Gunnard Armand Rubini.
Gunnard Armand Rubini, Toledo’s pioneer foreign cars dealer, former Ottawa Hills village councilman and fire commissioner who loved to race cars and was a private pilot, died Nov. 20 at Hospice of the Carolina Foothills, Landrum, SC. He was 86.
He had kidney problems, his son, Brad Rubini, said.
The elder Mr. Rubini owned Volkswagen dealerships in Toledo from the 1950s through the 1970s. He was on the Ottawa Hills village council for about 12 years in the 1960s and 1970s and for a time was the village’s fire commissioner, according to his son.
He started Imported Motors, his first Volkswagen dealership at Dorr Street and North Holland Sylvania Road, in 1954 with two employees and three or four new car sales a month. At the time he was the only foreign car dealer in the Toledo area, The Blade wrote in 1955.
By early 1962, the firm had more than 40 employees and sold about 35 new and 40 used cars a month, according to a Blade 1962 article. Later in the 1960s, he became vice-president of the former Rubini Imported Motors, a division of Rubini Enterprises Inc. His last dealership closed in 1979, when Volkswagen temporarily pulled out of the United States.
“He had a lifelong love affair with cars, airplanes, and boats,” his son said. “If you brought a car to the house or talked about an airplane or a boat, he’d immediately enter into the conversation and listen to what you had to say... “He drove to school since he was 14. That was legal, because he had a Florida driver’s license.”
In the 1960s, in partnership with a Miami businessman, Mr. Rubini bought 800 acres for development on Rum Cay, a 10-mile long island 180 miles southeast of Nassau, with 75 residents including seven able-bodied workmen. A 2,200-foot dirt landing strip lay within 400 feet of the water’s edge.
A 1969 Blade story referred to the island as “a tropical dream — your own fly-in island home in the Bahamas,” which was “practically taken over” by Mr. Rubini, who planned to use the island as a winter home.
“I spent 10 years searching for Rum Cay,” Mr. Rubini told The Blade at the time. “The Bahamas have hundreds of islands. I scouted most of them by plane.”
He later also developed the Stoneybrook area in Columbus, NC.
Mr. Rubini was born Dec. 3, 1930 in Chicago To Carl and Constance Rubini. He was raised in Ottawa Hills, where he graduated from Ottawa Hills High School in 1948.
He then continued his education, graduating with a bachelor’s degree from the Principia College of Liberal Arts at Elsah, Ill. and with a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Toledo.
Before opening his own car dealership, he worked in the 1950s at the former Toledo Auto Electric Co. for several years, rising through the ranks to become assisting manager in 1954. At the time, he was also vice-president and general manager of the former Toledo Perfection Spring Co., which made springs for cars.
Mr. Rubini’s main hobby was racing cars.
He was a past chairman of the Sports Car Club of America, which he helped start in Toledo. He was also documented to own the first Lotus in the United States, according to his son.
In 1955, his Mercedes 300-SL was displayed at the Sports Car Internationale at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich. The car could attain 160 miles per hour.
Mr. Rubini also liked baseball and enjoyed bowling, golfing, boating, and playing bridge.
“He was a person that once you’ve met you knew forever,” George Turpening, a lifelong friend and a former vice-president and general manager of Rubini Enterprises Inc., said. “He was very active in many things, including Toledo Rotary Club, and he was a 32-degree mason.”
Mr. Rubini’s Toledo-area memberships included Sports Car Club of America, Toledo Club, Toledo Country Club, and Toledo Rotary Club, as well as Inverness, Masons, Scottish Rite, and Zenobia Shriners. He was also a member of Tryon, NC County Club, Tryon Rotary Club, and the National Rifle Association.
Surviving are his wife of 38 years, Lou Rubini; his former wives, Joan Leslie and Gwendolyn Mullins, sons, Stan, Mark, and Brad Rubini; daughters, Janis Donlon, Gail Rubini-Tapernoux, and Karla Chesser; stepdaughters, Barb French and Debbie Howland; a stepson, Jeff Bleim,19 grandchildren, 22 great-grandchildren, and two great-great-grandchildren.
Services were Tuesday in Columbus, NC. Arrangements were by McFarland Funeral Chapel, Tryon, NC.
A date or location for visitation in the Toledo area has not been set.
The family suggests tributes to the Toledo Rotary or the Hospice of the Carolina Foothills, Landrum, SC.
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