Iowa’s Okoboji Classic Cars museum has $6M worth of inventory

WEST OKOBOJI, Iowa — Tens of thousands of people travel every year to a classic car museum in the middle of nowhere.

Few people may consider West Okoboji, Iowa an obvious destination spot.

But there sits an estimated $6 million worth of inventory at Okoboji Classic Cars, owned by one man: Toby Shine.

He might be found at the end of a bar insidethe museum sipping a Bud Light, smoking a cigarette and wearing a smile.

Shine comes by in the afternoon to hang out and meet people who stop by what he calls his “man cave.” He doesn’t like the word museum, really. That sounds so stuffy. This place is like any single-story non-descript steel building from the outside. Inside, it’s filled with vehicles from every era, much like The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn. But the difference is this is all owned by one man who figured it was a better way to store his collection than in warehouses all over the place.

Walking through the Okoboji Classic Cars museum in Iowa on Sept. 19, 2022.

Once word got out, people came. It never really was intended to be a museum-type deal. It opened to the public in 2013. Now his wife, Sylvia Shine, buys clothing and collectibles for the gift shop, non-profit organizations have big fundraisers there in gallery space near one of the vehicle exhibits with the ability to serve hundreds at a time after hours for dinner. The museum has its own kitchen and caters events with the staff of nearby Yesterdays restaurant.