John F. Weinberger
Last updated 9/16/2020 at 4:09pm | View PDF
John F. Weinberger, 88, of Naperville and Austin, Texas, peacefully passed away Sept. 12, 2020, at his home in Austin.
John was born to John and Elisabeth Weinberger in 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 passion also charted the course of his career path, as he progressed from humble beginnings as an apprentice garage mechanic to become founder and CEO of Continental Motors Group, one of the largest privately held companies in the Chicago area and one of the Top 150 dealership groups in the nation.
John and his younger brother, Herm, were partners for more than 50 years. Together, they also worked for the A.M. Zelke Nash dealership in Berwyn 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 Herm focused on parts and body shop work at their shop in Lyons. 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. They soon also were representing Jaguar, MG and Toyota. The rapid business growth dictated a move, and John identified Countryside as a great place to establish a new dealership. Other franchises added during the 1970s and ’80s 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 and Illinois Automobile Trade associations and the American Import Auto Dealers Association.
John’s sons, Jay and Joel, continue to successfully operate the dealership group along with their cousin, Cheryl Nelson (Herm’s daughter).
As a young man, John enjoyed racing cars and earned numerous podium finishes during the 1960s while competing in Sports Car Club of America 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, 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.
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.
John and 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, Continental dealerships have donated 72 refurbished cars to deserving individuals who triumphed over their various challenges such as homelessness, substance abuse and physical abuse. John also mentored and provided scholarships to graduating high school students interested in a career involving the preservation and restoration of vintage cars. He also inspired his family dealership group to collectively donate to the construction of a new cancer institute at a local hospital.
He is survived by his wife, Lisa: his previous wives, Ramona (Lowy) and Joan Weinberger; his sons, Jay (Julie), Joel (Shannon) and Bob (Linda) Forrest; and many grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces, nephews and cousins.
He was preceded in death by his brothers, Joseph L. (Weinberger) Kreft (Charles Smith), Herman G. (Shirley) Weinberger and Ed Weinberger.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to The Footprints Foundation, c/o Continental AutoSports, 420 E. Ogden Ave., Hinsdale, IL 60521.
A private burial will take place in Hinsdale and a celebration of life will be held at a later date.
Sullivan Funeral Home in Hinsdale handled the arrangements.