Houston Lifestyles & Homes July 2009
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The O’Quinn Collection
O’Quinn’s massive collection of more than 800 cars began with 14 and includes some of the world ’s most intriguing vehicles.
“Six years ago, I was reading the paper and noticed they were having a car auction at the Equestrian Center and I asked Darla [Lexington, president, The O ’Quinn (car) Collection, and O’Quinn’s significant other for the past 10 years] if she wanted to go. She said ‘yes’ so we went. This is when the car collection, you might say, began,” O’Quinn said.
John and Darla purchased 14 cars that day at auction: two Duesenbergs, as well as two Rolls-Royces and a variety of other cars.
“This first auction was very exciting. People were looking at us wondering who in the world we were, ” Lexington says.
Today, the collection boasts three Batmobiles, Howard Hughes’ first Rolls-Royces, two of the Queen of England’s cars, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy’s car, India’s Maharajah of Mysore’s Rolls-Royce and the list goes on and on.
Of the approximately 500 Duesenbergs still in existence today, O’Quinn owns 25. He also has the oldest running car, an 1884 De Dion Bouton et Tre’pardoux steam car, as well as a gasoline-powered De Dion Bouton Quadricycle and the only long wheel-base Talbot Lago 150 in the world.
There are also rows of some of the first motorcycles and Rolls Royces.  
O’Quinn also has the largest collection of “Turn of the Century” electric cars in the world, which according to Lexington were popular with the female population.
“The cars had very high ceilings so the ladies could wear their hats—without problems. Men though did not care for the cars because they did not have enough speed, ” Lexington said.
In the 128,000 square feet of the warehouse, where the cars are kept, there are some of the most luxurious cars ever built, with unique features such as carved inlaid wood doors, ostrich leather upholstery, built-in tea sets and many other features, which have not been seen for decades, and only by a rare few even then.
The warehouse employs a staff of 12 to care for the cars as well as an executive director who stays busy researching authenticity and histories of each car prior to O ’Quinn’s acquisitions and working with those interested in purchasing the few cars for sale.
The O’Quinn Legacy
O’Quinn and Darla Lexington’s next personal project is to build a car museum near downtown Houston on land that has been purchased for this goal. The planned muti-level museum will not only house the cars, but will also provide education to youngsters of all ages.
“We want these cars to help teach history, to tell the stories behind the cars and about the people who owned them, all of which is part of history. But also, I want this museum for John, for it to be part of his legacy, ” Lexington said.
The museum will also provide a children’s area where youth will learn what it takes to build a car, from the design, to engineering, materials and more.
The limited few who have had a private tour of the cars agree, Lexington and O’Quinn are amazing. You ask about any car in the facility and they instantly know the history and details of each and provide facts unbeknown to the general public.
“All the cars run, and we often drive different ones for a week or so, then switch to another. They are a lot of fun to drive, ” Lexington says.
O’Quinn’s Professional Future
Yet professionally, O’Quinn, a youthful 68-year-old, is embarking on the legal case of his career, which could possibly consume the next 10 years or so of his life. The case focuses on stock fraud, which indicates short-selling influenced the downward trend of the stock market in the recent financial crisis. The first case will be heard in Atlanta later this summer and if the case is successful, it will probably expand to include numerous companies across the country.
But for today, O’Quinn and Lexington are enjoying the simple pleasures in life, such as movies, dining at their favorite restaurants or just taking a drive around the city in a Duesenberg. •
Above: The mellow yellow Duesenberg, in a row of others, was owned by famed movie star, Tyrone Power  Below: Queen Elizabeth and King George commissioned this Lincoln in 1939 for their tour of Canada. The car, which served as their limo, is a Model KV-12.
Above: One of many rows of Duesenbergs in the O'Quinn collection.  Left: For men who like speed during the 1930s and forward, Duesenbergs like this one may have had a super-charged engine.
John O’Quinn  A Southern Gentleman making a difference
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THIS PAGE: Another trophy in the collection is this deep purple, 1930 Model J Sport Berline Duesenberg, which was built to order for George Whittell.
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