Otis Chandler took a newspaper that had generated almost as much ridicule as revenue and turned it into one of the nation's best. (Los Angeles Times / October 15, 2014)

"He told me, 'You created a great newspaper, Otis, and we'll make you proud,' " Chandler said. "That's more than I ever heard from Mark Willes."

Six weeks later, on the day that John Puerner of Tribune Co. took over as publisher of The Times, Chandler had dinner with Puerner and Jack Fuller, then-president of Tribune Publishing -- at their invitation.

"They asked me a lot of questions and made me feel welcome again," Chandler said a few days later. "For the first time in five years, I felt like I wasn't a leper. I always had the feeling that I wasn't welcome in the building when Mark was in charge -- that maybe they'd have a guard try to throw me out if I tried to come in. But even though the paper and the company has been sold, it feels to me like I'm home again."

Chandler continued to meet regularly with Puerner and John Carroll, who became editor of The Times shortly after the Tribune purchased the paper and remained in that position until last summer.

"We treated him as an insider and told him what was happening," Carroll said. "It was clear to me that it meant a lot to him and that he didn't want to feel shut out."

Typically, Chandler would offer "gentle advice," Carroll said, but never try to dictate what the new management should do with the paper.

As much as Chandler remained interested in The Times, he immensely enjoyed his retirement years. He surfed. He hunted. He lifted weights three times a week in his home gym. He continued to ride motorcycles. At 71, he resumed playing tennis. Well into his 70s, he maintained a long-distance bicycling regimen that few people half his age could attempt.

He was also consumed by another passion: buying classic cars for his museum.

Because much of his Times Mirror stock was tied up in trust funds, a lot of his money came from buying and selling cars. He had purchased his first -- a 1931 Duesenberg -- in 1968 for $35,000, and he built a world-class collection of Porsches, Ferraris, Duesenbergs, Cadillacs, Packards and other classics before selling all of them to meet the financial terms of his divorce settlement.

When he started buying vintage cars again several years later, he purchased another 1931 Duesenberg, this time for $1.2 million, en route to building another world-class collection.

The collection also included dozens of vintage motorcycles, some of which were loaned to the Guggenheim Museum for its "Art of the Motorcycle" exhibit, which opened in 1998.

After his divorce, Chandler had begun to move his primary residence so often -- two places in Malibu, then Hancock Park, back to Malibu, Ojai, Rancho Matilija, Oregon, Ojai again -- that his children began teasing him about it.

In 1995, after moving to another ranch in Oregon, he announced that he'd found paradise. "They'll have to carry me out of here feet first," he said.

About a year later, he moved again. Three years after that, he began construction on a 5,500-square-foot home in Ojai, about 30 minutes from his museum.

"I think building houses is a replacement for the satisfaction he got from The Times," his wife, Bettina, said just before construction began on the Ojai house. "He's restless. He always has to have a project. For him a project is a process, a growth. I think he fears that he would die if he weren't building something."

Chandler "pursued excellence in every aspect of his life," said Tom Johnson. "He expected the very best of himself -- and of those around him."

"Here's a man who led a full life," said Otis Booth, his cousin and longtime hunting companion.

Chandler is survived by his wife; sons Harry of Los Angeles and Michael of Bend, Ore; daughters Cathleen Eckhardt of Soquel, Calif., and Carolyn Chandler of Santa Barbara; sister Camilla Chandler Frost of Los Angeles; and 15 grandchildren.

Shaw, The Times' longtime media critic, filed a draft of this obituary before his death Aug. 1. Landsberg did additional reporting and rewriting of the text.