A driver's dream, the custom-built Chevy Corvette took second place in the 2011 Detroit AutoRama car show, the largest and most prestigious custom auto show in the nation.
A year later, it broke all previous custom-car corvette sales records when it sold for $408,800, instantly making Johnny Martin of Alamosa one of the most recognized custom-car builders and dealers in the nation.
Now Martin has come to Colorado Springs, in a manner of speaking. He's put his name on a private, high-end car club that recently opened at 1 S. Nevada Ave. in downtown Colorado Springs, next door to Central Bancorp. It was the bank's owner, Ron Johnson, who helped get the club started after meeting Martin in 2012 through the owner of a custom-built 1957 Chevy that Martin hopes to enter in next year's AutoRama.
A luxury car club wasn't part of the original concept, however.
"We started off just going to have a few cars for sale and a big-screen TV and a few beers, and it took off from there and has turned out to be a really super cool place." said Martin, who is part owner of the club, Johnny Martin Car Central.
The 7,500-square foot club lives up to Martin's description of being "super cool," from the cars that are on display (with some for sale) to the tony gathering spot where members can drink wine and chow down on food created by a chef and sous chef.
This month, the club is displaying various makes and models of Porsche vehicles from local dealerships. Next month, the club plans to show open-wheel cockpit and other Indy-styled cars in honor of the Indianapolis 500, said Dustin Morgan, executive director, of Johnny Martin Car Central.
"There are Corvette people and Porsche people, and us hot-rodders have our own clique," Martin said. "We want to bring all different sorts of car people together."
Joining the club requires a one-time membership fee and monthly dues. The initial fees range from $1,500 for a non-resident of El Paso County to $7,500 for a corporate membership. The fee for El Paso County residents is $3,000, but spouses are included. Monthly dues range from $50 a month to $250 depending on the type of membership.
As of last week, the club had about 100 members, and Morgan said membership will likely be capped at 250.
Not all the perks of being a member have been worked out, Morgan said, but the club itself may be enough for diehard car fans. While no car work or repairs will take places at the club, it will host several "Coffee and Car" series events, where Martin and others could teach classes about repairs, carbon fiber wrapping, detailing and other topics, she said.
The club also is meant to serve as a gathering spot for members' family and friends, and was designed with .that in mind.
"A lot of thinking went into it, to make it not so much of a man-cave, but a place where women would want to go, too," Martin said. "It's pretty fancy.
The space has a full kitchen and bar, so classes won't be geared to just car enthusiasts, Morgan said.
"We will do everything from cooking classes to wine tastings," she said."
The club also has two simulators that allow "drivers" to run more than 500 types of virtual automobiles on about 1,000worldwide tracks. Each membership includes some free time on the simulators.
As for Martin, he's staying in Alamosa, where he started his car company in 1990 as an upholstery shop in his living room. Since then, he has worked on about 40 cars, doing everything from just the upholstery to complete frame-up restorations.
He'll come to the club at least once a month, he said, and will occasionally show off and even sell some of the cars that he and Johnson have partnered on.
He said the car club is more likely to succeed in Colorado Springs rather than Alamosa simply because of the town's size, and because of Martin's and Johnson's instant friendship.
"He is on a whole other level than I am," Martin said of Johnson, who could not be reached for an interview. "Yet, we hit it off instantly and have gotten along great ever since."
Contact Ned Hunter: 636-0275
HOW YOU CAN JOIN
Interested in becoming a member of Johnny Martin's Car Central? Call 999-5996 for a tour, beginning next week. The club is open Wednesdays through Sundays. More info: johnnymartins.com