Hidden in the rolling hills near Summerville, Georgia, is perhaps the ultimate “man cave” for anyone who likes classic cars, airplanes, and related memorabilia.
Owned by Greg Wyatt, 56, one of the country’s leading dealers in investment-grade vintage Corvettes, the building is crammed full of collector cars for sale, typically 30 or more at a time.
And, because Wyatt is a pilot who likes airplanes just as much as cars, his business and home are located across from each other on a private 2,750-foot lighted grass strip that he bought 23 years ago.
Set up like a museum, the interior of Wyatt Auto Sales’ 23,000-square-foot showroom and restoration facility is complete with a Texaco gas station façade and walls full of vintage automotive and aviation signs and artwork.
To accommodate his fleet of four planes, the north end of Wyatt’s building is a hangar, complete with a 45-foot-wide door.
Wyatt, who specializes in 1953-1967 Corvettes, sold 80 collector cars last year. Some body work is farmed out to a local shop, but he handles all the restorations himself.
“I do something to each car that comes in the door,” he says, and with no employees, he even dusts the cars and sweeps the floor during his typical seven-days-a-week work schedule.
Wyatt hardly knew there was a recession in 2008 and 2009 and currently he’s making money even if his inventory doesn’t sell right away because top-quality collector cars are appreciating 8% to 10% each year.
Many of Wyatt’s repeat customers now buy cars over the phone due to his good reputation, which has been earned over 35 years in business, plus detailed photos of each car on the web.
Like planes, proper paperwork can greatly enhance the value of a classic Corvette, especially if certified as original by the National Corvette Restorers Society (NCRS) — and many of Wyatt’s cars carry that cache.
Aviation has been an important part of Wyatt’s life since 1987, when he taught himself to fly in a Weedhopper ultralight.
“I don’t recommend that as a flight training method,” says Wyatt with a grin. He eventually progressed to an Aeronca Champ and a Cessna 120, but Piper Cubs are his favorite. “It’s hard to beat a Cub,” he says.
As an aircraft owner, Wyatt proved he had his priorities straight in 1993 by building a hangar at his airstrip well before building a house and moving out from town. The impressive showroom came in 2000.
Although Wyatt can go flying any time the mood strikes, which is usually about twice a week, it must be hard to choose between his two restored J3 Cubs, a Super Cub and a Hatz Biplane.
“I fly just for fun in the local area,” says Wyatt, who rarely has a reason to fly cross-country because his travels usually involve hauling a car somewhere with his truck and trailer.
Unlike his inventory of Corvettes, Wyatt’s planes are not actively for sale, although he might let go of his silver 1946 J3 “Flitfire” replica to make room for something else.
“I really liked the Tiger Moth I owned at one time and I’d like to find another good one,” he notes.
Wyatt restored the uniquely painted Flitfire J3 to duplicate a special group of Cubs produced in 1941 by the Piper factory to commemorate the Battle of Britain.
Dubbed the Flitfire because the RAF paint scheme resembled the famous British Spitfire, 49 of the Cubs were raffled by Piper dealers nationwide to raise money for the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund.
The other like-new J3 in Wyatt’s hangar is a 1939 model he restored in 1999. Although he sold the plane soon after completion, Wyatt eventually worked a trade to get it back.
Since he can restore two Corvettes in the time it takes to restore a Cub, Wyatt is now concentrating on purchasing pristine planes for his collection rather than restoring them personally.
Wyatt’s favorite flyer is his CubCrafters Top Cub, which is always positioned closest to the hangar door. The newest addition to Wyatt’s collection is the beautiful Hatz biplane and it may be the best-known of its breed, having been featured in several YouTube videos.
Built from plans over a 15-year period by Mehlin Smith of Brodhead, Wis., the Hatz was completed in 2008. The seven cylinder Scarab radial gives it the classic look of a 1930s biplane. Wyatt added a starter so he would no longer need to hand-prop the 145-hp engine.
With the growing interest in “Wings & Wheels” events that combine a car show with an aircraft display, Wyatt’s airstrip is an ideal venue for a fly-ins and a past event attracted 52 planes.
Wyatt also regularly hosts car clubs looking for an outing and representatives of the History Channel recently visited to film a segment that will appear this spring.
Wyatt welcomes visitors at Wyatt Field, GA23, but a landing agreement is required. Pilots who prefer pavement can land at the LaFayette Municipal Airport (9A5), only eight miles away.
Source: http://generalaviationnews.comThe ultimate man cave