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Salem man's car collection revs up 'American Pickers'

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Show's hosts spend $90,000 on most costly purchase, so far

COURTESY PHOTO - Salem's Zane Leek (far right) was part of an 'American Pickers' episode that airs Monday, April 10. The show stars Frank Fritz (left) and Mike Wolfe (middle, shaking Linda Leek's hand).A new episode of the History Channel's "American Pickers" will air at 9 p.m. Monday, April 10, and it takes place at the Oregon home of collector Zane Leek, who has an extensive collection of cars that came from his father.

It's the show hosts most "expensive pick to date" at more than $90,000.

The Tribune caught up with Leek to talk about his experience with the show, on which "pickers" Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz visit with people to purchase items from yesteryear:

Tribune: Can you tell me a bit about yourself and your background?

Zane Leek: I was born in Salem. My dad and grandfather were both machinists. I followed in their footsteps and went to work for Microflect Co. in Salem. My grandfather was the very first employee and my father was the second employee. I was lucky enough to work with my dad for 14 years before he retired. He was an amazing mechanic and machinist who was able to fix anything. He also had a photographic memory and was able to tell you the license plate number of most of the 100-plus cars that he owned.

Tribune: What's the deal behind your father's collection of vehicles?

Leek: My dad loved to collect cars, tractors and motorcycles that were rare and unusual. My father did not like to drive what everyone else drove. He always liked standing out in a crowd. He had some pretty valuable vehicles but chose to drive a rusty old Studebaker pickup that he paid $100 for. He only sold a few cars in his lifetime, and he said that he regretted selling each one of them.

Tribune: What are previous major finds?

Leek: As far as previous finds, my dad has several cars that are really rare. He has two that I can think of that are the last ones known to exist in the world. I also have a Studebaker factory 4x4. There were only 22 ever made and only 10 known to exist today.

Tribune: What was it like being on this show? Would you do it again?

Leek: I really enjoyed the crew that came to visit and film my collection. Everyone was so friendly and easygoing. My mom is really camera shy, and they made her feel right at home. There was no pressure to sell anything. If it was something that we wanted to keep they always wanted us to keep the things that meant a lot to us. No pressure. To all of the people that think that these shows are scripted or fake, you are wrong about this one. They didn't even look inside the buildings before the filming began. They had no clue as to what to expect when they walked through the door.

All of the negotiations are real. There was no price setting before the show. They had no idea what they were going to buy prior to walking through the doors of the sheds. The only thing that we knew was when they were going to show up. The rest of the show is exactly how you see it on TV. As for doing it again, I would do it in a heartbeat. They have the same passion for collecting old iron as I do, and it's always nice to talk to people who have the same interests as you.

Tribune: What should Portland readers know before watching the episode?

Leek: If you're interested in anything antique, this show will give you a really good history lesson. The biggest take away that I hope Portlanders come away with from watching the show is how great a man my dad was and how he lived his life the way he wanted and was able to collect the things that he loved. He really was special and his collection is a great reflection of that.