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South Shore News

Classic car dealer sells sweet rides in South Shore

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Published:   |   Updated: March 14, 2014 at 10:05 AM

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RUSKIN – Salesmen Jeffrey Burch and William Shelnutt love what they do for a living. They have dream jobs selling dream cars.

The pair works for Gateway Classic Cars, a nationwide dealer that sells classic cars on consignment for private owners, collectors and estates. Owned by Sal Akbani of St. Louis, the company has been in business since February 1999 and recently opened its sixth location in the South Shore Corporate Park, 351 30th St. N.E., Ruskin. Its other five showrooms are in Detroit, Louisville, Chicago, Indianapolis and St. Louis.

“We bring buyers and sellers together,” Shelnutt said. “We want everyone involved to be happy.”

In its first month the Tampa facility, as they call it, eight cars were moved, a total of almost $200,000 in sales. Two of the eight cars sold the first day it opened, which set a company record for first-month sales.

Gateway Classic Cars sells 90 to 95 percent of its consigned vehicles online, sight unseen. Its website, www.gatewayclassiccars.com, had more than 1.5 million hits last month.

Here’s how it works:

Sellers either drive or ship their cars to a one of Gateway’s sites. The vehicles, which can be any make or model, must be mechanically sound, free of rust, have 100,000 miles or less on their drive trains and have “some sort of collector value,” Burch said. And anything after 1981 must have a clean CARFAX vehicle history.

Gateway Classic Cars assigns a negotiated price based on what the owner wants to net plus a dealer commission and a contract is signed.

The vehicles are then advertised on more than 60 sites using high-definition photos and videos. Bank financing is available to qualified American citizens and residents with current rates as low as 8 percent. When sold, the company arranges shipping to the buyer.

“One of our distinct advantages is that we also deal with international buyers,” Shelnutt said.

The Ruskin-based showroom currently has an inventory of about 40 cars with model years from 1917 to 2011. There is space for 175.

Prices for these current cars range from $10,000 to $110,000. Across the company there are cars for sale ranging in price from $8,000 to $650,000.

“Most of our cars are extremely low mileage. They’re driver cars or show cars,” Burch said. “We’re the largest classic car dealer in the world.”

Visiting family in the area, Ed Ennis of Louisville stopped in to see the new showroom. He currently has a car consigned with Gateway and owns nine specialty cars.

“They’re car people; they’re very knowledgeable and professional,” he said, while looking under the hood of a pristine 1960 Chevy Impala. “They’re very particular and very fair on pricing. I’ve never heard a disapproving word from anyone.”

Gateway Classic cars will host its 15th Annual Spring Fling & Car Corral from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 10 at all six locations. It will include classic cars, music, food, vendors and more. Sign up to sell your car at the event by calling (866) 430-2325.

The Ruskin showroom is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For additional information, call (813) 645-6200.

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