Classic-auto business thrives after move to Airpark
By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Walt Brown Jr. is obsessed with cars.
“Cars have always been a love for me,” Brown said, cuddled with his two sons on the couch watching a holiday movie. “I have always been a fan of Barrett-Jackson and have bought cars. I had a little car collection.”
That “little car collection” has evolved, as he is carrying on his dad’s legacy with 64-year-old Brown’s Classic Autos, a company new to the Airpark that offers consignment and service.
“We do a ton of restoration and rebuilding,” Brown said. “We do a ton of consignment. We’re selling a lot of automobiles. We are just filling a really great niche.”
Brown purchased the Airpark showroom six months ago, and spent three months remodeling it. Shiny, intimidating cars aside, the building is a vision. A piano and retail store are the showpieces of the second floor. A large patio with couches offers customers the chance to relax while their cars are worked on. Brown says there is $500,000 worth of “automobilia” in there; $5 million in cars in the front and another $10 million in the back.
“It’s pretty cool,” he said with a wide grin.
Since opening the Airpark showroom two and a half months ago, Brown has seen his business skyrocket. He has added staff and is looking to expand even further.
“The Airpark has been great to us because it placed us in the location where our customers are based,” he said. “We have customers who fly in and ask if they can bring their hot rod over.
“We wanted to be in Scottsdale. We felt we needed to have access to the affluent customers to the north. It really gives us a unique opportunity with the zoning. We’re able to restore automobiles, have people display them inside and keep them in an air-conditioned environment.”
Sales manager Chris Legg has been with the company for two and a half years and watched it grow.
“It just keeps growing,” Legg said. “(Brown) started with a 1,500-square-foot building and now he’s on his third building in four years. It just keeps on getting bigger and bigger. It’s cool to watch.”
The car dealers that line Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard bring cars to Brown’s Classic Autos for the various services it provides. It also builds cars, sometimes for well-known Valley residents and car enthusiasts abroad.
“We just finished designing and building a 1963 split-window Corvette for a well-known wide receiver,” he said coyly. “The car has already won national awards for design and for quality and expertise.
“You just cannot imagine how fantastic the car turned out. We had General Motors get involved. They got a new engine out of a brand new 2016 Corvette and we put it in the 1963 Corvette. The quality and design of that is awesome. We’ve also seen autos going to Australia. We sent a Ferrari to Germany yesterday. Another car to Dubai. Isn’t that cool?”
This month, Brown’s Classic Autos is once again working with Barrett-Jackson to produce and build cars exclusively for the auction.
“Luckily, we’ve done enough quality work that they know us and they like the quality of the cars we’re producing,” Brown said. “We sell many cars a year through Barrett-Jackson auctions. They’ve been really good for us.”
This year, at the Scottsdale auction, Legg says, Brown’s Classic Autos will showcase 13 vehicles, including a Camaro, Mustang, Dale Earnhardt Monte Carlos, a 1958 Pontiac Star Chief, a BMW and custom motorcycles.
Brown is proud of that partnership. Not only is Barrett-Jackson an institution, it’s great for the community.
“Overall, it’s a big deal,” he said. “They’ve been so great to everybody with the money they’ve raised for charity. Every year, they give back $1 million or $2 million. It brings a lot of people to town. They’re great through the entire community.”
Brown wants his company to be the go-to place for restoration, consignment and upgrades of investment-grade cars.
“When people think of cars, we want them to think of Brown’s,” he said. “We’ve been very fortunate and very lucky.
e’ve made some great relationships and have some great customers. It’s all about quality.”
The business is great, but for Brown, it’s all about family, whether it’s his blood or his customers.
“We love Arizona and we’re family,” he said. “My two boys—they’re 17 and 5—they love cars, too. I’ve been very blessed.”
The relationship mirrors that of his bond with his father.
“I watched him and was a part of the business,” he said. “Nights and weekends, I would work on cars with him. My first car was a truck. He bought me this old truck, cleaned it up and made it pretty. I sold it then and made some extra money.
“It’s easy when you build and associate yourself with quality vehicles. Brown’s reputation is its quality.”
Reach Brown’s Classic Autos, 7995 E. Paradise Lane in Scottsdale, at brownsclassicautos.com or 480-998-4300.