Politics, pandemics, storms and years can come and go. But one thing stays constant: people love their cars. On a balmy Thursday night at the Broadmoor Hotel, icons in the auto industry who excelled at nurturing that love were honored at the 2022 Colorado Automotive Hall of Fame.
Nominated by their peers, then selected by the Colorado Automotive Hall of Fame Committee, six dealers and one industry-leading supporter were approved by the CADA Board of Directors to be inducted into the 2022 Colorado Automotive Hall of Fame.
Those honored were:
Bill Barrow: As the face of the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association for 28 years, Bill Barrow moved the association and Colorado’s automotive industry forward in notable ways. Bill retired as President of CADA in 2005 and passed away in 2015. He is remembered as an integral icon in the automotive world in Colorado, building the Denver Auto Show and was a tireless advocate for car lovers like himself.
J. William Crouch: As part of a family automotive dynasty that includes his father, brother, son and granddaughter, William ‘Bill’ Crouch was a true car guy. He was the youngest-ever Chrysler franchisee in 1963, followed by Subaru and several Acura dealerships. Bill thought of himself as a trendsetter by building a multi-franchise auto mall in Boulder. He owned 10 different franchises including the Chrysler/Plymouth, Subaru and Acura stores, along with Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Mazda, Suzuki, Mitsubishi and Bill Crouch Leasing. He was a supporter of many organizations, automotive and philanthropic.
A.J. Guanella: A.J. Guanella is proud of his more than 70 years’ worth of auto industry memories. He started at Burt Chevrolet in 1949, working in parts and culminating in management and part-ownership of Burt Chevrolet/Subaru. When Burt was sold to John Elway, Mitch Pierce and Todd Maul in 2011, A.J. told the trio he wanted to stay and they encouraged him to continue what he did when he was the owner. It was the only direction he ever was given and A.J. stayed on as ‘Store Ambassador.’ A.J. has been very involved in his community and Colorado’s automotive industry. He served as director on the CADA Board, as well as director and president of the Metro Denver Auto Dealers.
Larry H. and Gail Miller: Schoolmates since age 12 and sweethearts since they were teenagers, Larry H. and Gail Miller built an automotive empire encompassing seven Western states, the Utah Jazz, Salt Lake Bees, and a movie theatre chain. Based in Utah, the company sold its existing 69 dealerships, including 13 in Colorado, to the Asbury Automotive Group in December 2021. Larry’s business acumen and drive (pun intended) resulted in the ownership of many automotive dealerships. After Larry passed in 2009, Gail immersed herself in the businesses and also ramped up her philanthropic efforts.
Leo Payne: Leo started in the automobile business in Flint, Michigan in the early 1950s He and his wife Joan migrated west and started a rented used car lot at Sixth Ave. and Broadway in Denver, then grew until his retirement in 1991, when Leo’s business was one of Colorado’s largest dealers, representing Pontiac, GMC, Jeep, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Saab, Subaru, Nissan, Hyundai and Mazda, along with RVs. He’s also dabbled in Volkswagens, Jaguars and Nissans, both in Colorado and California. He often said he preferred buying and selling dealerships more than running them. He was the consummate dealmaker. Now 91 years old, Leo and his wife of 25 years, Gloria, split their time between Castle Rock and Florida. They have supported many community causes and their church.
Al O’Meara Sr.: Tuberculosis brought Al O’Meara, Sr. to Colorado, and Henry Ford’s automobiles gave him a successful business. The son of Irish immigrant farmers and one of 10 children, Al disliked farming, but he was great with a wrench. So he left the farm and went to work for Ford in 1906, making $1 a day. He came to Colorado and started with a Ford dealership in 1913. After several iterations during and after WWII, his dealership ended up in Northglenn. At the dealership, Al’s philosophy lived on in the three O’Meara generations who followed him: “Love Fords. Love what we do. Our employees and customers are paramount. Can’t have one without the other.”
Phil Winslow: Phil came to Colorado when his father purchased a Volkswagen/Porsche dealership in Colorado Springs. Just before he graduated from Cornell College in 1961, his father called to see if Phil was interested in joining him in the business. Two days after graduating, he was on the job. He learned about all the aspects of the job from his employees, and in 1983, Phil bought a BMW franchise and operated both dealerships until he sold the Volkswagen store in 2003. In addition, he owned and sold two motorcycle dealerships. Phil has always believed that good service is the bedrock of a successful automobile franchise and keeps customers returning. He and his wife Ann hope to keep the business in the family. They also are involved in many community organizations and schools.
For more detailed information about these recipients, log on to https://www.coloautohalloffame.com.