Where does an Arab sheik go to buy a collectible American car? Sarasota, Florida, via the internet. Classic Cars of Sarasota recently sold a 2008 Dodge Viper to a member of the Qatar royal family for $102,000, and shipped it overnight for another $15,500.
“Ninety percent of our sales are over the internet, and 67 percent of our business comes from overseas,” said Doug Page, a partner with Chris Zlamal. “Europeans especially are investing in cars because their currency is inflating, and these cars hold their value,” Page explains.
A subsidiary of the 22-year-old Specialty Cars on South Tamiami Trail in Sarasota, Classic Cars opened in November 2011 as a second location focusing on collectible cars. It is located at 6235 McIntosh Road in Sarasota, Florida, on a 2.9-acre property which once housed a postal distribution center.
The new operation has enjoyed a brisk business, selling to wealthy car enthusiasts in Australia, Canada, the Middle East and all over Europe. In addition to Vipers, Classic Cars also sells Corvettes, Camaros, Road Runners, Mustangs, Thunderbirds and other American classics, as well as British cars such as Bentleys and TR6s, and it even has a DeLorean for sale.
“The highest demand is for sixties and seventies muscle cars,” Page said.
The business basically consists of two parts, a car lot offering sales and consignments, and a 15,000-square-foot mechanic shop where the cars are repaired, cleaned and detailed.
Partner Zlamal owns and manages the repair and detailing operation, under the name of Florida Pony Cars. Page owns the dealership, along with Larry and Marcy Gilliland, who are also partners of Specialty Cars at 7150 South Tamiami Trail in Sarasota.
The classic cars come in several stages of condition, from museum pieces and super clean cars, to cars that some need work. “Some people want to restore it themselves,” Page explains.
One car, a 1957 Chevy that had been stored for two decades in an Ocala, Florida, chicken coop, was bought “as is” by a German car enthusiast even though it did not drive and was in very poor condition. The “bargain” price for this long neglected car was $35,000.
In addition to these so-called “barn finds,” Classic Cars buys cars from locals, auctions, and various auto and general internet websites. A life-long classic car enthusiast, Page has a number of personal sources, as well.
Once the new arrivals are cleaned and ready for sale, Zlamal photographs them and uploads them to the company’s flashy website, cleanclassiccars.com. Currently there are between 40 and 50 cars available for viewing on the website at any given time. If you want to learn more about any specific car, you can click on a You Tube link and see a video of Zlamal showing the car inside and out.
Page is a native of Kalamazoo, Michigan, who studied Automotive Engineering at Western Michigan University. Zlamal, a native of Akron, Ohio, studied Mechanical Engineering and worked as a tire engineer for Goodyear Racing.