Classic cars find a nice home

SYLVANIA – What started as a place in northwest Ohio to buy and sell classic cars has evolved into a restoration service, a worldwide business – and even a gathering place for people interested in reminiscing about the golden ages of transportation.

“Cars are our interest,” said General Manager Chuck Putsch, one of three partners in Central Classic Cars with John Coppus of Tiffin and Ken Wise of Sylvania. “It’s quite different in the Toledo area. I think we’re pretty much unique in the northwest portion of Ohio and I think you could make a bigger circle from there.”

Putsch is former owner of Seneca Hills Golf Course near Tiffin and Coppus is owner of Coppus Motors of Tiffin.

“The partners have been friends for more than 20 years,” Putsch said. “It was a coincidence kind of happening that we just got together on this. It’s worked out extremely well.

“It’s a delight to be involved with a business like this,” he said. “It’s kind of nice. We each bring a little something different to the table as far as business goes. We have three different ways of thinking, to some degree.”

Putsch calls on the people skills he enjoys to interact with customers.

“Basically, I’m the partner that is here on a daily basis,” Putsch said. “I’m not here for a job. I also want to create a feel for a whole atmosphere of the fun part of the car industry. We have kind of a slogan, ‘Fun with Wheels.”

When Central Classic Cars opened two years ago at 8444 Central Ave., Sylvania, it was a place to buy and sell classic cars.

Then, the business added repair and service of classic cars.

And repair has turned into restoration. So much so that the partners are adding another building.

“We got involved in several restorations over the last year,” Putsch said. “The business keeps morphing into something else. We needed additional space for the restoration portion of it.”

To the original 5,000-square-foot original showroom, the partners are adding another 5,000-square-foot building for restoration.

Part of that space is to become a place to display memories as well.

“It’ll be very much like a museum, quite honestly,” Putcsh said. “John’s family has been involved (with cars) since the late 1920s. We have a lot of memorabilia.”

In addition to the physical aspect of cars, Putsch said the store deals with emotions and memories.

“It’s more than just a place to get your car fixed,” he said. “We’re on a very busy road. We’ve got people stopping in just to look.”

It’s a place to socialize as well.

“We’re here to be kind of a gathering place,” he said. “People stop by just to walk around and look and hang out.

“I would hope people come here to talk cars, compare ideas and so forth,” he said. “Here’s a place where people can come to hang out, read a magazine and talk cars. And that’s just what we’re trying to achieve.”

About a year ago, Putsch said the business hosted a group of car enthusiasts from Europe to travel Route 66 from the East Coast to the West Coast.

“We had 45 people from the Netherlands, England, Switzerland and other places,” he said. “We went to dinner. Some of them didn’t even speak English.”

“That’s something that’s totally not a business thing,” he said. “It was just a wonderful day. It was one of the best days since we’ve been here.”

Car clubs also use the spot for meetings and get-togethers.

A monthly gathering called Toledo Cars & Coffee takes place once a month. Upcoming dates are 9 a.m.-noon Aug. 11, Sept. 7, Oct. 13 and Nov. 10.

“We have various facets to the business and they all kind of play off of each other,” he said.

For example, the store also sells automotive murals.

“For a guy that has that special place,” he said. “More than just a garage or more than just a basement.”

If a car enthusiast wants a large picture of his or her favorite car on a wall of an office or a garage or a basement, Central Classic Cars can provide murals in such sizes as 6 feet by 4 feet or 9 feet by 7 feet or even 13 feet by 9 feet.

“They come in a variety of sizes,” he said. “A person could literally have a photo of their own car taken and put on one of these things.”

The mural can be created on heavy vinyl with pipes at the top and bottom, or on canvas to create the look a large picture or painting.

“Or you can put in into wallpaper and you can actually wallpaper a garage or a room,” he said. “Things like this can create a wonderful focal point.”

Some examples of scenes include racing cars, classic cars and scenes where cars are driving through a forest.

“There’s a scene like an old gas station and we have the rights to all the Hot Rod magazine covers,” he said. “You can also put your own car on the magazine cover.”

Living in northwest Ohio isn’t really necessary to take part in the business, Putsch said.

“Quite honestly, many of our cars are not being sold in Ohio,” he said. “Many go the East and West coasts. “That’s not a surprise at all. The two coasts are more affluent, more discretionary income.”

Through online communication, he has sold cars to people as far away as the south of France and Argentina.

“It doesn’t particularly matter where you are,” he said. “Being on a busy road helps with local exposure, but with the Internet makes for a very small world.

“Ninety-five percent of the time they’ve never seen the car before it’s dropped off to them from a truck, except for pictures and Internet images,” he said. “So they know who I am. So they trust what I’m telling them. They’re people I now know but have never met.”

For more local classic car owners, there’s a high-end detailing service.

“It’s not simply washing and waxing, but we’re involved with products that are very unique,” he said. “The detail portion of the business can make any car look incredible and have a very good longevity.”

And for cars that need some fixing up, the new building is to provide space for a body shop with a spray booth for body and paint work.

“We’ll be able to do a lot of things in-house,” he said. “We’ll have mechanical lists and tools and all those types of things.”

“We deal with a lot of different types of cars,” Putsch said. “But we specialize in convertibles, a fun summer car. A large percentage of the cars that we buy to resell are convertibles.”

But the business also handles trucks, motorcycles, coupes and sedans.

“It runs the gamut, really,” he said. “Both European and American.”

Recent examples include a 1998 Ferrari, a 1955 Thunderbird, a 1962 Thunderbird, a 1931 Studebaker convertible and a 1964 Studebaker pickup truck.

“Cars have to have a fun level, a rarity, a uniqueness,” Putsch said. “As long as they’re the rare kind of car or the kind that puts a smile on your face when driving it.”

One of the attractions of older cars is the driving experience, Putsch said.

“Older cars from the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, they give you a whole different feel, a whole different experience,” he said. “It might not be the smoothest shifting, but it’s an experience, that passion of driving that you lose with today’s modern cars.

“For a lot of people it brings back memories of the past,” he said. “Drive-in movies and Jolly’s. Our whole lives have revolved around cars.

“We don’t sell cars, we’re selling an experience,” he said. “People who are reliving the past or trying to grab hold of the past.”