Rick Kirk - King of Memorabilia
Rick Kirk has amassed an impressive collection of Ford and Mustang memorabilia
When I asked Rick Kirk how long he's been collecting Mustang and Ford memorabilia, the answer comes from the peanut gallery in the corner of Rick's office.
"Since before we were born," quipped Jacky Jones, another Ford memorabilia collector who was paying his annual visit to Rick during the Mid America Ford and Team Shelby Nationals.
Rick has his own smart answer: "Way back. See, I was an apprentice for George Washington when he was a corporal."
That's a joke, of course. But it's no joke that Rick owns one of the most impressive collections of Ford and Mustang memorabilia, most of it displayed in his RK Machine office near Ripley, Oklahoma, where Rick holds the title of "honorary mayor." He's got quite the collection of cars and parts too but we're visiting just for a tour of the memorabilia.
I finally get a straight answer to my question: "Back in the 1960s. I really started pushing it in the 1970s and 1980s. I try to deal with the stuff that is 100 percent historic and original. I don't like the later cheap stuff. I'm not interested in it."
Rick specializes in items that were produced by Ford for dealers or for special occasions, like award banquets. He's got a salesman's watch that says, "Time to drive a '65 Ford," and a 427 Fairlane cigarette lighter engraved to NASCAR builder Bud Moore, who apparently didn't show up for the presentation. He pulls out a set of cuff links shaped like a 351 Cleveland engine. The office walls are covered with clocks and posters, most of them originally supplied to Ford dealers for showroom or parts department promotions.
Every piece has a story, not only the reason why it was produced but also how Rick acquired it. His eyes light up when telling stories about how he found particular items, like the poster of Gas Ronda's Mustang funny car that was originally displayed at a late 1960s Ford Motorsport banquet. "When the banquet was over, (former Ford racer) Bill Holbrook took the poster," Rick explains. "He put it under his desk glass. Twenty years ago, I happened to be there when Holbrook was moving. His new desk didn't have a glass top and he didn't know what to do with the poster. I said, 'I know what to do with it.' So I rolled it up and brought it home."
Where does he find all this stuff? "Just here and there," Rick says nonchalantly. "I used to go to a lot of the Super Ford shows in Michigan. I'd visit Ford Motor Company a couple of times a year. A lot of it came from the engineers and race drivers who were still working for Ford at the time. I'd go to their houses and get in their attics. I'd get into their jewelry. But, you know, lately, it's been people telling me about it and stuff like that."
Today, Rick also trades with other collectors, like Jones and Bob Perkins. "Bob has got about as much as anybody," Rick says. "We all trade and look out for one another. We'd drive halfway across the country for a $15 item if we had been looking for it."
Although Rick's office space is crammed, piled, and otherwise overwhelmed with memorabilia, he's still looking for more, especially the hard-to-find pieces. "My biggest complement," he comments, "is when somebody says, 'I didn't know they made that.'"