Jeff Pate is not who you’d expect to build an automotive restoration empire from scratch. The 39-year-old, college-educated former mechanic apprentice started with an entrepreneurial gamble, a small-scale restoration operation nestled within a large metropolitan area. These days, Classic Cars of Houston touts itself as the largest auto restoration shop in the U.S., with 85 ongoing restorations in a 30,000 square foot facility. It’s quite likely this claim is for real; vehicles in his shop change every few weeks, with a waiting list longer than a Caddy’s tail fins.
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Great article that let us glimpse the business, the outside factors and the future impacts. I enjoyed reading it very much, and it is what I expect each morning from Hagerty.com. But I'm just one person with a purist's view of the collector car hobby.
I have been thinking for years now, who will handle these complex electrical systems and computers which failed on a regular basis back in the 80s-90s. Really a Raspberry Pi could perform most of the functions of an automotive computer and could be built into a plastic case which emulates the one which came from the factory, if form and aesthetics are an issue. Building a separate company which handles the electronics ONLY seems to be the best process to focus those processes in a clean room like environment and building a knowledge base to address any issue that comes up. Rebuilding each vehicles code base in a simpler, non-proprietary methodology and then loading it on a replacement computer would both future proof the vehicles make any subsequent restoration of the same vehicle much easier. No idea how to address the crappy plastics and dashboard designs from the 80s though.
Phil S. OKC
The "horseless carriage" comment is an interesting one. Consider:
The bad: carriage making is a lost art, happens when you go from 1000s of carriages just in the Taxi fleet of New York city to almost no one needing one ever.
The good: Horses are not a hobby for the financially limited. Sure NYC style taxi carriages are not in demand, but there is a lot of money in the horse hobby and peripherals around it. Someone makes a good living restoring old carriages, making modern racing buggies, etc.
The point... restoring cars will continue long after cars are obsolete. You might have to be super rich and part of one of those car-condo developments to drive a car, but you will still need mechanics and restorers.
What is the car in the first photo, shown with Jeff Pate? That car is gorgeous!
Great article. I note that as Mr. Pate suggests for his business, some high end older businesses, such as Paul Russell in Essex Mass, who restores Ralph Lauren's cars, also concentrates on certain brands. Russell started out restoring Mercedes 300 SLs.