August '19

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12 THE SHOP AUGUST 2019 Truly Nolan once told us in a phone interview. Nolan had many locations in the South and Southwestern United States, where cars could sit out without deteriorating too badly. He took his wife's older Cadillac convertible to a shop to have some repairs made and it took time to find the needed parts. While the car—which was let- tered with the Truly Nolan phone number—sat in the gas station, he got lots of calls to buy the car. He was able to convert many calls into exter- minating jobs. This gave Nolan the idea to use old cars for advertising. He bought hundreds of vehicles in classic car auctions and offered gas station owners $25 a month to put the car on their properties. After a year or so, he would take that car back to an auction and sell it (sometimes for a profit) and buy another car for the same purpose. It was cheap advertising and it worked like gangbusters. Classic vehicles always get attention. Old cars mounted on poles have been used to attract customers to automotive businesses probably since the beginning of automotive history. We once saw a traveling Chevrolet exhibit where a 4x4 pickup was placed on a fake mountain pretty high in the sky. It was no easy operation and required lots of special equipment to lift the truck and secure it safely on the platform. But once it was there, it got as much attention as a Roaring '20s polesitter. We'd recommend having anything along these lines professionally installed. You may want to letter the vehicle with a logo or phone number. Another variation on this type of adver- tising is the car that's cut into pieces with the front end, rear end or entire half-side mounted on the wall of the shop. Some restaurant chains—such as Studebaker's— also used this technique. Hudson's restaurants seemed to follow suit, but those half-a-Hudsons on the wall were actually fiberglass reproductions. As with polesitters, you'll want to carefully plan any attempt to mount pieces of a vehicle on your building. Safety should be your primary concern. MUFFLERMOBILES & CAR SHOW DISPLAYS Some shops have come up with creative ways to build display cars that promote their businesses. The Mufflermobile was built by Joe, Scott and Steve Minghenelli, who operate Meineke Muffler Shops in Berlin and Marlton, New Jersey. Joe and his sons started making muffler men and muf- fler dogs to display in their shops. They moved up to the big leagues with the 1-ton, 16-foot-long Mufflermobile. It is based on a mini-pickup from which the brothers removed all the sheet metal, doors, fenders and cargo bed. They created a framework to hold the 16-gauge panels used to build the new, muffler-shaped outer body. Meanwhile, Muscle-Up Performance in Janesville, Wisconsin—owned by NASCAR truck driver Rich Bickle—fabricated a cut- away Mustang that illustrated how the shop could upgrade the stock Ford suspension. Then, the same shop built a pickup truck cab that was half stock and half chopped. These vehicles were taken to car shows to interest potential clients in the shop's services. Fliers were given out at the shows to help people locate the shop. ANYTHING AUTOMOTIVE For shops on a tight budget, anything automotive that fits the classic or specialty vehicle niche can be used to draw people in. One business located in a steel building turned it into an old Texaco station and parked a bunch of old cars near it. At my own Gunner's Great Garage, we bought an old '75 Ford wrecker and had it lettered up with the company name and logo. Now, we simply park it outside. People driving by notice the old tow truck and associate it with auto repair. Later, we will probably be able to sell it for a profit. THE INTERNET As we all know, location isn't strictly phys- ical anymore. You don't have to be a global company to compete with shops all over the country or the world. If you have the right kind of internet real estate you can lure customers to your shop with a website, Facebook page or Twitter account. Just remember, the internet alone won't do it. As we pointed out, a lot of customers for specialty vehicle work are in their 50s, 60s, 70s or even 80s. Many of them are proud of their flip-phones and the fact that they have no idea how to use a computer. They may not want these things, but they do want cool cars. The tips in this article may help you bring them into your shop. JOHN GUNNELL has been writing about classic cars since 1972. He is also the owner of Gunner's Great Garage in Manawa, Wisconsin. He owns 11 cars and seven motorcycles. A flying "General Lee" Dodge Charger at Doc's Harley-Davidson gets looks and laughs. On a nearby pole is a police car "chasing" the Charger.

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