April 18, 1932 – September 12, 2020
John F. Weinberger of Naperville, Illinois and Austin, Texas, peacefully passed away September 12, 2020 at his home in Austin at the age of 88. John was born in Illinois on April 18, 1932 in the backseat of a ’32 Chevrolet, which early on set the stage for his lifelong passion for cars. John was the consummate car, racing, and driving fanatic with a special aura felt by all who knew him.
John’s car passion also charted the course of his career path, as he progressed from his humble beginnings as an apprentice garage mechanic to becoming the founder and CEO of one of the largest privately held companies in the Chicagoland area and one of the Top 150 dealership groups in the nation. The dealerships are located in the western suburbs of Chicagoland and employs over 700 people, many who have worked for the Continental Motors Group for over half their lives.
John and his younger brother Herm were partners for over 50 years. Together, they also worked for the A.M. Zelke Nash dealership in Berwyn, IL before establishing Continental Motors in 1962 to specialize in the sales and service of imported cars. In the early days, John specialized in sales and service operations while his brother Herm focused on parts and body shop work at their shop in Lyons, IL. The brothers’ stellar reputation among Chicagoland foreign car enthusiasts came to the attention of Triumph Motor Cars. As a result, they were offered the opportunity to become an authorized Triumph dealer. Within a short time, they were also representing Jaguar, MG, and Toyota. The rapid business growth dictated a move, and John identified Countryside, IL as a great place to establish a new dealership facility. Other notable franchises added during the 70’s and early 80’s were Honda, Datsun (now Nissan), and Ferrari.
John was also very dedicated to the retail automobile industry, having served several terms as a respected board member of the Chicago Automobile Trade Association (CATA), the Illinois Automobile Trade Association (IADA), and the American Import Auto Dealers Association (AIADA).
According to his son Jay, “I didn’t have to look further than my own father to find a mentor.” In fact, John was the ideal mentor for both of his sons, Jay and Joel. Each of them continues to successfully operate the dealership group along with their cousin, Cheryl Nelson (Herm’s daughter).
John's youngest son Joel stated "I feel so fortunate that my father and I could share our love of cars both on and off the racetrack, and I am extra grateful of the automotive business legacy he founded and welcomed me into with open arms."
Eileen, a longtime Continental AutoSports employee, stated that “John’s love of Continental is shared by all of his employees. He was a leader who truly cared about his people. He always lead by example. It was his respect for each and every one of us that made his team so strong. We were proud to know he had confidence in our abilities which allowed him to enjoy well-deserved time off in Texas with his wife Lisa. We love him, he will always have a special place in each of our hearts.”
As a young man, John enjoyed racing cars and earned numerous podium finishes during the 1960’s while competing in Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) events. He continued his winning ways later in life by racing vintage cars until the age of 84 with his wife Lisa and his son Joel. His racing success over the years led to his induction into the Road Racers Drivers Club (RRDC), where he joins an exclusive group of famous race car drivers. He was also a past board member of the SCCA and active member of various vintage racing clubs including SVRA, VSCDA, and HSR.
Hugh Ruthven, a fellow vintage racer and member of John’s lunch bunch in Illinois, has been a friend for more than 40 years. Together, they ran rallies, attended auctions and races, and just talked cars – from Formula One to their own collections.
Hugh said, “John wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. A bunch of guys were standing around my Bandini Formula Junior, trying to bleed the brakes. John grabbed a wrench and a few seconds later, he hopped in the car to test his handiwork. He easily moved from car guy to gregarious host, starting a monthly lunch bunch of guys more than 15 years ago. He purposely included men of various professions and political persuasions because he really enjoyed the give-and-take of the conversations. John always looked at situations in a positive light, even finding a way to stay jovial after grueling chemotherapy. He was a great leader and human being. I will miss his insights, integrity and companionship.” He also formed a similar lunch bunch with new car friends in Austin, TX.
He met his wife Lisa at a tollbooth as both were driving down the Illinois Tollway. As a research/marketing specialist for a local firm, Lisa recognized him from a trade association directory. John didn’t have exact change that day, and she offered him the coins and her phone number. A few years later, they had their wedding ceremony at that same tollbooth in Oak Brook, IL. For over 30 years, they participated in many vintage car races, rallies, and auctions around the world. During that time, John demonstrated his skills as a savvy collector of rare and unusual vintage cars. According to Lisa, “we packed 100 years of living into the years we had together. He was the perfect soulmate of a husband who was adventurous, fun-loving, and passionate about cars. I do have faith that our lives were meant to merge. John had a full and purposeful life filled with legacy.”
John & Lisa dedicated much of their lives to social responsibility which will continue through their private foundation. They initiated the Continental Motors Group “Driven to Care” car giveaway program. To date, the Continental dealerships have donated 72 refurbished cars to deserving individuals who triumphed over their various challenges such as homelessness, substance abuse, and physical abuse. He also mentored and provided scholarships to graduating high school students interested in a career involving the preservation and restoration of vintage cars. He enjoyed meeting recipients face-to-face, and his heart always melted upon hearing their stories and learning how having a car or a career with cars transformed their lives. He also inspired his family dealership group to collectively donate to the construction of a new cancer institute at a local hospital.
Lucky to live a life he loved with people he adored, John was surrounded by an abundance of wonderful family, friends, and employees who became extended family.
In addition to his loving wife Lisa, he is survived by previous wives Ramona (Lowy) and Joan Weinberger, sons Jay (Julie), Joel (Shannon), Bob (Linda) Forrest, and many grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces, nephews and cousins. He will especially be missed by his pooches Chica and Alie. He was preceded in death by his brothers Joseph L. (Weinberger) Kreft (Charles Smith), Herman G. Weinberger (Shirley), Ed Weinberger and his parents John and Elisabeth Weinberger.
A special thanks to all his caregivers, MD Anderson, Texas Oncology & Choice Homecare who helped him live a quality life until he “crossed the finish line”. They were an A+ “pit crew”!
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to The Footprints Foundation, in care of Continental AutoSports, 420 E. Ogden Ave., Hinsdale, IL 60521. Founded by John and Lisa, the foundation funds high school graduates to further their education in vintage automotive preservation & restoration and technical training along with supporting a variety of charities in both Illinois, Texas, as well as internationally.
Arrangements are being handled by Weed Corley Fish Funeral Home. Details at dignitymemorial.com. Services will be held at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) on September 21, 2020.
All guests will be asked to enter at parking lot A and remain in their vehicles. COTA officials will help with the procession line. Services will be on the grid from inside your vehicle where guests will be able to view the service on the big screen followed by a final victory lap as a group.
Light fare will be provided (Chicago-style).
A private burial will take place in Hinsdale, IL and a celebration of life will be held at a later date.
Those unable to attend the funeral can view the services which will be uploaded at a later date at johnweinbergerlegacy.com where personal and car videos featuring John can be viewed, and online condolences can be posted.
"The Victory Lap” Service Day Details
Date: Monday September 21, 2020 at 4:00 p.m. Location: Circuit of the Americas
Family and Lunch Bunch please arrive at the Weinberger’s Home no later than 1:50 p.m. John’s procession will leave from the Weinberger’s home promptly at 2 pm.
Ferrari, Alfa Romeo & Porsche Clubs have been requested to arrive to Weed Corley Fish South Congress Funeral Home no later than 2 pm. John's Procession will leave from the Weinberger’s home and proceed to Weed Corley Fish Funeral Home to allow club members to join John's procession.
Friends of the family have been asked to arrive at Weed Corley Fish South Congress Funeral Home by 2 pm or at Circuit Of The Americas no later than 3:30 pm. Services will start promptly at 4 p.m.
Upon arrival to Circuit Of The Americas proceed to Parking Lot A, close to the intersection of FM812 and Circuit Of The Americas Boulevard.
From Lot A: Operations personal will guide you through Tunnel 1. Please follow the line leader. You will be directed to your grid position.
* Please do not move once placed on the Track. You are welcome to stand or sit on the Track Wall for the Services. We ask that you maintain Social Distancing. Dress is racetrack attire.
Monday, September 21, 2020
September 18, 2020
Jon was a valued racing customer of my old race car preparation business. What a wonderful, warm, caring man! He did have an alternate personality on the race track! I wouldn’t want to have him in my mirrors! He was a fierce competitor. I have vivid memories of him flying up the front straight away at Elkhart Lake leading a pack of howling racers in his beloved Lotus 23B. Rest In Peace my friend.
“May you go even faster in heaven“
September 18, 2020
I was fortunate to be able to assist John in writing the story of his life, “Behind the Wheel, Steering the Course of Continental Motors”. He was humble, straight forward, self-effacing and full of good humor. An old fashioned gentleman and a joy to work with. I can appreciate how much he will be missed by his employees and friends in Chicago and Austin. Prayers to his family.
September 16, 2020
My deepest sympathy to your family in the passing of John.
September 15, 2020
On behalf of the Westmont Auto Mile dealerships, we express our sincere condolences and prayers to family and friends of John. It was indeed a pleasure to know and work with John, he is a legend in the automotive industry. Most importantly, while John shall missed he will remain in the hearts and history here in the greater Chicago area and beyond.
John & Bonnie Calfa
September 15, 2020
What an honor it was to know John all these years going back as far as our golf games at Edgewood Valley Country Club. John contributed much to the lives of all who may have met him.
Rest in Peace,
John & Bonnie Calfa
September 15, 2020
John was an amazing man. Through a common friend I had the opportunity to tour part of his car collection. He spent 1-2 hours taking me through the collection one on one. Only when we got to his Talbot Lago recreation, did I realize we met years before. He was driving that car on 75th Street in Naperville. I had my 1986 Mustang GT convertible and at a stop light he said, did you know these 2 cars both had the same engine? I said, 'I did!! That car was built in Florida, wasn't it?" He was surprised I knew the background. I did not realize until this evening that John, was also a member of the VSCDA.
Like Ed Schoenthaler and Paul Hepburn, (2 other preeminent car collectors in Chicago's west suburbs who predeceased John) John was a Gentleman's Gentleman who was truly passionate about vehicles and willingly shared his passion. It was my honor and pleasure to have met him. Thank you Debbie Law!!