|John Meyer sold trash
collection businesses in four states and opened a classic car
showroom in a former John Deere dealership on the outskirts of
Warrensburg. Happy Days Dream Cars specializes in muscle cars,
classics and street rods. Meyer stands between a highly customized
1965 Chevrolet Chevelle convertible and a 1970 Dodge Challenger
convertible sporting Chrysler’s new Hemi
It may surprise
young motorists today but during the late 1960s and early 1970s you
could walk into almost any auto dealership and buy a race car — or
at least a car worthy of the track.
The epitome of Detroit’s muscle car madness was surely the
426-horsepower Plymouth Super Bird and Dodge Charger Daytona models.
Sporting scooped noses and 2-foot-tall rear wings, these cars satisfied
a NASCAR requirement that cars used in stock car racing were actually
available in showrooms. Not to be left in the dust, Ford and General
Motors produced their own high-performance iron.
Sadly, for fans of American muscle cars, those days are long gone.
Or are they?
In Warrensburg, you can still walk into a showroom and find the occasional Super
Bird along with a number of other muscle cars, street rods and classics. In 2001
John Meyer launched Happy Days Dream Cars, a classic car dealership, after selling
trash collection businesses he operated in four states.
loved cars and I needed something to do to occupy my time,” says
John, a member of West Central Electric Cooperative. “I thought about
starting a collection but decided there’s a lot more interaction in a
dealership. Also I’d see a lot more cars in a dealership than I would
in a collection.”
an old John Deere dealership building along Highway 50 and converted
it to his classic car showroom. Two huge walls of glass stream sunlight
onto perfectly restored cars parked atop a gleaming floor painted
black and white to mimic a checkered flag. Just beyond the main showroom
the implement dealer’s
service area has been transformed into more display area and filled with
row after row of classic cars parked beneath automotive advertising
Carl Maberry and Debbie Bryson of Sweet Springs admire a 1959
Dodge in the Happy Days showroom. The couple stops by the dealership
on a regular basis to look at the cars.
know any other place that has that many cars,” says
Kerwin Looney who films segments of his automotive TV show “Cartunz” at
Happy Days Dream Cars. Aired on Kansas City’s KPXE, the program features
automobiles selected from John’s $3.5 million inventory. “There’s
no way I can run out of cars to shoot at this place.”
into the Happy Days showroom is like stepping into an automotive time
capsule. A red 1966 Mustang Fastback sits near an original ’69
Z-28 Chevy Camaro and a 1970 Chevelle with a 454-cubic-inch engine.
Down the row, a bevy of Dodge and Plymouth muscle cars sporting “440-Six-Packs” and “Hemi” engines
await well-heeled buyers with a penchant for horsepower.
While these terms
sound like gibberish to today’s drivers, mere mention
of the triple carburetor Six Pack or the legendary Hemi engine — named
for the shape of the cylinder head’s combustion chamber — is
enough to make many a middle-aged man’s heart palpitate.
Days’ inventory includes dream cars of an earlier generation,
as well. In fact, John says his customers — typically, males
aged 45-65 — are
divided among several camps based on which cars were popular when
they were young.
it’s people buying cars like
they used to have,” says
John, 59, whose own tastes lean toward older cars.
|While muscle cars are the hottest seller these days, John says
he prefers older cars like this 1959 Dodge.
I like the ’55, ’56, ’57 Chevys, or cars
like this old Buick out here,” he says, motioning toward
a pristine 1941 Buick Super Convertible, priced at $65,000. “That ’59
Dodge out there — something
like that is a lot more exciting to me than a ’70 Chevelle.”
his customers, John says his choice of cars is closely tied
to memories and experiences from his early days behind the wheel. “My
first car, when I was 16, was a ’55 Chevy, coral and
grey. I dated my wife in it and asked her to marry me at the
drive-in in that car,” John says.
wife, Helen, joins him in the business as Happy Days’ bookkeeper.
A customized ’55 Chevy convertible, similar to the
car the Meyers dated in, is prominently displayed in one
corner of his showroom. That car has never been priced for
sale but everything else in the showroom is available — including
the advertising signs.
Happy Days Dream
Cars sells about 10 cars each month, primarily to out-of-state buyers.
A few have sold overseas. John lists his cars in national automotive
publications like Deals on Wheels and Old Car Trader, as
well as on his Web site. Deals are typically made over
the phone or via e-mail and the cars are delivered by commercial
carrier. About half of John’s cars are sold sight-unseen.
never does a person wandering into the showroom end up
buying a car. Typically, visitors to the Warrensburg
business come to see cars they’ve already discussed
with John, or they are car buffs who stop by just to
admire the inventory.
surprising that many people come to look and not buy. These cars
typically cost $35,000 or more. A desirable muscle car with original
parts can easily bring $60,000 and the most sought-after — like
the 1970 Plymouth Super Bird John is currently having restored — can
bring five times as much.
This giant air cleaner with cartoon graphics sits atop a 426-horsepower
Chrysler Hemi engine, one of the most sought after power plants
among the classic cars Happy Days Dream Cars sells.
prices do not translate into high performance profits, John says.
Between traveling the country to purchase cars, paying a staff and
preparing the vehicles for the showroom, sales just cover expenses. “It’s
kind of a hobby business in a sense,” he says. “Mainly
we enjoy doing it and hope that it will pay the bills.
It doesn’t do a lot more than that,
but it does pay the bills.”
Instead, John has
realized what he set out to do when he retired
from the trash business. He has created a place where
he can enjoy cars and interact with other enthusiasts.
enjoy sharing the showroom,” he says. “When
people come in here they’re always smiling.
When I was in the trash business and people came
into my office they weren’t always smiling.”
than anything, it seems the cars give John
the greatest satisfaction. His enthusiasm is evident
as he leads a visitor along a row of classic muscle
cars and describes the details of each one. After
years of working toward his retirement he has claimed
“I used to have money,” he says with a smile. “Now
I have cars.”
Happy Days Dream Cars is located at 812 E. Young in Warrensburg.
Visitors are welcome Tuesday through Saturday. For more information
call (660) 422-7177 or log onto www.happycarz.com.