TAMPA ― Ron Gallops was mocked in the 1970s, and he understands why.
His idea seemed bizarre.
Let’s saw a Lincoln Continental in two, he suggested, attach its front half to a flatbed, and create a luxury pickup truck.
But no one was laughing when the idea worked, became popular and allowed him to retire at 39.
After that, most took Gallops seriously when, in the early 1980s, he presented a bizarre post-retirement plan for an acre of land off Nebraska Avenue in North Tampa.
He wanted to replicate a small town from the Old West. So he did. Called Gallopsville, it is still there, down a dirt road at 914 E 128th Ave.
There is a livery, a jail, a sheriff’s office, a blacksmith shop, the railroad depot, a traveling carnival sideshow display and an ice cream shop, each furnished with vintage items true to the era.
Gallops did it for fun, but also made money via photoshoots and television productions that rented the lot.
Now, he says Gallopsville’s time has come and gone. He sold the property and plans to move to Dade City.
On Saturday morning, his vintage Old West collection will be sold at an onsite auction.
There are phones, cash registers, signs, bathtubs, a piano, a barber’s chair and pole, an ice box, an outhouse, cooking utensils, pots and pans and even a miniature locomotive.
There are modern and even futuristic items at Gallopsville, too.
None of Gallops’ custom-built race cars on site will be auctioned, nor will the motorcycle that he designed to look like a military jet.
But he is willing to part with a homemade and operational “Inspector Gadget” car mimicking the one driven by the cartoon and movie character and also a prop “steampunk vehicle” designed to look like it can fly, sail and drive while fending off bad guys with a harpoon gun.
In all, around 200 items will be up for bid.
“He is a creative genius,” Gallops’ friend Russ Tabone said. “He envisions something, and he can make it. I’ve asked him for years to open this place up as a museum so people can come see what he can do. But he never wanted the attention.”
Gallops is indeed humble, shaking his head at the praise.
“I needed an office is all,” Gallops said while explaining how Gallopsville was born. “I looked at this piece of property and said, ‘Gosh, there are some beautiful oak trees and stuff.’ So, I built an office and then the rest of this. That’s all. I had a plan and it worked out.”
That ability to work things out, Gallops said, comes from his parents.
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He was one of 11 children raised in the low-income Tampa neighborhood of Six Mile Creek.
His mother was a homemaker and his father had a blue collar job for the State Department of Roads. They wanted their kids to attend Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic School in Ybor City but could barely afford tuition for one let alone 11, Gallops said. So, the church let his parents pay through volunteer hours.
“Once the doors were open, my parents were at the school, at the church, doing something to feel like they were paying,” Gallops said.
He did his part, too.
By the age of four, Gallops said, he already had a proficiency for fixing and building things, such as a bike when his parents could not afford one.
“The nuns always borrowed me when they learned what I could do.” he said. “Fix a drawer, do this, do that. I flunked the fourth grade because I was helping more than I was learning.”
Gallops dropped out of school after the ninth grade and instead graduated from building bicycles to building go-karts and motorcycles, and then to stock cars.
“An all-around automotive genius,” is how auctioneer John Harris described Gallops. “You’d think he had multiple engineering degrees.”
In the 1970s, Gallops started his Florida Motor Coach company, which repaired and flipped RVs and cars and built custom motor home coaches, limousines and race cars.
But it was the idea to create Lincoln Continental trucks that enabled the company to grow to dozens of employees at two shops.
A 1979 Tampa Tribune article on the luxury trucks reported that Gallops spent 500 hours of engineering and 240 production hours to perfect the process. Orders for the vehicles came from around the nation.
Then one day Gallops looked at his bank account and realized he had enough to live comfortably.
“I retired,” he said.
He helped each employee find a new job “because that’s the right thing to do,” Gallops said. He kept one of the buildings to work on his own projects.
“I would still fix and build stuff for people,” Gallops said. “But I wouldn’t solicit business. I worked when I wanted, on what I wanted.”
That is why he needed the office that started Gallopsville.
Gallops’ son and his friends helped erect that office. They and others, over the years, assisted in building the rest of the town and finding the necessary furnishings to complete it. A local Thunderbird Club named it Gallopsville after holding a dance there. They declared Gallops the mayor.
“We follow what we call Ron’s Law here,” Gallops laughed. “That means I do what I want.”
And what he wants to do next is move to a quiet piece of land in Dade City, far from the traffic that now roars by Gallopsville less than a mile away on Nebraska Avenue.
Gallops will likely keep building race cars, but doesn’t foresee himself establishing a second town.
“At 80, he’s just ready to get out,” Tabone said. “But we’ll see. Like he said, he does what he wants.”
If you go
When: 10 a.m. Saturday
Where: 914 E. 128th Ave. in Tampa
For more information: HarrisAuctionsLLC.com