Just Cool Cars: Used car dealer sells only classics – USA TODAY
CARSON, Calif. — As soon as you see the hot pink Volkswagen camper bus with the leopard-print seats, you know this is no normal used-car lot.
There are near-century-old Ford Model Ts and a vintage Packard. The showroom and much of the lot are stocked with some of the best American muscle cars of the 1960s and 1970s.
This is Back In The Day Classics, a vintage car dealer that has sort of morphed into a general memorabilia show palace and museum. Out front are the cars. In back are neon signs, toy planes, candy dispensers, movie props, collectible signs and just about everything else imaginable. It’s all for sale.
Without its often wacky inventory, Back In the Day might look like any other car emporium. It’s on the two-acre site of a former Chrysler dealership, one of hundreds of that closed during the recession with the blessing of downsizing Detroit automakers. But instead of having rows of the same models in different colors, the cars on the front of Back In the Day are all different — and often built decades apart.
Ray Claridge founded it. A veteran supplier of props to Hollywood, Claridge opened an auction business next door to the old car dealership and figured the could expand the operation to include classic cars. He owns about half of the 70-car inventory, and the rest come from owners putting their cars there on consignment.
Though Claridge acknowledges the business isn’t a big moneymaker so far, it does create a lot of goodwill on this working-class city’s main drag. “The most fun about this place is everyone who walks in has a smile on their face,” he says.
The day-to-day operations are left to General Manager Tony Martinez, who somehow manages to keep track of the wide variety of cars. On a recent visit, the oldest car was a 1915 Model T. The newest was a 2002 Chevolet Camaro SS. The cheapest was that forlorn Volkswagen camper van, priced at $8,500. The most expensive was a 1971 Oldsmobile Cutlass 442 W30 convertible at $180,000.
But the pales compared to the most expensive vehicle he has sold, a $225,000 1958 Dual Ghia convertible.
That one went to Germany, and with many sales coming through the Internet, many of the sold vehicles are shipped offshore. A 1967 Chevrolet Impala went to Australia. A 1915 Studebaker was shipped to Chile, Martinez says.
Back In the Day is selling about 100 cars a year, he says, with many of the sales coming from collectors through the Internet. The lot is irresistible to many passers-by, but Martinez says he recognizes that it takes a special person to appreciate a collector car.
“We don’t expect the everyday Joe to come in and buy something,” he says.