HICKORY Revving up Hickory’s image as a travel destination could use some more horsepower, and Paramount Classic Cars and Trucks has that in abundance.
The business is not new, but it now has a home in the former Clayton-Marcus furniture plant on Falling Creek Road. The factory-turned-showroom is filled with mint-condition sports cars and America’s most brutal muscle machines.
The Catawba County Chamber of Commerce held an investor briefing recently at Paramount Classic Cars. The visitors were impressed, not only with the stable of awesome autos but with the transformation of the old furniture shop.
“We have 350 empty buildings” in the county, chamber President Danny Hearn told the group. He said they are a resource for economic growth. The trouble is, the former factories are not suitable for modern manufacturing. But this 120,000-square-foot building is just the ticket for Paramount.
“It’s solid and has lots of sprinklers,” said Paramount’s Danny Jordan.
“You should have seen it when we got it,” said owner Benny Yount. “There was only one decent wall,” he said, pointing to faraway layers of brick. “But we had murals created from photos of our cars for the other walls (they were a drab gray), and we think the result looks good.”
Chamber members agree. The huge car scenes make a backdrop for the real attractions: Rows of vintage Corvettes, Camaros, Mustangs, Trans Ams, Austin-Healeys and Ferraris. But the roadster that catches everyone’s eye is the 1958 Corvette that stands alone. It’s Benny’s baby, and it’s not paired with any other car. The gleaming white body with the shark’s-tooth grille has won a ton of awards. It’s not for sale.
This is not a museum; it’s a working consignment showroom for serious purchasers. You can take home a perfect ’57 Vette for a shade under $80,000.
“We can market all over the world,” Yount said. “We’ve sold cars to buyers in Switzerland and Sweden, and we’ve done well in Canada. And the United States, of course.”
There are more than 100 cars in the facility, and most of them are for sale. Those that can’t be bought are there because it’s a secure place to park collectibles.
Visitors are welcome, but Paramount appreciates calling ahead for appointments.
The big building can also accommodate meetings, outings and even birthday parties for people who want to give something special, unique and nostalgic. Auto aficionados might want to live there, but that’s not allowed.
Yount created the business with expansion in mind.
“It’s a dream come true for me,” Yount told chamber members. The visitors applauded when Yount said, “We had the opportunity to do this in Charlotte. People said it needs to be in Charlotte. But Hickory is our community, and I want it here.”
Hearn told chamber members that Paramount Classic Cars is an example of what Hickory and Catawba County need to do to polish the local reputation and grow.
Some of the dream machines:
• A real, honest-to-goodness 01 General Lee from “The Dukes of Hazzard” movie. It’s tailed by a sheriff’s car that was used in the movie and before that in the TV series “CHiPs.”
• A replica of the Trans Am T.A.-66 used in “Smokey and the Bandit.”
• A display from Dale Jarrett, including an example of his famous No. 88 UPS Taurus.
• The Ferraris: A 599 GTB Fiorano 60 F1 street-legal, but race-ready. It’s one of only 25 sent to America and among a 348, a 355 and a 308. They’re all red, of course.
• A slew of Porches, old and new and ready to roll. One is a replica of 130, the car James Dean drove.
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