BEMUS POINT — A local vintage car business not only sells, buys and restores vintage Jeep Grand Wagoneers in the United States, but across the world as well.
George Kerr, owner of Grand Wagoneer by Classic Gentleman in Bemus Point, said the idea for his business began about 10 years ago when he decided he wanted to move with his family to the area permanently.
“I’ve always been a summer person, but about 10 years ago when I was in my 40s I had a desire to move up here to the lake permanently,” Kerr said. “I managed to convince my wife, but then we had to figure out a way to make money up here. So, I picked a hobby, and I’ve always been into classic cars, so we turned that into a business.”
They chose the Jeep Grand Wagoneer because it was the first SUV to be made in America in the 1960s.
“It’s part of the Americana,” Kerr said. “It was first made in the ’60s but was made up until 1991, so it’s very old school. It’s just an interesting and fun car that we get to sell to interesting people across the world.”
While the business resides in Bemus Point, all transactions are done on the company’s website — grandwagoneerbyclassicgentleman.com. Indeed, the business sells more to places such as New Zealand and celebrities in the United States, and it is rare to have local walk-ins, Kerr said.
“We’ve sold to people like Hillary Duff for her wedding to the past president of the NBC Universal Division and the past president of Liz Clayborne, right down to the everyday people,” Kerr said.
“It takes about a year for us to complete a restoration, so we have a pretty healthy waiting list.”
At the moment the company has 15 vintage Grand Wagoneers that they are working on restoring. The cars were purchased mostly from the West Coast or Deep South, according to Kerr.
“Our restoration candidates must not only have low miles but need to have stayed far away from corrosive winter road salt,” Kerr said.
The restoration process includes removing the frame from the chassis to restore the car’s undercarriage. Then, the company installs newly remanufactured engines and services all electrical and mechanical systems, which sometimes includes updating them to modern standards.
The prices on the Grand Wagoneers range from around $99,000 to $130,000.
Overall, Kerr said what he enjoys most about his business is that the people who work for him get to see their work go all across the world.
“I think it’s great that the local people who work for me get to see their work going all over the world,” he said. “I have everyone from a few Amish guys to the upholsters and painters, and they get to send their work go all over. It’s a nice business and it’s established itself pretty nicely.”
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