High Times and Glass Cars in the Sunshine State: Classic Motor Carriages and the Gazelle

T​he fascinating story of Florida's gift to the American automotive world, and its signature product that you can still buy new parts for today.

6d ago
15.9K

M​ost North American, and many Western European, car enthusiasts, have seen or ridden in at least one Classic Motor Carriages fiberglass kit car. This Floridian firm was once the leading American manufacturer of vintage-replica kit cars, tracing its history back to late 196 when New Jersey native George Newman (1934-1977) began manufacturing a replica 1927 Bugatti 35B kit for a Volkswagen Beetle chassis in a small factory located at 14211 NE 18th Ave., in North Miami, Florida. Mr. Newman formally organized Bay Products Corp. with the Florida Department of State on November 30, 1967.

B​ay Products magazine ad from 1967

B​ay Products magazine ad from 1967

Similar vehicles were on the market at the time, another popular Type 35 Bugatti kit - dubbed Buggati - was manufactured in Buffalo, NY by Conrad K. Weiffenbach’s Antiques & Classics, Inc., but it was mostly a regional offering, and wasn't quite up to Bay Products' engineering & quality standards.

B​ay Products Bugatti kit magazine ad

B​ay Products Bugatti kit magazine ad

In 1973 Bay Products introduced a kit based upon a 1929 Mercedes-Benz SSK which they called the “Gazelle.” The car was introduced under the Tiffany Motor Cars moniker. Bay Products/Tiffany marketed their kits through the classified ad sections of Car and Driver, Cars & Parts, Flying, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Road & Track, Trailer Life and many other periodicals.

1​973-77 Tiffany Gazelle kit car.

1​973-77 Tiffany Gazelle kit car.

Its listing in the Automobile Club of Italy’s 1974 edition of World Cars, follows:

“Bay Products Corp. - USA - Started production of finished cars September, 1973. President: G. Newman, Head office, press office and works: 14211 Northeast 18th Ave., North Miami, Fia. 33161. 35 employees. 375 cars in finished and kit form produced in 1974.”

Increased demand for its products caused Bay Products to relocate to a much larger factory located at 4730 N.W. 128 Street Road, Opa-Locka, Florida, at some point in 1975. On September 23, 1975 Bay Products Corp. officially changed its address with the Florida Dept. of State to 4730 N.W. 128 Street Road, Opa-Locka, Florida. The Opa-Locka plant was shared with and owned by L.R. Alliance Mfg., a firm that made metal trash cans, benches and other products, established by Joe Harry Branam, Sr. in 1963.

Between 1967 and 1978, a small group of Bay Products/Tiffany Motor Cars/Classic Motor Carriages employees built small numbers of Bugatti Type 35 and Mercedes SSK replicas (Gazelle) in an a portion of the shared factory. Today 4730 N.W. 128 Street Road, Opa-Locka, is a large concrete slab and parking lot, although an outline of the original structure can been seen on Google maps.

1​976 Excalibur Series III. The inspiration of the Bay Products/Classic Motor Carriages Gazelle

1​976 Excalibur Series III. The inspiration of the Bay Products/Classic Motor Carriages Gazelle

Bay Products’s Gazelle is considered to be the first American-built Volkswagen Type 1-based fiberglass replica of the 1929 Mercedes SSK. However it was not the first US firm to offer an SSK replica. Industrial designer and Minnesota native Brooks Stevens had been manufacturing a coach-built, metal-bodied SSK replica, called the Excalibur, for over a decade. It is also considered to be the first American-built neo-classic automobile, a field which CMC would enter in earnest in 1986.

Bay Products 1927 Bugatti 35 B kit came in two different versions: Standard kit – priced at $850; and the deluxe kit – priced at $950. The standard kit included body, fenders, side and body panels, radiator shell, windscreen, headlights, steel supports. Deluxe kit - all of the above plus all glass, mirrors, hardware, seats, upholstery, lights, gas tank, bumpers, etc. Factory assembled Deluxe kit-all of the above fully assembled. Optional accessories available. Uses VW chassis, VW or Porsche engine and transmission.

The Gazelle was introduced via a series of advertisement that appeared in the automotive buff books starting in 1973.

“We are proud to announce that we have moved our factory and offices to a new and larger building to better serve our customers. Henceforth we will be open on Saturdays from 9 AM until 5 PM. Our car and kit business is now a separate division, and will be known hereafter as Tiffany Motor Cars; same management, same quality, but new and larger facilities to better serve you. Write for Free information and color brochures.

The following text is from an ad placed in a 1975 issue of Cars & Parts:

“1927 Bugatti Type 35B - 1929 Mercedes-Benz Replica

“Either of these cars are easy and fun to build using one of our replica kits.

“Important Announcement

“We are proud to announce that we have moved our factory and offices to a new and larger building to better serve our customers. Henceforth we will be open on Saturdays from 9 AM until 5 PM. Our car and kit business is now a separate division, and will be known hereafter as Tiffany Motor Cars; same management, same quality, but new and larger facilities to better serve you. Write for Free information and color brochures.

“Either of these cars are easy and fun to build using one of our replica kits.

“Important Announcement

“We are proud to announce that we have moved our factory and offices to a new and larger building to better serve our customers. Henceforth we will be open on Saturdays from 9 AM until 5 PM. Our car and kit business is now a separate division, and will be known hereafter as Tiffany Motor Cars; same management, same quality, but new and larger facilities to better serve you. Write for Free information and color brochures.

“We are proud to announce that we have moved our factory and offices to a new and larger building to better serve our customers. Henceforth we will be open on Saturdays from 9 AM until 5 PM. Our car and kit business is now a separate division, and will be known hereafter as Tiffany Motor Cars; same management, same quality, but new and larger facilities to better serve you. Write for Free information and color brochures.

“Tiffany Motor Cars, a subsidiary of Bay Products Corporation; 4730 N.W. 128th Street Road, Opa Locka, Florida 33054 (305) 685-8555 Call Toll-Free: 1-800-327-5931

“As of April 10 we will be located in our new building.

“DEALERS: Join the fastest growing kit car manufacturer. To place an order, call toll free 800-327-5931”

George Newman also saw to it that his products were mentioned in the regional press. The following appeared in the October 25, 1974 edition of the Sarasota Herald Tribune:

“Miami (AP) — For $750 and an old Volkswagen, you can satisfy those Great Gatsby ambitions and Walter Mitty dreams by building a replica of one of the world’s great automobiles, the 1927 Bugatti Typo 35B.

“Miami Firm Makes Replica Of Bugatti

“Miami (AP) — For $750 and an old Volkswagen, you can satisfy those Great Gatsby ambitions and Walter Mitty dreams by building a replica of one of the world’s great automobiles, the 1927 Bugatti Typo 35B.

“George Newman, president of Bay Products Corp., says his Miami-based firm found a market for ersatz antiques among ‘successful men, mostly in their 40s and 50s, who haven’t done anything with their hands for years.’

‘“Most of the cars we sell are kits. We sell a completed version for $5,000, but I think most people who buy kits do it because they want to be able to say, ‘I built it myself’ Newman says.

“He says it takes ‘a month or two of weekends and an occasional evening’ to build the replica of a car that once was cheered by millions of enthusiastic Italians along the Mille Miglia.

“Newman won’t say exactly how many of the Bugatti replicas have been sold, but an associate says about 450 are on the road or abuilding.

“However, Newman says the initial venture was so successful that the company has introduced a new model that should appeal to the spit-and-polish set — a replica of the 1929 Mercedes-Benz SS.

“Retail price of the Mercedes-Benz kit will be about $1,800, and a completed version with a new chassis will be about $7,000.

‘“That’s because the Mercedes-Benz replica will be virtually complete. There will be very few options,’ he said.

“The completed Bugatti kit weighs only 1,640 pounds, and Newman claims it gives sportscar performance with VW fuel economy.

“Unlike the original models, the replicas have their engines in the rear. The hoods are used for luggage storage.

“The Bugatti kit readily betrays its Italian heritage — lively, carefree and so what if the wind messes up your hair?

“The Mercedes-Benz kit is more somber and hints of those later big, black vehicles that tore along the bombed-out roads of so many World War II movies.”

Lynde McCormick, a reporter for the Christian Science Monitor, wrote an article on the emerging kit car industry that was carried by the Christian Science Monitor News Service wire on March 10, 1975:

“Fiberfabs: Those Old ‘New Cars’

“By Lynde McCormick, The Christian Science Monitor News Service

“Wind goggles, scarf, driving cap - all in place. A flick of the ignition and the roadster purrs into action. Dave Lagudara eases down the handbrake and the sleek Auburn glides into the street.

“Perhaps somewhere nearby a Bugatti two-seater fires up — or a 1929 Mercedes Gazelle with mahogany running boards, or a Ford Model A.

“The scene is not the Great Gatsby’s front driveway or an outing of some car collector’s club. In fact, the cars are fakes — but increasingly popular fakes.

“Eight companies now manufacture fiberglass copies, nicknamed ‘fiberfabs,’ of old cars and sell them either as kits to be mounted on the chassis of modern-day autos, or do the mounting themselves and sell the cars complete.

‘“The person who buys these cars is not someone who’s interested in an old car,’ says Pat Kemp of the Glassic Motor Company in Palm Beach, Fla., which manufactures a ‘modified’ Model A Ford replica. ‘There’s an emotional attachment to them; they bring back the good old days ...’

“And contrary to expectations, the current economic slump has brought a sales boost, Kemp said.

“Although several of the cars are quite expensive, they do bring back the good old days for considerably less money than the original might cost.

“A real Auburn roadster in good condition, for instance (Auburn also made the Duesenberg) would cost between $30,000 and $50,000. Originally built in 1932, it looks about as long as a standard-sized Plymouth or Ford, but seats only two people and can carry no luggage — an extravagance of luxury that makes a 1975 Cadillac seem economical.

‘“Our body is an exact copy of the original... and is mounted on a Chevrolet or Ford frame,’ said Laquldara, who sells the cars complete or as kits out of Milford, Mass. ‘The fiberglass molds were made from an actual disassembled ‘32 Auburn. It would take a professional mechanic about three months and a ‘backyard’ mechanic about eight months’ to build the car, he says. Prices start at $4,000 for a kit and go to $16,000 for a completed car.

“But if taste and economics run in other directions, the field is wide open.

“For example, $750 and a Volkswagen chassis get you a 30-miles-per-gallon 1927 Bugatti 35B. Bay Products Corp. of Miami makes replicas of it and a 1929 Mercedes-Benz Gazelle (which costs more).

“Antique car buffs generally regard most of the imitations with feelings ranging from disdain to indifference, says John Gillis of the Antique Auto Museum in Brookline, Mass.

‘“Except for the Auburn roadster, the copies are not exact ... The workmanship is often poor, and they are usually overpriced’ he says.

“But most of the companies report steadily increasing sales. Glassic sells about 1,000 Model A’s and about 150 Romuluses (another Auburn — 1935) a year even with hefty price tags of $10,000 and $19,500, respective. But Gillis points out that the fiberglass versions ‘aim for a different audience.’ one not necessarily interested in an original, as well as the considerable work and expense involved in restoration.”

“If 30 miles an hour alone isn’t inviting, a glimpse at a 1927 Bugatti 35B or 1929 Benz Gazelle Mercedes should be"

Barbara Malinowski, Courier Times special writer wrote a feature on a Bay Products Corp. dealer for the June 27, 1976 edition of the Bucks County Courier Times (Penn.):

“Brace Displays Fiberglass Dreams

“by Barbara Malinowski, Courier Times special writer

“If 30 miles an hour alone isn’t inviting, a glimpse at a 1927 Bugatti 35B or 1929 Benz Gazelle Mercedes should be.

“Al Brace Jr., of Brace and Sooby Motors Inc. on Route 1 in Middletown Township, recently assembled a single replica of each of these models. On weekends and on special occasions, the cars are displayed in his showroom where they readily attract attention.

“Many assume the models are antiques, rather than fiberglass replicas. Actually, says the 29-year old dealer in foreign and domestic used cars, the models arrive in kits in ‘a million unassembled pieces.’ Tiffany Motor Cars, a subsidiary of Bay Products Corp. in Florida, promotes kits by claiming ‘Roaring right out of the Twenties comes this fantastic, space age, fiberglass kit to turn an everyday mannered VW into every man’s dream.’

“Brace first became interested in assembling these replicas – both of which may be fit onto a Volkswagen chassis – in 1975 after discovering them on display in Opa Locka, Fla. Brace purchased the kits, which according to the instruction manuals, require approximately 40 hours to assemble.

“May be Adapted

“The Deluxe Bugatti kit sells for $1800 and the completed model for $6,300. The deluxe model of the Gazelle sells for $3,500 in kit form, $7,100 when completed. Depending on the car used for the chassis, both the Bugatti and the Gazelle may be adapted for heating, air conditioning and waterproofing.

“The Bugatti, formerly an English racing car, with its flip up tail section, weighs less than a Volkswagen at 1940 pounds. The kit requires a straight Bugatti frame and fits all Volkswagen Beetles or Ghias.

“It is recommended that a Volkswagen used with the kit should be at least a 1968 model because of the improved engine and transaxle. A Porsche or Corvair engine may be substituted.

“Any specifics needed for inspection purposes such as headlights, taillights, a horn or windshield are offered as options to the kit or can be adopted from the used Volkswagen.

“Brace, who offers only the deluxe model of both cars, explained that although the construction technique for the deluxe Bugatti is much the same as the other, the advantages are in the baggage compartment and the molded in section which includes rain gutters and stops for bulkhead and floorboards. Like the Gazelle, the Bugatti may be made waterproof by utilizing a convertible top — although the original Bugatti had none.

“Two-door model

“The kit for the Gazelle, a 1929 Mercedes Benz SS replica, fits either a Ford Pinto or Volkswagen chassis and can be built with two doors to accommodate four passengers, or be constructed with no doors to accommodate the same.

“Because the engines of the Mercury Bobcat and the Ford Mustang II are similar to the engine of the Pinto, these may be substituted. To assure a superior transmission and higher horsepower, a 1966 or later model is recommended.

“Brace refers to the car as a ‘truly beautiful classic.’ Like the Bugatti, it is light, and with its low center of gravity, has fine cornering capabilities.

“The accessories of the Gazelle include chrome plated headlights, a fold down windshield and hardware. These are included with the deluxe model with its upholstery and trim. The Gazelle is particularly advantageous as a model because of its long life time.”

Bay Products/Tiffany Motor Cars, like most other kit car manufacturers, was not immune to poor customer service (in fact, it was a recurring theme in their history), and the HELP! column of the January 26, 1976 issue of Florida Today provides an example of how they dealt with the problem:

“In December I purchased the deluxe Gazelle Car Kit from Tiffany Motor Cars in Opa-Locka. I discovered many essential parts such as tall lights, radiator grille, windshield, bumpers and convertible top, were missing. I have phone several times and I still haven't received the parts. Perhaps an inquiry from HELP! will spur some action on my part and I will appreciate anything you can do for me in this situation.

“J.R.M., Indialantic ,Fl.

“Your incomplete kit will be completed shortly. President of the firm, George Newman, tells HELP the parts had to be backordered from the vendor and they should be in in about two weeks.”

The author located one legal claim made against Bay Products in regards to an incomplete order, a situation that would continue to plague the firm and its descendants for the next several decades:

“Bay Products Corp. v. Winters. Bay Products Corporation, D/B/A Tiffany Motor Cars, Appellant, v. Dr. Richard Winters, Appellee. 341 So.2d 240 (1976)

“May 4, 1976

“Appellant, defendant below, takes an interlocutory appeal from two orders of the lower court, dated May 19, 1976. The first order denied appellant's motion to vacate a default which was entered against it on May 4, 1976. The second order granted a partial final judgment in favor of appellee, plaintiff below. -- Bay Products Corp. v. Winters, 341 So.2d 240 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1976)

“Appellee ordered an antique automobile kit from appellant. Appellee, after tendering full payment to appellant, allegedly did not receive a full and complete kit. After unsuccessful attempts to rectify the situation, appellant filed a three count complaint. Count I sought specific performance of the contract through the delivery of whatever additional parts allegedly were missing. Count II alternatively sought damages in the sum of the original contract price. Count III was grounded in fraud and deceit and sought both compensatory and punitive damages. -- Bay Products Corp. v. Winters, 341 So.2d 240, 241 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1976)

“On April 9, 1976, service of summons and complaint was had upon appellant. On May 4, 1976, a default judgment was entered. On May 11, 1976, appellant filed its motion to set aside the default along with an answer, affirmative defenses and affidavit of its corporate president alleging excusable neglect. The motion was denied and partial summary judgment was subsequently entered on May 19, 1976. -- Bay Products Corp. v. Winters, 341 So.2d 240, 241 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1976).”

On September 8, 1976 George Newman formed a new firm, Classic Motor Carriages, Inc., to better describe the firm’s increasingly popular Mercedes replica, as well as its brass-era throwback "Gadabout" cars, which were popular as giveaways and raffle prizes and also served as "Cookie Coaches" in NYC and other large East Coast population centers for a time. According to its registration with the Florida Department of State, its officers included: Irving Mason, president; and Barbara Roberts, secretary – both listed as residents of Hollywood, Florida. George Newman was not listed as an officer, only a director, and his home address was listed as 1680 N.E. 135th St., North Miami, Florida.

L​ess than a year later, George Newman died in a plane crash.

Newman’s obituary appeared in the November 8, 1977 edition of the Miami News:

“George Newman, 42, of North Miami Beach has been identified as the pilot of a plane that crashed in dense fog in the southern Catskill mountains of New York, killing all five people aboard. A search party found the Piper Aztec in the woods near Claryville, N.Y., where it had crashed Saturday as the pilot apparently tried to find a place to land. State troopers said the plane took off from Sullivan County, N.Y., airport Saturday and flew to Atlantic City, N.J. It ran into the fog on the flight back. The passengers killed were from New York State.”

The loss of Newman, Classic Motor Carriages/Tiffany Motor cars/Bay Products’s founder and plant manager, put the firm into chaos.

Enter Fort Lauderdale millionaire George G. Levin.

Levin’s exact relationship with George Newman at the time of Newman’s death is currently unknown, and will likely remain that way barring exceptional circumstances. However, the subject was brought up in a 1989 trademark application case, where Levin was denied the trademark to ‘Classic Tiffany’ as the term ‘Tiffany’ was already trademarked by Tiffany & Co. Levin was already using the moniker on his recently-introduced Mercury Cougar-based neo-classic automobile.

“... Mr. Levin, one of applicant's owners, stated that he chose the mark as a remembrance of a friend, George Newman, who was killed in an airplane accident. ...

“Mr. Levin testified that, although Mr. Newman operated his business under the name “Classic Motor Carriages” from 1976 until applicant purchased it, he had operated under the name “Tiffany Motor Cars” from 1973 or '74 until 1976.

“Even, if Mr. Levin’s selection of “Classic Tiffany” as a remembrance of Mr. Newman were a good faith adoption of the mark, it would not change our decision herein.”

On March 29, 1978 Levin organized Classic Motor Carriages, Inc. Officers included: Jeffrey Davis, president (Coral Springs, Fl.); Wesley Myers, Jr., vice-president; and Rita M. Wallach, secretary. Levin was listed as a director only. On December 30, 1986 the owner’s shares were converted to convertible notes, and the firm dissolved.

Several other Levin-controlled firms included the Classic Motor Carriages name. The first, incorporated on March 29, 1978 was Classic Motor Carriages Leasing Co., Inc. with Levin being listed as president. That firm was merged on December 23, 1981. Another Levin firm, Classic Motor Carriages Mfg. Co., Inc. was related to that firm (CMC Leasing). On January 21, 1981 Levin organized Classic Motor Carriages International, Inc. with Levin being listed as president. That firm was dissolved on July 7, 1986. On October 22, 1982 Levin organized Classic Motor Carriages Fiberglass, Inc. with Rita M. Wallach as its registered agent. That firm was dissolved on July 10, 1986.

On December 8, 1986 Levin organized a similarly-named firm called Classic Motor Coaches, Inc. with Benedict Harrington, president; Tom DeLucca, secretary, and Jeffrey I. Binder and Levin listed as directors only. On October 9, 1990 Classic Motor Coaches, Inc. address was changed to 16650 NW 27th Ave, Miami, Fl.

The Gazelle was continued following Newman’s death in a two versions, the first, which was VW-based included the following alterations:

Most of Newman’s Gazelles were two seaters, the entire rear lid lifts up for engine access. Levin’s had four seats and a much smaller rear lid. Newman’s Gazelle had a totally straight one-piece tube for the rear bumper, Levin’s had angled ends. Newman’s had no running boards or rear bumper decks. Newman’s Gazelle had no doors, you merely climbed over the side into the tonneau. Levin’s had small front doors similar to those found on MG-TDs. The angle of Newman’s windshield was adjustable and could be laid flat – Levin’s could not. Newman’s Gazelle had no faux exhaust pipes, a feature found on all of Levin’s Gazelle kits.

The second version of the Gazelle was front-engined and powered by a Pinto- or Chevette-sourced 4-cylinder engine and transmission and was available as a kit or a fully completed turn-key replicar.

1​978 Gamma Cyclecar

Newman’s Classic Motor Carriages Inc. (originally organized on September 8, 1976) was formally dissolved on May 2, 1978. Bay Products Corp., (organized on November 30, 1967) was involuntarily dissolved on December 5, 1978, approximately one year after George Newman’s untimely death.

George G. Levin now owned a popular kit car manufacturer, but was unfamiliar with the business, and he realized in order to keep the firm profitable an industry veteran was required to oversee production - that man was Charles A. Massing, Jr. (b. September 17, 1925 – d. May 3, 1997).

Back in 1972 Massing had founded Vintage Reproductions Inc. in order to construct ¾ scale horseless carriage replicas in a small factory located at 4380 N.E. 11th Ave. Ft Lauderdale, Florida (now Oakland Park, Florida). Levin lived in Fort Lauderdale, and owned one of Manning’s Gadabouts.

On May 25, 1977, Gamma Enterprises, Inc., was formally organized with the Florida State Dept. with Charles A. Massing, Jr., president; George G. Levin, secretary; and Gayla Sue Levin, treasurer. Its product would be a three-wheeled fiberglass-bodied sports car/motorcycle based upon the 3-wheeled Morgan called the Gamma. Gamma Enterprises small factory, located at 1091 N.E. 43rd Court, Oakland Park, Florida was conveniently located right around the corner from Massing’s Vintage Reproductions (4380 N.E. 11th Ave., Oakland Park, Florida), and some photos and paperwork list the Gamma's manufacturer as Vintage Reproducions.

In the Feb 6, 1978 issue of Automotive News, Charles Massing stated:

“The ‘Gamma cycle car’ has the look of a 1936 roadster and is built around a motorcycle power plant.

‘“I have been taking orders for the two-passenger model similar in design to the Morgan cycle car produced in England 50 years ago,’ said Charles Massing, developer of the car. ‘The car has two wheels in the front and one in the rear.’”

Gama Enterprises, Inc., was involuntarily dissolved on December 8, 1980, after constructing porbably no more than several dozen Gamma Morgan replicas.

Charles Andrew Massing, Jr. was born in Erie, Pennsylvania on September 17, 1925, to Jean Elizabeth and Carl Andreas Louis Massing. His father was sales mgr. of the Griswold Mfg. Co., a manufacturer of small household appliances. The family’s home address was 845 Oregon Ave., Milcreek, Erie, Pa (1933).

After graduating from Millcreek High School he enlisted in the US Navy on August 16, 1943 and was released on April 27, 1946 - his address at the time of his enlistment was 4018 Oxer Rd, Erie, Penn, his employment status - unemployed. He served as a Boatswain's mate second class during the War, and upon discharge listed his address as 1229 Hartt Rd, Erie, Pa.

Massing got his start in the replicar business through Vintage Reproductions Inc. (1972-1978), a small (20 employees) firm located at 4380 N.E. 11th Ave. Ft Lauderdale, (now Oakland Park) Florida. V.R.I. manufactured replicas of the Curved-dash Olds, Cadillac and their own Gadabout, a similarly-sized street-legal horseless carriage (replica of a 1907 REO) which was available as a Pie Wagon, 'C' Cab Stake, 'Sports' Raceabout and Surrey. Vintage’s cars were popular with the Shriner's in the early 70's, and Dairy Queen even had a contest offering one as the grand prize.

T​he above slideshow is a selection of "Cookie Coach" Gadabout panels, Gadabout ads, and factory literature.

A period buying guide listed the firm’s products as follows:

“Vintage Reproductions, 4380 N.E. Eleventh Ave., Oakland Park, Fort Lauderdale 32008 (telephone 1-305-566-0782), makes reproductions of four 1901 cars. The cars have been modified slightly, by the addition of windshields and electric starters, for example, and they go 25 miles per hour and get 50.60 miles to a gallon of gasoline. The company makes the Ford runabout which sells for $2,095: the Olds wagon which also sells for $2,095; the four-passenger Olds surrey which sells for $2,395; and the Olds pie wagon which sells for $2,595. The Horseless Carriage Corp., P.O. Box 276, County Line Road, Colmar, Pa. 18915 (telephone 1-215-822-1366) makes the same four 1901 cars, we understand, but the two companies use different molds, etc., because the parts aren’t interchangeable.”

A former Vintage Reproductions employee named ‘Ron ATX’ provided some insight on the firm’s operations, specifically building the firm’s Gadabout “Cookie Coach” after the operation was acquired by CMC. His comments were in response to a query posed by a recent Gadabout surrey owner in an AACA forum post (forums.aaca.org/) dated September 4, 2018:

“I made the body for this ‘Cookie Coach’.

“It was made in Ft. Lauderdale, Fl. by a company called Vintage Reproductions, part of Classic Motor Carriages. The body panels are made from ¾” marine grade plywood, the hood is doorskin over a frame that is between the front bezel and dashboard. Powered by Tecumseh 10 hp motors, on motorcycle tires. Painted with red Imron paint.

“I ran the wood shop 1979-1980 and did final assembly of the body, including the roofs (paneling facing inward, black vinyl applied on top.)

“There were 100 of these specially outfitted C-cabs (pie wagons) made. They were made to sell fresh, warm chocolate chip cookies. There was a blower motor in the back to blow the smell of cookies out and the rear door opened down to create a serving table.

“They were shipped to N.Y. to be sold as franchise units. $15k got you the car and cookies. They cost about $6k each back then. The top was paneling facing in with black vinyl top and trim and had gold pinstriping accent. Oval laminated windows trimmed out with door guard trim on the inside to hold the glass in place. It was an effort to get that trim to curve like that. I really liked making these pie wagons.

“When I left to move to Texas I was working with the engineer designing a Rolls Royce replica that was to have working doors and windows. I don't know if it was ever completed. The owner was a man named Charlie Massing. He was great to work for. Truly a character in his own right.”

When Vintage Reproductions marketing director, Paul Edwards, made a stop in Beckley, West Virginia to try and drum up some business, his visit was detailed in the June 27, 1973 edition of the Raleigh Register:

“Horseless Carriage Boosted in City

“It shuttles along at 35 miles per hour, gets 80 miles to a gallon of gas and if you’re willing to relinquish speed for economy, it can be sitting in your driveway in three to four weeks.

“The description applies to a three-fourth scale reproduction of the first mass-produced automobile in the United States — a 1901 Oldsmobile surrey — that Vintage Reproductions Inc. of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. is willing to make available here along with other models of the horseless carriage.

“The firm’s marketing director, Paul Edwards, stopped in Beckley Thursday en route to New Jersey where he is delivering one of the cars.

“While here he is staying with his father Raymond H. Edwards of Crab Orchard, who, at 78, probably remembers when the original horseless carriages were the style of the day.

“On the way up the East Coast, transporting the surrey, a 1901 Ford runabout and a 1901 Olds station wagon aboard a specially built trailer, Edwards made promotion stops in Atlanta, Ga. and in Tennessee at Chattanooga and in the Smokey Mountains where the sold three vehicles at the Gold Rush Junction amusement complex.

“An exclusive dealership is open to an individual or firm agreeing to buy four of the horseless carriages, otherwise they are sold at retail prices estimated at $2,900 fully equipped or $2,000 without the extras.

“Vintage Reproductions operates a plant in Ft. Lauderdale equipped with more than $300,000 worth of equipment to duplicate authentic parts for the vehicles that were originated by Arthur Godfrey and Al Starks.

“Present production is five or six cars a week, he said.

“Last year Charles Massing Jr. and Billy Turner engineered the vehicles with safety features to license them for the road, including seal beam headlights, four-wheel brakes, directional signals, windshield and wipers and fenders.

“The engine has been expanded to six and one-half horsepower with two speeds forward and one reverse gear.”

Register staff writer Jim Brock detailed the problems some Gadabout dealers ran into when trying to get the vehicle approved for public roads in the August 14, 1973 edition of the Santa Anna Register:

“(Cough, Sputter, Bang) Horseless Carriages Rolling Again In Country

“By Jim Brock, Register Staff Writer

“Orange — The 1900 series of the original ‘horseless carriage,’ the turn-of-the-century dream come true for Henry Ford and Robert E. Olds, was great for the old country roads.

“They bounced a lot, backfired continuously and broke down in the most out-of-the-way places.

‘“They were fun to drive in those days, I bet,’ said Dave McNutt, co-owner of the Classic Carriage Co., 249 E. Emerson Ave.

“The firm is the sole California distributor for four models of the early-century ‘king of the road.’

“They sell the Ford Runabout and three models of the Oldsmobile — a delivery wagon, a station wagon and a four-passenger surrey.

‘“We sell models… not the real thing,’ he said. ‘We have seven-eighths scale replicas of the original horseless carriages.

“The models are created by a Florida-based manufacturer, Vintage Reproductions Inc. The prices start at $1,995.

“He and his partner, Roy Dyer of Chatsworth, opened their dealership in mid-June after months of ‘misunderstandings’ with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

‘“You wouldn’t believe what we had to go through to put these models on the road,’ he said. ‘California is tough with its safety requirements.’

“The pair had to add sealed-beam headlights with high-low beams, front and rear turn indicators, stop lights, fenders, license plate holders, a windshield, and even a hand-operated windshield wiper.

‘“But, it was all worth it,’ McNutt says.

‘“These little carriages drive like a dream. The ‘ohs’ and ‘ahs’ by pedestrians, adults and kids.., made the effort worthwhile.

‘“Motorists like to toot their horns as they drive by. I usually give them a honk with my brass bugle.’ he says.

“He likes to drive the car in parades. ‘I usually use our surrey for this, it seats four adults and a couple of children,’ he says.

“A newly designed suspension system gives the models a ‘better roadability and lower center of gravity than the original carriages’ McNutt said.

“The 500-pound vehicle was introduced last month at the Orange County International Raceway, McNutt said.

“The pair believe they have a ‘hot seller’ on their hands for the average California buff who likes to enter parades or just ride around in something unusual.

‘“It’s an ideal gift for the doctor or lawyer who has everything,’ McNutt says. ‘Also, we hope home tract developers will buy the four-passenger surrey to transport home buyers to see their lots.

‘“I think it quite a toy,’ he says.

“McNutt owns the Golden Orange Janitorial Service, while Dyer is employed full-time at a religious tape distributor near Chatsworth.”

Business editor Don Good highlighted a Naples, Florida Gadabout dealer in the March 10, 1974 edition of the Naples Daily News:

“1901 Olds Replica Draws Attention

“By Don Good, Business Editor

‘“Chicks and ducks and geese better scurry… When I take you out in the surrey...when I take you out in the surrey with the fringe on top’... whether Norman Levine sings these lines from the famed musical ‘Oklahoma’ or not is not certain, but it is a fact that he does have a surrey!

“Levine, who is a hearing aid specialist on Ninth St., North, is the local representative for Vintage Reproductions of Ft. Lauderdale, makers of authentic reproductions of old cars. Vintage Reproductions manufactures Olds Surrey, such as the one Levine operates in Naples; the Olds Wagon, the Ford Runabout, and the Olds Delivery Wagon.

“A real surrey with the fringe on top, the car is expected to be a big attraction in the area. The surrey is a four-passenger vehicle with an overall length of 71 inches. It weighs 500 pounds and has a wheelbase of 54 inches.

“Cruising speed is 25 miles per hour, and the unit is powered by a 7-horsepower Lauson air-cooled engine.

“Key type magneto is featured, with a push button electric starter. The four wheel mechanical brake system is ample. Firestone 20 x 2.125 tires are standard equipment on the heavy duty, steel spoke wheels with sealed bearings.

“Two speeds forward, neutral and reverse in an in-line pattern are incorporated in the transmission system.

“How about gas? Well, Levine is proud to say that the car will give approximately 50 miles per gallon of gas. Incidentally the gas tank holds one and one-fourth gallons of petrol.

“With a professional upholstery job of top leatherette, hand painted body, and the surrey for the top (which is removable), the Olds Surrey is a real neat jitney which is just the thing for Mom and Pop and the two kids ... (more kids mean rides in shifts)!

“If anyone is interested in the ‘conversation piece’ of the auto industry, just contact Norman Levine at the Professional Hearing Aid Center on Fifth St., North, in the Goodlette Realty Building.

“Oh yes, the car, which can he delivered in about four weeks, sells for about $2700.”

C​irca 1978 Piper Lance ad.

C​irca 1978 Piper Lance ad.

B​y this time, the Gazelle had competition, in the form of a ripoff called the Piper Lance, which could be had with a V8 or V6 as well as VW or Pinto power. Tiger Motors in Washington State also offered the Allard K1 inspired Witton Tiger with a similar choice of powertrains.

George G. Levin purchased Classic Motor Carriages from the Newman estate in early 1978 and on March 29, 1978, reorganized it as a subsidiary of his holding company, GGL Industries, Inc. Levin also purchased the assets of Vintage Reproductions, Inc., added the firm’s Gadabout product line to that of Classic Motor Carriages, and hired Vintage Reproductions owner, Charlie A. Massing, to manage Classic. Classic Motor Carriages, Inc.’s officers included: Jeffrey Davis, president (Coral Springs, Fl.); Wesley Myers, Jr., vice-president; and Rita M. Wallach, secretary. Levin was listed as a director only. And they even produced a very much "of the period" promotional video, seen above.

Classic Motor Carriages remained at the same Opa-Locka factory (4730 N.W. 128 Street Road) into 1979 when it relocated to a larger facility located at 200-9 South Federal Highway, Hallandale, Florida. The address wasn’t updated with the Florida Department of State until September 11, 1980, although the following article, written by Fort Lauderdale News business editor Todd Mason and published in the paper’s January 5, 1979 edition, indicates they had already moved to Hallandale:

“Look At Me; I’ve Arrived

“Classic ‘Replicars’ Turn Heads On the Highways

“By Todd Mason, Business Editor

“Classic Motor Carriages, Inc. is a Hallandale company in the business of turning heads.

“The company's product is fiberglass replicas of the 1929 Mercedes SSK and Bugatti two-seaters, but the message is as important as the medium.

‘“These cars are appealing to people who have a little ego and want to say, ‘Hey, look at me. I've arrived’,’ says Classic's William Caudill.

“The boxier and more interchangeable Detroit's offerings become, the happier Caudill gets.

“Classic has parlayed that ego massage - the company's principal advertising in Playboy suggests a secondary appeal into ‘thousands of kits out now’ turning heads on the nation’s highways.

“Classic calls its production at one plant in Dade County and two in Hallandale ‘the nation’s leading kit car manufacturer.’ Classic bought the molds and the patents for the pseudo-Mercedes Gazelle at Sheriff's auction three years ago.

“The 240 Gazelles Classic expects to assemble this year using its frames and bodies and running gear from new Ford Pintos also gives the company the title as Broward largest, and only, auto manufacturer.

“Vintage Reproductions turns out finished Model A replicas in Palm Beach County and Daytona Beach's MiGi turns out fiberglass versions of the MGTDs and TCs of the early 1950s. Other replicars in major reproduction are the Excalibur version of a Cord and the Avanti II version of Studebaker's former sports car.

“The business has several tiers of companies, Caudill admits, down to ‘a number of kits where you buy your car and take your chances.’

“A Minneapolis company is selling copies of Classic’s Mercedes copy, Caudill grumbles, and adding insult to injury by using Classic sales material.

‘“It takes a tremendous amount of money to sustain yourself in this business,’ he says.

‘“Most people can't do it. We must have a couple million bucks in it now,’ Caudill says.

“The owner is South Florida investor George Levin.

“Classic started with kits to be applied to Volkswagen floor pans and drive gear or to accept Pinto engines, suspension and running gear.

“The Gazelle sells for $2,990 in VW version and $3,690 in Ford version where a chassis is also included.

‘“We used to contract out to three or four people to build demonstrators from our kits,’ Caudill says.

‘“We'd sell them eventually, and it got so there was 15 or 20 people around interested in buying a finished car.’

“So Classic now buys new Pintos, strips them and builds a finished ‘replicar’ complete with Ford warranty. The price tag is a steep $16,490. The Classic cars lighter weight, wider stance and lower-slung body improves the handling of standard Pinto suspension, Caudill claims.

“Classic car fever is so virulent, Caudill says, that ‘we sell cars to people who don't even drive them. Fortunately, the car handles and drives well.’”

Levin started pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into the business. The Hallandale building was officially abandoned on September 11, 1980 when they moved into a significantly larger one located adjacent to the Palmetto Expressway at 16650 N.W. 27th Ave., Miami, Florida.

During the first three years that Levin owned CMC, the firm’s annual revenue soared from $500,000 to a reported $12 million. Flush with cash, Levin purchased CMC’s largest competitor, Fiberfab Inc. of St Louis Park (Minneapolis), Minnesota. At that time Fiberfab had a Canadian subsidiary, operated two assembly centers in Michigan, and utilized a network of 50+ dealers/assemblers across the continental U.S., according to Warren Orrick , the firm’s regional sales manager for Michigan.

Fiberfab International, Inc. was formally organized on May 27, 1983, with the following officers: Jeffrey I. Binder, chairman; Jeffrey Davis, president and treasurer; Wesley Myers, vice-president; Rita M. Wallach, Gayla Sue Levin, Mardie Kenyon, secretary. Directors included George G. Levin, Jeffrey I. Binder, Jeffrey Davis, Rita M. Wallach, and Steve Jackel.

With few exceptions, Classic Motor Carriages had little interest in the early designs originated by Fiberfab and were primarily interest in obtaining their current models as well as their well-known trade name and substantial dealer network.

Using the Fiberfab portfolio, CMC was able to expand in a big way, now offering well over a dozen different kits, as well as several *turn-key automobiles, many of which were built on Volkswagen Type 1 (Beetle), Chevrolet Chevette and Ford Pinto chassis – the exceptions being the Tiffany, which was built using a brand-new Fox-bodied Mercury Cougar, and the Destiny, which used a brand-new Fox-bodied Mustang. Several hundred Tiffany Classic Coupes were constructed from 1986 to 1988 and approximately 50 Destinys were built in both coupe and convertible flavors from 1989 to 1992.

(*turn-key refers to a complete and running vehicle - all you need to do is to turn the ignition key and go.)

Many replica/kit car enthusiasts regard the kits offered by Fiberfab before they were taken over by CMC as superior to those constructed afterwards, but I’ve seen numerous post-CMC Fiberfabs (many with CMC badges) that look great.

Like any model kit, either full size or small, the end result has far more to do with how much effort the builder is willing to put into the project than the raw materials they used to create it. At the time there were dozens of companies popping up advertising the 1929 Mercedes SSK ‘Gazelle’ body as a turn-key proposition. Those firms did not manufacture the car, they were merely professional builders that purchased Gazelle kits from the Fiberfab Int/Classic Motor Carriages, added a drivetrain, installed the interior then resold them as complete turn-key vehicles. In fact many of them were part of Classic Motor Carriages official installer program. Unfortunately the quality of those finished cars varied greatly from one firm to the next, however CMC didn’t care as they were only interested in selling, kits and had long abandoned assembling turn-key Gazelles.

By the mid-1980s Fiberfab International’s focus was marketing CMC products such as the Gazelle (1929 Mercedes-Benz SSK), 427 Cobra (Shelby replica), Porsche 356A Speedster, ’34 Victoria, etc., All original Fiberfab designs, save for the MiGi II – which was now made in Canada by a third party - were abandoned and the original Fiberfab molds left to rot behind CMC’s Miami manufacturing facility.

By now CMC’s most popular product was the Classic Speedster, which was sold as a turn-key vehicle or an unassembled kit intended for the customer or, in many cases, third-party constructors. CMC’s Speedster kit was considered the best in the business, and with good reason, it was designed and engineered by Frank Reisner, a highly-regarded Italian coachbuilder whose firm, Construzione Automobili Intermeccanica (founded in 1959 in Turin, Italy) created the bodies for numerous show cars and limited production sports cars such as the Apollo, Griffith 600, Intermeccanica Italia Coupe and Spyder, and Intermeccanica Indra.

Reisner’s extensive background in designing and producing fiberglass bodies for TVR resulted in the Squire, a fiberglass replica of the Jaguar SS which was originally constructed for Auto Sport Importers, Inc. of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

In 1975 the Canadian-born Reisner arrived in California due to a promised development project relating to the manufacture of a Ford-engined Intermeccanica Indra. The project, which was slated to have an all-Ford drivetrain was initially financed by the US. Economic Development Council in partnership with the City of San Bernardino. Shortly after Reisner and his family arrived in California with 2 complete cars and the necessary tooling required for production, the Feds cancelled the project.

After paying all his bills Reisner was left with $500 and one completed Indra. He sold the car to Anthony Baumgartner, a Saab/Volkswagen/Alfa-Romeo dealer, and used the proceeds to develop the car that made Intermeccanica famous in the US, the Porsche 356 Speedster replica.

A longtime admirer of the 356 Speedster, Reisner thought a replica would go over in Southern California, so he set about building a Volkswagen Type 1-based prototype which was derived from two weeks of measuring the curves and dimensions of a real one. The car was completed at Dean Moon’s garage using a shortened Type 1 chassis. His new friend Anthony Baumgartner, loved the prototype and in the fall of 1976 invested $50,000 in a 50-50 partnership with Reisner to build the Speedsters in quantity.

Although they had initially planned on just producing kits, customer demand caused a change in direction. The cars would be available only as a $15,000 (originally $11,000) turn-key automobile at a time when originals could be purchased for $10,000 or less. But the replica had new running gear and a VW limited warranty, and was eligible for bank financing.

The partners rented a small shop near Baumgartner’s moped dealership and production began in earnest. The firm’s gel-coated fiberglass bodies were created offsite by Newport Laminates, 3121 W. Central Ave, Santa Ana, Baumgartner’s VW dealership supplied the brand-new Beetle chassis, and final assembly was handled in-house at Intermeccanica’s 2421 S. Susan St., Santa Ana, Calif. Factory.

The Intermeccanica Speedster was formally introduced to the national press on April 28, 1978, at the L.A. Auto Expo and orders soon exceeded the partner’s expectations. However problems developed between the two owners – Resiner want to keep the operation small, while Baumgartner insisted that production be increased. By early 1979 the disagreements reached a head and Baumgartner bought out Resiner’s 50% share in Automobili Intermeccanica for $125,000.

Baumgartner sensed rough times were ahead for the US economy, and put out feelers to several of the nation’s kit car builders in the hopes of find a buyer for the business. Several months later Baumgartner sold off the firm’s assets - but not the trade name - to George Levin, who immediately began advertising the availability of the all-new Classic Speedster. Accord to Baumgartner, Intermeccanica produced 608 Speedsters from 1977 into 1980 when Classic Motor Carriages transferred production to their 160,000 sq. ft. Miami factory.

Baumgartner remained in the automobile business and Reisner formed Laguna Coachworks in a small shop near his home. Reisner moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada in 1981 and commenced the manufacture of Speedsters replicas on a much smaller scale. His son currently heads the firm which continues to use the Intermeccanica trade name, see www.intermeccanica.com

Although Fiberfab is often listed as a manufacturer of Speedster kits, those cars were merely re-badged CMC kits – Fiberfab had nothing to do with the replica’s development or production. Copies of the classic Reisner design proliferated: Vintage Speedster, Beck Speedster, Intermeccanica, Thunder Ranch Speedster several and others either copied all or some of his design to create their cars.

Following in the footsteps of the third-party firms that built the Gazelle, numerous individuals tried their hand at building turn-key “Classic Speedsters” with mixed results. Some of these cars were finished to a very high standard, with actual Porsche interiors, emblems and hardware and I know of several replica Speedster owners who regularly pass them off as the real deal.

Two versions were initially available from CMC/Fiberfab Int., the stock-appearing “Speedster” and the club racing-style “Speedster Californian,” which was also market as the “Speedster C.” Added several years later was the Fiberfab Speedster 359, a polarizing 911-style roadster which many Porsche enthusiasts consider to be an abomination.

A post by “Gordon, the Speedstah Guy” on the Speedster Owner’s forum details what to look for when purchasing a CMC Speedster:

“There are a number of CMC owners on here, including me. The main issue with any CMC is always ‘Who built it?’ There were a few (very few) that were built (supposedly) by CMC, but the reality is that CMC contracted with a few small shops in the Miami or upper Mid-West to do the assembly for them. Generally, the quality of the fiberglass is quite good. Not terrific, but quite good and it generally tends to be thicker, rather than thinner. The quality of the fitment of doors, hood, engine cover and everything else has everything to do with who assembled it and how much care they put into their work.

“Depending on how it was put together, the body may develop stress cracks surrounding the headlights (generally eliminated if the front body mount was properly installed) and a few have exhibited a strange bubble (more like a shallow dome) between the rear seat and the engine cover. The body has an integral steel frame to provide strength to the fiberglass, and it also reinforces the shortened VW pan, making it quite strong. When it is assembled properly, the car doesn't creak or groan or snap or rattle when driven. Overall performance has everything to do with the power train, so any engine from a 1,776 to a 2.1 liter will do just fine, although larger engines give better performance.

“Perhaps the best approach would be for you to find someone on here who has a bit of experience with Speedsters, and CMC's in particular, and who lives in the area of the car you're looking at and ask them to take a look at it with you. That way you'll get some experienced eyes who can ask the important questions for you.”

By 1985 Classic was grossing $20 million and churning out about 300 kits a year. After absorbing Fiberfab, Classic Roadsters Ltd., a firm located in Fargo, North Dakota, remained CMC’s only major competitor, with approximately 20% of the total kit and replicar market, which by 1987 had reached annual sales of almost $50 million.

In 1986 George Levin combined CMC and Fiberfab operations into his main shell corporation, GGL Industries (named after his initials), although they continued to do business under the Classic Motor Carriages trade name.

Levin also purchased Southeastern Classic Cars, a 30s-era Ford/Willys fiberglass hot-rod replica manufacturer located at 3070 NE 12th Terrace, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Although they had been in business for several years prior, Southeastern Classic Cars, Inc. (#1), was officially organized with the Florida Department of State on October 31, 1985 with the following officers and directors: Thomas L. Crawford (president, director); Jeffrey Davis (vice-president, treasurer, director,); Rita M. Wallach (vice-president, secretary, director); Steve Jackel (director).

The recent acquisition was mentioned by Jim Steinberg, a reporter for the Miami News in the newspaper’s June 23, 1986 edition:

“Kit Cars Find a Market – Many are Made by Classic in Dade

“by Jim Steinberg, Miami News Reporter (Cox News Service)

“Courtney ‘Mack’ McClendon of Kendall has had a longtime romance with the automobile. The sleek, lightning-fast and rare 427 Shelby Cobra is the car he always dreamed of owning.

“Since only 1,011 of them were produced, finding a Cobra isn't easy. One in good condition is likely to sell for more than $100,000.

“Because of the price, McClendon, 44, shelved his fantasy of owning a Cobra until he saw an advertisement for a replica Cobra kit in an automobile magazine.

“The price was right, and the idea of building a kit car appealed to McClendon, who has enjoyed tinkering with automobiles for most of his life.

“For about $18,000 and a lot of work, McClendon, fleet-service manager for Roadway Express Inc., put together a 427 Shelby Cobra replica, joining the ranks of an exclusive group of automotive enthusiasts who have built cars from the ground up.

“Nationwide, about 200 companies offer kits to build replicas for some of the sexiest automobiles ever built. Among the more popular kits are the Cobra, the Mercedes 300 SLR, the Porsche 356 Speedster, the Lamborghini and the MG TD.

“Many in the Industry believe that the awareness and identity of the kit car have been raised by the television show ‘Miami Vice.’ Don Johnson, who plays detective Sonny Crockett, drives a replica of the front-engined Ferrari Daytona Spyder, mounted on a Corvette chassis.

“The car used on the ‘Vice’ set is made by McBurnie Coachcraft of Santee, Calif., one of several businesses that make Spyder kit car replicas.

“In an industry of many players, Classic Motor Carriages Inc. in North Dade is generally regarded as the largest maker of kit cars. Fort Lauderdale entrepreneur George Levin, chairman of privately held Classic Motor Carriages, said his company sells about 90 percent of the kit cars produced in the country.

“The company employs between 250 and 300 people in a 250,000-square-foot manufacturing plant and showroom at 16650 N.W. 27th Ave.

“Dave Fults, editor of Kit Car magazine, agrees that Classic’s sales account for better than half of the Industry’s total. But he believes that Levin’s figure of 90 percent is high.

‘“The most popular-selling kit car is the Cobra, and Classic does not make that one,’ Fults said.

“Not every kit car is sold with the idea that the purchaser assembles his or her own vehicle. For those who don't have the skill to build their own cars, or don't want to commit the 300 or more hours of building time, professionals will do the job.

“Increasingly, professional automobile repair shops across the country are taking on kit car assembly, said Tom Burdell, owner of Craftmasters in Hialeah.

“Burdell said his traditional repair and body shop occasionally builds kit cars. He likens the role of kit car building in his business to the way a record company keeps classical music on its product list.

‘“It really doesn't add to our income that much, but it’s good for the morale of our employees,’ Burdeil said. ‘It gives us a certain credibility to assemble kit cars, and it’s nice to have interesting vehicles on the premises.’

“For between $5,000 and $8,000, Burdell said, his company would build a kit car. The kits alone typically cost buyers anywhere between $5,000 and $7,000, he said.

“Originally, Classic Motor Carriages would build a kit car for a customer for an additional fee. However, about three years ago, the company discontinued that practice, said Paul Refkin, vice president and director of marketing. Instead, it opted to pull together a network of 100 independent businesses nationwide that would assemble its products for a fee. Craftmasters is one of those.

“But other kit car makers still assemble their customers’ kits.

“Robert Tietz, president of Kit Car World Corp. in Orlando, estimated that between 15 percent and 22 percent of the kit cars it sells are on a turnkey basis, meaning that it assembles the customer’s car. Kit Car World markets an MG-TD replica manufactured by Daytona Automotive Fiberglass, Inc., in Holly Hill, Fla.

“The kit car Industry, which has its roots in the 1950s, had a tough time in the 1960s, when Detroit turned out a healthy crop of high-performance vehicles, Fults said. But generally sluggish, pollution control-laden cars of the 1970s boosted the popularity of the kit car.

“Although the kit car industry is growing, its growth is slow and will continue to be so, Fults said.

‘“This is really a field limited to enthusiasts who have spent half their lifetime tinkering with cars...,’ he said. ‘It is an outgrowth of the hot-rod field. The vast majority are ex-street rodders and racers that got bored doing what they were doing and decided to build a car from the ground up.’

“Refkin of Classic Motor Carriages doesn’t think the population of potential kit car makers is that limited.

‘“We contend that a person of average mechanical skills, following our instructions, can build one of our kits with relative ease,’ Refkin said. ‘The average guy who buys our kit is a professional..., absolutely not a mechanic. For him, building one of these things is a lifelong dream..., a labor of love.’

“Classic Motor Carriages has four technicians that help kit builders ‘walk through’ their problems, he added.

“Industry growth has also been slowed, Fults said, because of the lingering taint from some early participants, which sold ‘junk’ products. ‘The quality of the kits has improved greatly, but there is still probably some junk out there,’ he said.

“As in any mail-order business, the kit car industry has attracted its share of ‘fly-by-night’ operations, Fults said. He advises all potential buyers to visit the company from which they intend to buy a kit car, before sending a $6,000 check through the mail.

“Because of the secretive nature of the kit car industry, reliable sales figures are not available.

“Refkin, the Classic vice president, would not disclose figures on his company’s sales and profits.

“Fults estimated that U.S. kit car makers sold no more than 1,500 kits last year.

‘“I don't have access to their records,’ Fults said, when told of Classic’s claim that it sold between 4,800 and 6,000 kits last year. ‘If they sold that many, they are making a lot of money.’

‘“There are a lot of one- and two-man operations in the kit car industry,’ said Mike Baranowski, editor of Kit Car Illustrated ‘Maybe only a dozen make a real living at it.’

“Refkin said Classic and its subsidiary, Fiberfab, Inc., in Minneapolis, sell between 400 and 500 kit cars per month.

“Kit car buyers are frequently retirees ‘or pre-retirees with extra spendable bucks,’ said Tietz of Kit Car World.

“Most kit cars become the second and third cars in a family, said Tietz. ‘These are big boys’ toys, a car to run to the club in or to be seen in on the weekend.’

“Tietz added: ‘The unfortunate truth is that the majority of the kits sold are never completed by the original owners. Because of the complexity, it is often a second- or a third-generation owner that completes the project,’ he said.

‘“Often, people are smitten with the enthusiasm, but once they have the kit, they run out of steam,’ Tietz said. ‘All too often, they are sold by a hot-shot salesman.’

“Leon Sultan, 60, of Pompano Beach is assembling his fifth kit from Classic Motor Carriages. It’s a replica of the 1929 Mercedes-Benz sold under the name Gazelle.

“From time to time, Sultan said, he has received telephone calls from people who could not finish their kit cars and wanted to ‘sell at any price just to get out of it.’

“Sultan said putting together a kit car ‘requires a lot of tools and is certainly not for anybody who is not mechanically inclined.’

“The owner of a drapery manufacturing business, Sultan ‘learned how to take a car apart’ as a teenager and was comfortable overhauling an engine before taking on his first kit car project. He said that during his first kit car assembly project, he made several trips to Classic’s North Dade plant to pick up assembly pointers. ‘Somebody in Texas would be at a great disadvantage in putting together a kit car,’ Sultan said.

‘“It was kind of frightening,’ said McClendon, the Kendall man who built a Cobra, as he recalled his reaction when he opened his kit car box. Especially frightening was the carpeting. It came in about 100 pieces.’

“Before purchasing his Cobra kit, McClendon traveled to several major automotive shows to study products offered by manufacturers. He selected a kit offered by ERA Replica Automobiles in New Britain, Conn., because he thought it was faithful to the original model and engineered so it could be assembled fairly easily.

“McClendon subcontracted the painting and the machine work on the engine.

“Then he and a friend secluded themselves in his garage for three days to complete the final assembly ‘Erector-set style... We worked from 7 am until we dropped.’

“McClendon said building a kit car is not easy. ‘You have to make the car,’ he explained. ‘They (kit car makers) don't preassemble. Every nut, bolt and washer passes through you.’

“Nevertheless, McClendon said he thought assembly could be accomplished by someone who was not proficient in auto mechanics.

“But he felt that good ‘mechanical perception’ was a necessary attribute for the prospective kit car builder. After purchasing his car kit, McClendon said, ERA Replica Automobiles representatives called weekly to ask about his progress. ‘They bug you to get the car finished. They want it on the road.’ Days after assembling his Cobra replica, McClendon took a flawless trip to an automobile show in Michigan. There he obtained help from Era representatives in putting together his car’s carpeting.

“When Classic was purchased by Levin in 1978, it was a small, fledgling firm based in Hallandale, with 13 employees. Levin saw it as a ‘leisure-sector business’ with great potential for growth. Marketed properly, Levin claimed, kit cars have no sales limits.

“In 1980, Classic Motor Carriages consolidated its offices, moving to a 250,000-square-foot-factory and office facility on 10 acres in North Dade, its present location.

“Several industry observers credit Classic Motor Carriages with being the first company to market car kits aggressively. About 40 sales representatives man telephones 12 hours per day in two shifts, following up sales leads from the company’s $2 million annual advertising budget.

“The company also draws product inquiries from its assembled vehicles on display at 25 airports, including those in Miami, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, New York and Phoenix.

“Levin said his other business activities operated through a holding company, GGL Industries include a yacht-manufacturing business in Japan, a non-casino hotel in Atlantic City and several real-estate ventures in South Florida.

“Classic Motor Carriages will soon hit the acquisition trail, Levin said. He wants it to break into the limousine-making business. ‘I think the quickest way to get into the business is to buy an existing company,’ he said.

“Classic also is considering the purchase of other exotic-car companies.

“Recently, Classic purchased Southeastern Classic Cars in Fort Lauderdale, a custom hot-rod manufacturer. In about 90 days, Classic Motor Carriages expects to bring out as kit cars the four 1930s-era Fords formerly manufactured by Southeastern Classic.

“Last October, Classic Motor Carriages entered into an ‘assurance of voluntary compliance’ agreement with the Florida Department of Legal Affairs. Without admitting that it violated any law, Classic agreed that neither It nor any of its employees would misrepresent:

The completeness of its kits.

The degree of skill needed to assemble its kits.

The amount of time needed to complete the assembly of the kits.

The tools needed to assemble the vehicle.

That there would be an immediate price increase when such is not the case.

That deposits are refundable when such is not the case.

“Fred Hochsztein, assistant attorney general of Florida, said last week he did not consider the 12 to 14 complaints against Classic that were pending last year to be significant, in view of the large number of customers the company had.

“Hochsztein said those complaints have since been resolved and he was not aware of any unresolved complaints since the agreement was signed.

“Classic Motor Carriages President Jeffrey Davis said most of the complaints were from customers who wanted to break sales contracts.

“In a diversification move that began three years ago, Classic began to make a fully assembled luxury automobile called the Tiffany, which could not be purchased as a kit. Including an elaborate grille and a 1920s-era running board, this vehicle was designed by Classic personnel to be built around the frame of a Mercury Cougar.

“With all of the options, the Tiffany has a list price of about $45,000. Classic sold about 300 Tiffanys last year, Refkin said. Eventually, he added, the company will split off its production-car business into a separate company.”

In the September 26, 1986 edition of the South Florida Sun Sentinel, business writer Tom Steighorst announced that a deal was signed between CMC and Eastern Airlines allowing the kit car manufacturer to exhibit its vehicles at Eastern air terminals:

“If you've ever seen a car tooling down the highway that looks almost, but not quite, like a 1929 Mercedes-Benz convertible, chances are it was made at Classic Motor Carriages in northern Dade County.

“The firm produces kit cars - fiberglass car bodies and accessories that turn an ordinary automotive chassis into an instant classic. The kits cost about $6,000 and are shipped straight from the factory to the customer’s home. Buyers can also pay about $18,000 for fully assembled cars, if they don't have a motor and drive train on which to build.

“Paul Refkin, vice-president of Classic, said 95 percent of the kit car market belongs to Classic. Most kits are bought by doctors, lawyers and other professionals, Refkin said.

“The cars are marketed primarily in airports. But not every airport will permit Classic to set up a display car as part of its promotion. So on Thursday, Classic announced a marketing venture with Eastern Airlines that Refkin believes will double the company’s $50 million annual sales.

“The deal allows Classic to put up point-of-purchase displays at Eastern passenger gates across the country, including airports in Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles and other key cities that frown on auto displays.

‘“Nobody has ever been in Los Angeles International airport with this kind of thing before,’ Refkin said.

“To call attention to the new partnership, Eastern is offering a sweepstakes with two fully assembled kit cars as prizes. Classic will offer two roundtrip Eastern tickets to each kit car buyer and must pay a substantial fee to Eastern to participate in the marketing venture, Refkin said.

“In addition to the Mercedes-Benz, Classic builds replicas of the British MG-TD roadster, and the German Porsche Speedster. It also sells a specially modified version of the Mercury Cougar.

“Classic turned out about 6,000 kit cars last year at its 250,000-square-foot factory near the Golden Glades interchange and expects to build 10,000 kits this year.

“Founded In 1977, Classic is owned by Fort Lauderdale businessman George Levin, through GGL Enterprises, a holding company.”

On January 14, 1987 Levin organized Southeastern Classic Cars, Inc., to handle the manufacturing and sales of its similarly-named predecessor. Located at 6600 N. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale, Florida the firm's officers/directors included: Jeffrey I. Binder (chairman, director); George Levin (director); Mardie Kenyon (secretary) with an office located at the Cypress Center, one of Levin’s real estate holdings.

Jeffrey I. Binder was an officer in numerous Levin-controlled firms, including GGL Investment Corp., a firm which shared a mailing address (16650 NW 27th Ave, Miami Gardens, FL, 33054) with CMC.

On September 7, 1988, the Associated Press wire service carried the following new article which included an interview with CMC’s Richard Cozier, its “marketing services manager”:

“Wrecked Cars Become Classics - Kits Allow Customers To Try Their Hands As Automakers

“Miami ( AP) - Tear off the top of an old wrecked car, send for a Classic Motor Carriages kit, follow the instructions and voila you are the owner of a distinctive automobile.

‘“The fun part is building your own car. It’s an ego trip,’ said Richard Cozier, marketing services manager of the company founded by George Levin, a real estate developer and auto enthusiast.

“Classic, one of a half-dozen major kit car manufacturers in the United States, offers a selection of five cars an individual can build at home. It also produces the Tiffany, a ready-to-drive renaissance automobile hand-crafted at the company's 10-acre plant here.

“The most popular of its vehicles, said Cozier, is the Gazelle, a replica of the 1929 Mercedes Benz SSK. The model is on display at many airports.

“Also available are two models of the 1955 Porsche Speedster, the 1952 MG-TD and the 1934 Ford three-window ‘street rod.’

“Kits consist of a single crate, Cozier said, and require 180-350 hours to assemble. More than 200 are sold each month.

‘“These cars are designed for those with average mechanical ability and can be assembled with ordinary home tools,’ he explained.

“No welding is required, except on one of the speedsters. The color is implanted in the fiberglass body.

“Kits contain upholstery, seats, dashboard, chrome trim, windshield and convertible tops. Items not provided include the motor, transmission, steering mechanism, radio, battery and tires.

“Kit prices range from around $5,000 for the standard Gazelle kit to $12,000 for the ‘34 Ford. Optional accessories are offered for all models at an additional price.

“Before purchasing a kit, a company representative is assigned to each customer to assist in selecting the proper ‘donor car.’

“Needed are the drive train, steering and brake systems. These come from wrecked or old vehicles found in salvage yards or through insurance adjusters.

“Classic cars are generally built over certain Volkswagen, Ford, Mercury or Chevrolet bases.

“The Tiffany, introduced in 1985, is a distinctively designed automobile. Starting with a new Lincoln-Mercury drive train, the outer cosmetics are completely altered to include a spare tire in each front fender, shiny trumpet-like horns and an 18-karat hood ornament.

“The front end is stretched to give the vehicle a 223-inch length.

“The suggested retail price, said Cozier, is $48,990.

“Only 400-500 Tiffany vehicles are produced per year, said Cozier, with some being exported to Japan. Women, explained Cozier, account for 35 percent of Tiffany sales.

‘“These are for the executive-level women or anyone looking for status.”’

Copies of the classic Reisner (Intermeccanica) design proliferated: Vintage Speedster, Beck Speedster, Thunder Ranch Speedster and others either tooled all or some of his design to create their cars.

By 1985 Classic was grossing $20 million and churning out about 300 kits a year. After absorbing Fiberfab, Classic Roadsters Ltd., a firm located in Fargo, North Dakota, remained CMC’s only major competitor, with approximately 20% of the total kit and replicar market, which by 1987 had reached annual sales of almost $50 million.

In 1986 George Levin combined CMC and Fiberfab operations into a new shell corporation, GGL Industries (named after his initials), which continued to do business under the Classic Motor Carriages trade name. He and his wife, Gayla Sue Levin, also owned Georgetown Manor, Inc., and Furniture Industries of Florida, Inc., 2 corporations that owned and operated several Ethan Allen furniture stores located in south Florida.

A seven minute promotional video dating from 1989 includes footage of the Fiberfab assembly process and starts with footage of a Gazelle arriving at Levin's $4 million Bay Colony home.

Classic’s marketing - showing cars at airports, placing ads in motor magazines, and exhibiting at car shows - made the Classic Speedster kit the number one kit in the world. Its popularity continued for years, which ultimately contributed to Classic’s demise as their suppliers and production facility could no longer keep up with the influx of new orders. Although seemingly successful, CMC was beginning to rankle some of its customers. Some alleged that the company employed deceptive sales tactics, delivered incomplete kits, and kept deposits when nothing was delivered.

In its prime CMC boasted of doing from $15 million to $20 million in annual sales, selling hundreds of kits per month. But that all abruptly came to an end in 1994 when the Florida Attorney General filed suit on behalf of hundreds of defrauded customers. The state had amassed 900 complaints thanks in part to a campaign by local consumer watchdog Stuart Rado and California car-guide publisher Curt Scott.

The suit stated that Classic Motor Carriages defrauded customers by “knowingly and willfully” making “false and misleading promises, statements, representations” when it came to the quality of the kit purchased, as well as the delivery time, and assembly time. They were also taking customer deposits by making false and fraudulent statements, and were not delivering complete kits.

On July 12, 1994 Pulitzer-Prize nominated investigative reporter Audra D.S. Burch (who later worked for the Miami Herald and now writes for the NY Times) a Staff Writer for the South Florida Sun Sentinel (Deerfield Beach), reported that the Attorney General of the State of Florida was suing CMC:

“State Sues Car-kit Firm; Attorney General Acts On Customer Complaints From Boca

“By A.D. Burch, Sun Sentinel Staff

“Classic Motor Carriages, with offices in Miami and Boca Raton, sells fiberglass replicas of performance cars.

“But hundreds of consumers say the car-kit company’s performance is closer to a lemon than a classic.

“Customers complain they have paid thousands for car kits that were either missing key parts or came with faulty parts. In its lawsuit on Monday, the Office of the Attorney General accused the company of deceptive trade practices and civil theft.

‘“Many consumers who paid from $9,000 to $15,000 for kits did not receive all necessary parts in the promised time, or received defective parts,’ State Attorney Bob Butterworth said in a written statement. ‘Consumers were unable to obtain refunds, and their complaints were largely ignored.’

“The civil complaint was filed in Dade County Circuit Court against GGL Industries Inc., which does business as Classic Motor Carriages and Fiberfab International Inc. Also named in the complaint were corporate officers Benedict Harrington and George Levin, both of Broward County; and Thomas Delucca and Steve Levin, both of Dade County. Steve Levin is George’s nephew and was in day-to-day charge of CMC’s operations.

“All of the tooling and equipment came from CMC unless it was purchased new since the demise of CMC. The Cobra and Street Rods are basically the same as the CMC cars that have been around since the late 80's.

“The company, which opened in the 1970s, markets and sells kit packages that can be assembled at home.

“Generally, the kits contain the fiberglass body, chassis and parts. The buyer provides the motor and drive train.

“Such kits include the ‘Classic Cobra,’ ‘Speedster’ and ‘Gazelle.’ The company advertises delivery of kits in as little as four weeks and offers consumers refunds if all the necessary parts are not delivered in a timely manner. But the company routinely ships incomplete kits while placing the remaining parts on back order, the complaint reads. A typical kit has 150 parts, but customers initially received about 50 parts, Assistant Attorney General Rhonda Lapin said. And the promise of a full refund is negated by a contract provision allowing the manufacturer to keep 30 percent of a customer's deposit.

“The state is seeking consumer refunds and civil penalties of $10,000 per violation of Florida's Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act. It also wants to stop the company from using allegedly misleading advertising and telemarketing practices.

“Classic attorney Ed Shohat denied the charges.

‘“We have not had the opportunities to closely review all of the allegations. At this point we want to make it very clear that this is a civil lawsuit ... we will demonstrate that the state is plainly incorrect and wrong,’ Shohat said. ‘This company has been in existence a long time and has many satisfied customers.’

“About 50 complaints were filed with the Attorney General's Office since 1992. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has received 177 complaints since 1989, and the South Florida Better Business Bureau has 51 complaints on Classic and Fiberfab since 1991. Curt Scott, publisher of two car publications, said he has gathered 800 complaints over the years. He said Classic was his biggest advertiser from 1983 to 1990. He stopped accepting their ads after several customers complained about Classic's business practices. Since then, Scott has published several buyer-beware articles about the company.

“The lawsuit is the state's third scuffle with Classic.

“In 1985 and 1992, the company signed agreements with the Office of the Attorney General promising not to violate state consumer protection laws. They did not admit guilt but settled dozens of consumer complaints.

“Count Cory Hughes among the unsatisfied customers.

“He bought a ‘34 Classic Coupe kit for about $9,500 three years ago. He was told the shipping would cost an additional $500. The actual shipping charge: $1,600.

“He said the doors and hood don't fit. ‘What I have sitting in a warehouse is junk. I want my money back,’ said Hughes, of Bentleyville, Pa.

“Ask civil engineer James Cullen of Las Vegas about Classic, and he runs to get a three-ring binder where he has documented his problems with the company.

“Cullen paid about $10,000 for a MG-TD in 1990. He said the parts were so badly warped they don’t fit, the bumper is so flimsy he bent it in half with his hands and the structure is so fragile it is a ‘rolling death trap.’

“If the cars are bad, according to consumers, the company's customer service is worse.

“Jeri and Billy Willingham, of Las Vegas, said they called the company unsuccessfully 28 days straight to discuss the ‘33 Ford car they bought three years ago. ‘We never got a response,’ Jeri Willingham said.

“But not everybody has had a bad experience.

‘“I got a good car. I got exactly what I paid for,’ said Bob Vanfleet, owner of Vintage Motor Cars in West Palm Beach. He bought a ‘34 Ford in 1992.

“In the midst of the fiasco, Levin launched a company called Auto Resolutions. ‘The goal was to clean up the Classic mess and resolve outstanding customer complaints,’ explains Bob Southern, Auto Resolutions’ vice president of sales. Meanwhile the Classic Motor Carriages case continued winding its way through the courts until 1999, when the company was ordered to pay nearly three million dollars in restitution and fines for fraudulent business practices.

“And Classic closed down the following November after sales plummeted and it was evicted from its headquarters. A variety of media chronicled the saga, among them the Miami Herald, Car and Driver, the Los Angeles Times, the Associated Press, and ABC's Inside Edition.”

A damning article written by LA Times reporter Danica Kirka, appeared in that paper’s May 17, 1995 edition:

“Publisher Driven to Help Car Owners: Glitches in Specialty Auto Kit Behind His Crusade to Assist Maker's Clients

“by Danica Kirka - special to the Times

“The World War I and World War II era helmets that sit on the bookcases of Curt Scott's Santa Clarita office are supposed to be strictly decorative. But lately, the publisher of specialty car guides has been thinking it might not be a bad idea to start wearing one. He feels under siege.

“In the insular world of kit cars, Scott's "The Complete Guide to Specialty Cars," and "The Complete Guide to Cobra Replicas" are road maps, giving descriptions of vintage car replicas that can be built in the family garage out of a kit.

“But Scott, 48, in the past five years has become a consumer activist for those who allege they have been defrauded by a Florida kit car manufacturer, Classic Motor Carriages of Miami, which sells the chassis and other parts in a replica car kit that enthusiasts are to assemble with an engine from another car.

“Scott's efforts, and those of a consumer activist, Stuart Rado, have led to charges filed by the Florida attorney general's office against Classic Motor Carriages, alleging deceptive and unfair trade practices and failure to acknowledge complaints when Classic's customers demanded refunds. Hundreds of Classic's customers have complained that their kits came without all the promised parts, according to Mona Fandel, an assistant attorney general in Florida.

“Officials at Classic Motor Carriages concede that they were growing too fast and had some troubles making deliveries promptly. Classic Motor Carriages has also countersued Scott and Rado in U.S. District Court in Southern Florida, alleging that they have orchestrated a vicious smear campaign aimed at driving them out of business. Classic also alleges that Scott became angry with Classic when the company decided to pull its advertising from his magazines, a charge Scott denies.

“Scott, who has put out car magazines for 13 years, said he is now handling his own legal defense because he cannot afford the $40,000 in legal fees to actively fight the suit.

“Since taking up this consumer crusade, Scott says, his business has suffered, he's received anonymous calls threatening him and learned that becoming a consumer advocate carries a heavy price. His small publishing business has slowed in part because he's spent so much time fielding phone calls from Classic's customers. And the downturn in the economy also cut into sales of kit cars, which has hurt Scott's own business. Scott estimates his annual revenue has fallen by more than 50% to the low six figures.

“In the arcane world of kit cars, ‘It is an extremely rare thing for a small press guy to undertake this thing,’ says Patrick Bedard, a columnist for Car and Driver magazine. ‘One of the things that gives [Scott] credibility is that I have seen so many letters from truly desperate customers’ of Classic Motor Carriages. They told Bedard that when the kits from Classic Motor Carriages finally arrived, ‘a lot of parts were missing,’ Bedard said.

“In the early 1990s, Scott first began receiving a trickle of complaints about the Miami company. At first, he would send a note to Classic or make a phone call to the company, which had been one of his advertisers. Pretty soon more Classic customers were calling Scott, claiming that Classic's aggressive sales staff pressured them into sending deposits for kits costing $5,000 to $10,000, and that when the kits arrived they were incomplete. Scott said that he felt almost like a counselor, as customers who felt wronged by Classic would call from 7 a.m. to as late as 10 p.m., seven days a week. "I couldn't put the phone down without someone calling me. These people were being jerked around up to their eyeballs," he said.

“Scott began calling the Florida attorney general's office, the FBI, the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Postal Inspector's office. Eventually, he wrote about Classic Motor Carriage's practices in his magazines, and gave callers a list of state and federal agencies to contact.

“Meanwhile, Classic had its own financial problems. It had been one of the largest kit car firms and had delivered 20,000 car kits in its 17 years in business. In Classic's best year, 1985, the company says revenue reached $20 million. Its recent sales sank to half that, says Benedict W. Harrington, president of GGL Industries Inc., which does business as Classic.

“Harrington blames much of the company's delivery problems on the early 1990s when Classic came up with a kit that had car fanciers drooling: kit versions of the 427 S/C Shelby Cobra. The original Cobra, a sleek sports car whose body was crafted in England and had an engine by Ford, was described by car lovers as a jet engine on a roller skate when Ford sold it in the mid-1960s for about $7,200. Though a real one can now cost $500,000, Classic put out a fiberglass replica for $9,995. Customers could assemble the fiberglass body, drop it on a chassis with an engine of an old Volkswagen bug and have the car of their dreams for a fraction of the price.

‘“It takes off so well I start to get into trouble,’ Harrington said as he recalled the rush of orders. But he estimated that 15% of the Cobra kits had to be back-ordered because of heavy demand.

“Two unhappy Classic customers were Barbara and Gene Dunn of Ventura. They said they had heard about the Classic model of a 1934 Ford Coupe in a car magazine, called a toll-free number and were told that if they acted fast, they could get one of the few remaining kits.

“After paying a $6,000 deposit and waiting four months, the Dunns said, they received the chassis. But they said it was welded crudely, with leftovers dripped over the components so they wouldn't fit together. Gene Dunn said that when Classic described the car on the phone, "you were told it was going to be a show quality car. But it looked like it was made with an erector set." After complaining to Classic, however, they got their money back.

“At about the same time, Miami consumer activist Rado was swinging into action. Rado sent questionnaires to hundreds of Classic customers, asking them about their experience with the company.

“Then in July the Florida attorney general's office sued the company, alleging that consumers ‘experience inordinate delays in delivery of all parts and their complaints go unresponded’ by the company. As customers canceled their orders and demanded refunds, that ate into Classic's cash flow, the company said.

“As the court wrangling continues, Classic officials are moving to save what’s left of the company. Harrington said earlier this month that the lion's share of GGL’s assets are being sold for $5 million to Advanced Plastics International Corp., a company headquartered in Delaware. Under the pending deal, a trust fund of $150,000 or more will be set up for aggrieved customers of Classic. ‘It will end when all the customers are satisfied,’ Harrington vowed.

“Still, Classic Motor’s problems may not be over. The U.S. Postal Service is continuing an investigation into the company, according to Rafael Rivera, a postal inspector in the Miami division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

“Meanwhile, Classic's suit against Scott and Rado will continue. Harrington said he had no intention of dropping that suit.

“Scott counters that Classic's suit was filed, ‘to harass me, to punish me, to silence me.’

“Even so, he says it won't work.

‘“There's no way I can back down,’ he said.”

In 1995 Classic Motor Carriages was evicted from its 160,000 sq. ft. headquarters and over $1,000,000 in inventory was auctioned off. This was the end of Classic Motor Carriages – but not the end of George Levin’s kit car and replica businesses.

In 1998 kit car historian, author and magazine editor Curt Scott detailed some customer complaints he fielded in recent year regarding Levin’s CMC and its descendants:

“If you open the September 1998 issue of Petersen Publishing’s Kit Car magazine (pp. 33 & 57) or Petersen’s Rod & Custom (p.93) or in Petersen’s Hot Rod magazine (p.148), you’ll discover that the spectre of Classic Motor Carriages is lurking once again, with full-page color and b&w ads, just waiting for you to pounce upon the lure of a toll-free telephone number and assurances of ‘Rush us your deposit today to get this once-in-a-lifetime special deal.’ This company is called ‘Innovative Street Machines.’ Some of the same (CMC) personnel, same Miami-area locale—you know, Florida, the telepredator capital of North America. But there’s no way you could know that Innovative Street Machines is in Florida. Petersen, you see, doesn’t even require its advertisers to display their state (or province) of residence, much less their street address. Even the ‘888’ toll-free telephone number won’t provide you a clue as to where they’re located. Update: now these ads have appeared in McMullen Argus’ Kit Car Illustrated (12/98 issue) and Street Rodder (11/98 issue) magazines, and in Paisano Publications’ American Rodder magazine (11/98 issue).

“CMC/ISM’s new ads contain an offer that reads ‘Starting at $129 per Month!’ By now you should be aware, certainly if you’ve read my exposé articles about Classic Motor Carriages, that one of that outfit’s biggest sources of revenue was its ‘liquidated damages’ clause in its sales agreement; under that onerous clause CMC would routinely concoct some pretext to declare you to be in some sort of violation of your contract; then you would receive a letter from CMC’s ‘Sally Russell’ that they were seizing all of your layaway-plan funds that you had paid them over time.

“In 1991 I began warning our readers about (and denying advertising to) Classic Motor Carriages (aka Fiberfab International, then Classic Auto Replicars/CARS, then Champion Auto Works (whose president, James Nearen, was indicted and convicted on federal criminal charges in 1996), then Auto Resolution Ltd. Now you’re treated to Innovative Street Machines, with a curiously similar model lineup and sales techniques (not to speak of the CMC similarities in ISM’s purchase agreement).

“It’s largely the same old cast of characters from CMC, some of them predictably operating with new aliases [CMC’s ‘Sally Russell,’ real name Delores Russell… may now be using ‘Lena,’ as only one example); CMC/FF/ISM President Ben Harrington, who signed the checks to the magazines for CMC/FF (et al.) from 1989 ’til 1995, and who now signs the checks for Innovative Street Machines; Richard Skolnick, ISM’s VP of Sales, CMC pitchman Richard Chaiken, and the same old telemarketing tactics and other pitchman maneuvers]. If you’ve read either of our buyer’s guides (‘The Complete Guide to Specialty Cars’ or ‘The Complete Guide to Cobra Replicas’), then you’ve been provided with ample investigative reporting about Classic Motor Carriages. If, on the other hand, you’ve trusted your favorite enthusiast magazine to deny advertising space to such operations or to provide you with honest warnings about the industry’s arch-villains …again, don’t hold your breath. Remember: these suspect advertisers enrich the magazine publishers with their advertising dollars. Quite an enduring partnership, this telemarketer/magazine-publisher consortium.

“One of Petersen’s editors put the issue (of corporate ethics and corporate responsibility) into dismal perspective: In the September 1995 issue of Petersen’s Kit Car magazine (page 4), editor Steve Temple defended Petersen Publishing’s refusal to reject dishonest or unscrupulous advertisers, with this rationale: ‘Regarding certain suspect companies, I occasionally hear the question “How can you let them advertise?” Well, that’s not how most magazines operate. You might liken a publishing company to a hotel owner. When a couple reserves a room, we don’t ask for a personal reference or marriage certificate. Of course, if they tear the place apart or don’t pay the bills, they’ll eventually get kicked. out.’ (end of quote).

“Sighhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

“The publishers’ lunging for megabuck display ads from these telemarketers is a kick-in-the-teeth, a glaring breach of trust for automotive magazine purchasers like you; if you’re like most motorcar enthusiasts, you feel that you can more-or-less rely upon what you see and read in the magazines; if so, you’d better guess again: you cannot. It’s also a betrayal of the magazines’ honest and reputable advertisers - the silent majority - who are forced to share space with the boiler-room bunco artists that some of the auto-enthusiast-magazine publishers so fondly (and profitably) embrace. I predict that within the next few weeks or months, the enthusiast magazines will be… persuaded… to run favorable feature articles about this Sunshine State operation, and will justify their favorable coverage by claiming that they’re convinced that this latest mirror-image of Classic Motor Carriages/Fiberfab/ CARS/Champion Auto Works/Auto Resolution model-lineup is made up of charter members of the Mother Theresa Fan Club, and that they’ve received favorable feedback from ISM’s delighted customers. They’ll probably even publish ‘Letters to the Editor’ from among the barrage of happy-camper correspondence they’ll have received in a carefully-choreographed letter-writing campaign. And you won’t be treated to a single letter from among the hundreds that they’ve received over the years from the anguished and abused and swindled victims of CMC/Fiberfab/CARS/Champion Auto Works. In fact, I’ll bet the farm that all those complaint letters have long-since been permanently disposed of. Can’t risk possessing evidence of collaboration, you see. And if my prediction comes true… remember where you read your first warning.

“And this situation is never going to improve as long as you and other motorcar enthusiasts remain unconcerned and silent and deem the efforts required to protest these publishers’ ‘damn-our-readers, full-speed-ahead’ policies to be someone else’s responsibility. That ’someone else’ is YOU. The first thing you can do to help to effect change is to divert your magazine-spending dollars to those publishers who take substantive steps to provide you with the information you need to be able to discern the villains from the good guys. First and foremost, any publisher who steps forward and clearly declares a consumer-oriented change of direction—including refusing ad space to those firms whose product quality is unacceptable and/or whose modus operandi is unlawful, abusive, fraudulent—and with a clear declaration that their automotive editors henceforth have a free hand editorially, without being under the thumb of the advertising department, should be promptly rewarded with your subscription dollars and your letter of praise. Dammit, are you listening? Take the time to write to the magazines’ President or CEO (not the editors) and let them know how you feel about these concerns. The name and address of each magazine’s Chief Executive Officer is posted on the staff listings column near the front of every magazine. The time for you to become involved is now!”

After a March 2006 visit to the Street Beasts plant, Miami New Times reporter Mariah Blake wrote the following article which appeared in the paper’s March 2, 2006 edition:

“A Beastly Background by Mariah Blake, Miami New Times, March 2, 2006

“In a 2006 visit to the Street Beasts plant a U.S. map hanging in the lobby was riddled with colorful thumbtacks, each representing a Street Beasts customer. Most of them are clustered east of the Mississippi, but there is at least a smattering in every state, including Alaska and Hawaii. And the map is just one sign of the company's renewed vigor; it now sells some 40 cars a month and brings in about six million dollars a year. ‘No one else does that kind of business," maintains Bob Southern, the company’s vice president of sales. ‘Once again we've become the largest manufacturer of replica cars in the country.’

“Sales were sluggish the first few years. But they've picked up recently. In fact Southern says revenues have nearly doubled since 2002.

“The 40 kits the company sells each month range from $14,500 to $18,500 each; the price includes frame, body, and interior. Most of the components are manufactured in the firm's Little Haiti warehouse. On a recent Wednesday afternoon, forklifts crept between the bone-white hulls of faux classics on the factory floor, and women hunched over sewing machines. An elderly Cuban man in fatigues and a gingham cap used a blowtorch to craft hinges from thick slabs of steel. Nearby, three others in hazmat suits swiveled a giant mechanical arm and then sprayed thin layers of fiberglass thread into a mold for a 1933 Ford Victoria.

“Street Beasts caters mostly to street rod enthusiasts, meaning those who get revved up over pre-1948 models. At any given time, 300,000 people are restoring or replicating cars of this vintage, according to Brian Brennan, editor of Street Rodder magazine. This makes it a one-billion-dollar industry.

“Besides the 1933 Victoria, Street Beasts sells kits for the 1934 Jeep Willy, a 1934 Ford cabriolet, a 1944 Ford three-window coupe, and the 1966 Shelby Cobra. Originals of these cars are rare and expensive; a vintage Cobra can run upward of a million dollars.

“Street Beasts’ reputation is mixed among modern-day rodders. Spirited debates about its product quality and customer-service standards sometimes erupt on electronic message boards catering to collectors. And although most of the dozen customers contacted by New Times were happy with their purchases, at least five have recently filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau and the state attorney general.

“Among the unhappy clients is Jack Luster, a 65-year-old retiree from San Juan Capistrano, California. He says he purchased a Cobra kit and assorted upgrades for about $20,000 in late 2004. When his order arrived in March 2005, parts were missing. Among them: front coil-over shock absorbers and the driver-side roll bar. Some elements took three months to arrive. In the meantime, he claims the company refused to return his phone calls. He also says it mistakenly sent him $1200 worth of parts and then refused to refund the money it charged for them.

“Luster was so steamed that he scrapped the project and sold his Street Beasts body and frame to another rodder. ‘I’ve just written them off,’ he explains. ‘I know nothing will be resolved and they’ll just aggravate me further.’

“Southern says he’s not familiar with the particulars of Luster’s complaints. But such grievances, he argues, usually arise from factors outside the company's control. Street Beasts’ suppliers are sometimes slow to deliver parts. And customers often lack the necessary mechanical acumen. ‘A lot of people think they know how to build a car,’ he explains. ‘But when they get in there, they don’t. And they always think it's our fault.’

“Other customers have been so pleased that they've bought multiple cars. Among them is Ronald Mayberry, a 64-year-old retiree who lives amid the rolling, brush-covered hills of Duncan, Oklahoma. He bought his first Street Beast kit, a 1934 Ford three-window coupe, after his mother died in the late Nineties. ‘My dad was kind of lost,’ he recalls. ‘I thought getting into street-rodding would give us something to do together and let him get his mind off the mourning.’ The duo spent nearly two years outfitting the car with everything from a Chevy 350 motor to an overdrive transmission and power windows. Then they glazed their creation with metallic purple paint. Shortly after it was finished, they ordered and built a 1933 Victoria.

“To house the cars, Mayberry constructed an old-fashioned garage, complete with checkered floors, a penny scale, and antique gas pumps. He has also taken to attending street rod shows. ‘It’s like going back to better times, when life moved slower,’ he explains. ‘The cars really transport you.’

“The 40 kits the company sells each month range from $14,500 to $18,500 each; the price includes frame, body, and interior. Most of the components are manufactured in the firm’s Little Haiti warehouse. On a recent Wednesday afternoon, forklifts crept between the bone-white hulls of faux classics on the factory floor, and women hunched over sewing machines. An elderly Cuban man in fatigues and a gingham cap used a blowtorch to craft hinges from thick slabs of steel. Nearby, three others in hazmat suits swiveled a giant mechanical arm and then sprayed thin layers of fiberglass thread into a mold for a 1933 Ford Victoria.”

Two years later Hot Rod Magazine’s D. Brian Smith toured the Street Beasts plant, which resulted in the following story that appeared on Hot Rod’s website on September 10, 2008:

“For Part 2 of our whirlwind tour, we stopped in at Street Beasts, in Miami, on two separate occasions. For our first afternoon visit, General Manager Steve Levin spoke with us and talked about the various replicars that Street Beasts produces: a ’34 Coupe, a ’34 Cabriolet, a ’33 Vicky, a ’41 Willys Coupe, a ’66 Roadster, a ’66 Roadster Coupe, and a ’55 Speedster.

“Steve gave the three of us a quick tour of the immense factory, where pretty much the complete kits are manufactured, from creating the fiberglass bodies, to welding together the frames, to stitching the upholstery, to developing rolling chassis. In a new expansion based on customer demand, Street Beasts now also has the ability to build a car from start to finish paintwork, for those clients who don’t desire doing the building and finish work themselves.

“Later in the week, we paid a repeat visit, so that I could get a more lengthy tour of the facility and snap some photos. Street Beasts’ Plant Manager Gene Cruncleton met with us and gave me a great perspective of the factory. Those who know me are aware that I’m not shy about asking questions. Having worked at Street Beasts for many years, Gene answered all my queries with great detail. He also introduced me to many of his colleagues in the different production departments, so that I might ask them a question or two.

“Angela, Brenda, and I came away from our two tours of Street Beasts aware of why the company is doing so well. Street Beasts handles all facets of the production, as well as financial, marketing, and personnel issues within one huge facility. Raw materials come in the receiving bay just a bit quicker than the completed kits and fully built cars get delivered to customers.”

Street Beasts survived the 2000s selling ‘Hot Rod’ kits (’34 Ford Coupe, a ’34 Ford Cabriolet, a ’33 Ford Vicky, a ’41 Willys Coupe), Shelby Cobra kits, (’66 Cobra Roadster, ’66 Cobra Coupe), and a Porsche kits (’55 Porsche Speedster), however, complaints about its products continued and Street Beasts closed its business in 2010 and auctioned off its plant, molds, and machinery. The auction photos show many old CMC parts, molds, and even a crated Gazelle. In addition file cabinets labeled “Auto Resolutions” could be seen. In 2011 the molds for the Speedster were placed on eBay.

Undaunted by his previous automotive failures, Steven I. Levin, George’s nephew, formed two new ones, the first called Hollywood Rod & Custom, Inc. (organized February 14, 2007), and the second dubbed Resolution Auto, Inc. (formed on November 1, 2010). The latter’s listing with the Florida Dept. of State follows:

Resolution Auto Inc., Nov 1, 2010 – present, 4021 NE 28th Ave., Fort Lauderdale, FL, 33308; Steven Ira Levin, president, 230 NE 72 St Bldg. A, Miami, Fl. 33138

It is unknown if either Hollywood Rod & Custom or Resolution Auto produced any kits or vehicles.

Over the years George G. Levin has either owned or controlled well over 100 Florida-based corporations, which at one time or another included the following transportation-related businesses:

Vintage Reproductions, Inc.; B & G Marine Enterprises, Inc.; Classic Motor Coaches, Inc.; Classic Motor Carriages Leasing Co., INC.; Fiberfab International, Inc.; Classic Motor Carriages, Inc.; Classic Motor Carriages International, Inc.; GGL Assembly Co., Inc.; Auto Resolution, Inc.; Auto Resolutions, Inc.; Resolution Auto, Inc.; Hollywood Rod and Custom, Inc.; Innovative Street Machines, Inc.; Hollywood Rod and Custom, Inc.; Peoples Trucking Co.; Volunteer Auto Sales, LLC; George Marine Holdings, LLC; Royal Express Transportation, Inc.; Coral Ridge Yacht Charters, Inc.; Sterling Yacht Brokerage Co.; Sterling Yacht and Shipbuilders, Inc.; Car Care Management Services, Inc.; The Original Good Old Fashioned Cookie Co.; TMC Acquisition Corp.

The main consensus in regards to CMC’s various kits and turn-key cars was that they were generally of fairly high quality; it was the company’s questionable customer service, deceptive contracts and business practices that damaged its reputation and ultimately resulted in its 1994 failure

George G. Levin’s numerous problems involving CMC customers were dwarfed by the repercussions that followed the January 2010 guilty plea of attorney Scott Rothstein, who organized a $1.4 Billion Ponzi scheme targeting wealthy Florida investors. Rothstein admitted to several racketeering, money-laundering and mail- and wire-fraud conspiracies, as well as two counts of wire fraud. He was permanently disbarred and sentenced to 50 years in Federal prison.

Details of the SEC Complaint against Banyon 1030-32 LLC investment fund partners George G. Levin and Frank Preve follow:

On May 22, 2012, The Securities and Exchange Commission charged two individuals who provided the biggest influx of investor funds into one of the largest-ever Ponzi schemes in South Florida. The SEC alleges that George Levin and Frank Preve, who live in the Fort Lauderdale area, raised more than $157 million from 173 investors in less than two years by issuing promissory notes from Levin’s company and interests in a private investment fund they operated. They used investor funds to purchase discounted legal settlements from former Florida attorney Scott Rothstein through his prominent law firm Rothstein Rosenfeldt and Adler PA. However, the settlements Rothstein sold were not real and the supposed plaintiffs and defendants did not exist. Rothstein simply used the funds in classic Ponzi scheme fashion to make payments due other investors and support his lavish lifestyle. Rothstein’s Ponzi scheme collapsed in October 2009, and he is currently serving a 50-year prison sentence.

On December 28, 2012 Bob Norman, a reporter for the Pembroke Park, Florida NBC affiliate WPLG, wrote the following, asking:

“Is George Levin a victim in the Rothstein Ponzi?

“Posted: 9:57 AM, December 28, 2012

“Convicted Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein said that when George Levin began investing in his fraud, it ‘got wings.’

“Levin, a multimillionaire businessman with a controversial past, not only put much of his fortune (valued at more than $200 million) but also lured hundreds of investors into Rothstein's bogus legal settlements deals through his Banyon hedge fund. Some estimates are that Levin was responsible for an incredible $775 million going into Rothstein's coffers before the scheme imploded.

“The Securities and Exchange Commission has filed a complaint charging Levin and his one-time right-hand man Frank Preve with misleading those investors. The Rothstein bankruptcy trustee is going after Levin to compensate victims. Rothstein himself in depositions said he considered Levin a ‘player’ in his scheme and believed Levin knew it was a fraud, though he never had any direct conversations with him on the topic and couldn’t prove it. Levin himself had a sketchy background in business, as his former Miami-based company, Classic Motor Carriages, was convicted of fraud back in 1999.

“But now Levin and his wife, Gayla Sue, have each filed lawsuits against TD Bank alleging the bank is culpable for their losses. The suits claim the couple’s net worth has been decimated and seeks total damages, according to one of their attorneys, of a billion dollars.

‘“TD Bank processed $6 billion worth of transactions during the time with Rothstein through his law firm, six billion dollars, every bit of that was stolen money,’ said William Scherer, who is representing Gayla Sue Levin in her suit.’ ‘... TD Bank was involved in the fraud but in addition covered up evidence of the fraud.’

“Scherer has already recovered more than $220 million from TD Bank in previous actions and has another suit representing Rothstein investors seeking another $100 million.

“George Levin's attorney, William L. Richey, said his client believed the scheme was on the up-and-up, so much so that he had his four daughters and 100-year-old mother sink their money into it as well. Richey said Levin met with bank officials about taking out a line of credit based on hundreds of millions of dollars he believed was in the Rothstein accounts that wasn't there.

‘“Never once did {bank officials] say there isn’t any money in these accounts, never once did they call regulators,’ said Richey. ‘He believes he’s got hundreds of millions of dollars in the bank that he doesn’t have in there, that didn't exist.’

“Attorney Scherer, however, wasn’t always on Levin’s side. His earlier lawsuits aimed suspicion at Levin, calling him a ‘co-conspirator’ in the scheme. In one suit Scherer pointed out that Levin offered to shore up any shortfalls in the accounts when the scheme appeared to be imploding. Scherer wrote that the shortfall itself was ‘obvious evidence that the monies are either being misused or are a part of a Ponzi scheme’ and the Levin should have recognized that. At the time a spokesman for Levin called Scherer’s allegation a ‘despicable attempt to turn a victim into a villain.’

“Richey said Levin has subsequently provided more evidence that he really is a victim, winning over Scherer. Richey said Levin's offer to fill the Ponzi gap was an attempt to help make investors whole, rather than a bid to keep the scheme going. ‘He was told again and again, the money was in the bank,’ said Richey. ‘And he thought if the money was in the bank, it couldn't be bad, it couldn't be wrong.’

“Marcus, Neiman & Rashbaum, LLP, represented George Levin in SEC v. Levin, an SEC enforcement action related to Scott Rothstein’s $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme. Levin created several investment companies that, collectively, were the largest “feeder” funds that invested in Rothstein’s Ponzi scheme.”

By July of 2010, Levin had agreed to turn over the bulk of his $100-200 million fortune to the RRA bankruptcy settlement. Broward, Palm Beach New Times reporter Bob Norman wrote in their July 26, 2010 edition:

“Fort Lauderdale, Fla., millionaire George Levin, whose Banyon Investors Fund was the primary feeder fund that funneled about $830 million into Scott Rothstein's Ponzi scheme, has agreed to surrender the bulk of his assets under a bankruptcy settlement.

“John Genovese, representing the trustee for the defunct Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler law firm, announced the settlement in court Friday. It still must be approved by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Raymond Ray following a hearing to allow any other creditors to dissent.

“In what appears to be the largest settlement to date in the case, the former hedge fund manager has agreed to give up most of his 29 properties and business interests.

“Under terms of the settlement, Levin, 70, and his wife, Gayla Sue, will keep their primary home, a Fort Lauderdale waterfront home valued at $4.2 million, and $750,000 in jewelry and personal effects.

“The value of the 29 assets was not disclosed, but Levin has stated in financial papers he is worth $100 million to $200 million.”

Although Levin was never officially charged with a crime,on April 3, 2015 a civil jury found George Levin committed securities fraud linked to a massive Ponzi scheme. The Associated Press reported:

“A federal jury took less than three hours Wednesday to find a Broward man committed securities fraud with two investment funds linked to Scott Rothstein's Ponzi scheme.

“The civil verdict against George Levin, 74, of Fort Lauderdale, was reached after a jury trial in federal court in Miami.

“The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed its civil complaint against Levin in 2012. Levin controlled two private investment funds that raised more than $157 million from more than 150 investors in less than two years, SEC lawyers said.

“The funds purchased non-existent, legal settlements from Rothstein, who was convicted of running a $1.4 billion Ponzi scheme. Rothstein, a Fort Lauderdale attorney, was later disbarred and is serving 50 years in federal prison.

“Levin was not charged with any crimes related to the Ponzi scheme.

“Levin falsely told investors that the funds had safeguards in place to protect investments, though he knew the funds were not following accepted procedures, the lawyers said.

“U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro is expected to rule in the next few weeks on the financial penalties Levin must pay.”

On July 22, 2015 U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro ordered Levin to pay more than $41 million in disgorgement and civil penalties for funneling investor money into Scott Rothstein's Ponzi scheme.

The Levin’s 30-knot luxury yacht ‘Clueless’ was auctioned off in February of 2016 as part of the court-ordered forfeiture. The attractive Palmer Johnson-Cruiser Express had twin 1150hp engines that push a top speed of 34.5mph (or 30 knots). A February 4, 2016 news item stated the yacht was expected to sell for upwards of $1 million.

Attorneys for Levin filed an appeal to the SEC’s 2015 action charging Levin with securities violations and on February 23, 2017 the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh both affirmed and reversed parts of the earlier decision, remanding the case for further proceedings.

A search of CMC’s former properties reveals several are still standing:

4380 N.E. 11th Ave. Ft Lauderdale, Florida – still there

14211 NE 18th Ave., North Miami, Florida – still there

200-9 South Federal Highway, Hallandale, Florida – still there

4730 N.W. 128 Street Rd., Opa Locka, Florida – razed, now an empty concrete pad.

16650 N.W. 27th Ave., Miami – tower removed, building converted into a shopping plaza

W​here are the cars & parts now?

T​he parts inventory was largely bought out by MG Magic in the years following Classic Motor Carriages discontinuing product. They continue to develop their product line and still sell many parts for these kits, and fiberfab.us still holds free PDF assembly manuals for the VW and Chevette Gazelles.

A​s for the cars, many survivors and even numerous unbuilt or partly finished kits exist to this day, and they are very often passed off as the real thing by unscrupulous owners. The 356 and Cobra kits have held their value best, but others are considered cult collectibles, including the Gazelle.

Join In

Comments (2)

  • Ah the wild and wonderful world of the 70's fiberfab craze. D'Oh!

      6 days ago
  • Thanks for posting this, Andria! It's a huge amount of information but very interesting! 😀

      6 days ago
2