To say Donnie Stevens has a passion for muscle cars is a bit of an understatement.
The operator of a Columbia Falls trucking company is in the process of building a museum to display his 45-vehicle collection, which he hopes will be open by the end of this year.
“It’s still a dream. We’ll have to see what the economy does and how things pan out,” Stevens said of the project. “I just want everyone to be able to enjoy these cars. Every car has its own story – its own life.
Stevens’ passion for cars dates back to his teenage years when he raced his blue and white 1968 Chevy Camaro. Now, more than 46 years later, the Camaro is still in his collection.
“This car is my favorite because of all the memories it holds,” said Stevens’ daughter Juanita Yeheyes. “Dad would take us to the theater in this car and sometimes we would do donuts in the middle of nowhere. It was hard for me to see it repainted, the windows tinted and the seats redone, but the car is so beautiful.”
OVER Over the past decade, Stevens has amassed a collection worth more than $2 million, including more Camaros, Corvettes, Road Runners, several trucks and even an El Camino.
Stevens says it’s not hard to see why he started collecting.
“It’s simple, the children are grown and everything is paid for. It’s something that’s in my blood and I love it. That’s just how I am. It’s a passion, a very strong passion,” he said. “Hot rod cars have become so popular in the last few years because guys my age get their houses or whatever paid off and suddenly they can buy the car that they or a friend of theirs had when they were young. We all do this at one point or another. They are also a good investment right now.”
Among Stevens’ favorite pieces in his collection is a 1923 Ford T Bucket, which he calls his “Funny Mobile.”
“People look at it and laugh,” he said. “They’re smiling. They wave. It just attracts fun.”
Stevens hopes to have the museum up and running by this winter, ready to share its collection with the community. The exterior building and lighting are complete for the structure Stevens hopes to turn into his museum on Hodgson Road, but the cement floor and walkway are not yet complete.
“I’ve just been a fan all my life, even when I was a young teenager. There were three things I wanted to be in my life. I wanted to be a race car driver, a truck driver and a carpenter and I was all three,” he said. “I like to make people smile. I like to make people happy. The museum is not about making money and I don’t even plan to charge people. It’s about doing what you love and having fun.”