Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Marconi Automotive Museum


If there was one lesson John Marconi wanted to pass on to his children, it was this: “The harder you work, the luckier you get.”  John began working in a steel mill in Ohio when he was just 17 years of age making $7.50 a week.  He married and raised a family of four children: two daughters, and two sons. John steadily rose in the company, eventually becoming supervisor over several hundred people, demonstrating his work ethic to his children.

It was a lesson son Dick Marconi never forgot.  When Dick got married in the 1950’s, he and his wife brought their daughter to California with just $500 in Dick’s pocket.  He immediately sent out hundreds of letters to various companies in search of work.  He eventually landed a sales position with a pharmaceutical company and began his quest to find his own fortune.

But Dick began to have some misgivings about his career.  “How come,” he pondered, “Do people wait until they are sick to seek health?”  Shortly after starting to work for another company, Dick ran into a young man who was very charismatic but had a troubled past. Mark Hughes was only 17 but had an idea that appealed to Marconi. He asked Dick if he would help him start a company that promoted healthy living. 

Dick was never one to put in half of an effort. He remembered well one of his mother’s sayings: “Coming in second means you are first in a long line of losers.” Dick threw all his energy into the young company, and that little company became Herbalife, the world’s largest manufacturer of vitamins, food supplements and weight-loss products.

With his success, Dick began indulging his love of cars.  His brother Ray had won the family car in a contest when he was young, and Dick developed a taste for muscle cars.  When he found a classic, Dick bought it. That led to an interest in open wheel racecars, and eventually Dick wanted to try racing for himself.  In 1994 he joined the SCCA and entered the Long Beach Grand Prix.  He came in 8th.  Dick was the oldest driver to ever qualify and finish in the top 10.

John Marconi had another philosophy he lived by: “Learn, Earn and Return,” and Dick felt it was time to do something to return to the world some of the benefit of his success.  Dick and wife Bo hit upon an idea of taking his car collection and creating a museum showcasing it.  They began the Marconi Automotive Museum and Foundation for Kids, and if you are an auto buff, prepare to be impressed. They say they hold the largest collection of Ferrari’s in the US.

Located in Tustin near the 55 Freeway, you can visit the Marconi Museum on most weekdays unless an event is being prepared (they are closed on most weekends) and browse through over 70 cars at your leisure (a $5 donation is suggested).  Money donated goes toward children’s charities, such as CHOC, Childhelp, Olive Crest and the Orange County Rescue Mission. 

The museum is available to hold special events (especially charitably oriented events), weddings, and hosts several events of their own, including a Fight Night Dinner (yes… real boxing), and their Open House Meet the Founder event, this year on August 11, 2019. 

Visit the Marconi Museum at 1302 Industrial Drive in Tustin. Call first to confirm if they are opened that day (714) 258-3001, or for more information regarding events.  
Photo by Brian Paradis

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