Shortly before Roger Parrott Jr. sold his distribution company a few years ago, a friend advised him that he needed to find something to do when he retired. That “something” turned out to be getting a collectible car and joining a car club.

About three years ago, Roger, who is chairman of the ISSA Foundation, went to an auction where two 1957 Ford Thunderbirds were for sale.

The cars were owned by a couple who lived just five miles from Roger’s South Windsor, Conn., home. Roger watched the first car sell and thought, “Hey, I can do this,” and after raising his hand twice, he heard the auctioneer say “Sold!” The car was his.

“After I won the bid, I was told I had to have the car out of there that night,” says Roger. “Because there was no key for it, I called a tow truck. By 10 o’clock, I had the Thunderbird at the car club. I quickly became a car club junkie.”

He now has three-and-a-half collectible cars: the 1957 T-Bird, a 1959 Mercedes 190SL, a 1966 230SL Mercedes (known as a “Pagoda”), and a half-interest in a 1929 Ford Model A Business Coupe.

There are five guys in the car club. Between them, they own 18 cars.

“On Saturdays, members come here with their kids or grandkids and work on cars, wash cars or just hang out and watch a ballgame,” says Roger. “It’s been a nice way to get another generation involved.”

The car club also hosts classic car-themed fundraisers for non-profits at their building.

It seems that the stories behind the cars are as important to Roger as the cars themselves.

“I met the original owner of the Thunderbird, and we became instant friends,” he says. “She gave me the only trophy the car won in 1980. Her daughter gave me wedding photos taken in the car. She and her two sisters rode to the church in the Thunderbird with their father on their wedding days. I told them that when any of their children get married, the car is theirs for the day.”

Roger brought the car to a 200th anniversary party at its original home.

“I met all kinds of folks who knew the Thunderbird,” he says. “Everybody had a story to tell about it.”

It’s not typical to get the history of a car with the purchase. But to Roger, the backstory adds clarity and value to the car, and credibility to the investment. Take for example the story behind his 1959 Mercedes.

“The original owner ordered it in Germany and took delivery in the United States,” explains Roger. “He was an MIT physicist who, during World War II, invented field radar. He drove it until he put it in storage in 1965.”

The car came with original documentation and even cigarette butts in the ashtray.

Today, Roger is creating his own stories to add to the history of the cars. In August 2013, he went to his first car show.

“I brought the 1959 Mercedes 190SL; it took home the trophy for its class,” he says.

Gretchen Roufs, an 18-year janitorial supply industry veteran, owns a marketing and public relations company in San Antonio. To suggest someone you think should be featured in “Freetime,” contact her at