Classic car rentals become work incentive
Thursday, May 29, 2003
By Eric Pope / Special to The Detroit News
Robin Buckson / The Detroit News
BIRMINGHAM -- Last year partners Joe Roebuck and Larry Zahra of Classic Auto Resources (CAR) went into the business of fulfilling the automotive fantasies of people who can't afford to own the car of their dreams.
They rent classic cars for the weekend, the month or summer.
Now Roebuck and Zahra are marketing their idea to businesses as an incentive program for customers and employees. IKON Office Solutions in Novi and President Tuxedo in Warren are offering a weekend classic car rental as a performance incentive for employees.
"About 80 percent of our repair office equipment technicians are male and most are 25 to 40 years old, so everyone's pretty excited about it," said Rob Lobeck, an IKON division service manager.
Spartan Distributors of Auburn Hills used the classic car weekend package as a customer reward for its irrigation equipment division.
"We've used everything from trips to gift certificates as incentives, and this is unique," said Mark Gunderson, Spartan's irrigation sales manager.
Marc Dutton of Marc Dutton Irrigation in Waterford made some additional purchases of equipment to become one of the first two winners. He plans to use a 1959 Cadillac convertible for the weekend routine of soccer games and trips to the ice cream store.
"My kids are even more excited than I am," he said.
Dutton also wants to rent the classic car for at least one weekday so that he can drive his kids to school and take his office staff to lunch.
CAR charges $550 for the weekend rental of premium vintage cars such as a 1957 Thunderbird. A weekend cruise costs $450 for a 1959 Chevrolet Impala or $390 for a 1966 Mustang convertible.
More than 90 percent of CAR's business comes on convertibles, and the most popular models are Mustangs, Corvettes and GTOs. In just their second year of business, Roebuck and Zahra hope for 65-70 percent utilization on a stable of 35 classic cars. CAR provides financing for classic cars and also does restoration work and appraisals.
So far about 15 percent of the customers have purchased the cars they have rented.
"People can drive a car for a month or so to see if they like it. No one else allows you to do that," Zahra said.
Jim Peters of Dearborn Heights recently fulfilled one of his wife Barbara's high school dreams by renting a "triple white" 1965 Mustang -- white body, white convertible top and white upholstery -- as a surprise 20th anniversary present. They put on their Red Wings sweatshirts and cruised down to Monroe on Saturday and up to Port Huron on Sunday.
"It was almost a spiritual experience," Peters said."Everyone who sees you smiles. They give the thumbs-up sign or honk. Everyone wants to share their stories. If you want world peace, just let everyone drive a classic car for the weekend."
(Photo)Co-owner Lawrence Zahra shows off many of Classic Auto Resources's classic cars for rent or lease in Birmingham.
My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.
My next Ford.....