Magazine article Black Enterprise

A Special Ride: How a Car Enthusiast Drives with Passion. (Automotive)

Magazine article Black Enterprise

A Special Ride: How a Car Enthusiast Drives with Passion. (Automotive)

Article excerpt

They can have any color they want, as long as it's black," was Henry T. Ford's response to requests for color variety in his Model T. Today, thanks to the growth of the automotive aftermarket industry, color is the least of the options available to car enthusiasts. Total automotive aftermarket retail, including accessories, performance parts, and custom wheels, grew into a $26 billion industry in 2001. That's up 46% from 1996, says Jim Spoonhower, vice president of market research with aftermarket trade group Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA). Aftermarket spending for the restoration of antique cars in 2001 was just over $1 billion retail, up 32% from 1996.

Why the growth? There are a number of reasons, says Spoonhower. "First of all, most vehicles today look very much alike, so customizing your vehicle differentiates it from 300,000 others like it," he explains. "Another [reason] is, as consumers, we are very busy. If we're spending a lot of time in our vehicle, whether it's for commuting or it's recreational, we want it to be comfortable, enjoyable; we want it to really reflect our tastes."

Classics

1955 Ford Thunderbird

Isaac Lester Jr. Fort Lee, NJ

Growing up in the 1960s, I always wanted a muscle car," says Isaac Lester Jr., president of Education Highway, a publication that encourages college-bound urban youth to attend HBCUs.

A couple decades later, Lester would have his chance when he met a co-worker who shared his passion. "He owned a 1967 Galaxy 500 but wouldn't sell it to me," Lester, 48, recalls. "Then one day he got drunk and tore the driver's side up." Lester purchased the car for $750 and paid $1,500 to restore it. He still owns the Galaxy 500 today and plans to keep it.

Since his initial purchase, Lester has bought and restored multiple vehicles, including a 1969 Carmengia drop top convertible, a 1964 Lincoln Continental drop top with suicide doors, a 1962 Thunderbird, and a 1955 Thunderbird. Lester handles most of the restoration process himself, spending upwards of $10,000, and he will usually sell the restored vehicle after a few years. "I fixed up and resold the 1962 Thunderbird from the bullet era for $35,000. I bought it for around $350," he says. Lester still owns the 1955 Thunderbird he purchased for $20,000 but eventually intends to sell it to help put his daughter through college. "If you get a guy who's a millionaire, who got his first kiss from a girl in a 1955 Thunderbird, he will spend whatever you ask," Lester says. "It's a great investment."

Lester has also registered his vehicles with production companies that sometimes place antique cars in movies or commercials. "They will pay maybe $400 per day to park it on the street, and $2,000 per day if it is driven," he says. His Galaxy 500 has been in three commercials, including one for Frito-Lay.

Restoring a Classic

Lester looks for cars and parts on the Internet and in the car magazine Hemmings Motor News. …

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