By Nicole Hamilton
The Cincinnati Enquirer
WESTWOOD - In 1990, Karl B. Kleve stood before a Hamilton County judge and asked: "Do you know anyone in America who's limited to two cars? Especially one who loves cars? Cars are my life."
His collection began in 1939, when he purchased his mother's black 16-cylinder 1936 Cadillac sedan. In 1963, he bought a Type 46 Bugatti built in 1929.
And by 1990, friends were sifting through his cluttered yard on Harrison Avenue in Westwood, before its court-ordered clearing, salvaging the rusted-out remains of Karl Kleve's passion.
Mr. Kleve, 90, the collector, artist, designer, author, and nuclear scientist with the well-known west side lawn, died Wednesday at his Westwood home of prostate cancer.
"He dreamed of designing the perfect automobile," said his daughter, Kristine Lawson of Westwood. "He had a keen sense of justice and a strong sense of family. And he definitely wasn't held by tradition."
His 300 cars were scattered among some 40 properties along with old pianos, magazines, plastic motor-oil containers, stacks of $10 and $20 bills, a Navy rowboat from World War II and a fuselage of a B-29. One of his favorite cars was a 1973 Eldorado.
He earned a degree in engineering at the University of Cincinnati. Drafted into World War II, he was an Army sergeant chosen to help work on the atomic bomb project in Los Alamos, N.M.
Mr. Kleve returned home to work in the family insurance business, and to build the perfect car.
He designed a total of 24 experimental cars, including the 19-foot Kleve 22, which wore aircraft tires strong enough to land a 20,000-pound plane.
He broke even on his book on the prevention of baldness. His theory was that baldness is caused by poor circulation of the blood, and advised bending forward.
"Survivors include two other daughters, Karyl Kleve of Monfort Heights and Katrina English of Middletown; two stepsons, Mark Hankins of Oxford and Steve Hankins of Norwalk, Calif.; five grandchildrenand six step-grandchildren.
Service will be 11 a.m. today at Neidhard-Minges Funeral Home, 3155 Harrison Ave., Westwood.
Burial will be in St. Mary's Cemetery, St. Bernard.
Memorials can be made to the American Cancer Society, 11117 Kenwood Road Cincinnati, OH 45242 or the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 3949 Colerain Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45223.
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