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Pierce-Arrow Museum founder wins Lee Iacocca Award

James T. Sandoro, founder of the Buffalo Transportation/Pierce-Arrow Museum, has spent most of his life devoted to cars, earning a national reputation for his collection and expertise.

Recently, he also got some major recognition.

Sandoro received the Lee Iacocca Award, presented for lifetime achievement in the world of antique cars. The award is sponsored by National Parts Depot and was presented by Hemmings Motor News at its annual Concours d’Elegance in Saratoga Springs in the fall.

The award is named after the famous auto engineer and company executive, and recognizes individuals who have made extraordinary strides in the world of collector cars through preservation, club participation or outreach to the public.

“I was honored to say the least, although you have to be an old-timer to get it,” Sandoro joked.

He founded the museum in 1997, and it has since expanded into a modern building at the corner of Seneca Street and Michigan Avenue that includes a re-created Frank Lloyd Wright filling station that was originally planned for Buffalo but never built. The museum drew about 25,000 visitors this year, he said.

Sandoro amassed one of the world’s largest private collections of automobile-related material, including 250,000 individual items, ranging from 80 classic cars and antique bicycles to artwork and blueprints.

He is known for his expertise in appraising the value of antique cars, often serving as a trial witness in tax, insurance and divorce cases.

And he has made a point of preserving the automotive heritage of Buffalo, where 85 vehicles were made at various times, including the Pierce-Arrow.

Sandoro recalled that his love of cars began when he was a child growing up on Lisbon Avenue and a neighbor, a chauffeur to a wealthy family, placed a Pierce-Arrow up on blocks in the garage.

“We would sneak in and slide down the fenders, and he would shout at us and remind us about the car’s importance and history. It sparked an interest that never ended,” he said.

The award events are linked to the Iacocca Family Foundation, which funds diabetes research.