this is the only one we have!



Kirk mentioned to us earlier that his grandfather was a huge fan of Cords, besides owning a hot rod cord he owned not one but two 1937 Cord Westchesters! In terms of technology, these cars were way ahead of their time! They are FWD, have an independent front suspension,  electric shifts instead of hydraulic, and hidden  pop out head lights! Cords also used a toggle type lever rather than a standard stick to shift gears. Less than 3000 of these cars were ever made and it amazes us that Don owned two of them! Don treated his Cords with such great care and respect that, believe it or not, the blue 1937 Auburn still has its original factory paint! His grey Cord won best in show at the Cord Auburn show in 1985!



The greatest story Kirk told us is of his Grandfather’s 1930 Cadillac V16. Don purchased his Caddy in the early 80s and restored the car from the ground up. There were only 1000 Cadillac V16s ever made and his was number 998. After it was restored, Don took the car to the Cadillac National Meet were he won best in show twice!


When Kirk was a kid he would ride in the back of the Cadillac and his grandfather would drive him around town acting like his Chauffeur. When he turned 13 he got to live every boy’s dream: His grandfather let him drive his 1930 Cadillac! His grandfather would sit in the passenger seat as they drove around town. As they pulled up next to other cars, his grandfather would ask the drivers how old they thought Kirk was. After the drivers would answer he would have Kirk speed off before telling them his real age!


The Cadillac V16 was such a rare car that Don believed no one would know what kind of car it was if they saw it. This led to him try an experiment. He had Kirk drive the two of them to a gas station where he had the attendant put 5 dollars worth of gas in the tank. After the handle was hung up he told Kirk to start the engine, and had him speed off without paying! The reason?  He wanted to see if the Police would come after them! After about an hour of driving they went back to the gas station to pay the attendant and they told her about the experiment. They asked her if she if she called the cops, she said she thought about it but she didn’t know how to describe the car they were driving! Don’s hypothesis was correct!  They then paid the attendant and took her for a ride since she put up with their shenanigans!



It’s seems Don didn’t just have a car collection, he had something much greater.  He had his own collection of American history, wonderful memories and amazing stories that hopefully get shared among hot rodders of the current and future generations. For now Kirk may only own the 1950 Mercury from the collection but he has the contact info of every buyer and plans on buying back as many of his grandfather’s cars as he can!