The Cleveland Plain Dealer

Hobby turns into serious business for car collectors

There’s an old adage that basically states, “find a job you love and you’ll never work another day in your life.”

When it comes to having a job they love, Lee Wolff and Matt Harwood just may have a lot of us beat. The pair own and operate Vintage Motor Cars in Warrensville Heights, a company that markets vintage and classic vehicles for a fee.

“I started the business three years ago, but I have been a collector since 1972,” said Wolff, founder of the company. “I was only a collector until a few years ago when I left the restaurant business and found myself with nothing to do.”
As Wolff got further and further into his hobby of collecting classic and vintage cars, friends started to suggest that he use his contacts as the basis of a new business, and that’s when Vintage Motor Cars was born.
“From my years as a collector, one of my strengths is knowing the owners and finding the cars,” Wollf said. “Matt’s strength is that he knows how to describe and sell the cars. We are a great complement to one another. It’s a perfect fit.”
Harwood does have previous experience with a similar company, Best of Show Automotive, which has since moved out of state. But it was also much larger and focused more on muscle cars than vintages and classics.
Vintage Motor Cars only has about 40 vehicles in stock at its two Warrensville Heights’ locations. But the value of the inventory is worth in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and possibly much more.
While the company does buy and sell vehicles when it finds a good deal, it is actually designed as a marketing company that represents the owners of a vehicle. Using the Internet and other media, the company sells and ships vehicles around the world, even shipping to destinations as far away as Australia or Norway.
“In fact, about 30 percent of our business comes from overseas customers,” said Harwood. “They are more direct in terms of what they want, and they buy it without beating around the bush.
“We charge our clients a fee for our marketing services,” Harwood added. “We are essentially a classic and vintage vehicle marketing firm. Quite a few of the vehicles we have on site are owned by someone else who simply doesn’t want to go through the hassle of selling a car, describing the car, or buying the ads.”
The company specializes in vintage and classic vehicles, most of which are museum pieces in various stages of condition, from totally restored to needing minor work. Many also have much of the original equipment on them.
“What’s surprising, with a business like this, is how many people will actually ship us their cars, some of which are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Wolff. “On the other hand, it’s amazing to see just how many people will buy a vehicle going on just the vehicle’s description and some photos.
“Of course, we won’t ship any vehicle until all of the funds have arrived,” Wolff added. “But they do arrive.”
You might think that with price tags in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, being a classic or vintage vehicle collector is only a hobby that can be pursued by the very rich.
“That’s not so,” said Harwood. “In fact, it’s just like any other kind of car market. For instance, we have a 1936 Ford that is very affordable. And then we have a 1925 Bentley that is worth hundreds of thousands.”
Of course, the rarer the car, the more expensive it usually becomes, especially if it’s an upscale brand like a Bentley.
“But if you’re serious about getting into a hobby like vintage car collecting, you can get into it for as little as $12,000 if you find the right car,” Harwood said. “And it doesn’t matter whether you’re driving a Ford or a Bentley, you’re still going to have a whole lot of fun.”

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