The incredible cars of the Blackhawk Collection

  • story by Steve Natale
  • posted on 07/2017
  • posted in: Great Garages

The San Francisco Bay Area is home to many private classic car collections, as well as the prestigious Blackhawk Museum that is open to the public. What most people have never seen is the incredible cars of the Blackhawk Collection. Located the East Bay hills near Danville, CA, Blackhawk is an exclusive, gated community full of large, beautiful homes and a world class golf course. It is also home to a world class collection of automobiles: The Blackhawk Collection.

Hidden from public view, tucked away in the Blackhawk hills, a non-descript, very clean, plain metal-sided building has a sign on it that simply reads: Blackhawk Collection. There is nothing about this building that even hints at the treasures contained within. Here is an insider’s look into one of the finest and most interesting car collections on the planet, and most of them are available for purchase. Entering the building is transforming, as your vintage car sensory overload begins. Rich mahogany, carpeted floors, plush leather sofas, mirrored ceilings, display cases filled with 45 years worth of awards from Pebble Beach and other concours events, a large automotive library and of course, fabulous automobiles.

Although the building is full of cars, none of the cars are parked to close to each other. One can easily walk all the way around each car and admire them individually from every angle. The ever-rotating inventory is diverse, but of superior quality. Vintage Ferraris and Aston Martins share space with 1950’s American cars and coach-built Rolls-Royce classics. Several important historic race cars, a 500K Mercedes, a massive 1930’s Packard and many more occupy these sumptuous, but friendly confines.

The man that created this building and procured its contents is Don Williams. Don started in the classic car business in 1966 in Los Angles, opening the first classic car dealership west of the Mississippi in 1967. “As young man I fell in love with classic cars. Every time we got a new car in, say like a 1933 Packard, I would read everything there was about that car to become as knowledgeable as possible about it” says Don. “Forty-five years ago in Los Angeles, the people that actually designed the cars in the 1930’s and 1940’s were still alive and some of them used to drop by the store. I remember having lunch with the famous designer Dutch Darrin. No better way to gain knowledge and appreciation for the classics than to have lunch with the man that designed them.”

Don Williams has sold more classic cars than anyone, and has sold more Duesenbergs than anyone. He became the first person ever to sell a classic car (a 1931 Figoni-bodied boat-tail Duesenberg) for more than one million dollars. His philosophy pertaining to classic cars is that he is a “merchandiser of rolling art.” More than just a high-end car dealer, Don is involved in many charities and supports concours events across the country. He has been showing cars at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance every year since 1972. That is 42 consecutive years at the most prestigious concours in the world!

The Blackhawk Collection is open by appointment only, with buyers visiting from all over the globe, looking to reduce or add to their collections. Privacy and discretion are paramount when dealing with cars of this caliber, and a half century of dealing in high quality cars and treating customers fairly has earned Don and the Blackhawk Collection, formed in 1981, the respect and admiration of everyone in the business.

Many changes have taken place in the old car world during Don’s half century in the business of classic cars. Many ups and downs in values, some cars have spiked in popularity, while other have cooled down. Knowing how to read the sometimes fickle vintage car market has kept him in business longer than nearly anyone in the industry and his advice and opinion is sought after by many collectors. When asked what type of cars I should buy, his advice was simple but wise “Buy what you love, but also by what you can afford. Classic cars are just like fine art. You will be happier if you buy the affordable car you love instead of buying strictly for investment. You should enjoy seeing it in your garage and having fun with the hobby.” To that end, not all the cars at the Blackhawk Collection are million dollar-plus classics. There are always some great Chevy Impalas, mid-century American cruisers, or hot-looking Muscle cars somewhere in the collection.

There are also cars at the Blackhawk Collection that can only be seen there. Don has always collected rare cars, but having the only one ever made is as rare as it gets. One-off coach built classics, hand-made vintage race cars, factory show cars and manufacturer design cars are always is stock. If you are looking for something truly unique, or a piece of automotive history, this is the place you will find it.

The Blackhawk Collection can be reached through their website,