Mario Pipkin inducted into Washington State Hot Rod Hall of Fame.
“Every time I get a bonus I buy another car.”
The many cars stored in a discretely hidden and nondescript warehouse indicate that Mario Pipkin has received a lot of bonuses. He and his wife, Valerie, have filled the large building with a diverse automobile collection that includes a 1941 Cadillac, 1955 Buick, 1972 Porsche and a 2004 Ferrari. There are muscle cars, hot rods, luxury cars and an abundance of convertibles. The room looks like a huge dish covered in brightly colored jellybeans.
Pipkin, a 56-year-old Seattle resident, has loved cars since he was very young.
“I was born with a passion for cars. The love has just always been there. I was 4 years old when I got my first ‘car’— a Corvette push toy. My first special ride was a Huffy bicycle with a steering wheel instead of handlebars. I loved it, but so did one of the neighbor kids. He stole it from me when I was 10 years old. My mother and I went to the thief’s house and talked to his father. Mom did a good job of convincing him to return the bike. She was not someone to mess with!”
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Mario’s school days were a bit rough and he was asked to leave more than one educational facility.
“I’m a laid-back guy, but I have my limits. A few of my classmates found out the hard way.”
Fortunately for Pipkin, two important people came into his life: Valerie, and Lynn Knell, an understanding teacher at Seattle’s Lincoln High School.
“Mrs. Knell saw that I had a lot of potential and talent that I was not using. She stood up for me and helped me develop ways to do better in school and to stay out of trouble. Thanks to her I was able to earn a few scholarships and continue my education at the ITT Peterson School of Business. It was there that my life of computer programming began.”
At Lincoln High School, classmate Valerie began looking over her shoulder as she passed Mario in the halls. He took notice and began what was to be a very long relationship.
“Valerie was not going to put up with hanging around with some roughneck. I wanted to hang out with her so I decided to clean up my act,” Pipkin says. “I guess it worked; we’ve known each other for 40 years and have been married for 25 years. We’ve raised three sons and a daughter together.”
Pipkin’s first “collector” car was a 1976 Dodge Cordoba.
“It was all that the budget allowed at that time. Later, when I was 24 years old, I purchased a 1972 Porsche 911S. To me it was just a nice sports car at a price I could afford. I had no idea it was something special until I displayed it at a car show and other Porsche owners went nuts over it.”
Pipkin began working at Microsoft and rose to positions that provided him with bonuses and the ability to begin collecting additional cars.
“With an early bonus I bought a special car: a white 1963 Cadillac convertible. More convertibles and luxury cars were added to the collection,” he says.
Why does he love these cars so much?
“I call my collection Mario’s Masterpieces. I’m overwhelmed by the beauty of automobiles from the past, especially the luxury cars from 1960s. I’m not about going fast. My love is cruising in a beautiful car with my wife at my side or following me in another of our cars. That to me is life at its best.”
Valerie Pipkin is every bit as passionate about cars as her husband. Within the collection is her own stunning and multiple award-winning 1955 Buick Roadmaster.
“Sometimes I get asked if I enjoy driving my husband’s car. I love to tell them that it is mine!” she says.
The car hobby is also a social activity for the Pipkins. They are founding members of the Classic Swagger Car Club.
“We are a very active group that has known each other all of our lives. It’s a four-generation club and includes senior citizens on down to our 4-year-old granddaughter. There are only 16 members in the club, and that’s the size we plan on keeping it.”
In 2016 Pipkin was inducted into the Washington State Hot Rod Hall of Fame. This honor is bestowed to members of the car community who have participated in various charitable, educational and inspirational efforts.
“I was shocked when my name was called out at the awards banquet. There were 500 people in the audience and they were all cheering for me. It was hard not to cry,” he says.