The concept vehicle looks like a wonderful place to ride along as a passenger.
Yet some retail operators spring for one or more vintages for weddings and special occasions because they bring in more business, whether the vehicle earns a profit or acts as a loss leader. Just one vintage in a fleet can prompt a marrying couple to reserve more vans, stretches or buses for large groups.
“Vintage vehicles can be a necessary evil to book bigger vehicles, but it all depends on the market you’re in,” says Robert Xavier, president of Legend Limousines in Smithtown, N.Y. Xavier has a 22-vehicle fleet, including nine buses, five of which are 30+ passenger models, but it’s the 1955 Rolls Royce Silver Wraith that brings in the group wedding work.
“If you’re in a destination city like Miami, Manhattan, or Las Vegas, you can secure large group work because there is consistent demand,” he says.
“For the rest of us who are not in destination cities, there are only so many big vehicles we can own before we need to have a specialty vehicle.
For the ‘55 Rolls, they don’t just book the car. They also book the buses for the entire wedding party. These vintage cars may not be the most profitable vehicles to run, but they can bring in a lot of work.”
Another benefit to a vintage vehicle is its marketing and promotional potential. With the right photography and scenery, vintages can class up a company’s advertising images and social media posts.
Saying A Thousand Words
At Vintage Occasions in Sioux Falls, S.D., two vintage fleet vehicles succeed in the local market thanks to husband-wife owners Brad and Joy Schroeder marketing them on social media.
“Our marketing strategy has primarily been Facebook,” Joy Schroeder says. The classic vehicles, a 1949 Cadillac Fleetwood 75 Series Limousine and 1948 D24 Dodge, have seen steady demand from wedding clients and for “Big Band Ballroom Dancing” nights at the local hall in Sioux Falls. The cars have appeared at the Joe Foss Field Airport for historical air shows, and Joy and Brad often will dress up in vintage clothing for marketing pictures.
“We run Facebook promotions, requesting comments, likes, and shares, and have given away free rides to winning participants,” Joy says. “We also have used paid advertising, which can be customized to reach our target audience, typically engaged couples, and we are on Twitter and Instagram now because our audience is moving there.
"But what all of these [social media channels] have in common is pictures of our cars in action. We’re showing something tangible: whether it’s a bride with her dad or groom, or a happy couple celebrating a milestone anniversary, or a son treating his dad for his 85th birthday. The only thing these smiling pictures can’t convey are the laughter and the music — but that’s what videos are for.”
Idaho Towncar of Boise also relies on marketing photos to promote its antique vehicle fleet. Owner Jamie Talan recently purchased a rare, 1935 Plymouth that has been stretched into a limousine. The Plymouth has attracted attention from local customers looking to book it for weddings and nights out on the town. Talan hired a photographer and models to shoot the vehicle in a classic, roaring 20s, Prohibition-gangster-theme.
“We bought the vehicle in Chicago, after hearing it had originally been owned by a real gangster from the ‘30s, and since we’ve added it to the fleet, people love it,” Talan says. The pictures of the Plymouth feature two models dressed in Prohibition-era flapper and gangster outfits, and Talan uses the images on the company’s website and Facebook page.
In the area around Legend Limousines’ headquarters in Smithtown, large wedding venues hold shows to bring potential couples to view the grounds. Xavier exhibits the 1955 Rolls-Royce at each one. The vehicle is pictured on the front of every brochure he hands out, and he’s been able to lock up consistent work with the venues throughout the wedding season as a result. Although the restoring and maintaining a true original piece of automotive history can be expensive, Xavier says it’s worth it. His Silver Wraith is an authentic piece, with all original parts. “Once you’re a recommended vendor at these larger venues, you can really get a lot of business, and as far as the vehicle costs, from an enthusiast point of view, if I ever sold this vehicle now, it will be an asset that can appreciate as time goes on.”
Upkeep And Maintenance
Buying, restoring, and maintaining a vintage vehicle brings multiple challenges. “I do [the chauffeur business] part time but I figured if I’m going to have antique cars, I might as well try to get them to pay for themselves,” says Joe Mazzone of Buckeye Classics of Painesville, Ohio, who also owns an antique car repair business.
He started doing wedding runs after buying a 1930 Model A and a 1929 Chevrolet Landau. Finding the vehicles through word of mouth, Mazzone fixes them up and maintains them on a regular schedule. “These cars are not real hardy,” he says. “I’ve done minor modifications, like upgraded lights and seatbelts, and we put in air conditioning. But they can’t go through the snow. That’s our one stipulation. If the weather is bad, we don’t run them on bad road conditions.” Mazzone adds he always has to track maintenance closely. “If the car breaks down, you can’t just pull into the local shop and find parts.”
Andrew Armitage, president of Vintage Chauffeuring in Chicago, says it helps to have a little car know-how when running classic vehicles. Armitage grew up helping his father fix antique cars and now has amassed a collection of five vintage vehicles to offer clients. He is a member of the old car clubs and looks for good finds on www.hemmings.com.
Armitage runs a mixed fleet of vintage and modern vehicles to capitalize on the demands of both. When the vehicles go down, his experience under the hood helps him cut down on repair costs. “I do a lot of the mechanical work and I try to keep my eye out for factory limousines,” Armitage says. “They usually have more room in the back for the bride, and believe it or not, the demand isn’t that high for them because of their size.”
The concept vehicle looks like a wonderful place to ride along as a passenger.
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