In a 40,000-square-foot showroom lined end-to-end with about 200 classic rides, Scott Remington was getting acquainted with a 1930 Ford steel-bodied, custom five-window coupe.
"These cars are hard to find," Remington said as he circled the hot rod. His task: to document what will end up in a final draft of the car’s storied history for the Streetside Classics website. The 350 V8 engine, the suicide doors hinged at the rear, the black and chrome steering wheel or the custom paint job with old-school flames licking the length of the car. When it’s all done, shoppers will see five paragraphs of enticing description, more than 70 photographs of the car and a video.
Streetside Classics, located off State Road 54, is a consignment dealership — a place where you might stumble across your father’s Oldsmobile or whatever else he drove back in the day. It’s one of six showrooms nationwide managed by company president Donna Robbins.
In 2008, after 10 years in the business, Robbins took the helm of the Streetside Classics showroom in Charlotte, North Carolina. She opened a second in Atlanta in 2010, followed by showrooms in Fort Worth, Lutz, Nashville and the latest in Phoenix in 2017.
Streetside raked in $65 million in car sales nationwide in 2017, according to Matthew Haley, sales manager at the Lutz location. That dealership had $11.5 million in sales in 2017, and has had $26.5 million in sales since opening in 2015. About 90 percent of the inventory goes to out-of-state or overseas buyers who shop online, Haley said.
The dealership fills a niche for classic car enthusiasts from afar, but also has a positive economic impact locally, said Hope Allen, president of the North Tampa Chamber of Commerce.
"It’s a unique asset in our community. They are bringing in new dollars from outside the community, and those are the most desirable tax dollars," she said. "The space they lease is a nice chunk of real estate investment. The facility is beautiful and their inventory is incredible. For any car person, it’s a museum."
Streetside Classic showrooms are located in warmer climates, Haley said. "They (buyers) don’t want the northern cars that might have problems with rust, and Florida is full of old cars."
The business model appeals to those trying to sell, as well as those looking to buy, Haley said, with an average selling time of about 50 days.
"We keep the car here in the showroom," he said. "You don’t have to put it on Craigslist or deal with people coming to your house and haggling."
Most cars in the showroom are owned by people who live within a one-hour radius, Haley said, adding "We get a lot of repeat business — collectors thinning their herds."
Some cars come with higher price tags, but most sell for $20,000 to $30,000, Haley said, and Streetside takes a 12.5 percent commission.
Each car that comes in gets a test drive and is spot-checked for rust and structural issues.
"The cars are not perfect," Haley said. "They’re old, and a lot of them leak, but if anything is structurally wrong, we won’t take it. If they are asking too much, we won’t take it."
The shop sells cars "as is," with no warranty. Some buyers fly in to inspect cars or send a mechanic.
"Some of our buyers are looking for an investment," Haley said. "Some want to buy a car to go to the car shows on the weekend or out for a Sunday drive, and sell it later on and not lose money on it."
"The customer depends on us to be their eyes and ears," Remington said. "If a horn doesn’t work or a blinker doesn’t work, we want them to know."
Online customers are the dealership’s bread and butter, but the dealership welcomes walk-ins — even if those who are just there just to look.
The dealership also hosts two car shows annually, as well as a Caffeine and Classics meet-up the last Saturday of each month for enthusiasts wanting to mingle and perhaps show off their own rides.
About a dozen regulars stop by weekly to see what’s new and what’s sold, Haley said.
Then there are the first timers, whose eyes light up when they see that dream car — a 1964.5 Dynasty Green Ford Mustang, a 2004 Dodge Viper Heffner Twin Turbo, or the cherry red 1957 Chevy Bel Air that’s been fitted with a modern LS1 Corvette V8 engine.
"I see it all the time," Remington said. "They come in and see their first car, or the car they had to sell when the first baby came along, or the car they wrecked racing from street light to street light."
Remington, who has restored a few cars, said he knows the feeling well. "At the end of the day, we’re all classic car enthusiasts in here."
Asked about his favorite ride and he strutted over to a 1970 lime green Plymouth Barracuda that’s on the way out the door after selling in five days for close to $40,000.
"It’s a classic muscle car," he said as he lifted up the hood. "Large and in charge with a big block motor. Lots of horse power. Very fast."
Contact Michele Miller at [email protected] Follow at MicheleMiller52.