Although it’s not the usual kind of car the business works on, the story behind a 1952 Hudson Hornet compelled the folks at Farland Classic Restoration to take on the challenge of returning it to its former glory.
“Sometimes we do those kind of cars,” said company owner Jack Farland. “We call it sentimental motors. You know, people are in love with some car for some reason and want to bring it back to original.”
In this case, in the early 1960s, the owner of the Hudson, his six siblings and their parents used to travel all over the country together in that car, Farland said.
Farland Classic Restoration, located for over 30 years in Englewood, restores vintage luxury automobiles and sports cars. With 20 employees, the 15,000-square-foot shop is one of the larger restoration businesses in the country, Farland said.
In addition to nostalgia-filled family cars, they’ve worked on Ferraris, Maseratis, Porsches — some now worth millions — that have gone onto win awards at Pebble Beach and Amelia Island’s premier car competitions.
The company also buys and sells cars. Last year, it sold 44 classic cars from its 5,000-square-foot showroom down the street. Car sales create more gross income for the business than the shop by “a fair amount,” Farland said. Although restorations are roughly 90% of what they do, margins are slim on that side of operation.
Parts, technicians, buildings, energy — it’s all expensive, he said.
“We have a big paint booth that has a million BTU gas heaters,” he said. “You turn it on and the dollar signs, they’re just rotating like a slot machine. It’s crazy.”
So managing the money is key.
“I don’t care what business,” Farland said. “You have to do a good job with the finances, or you can’t stay in business. Probably more important today than ever because everything’s so tight. Costs go up so fast.”
Farland Classic Restoration developed a system that works well for them. A customer’s money for the project is placed in an account upfront. Then Farland technicians closely track what they do and bill the account on a regular basis.
As the caretakers of vintage cars, Farland Classic Restoration needs to be familiar with the old, of course, but also the new.
For about the last five years, instead of writing down the work they’ve completed, technicians have used their phones and QR codes to track what work they’ve done on which car.
“All that information goes on to a billing software program … and all the things that are done to that one car then end up on a bill,” Farland said. “Then every week, whatever work was done on that particular car, that much money is taken out of the (customer’s) account.”
No stranger to innovation, the company recently started performing electric conversions, that is, replacing the internal combustion engines of classic cars with electric motors. These cars, such as the 1966 Porsche 912 they’re currently converting, have a very small carbon footprint when the shop’s done with them.
Farland wants to provide an avenue for people who’d like to continue to drive these little pieces of history but in a more modern way.
“That’s our next big thing.”