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Muscle Car City Museum in Punta Gorda Florida

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The Essence of speed & passion: muscle car city museum

Owner /Collector Discusses Speed, Passion & Money Showcasing Prized Cars In Punta Gorda, Florida.

Rick Treworgy in his showroom at the Muscle Car City Museum in Punta Gorda, Florida. [Photo Credit: Tim Wassberg]

Rick Treworgy knows business…but he also has passion. Having made his fortune in land development as well as being a multi-restaurant owner in the city of Punta Gorda, Florida and surrounding Charlotte County, he knows the importance of the bottom line. But when it comes to his passion for muscle cars, all bets are off. His Muscle Car City Museum boasts an astounding collection of power cars in all sizes for all ages to enjoy. Treworgy sat down with The Buzz in his on-site office at Muscle Car City to talk about acquisition, restoration and his favorite pastime.

The Buzz: People love their cars. There's an emotional connection. They know the ins and outs. They have the logic and the DIY capability. Can you talk about the balance of logic and emotion in the muscle car sector?

RT: It seems that everybody gets tied into whatever car they like from the time they were 16 to 20…[somewhere] in that area. You've got one that you remember. Most people lose them to their family or you're buying a house and that kind of stuff. [But then when] we get to be our age, [these people] go back and kind of relive their youth, if you would. It's just an opportunity to do something just for themselves and they enjoy it. It does. Cars tie people together more than anything I've ever seen as far as camaraderie. It doesn't matter what you collect. If you're a car collector you can sit down and talk to somebody that is and it's just easy.

The Buzz: How did your love start? How did it begin? Obviously you’ve taken it to a different level..

RT: I've done this since I was 14 years old. It's one of the things I never didn't do. I had my day job after school, and then when that was over, I'd go and be building one or two cars and [then] I'd sell them. I was actually making more doing that than I was working. But my parents went, "You've got to have your bread and butter job and then you can do this on the side” (laughing) So I did that my whole life. That's the way it's been.

The Buzz: But there's something about the older cars-- I mean you have obviously a great collection of those. Can you talk about the difference because now [with most new cars] it's all plastic. But the older ones were metal. They were heavy.

RT: It seems somewhere around '71, '72 they went away from using the metal, even inside the cars. All your trim on your dash was metal and stuff. [After that] it was painted with chrome paint on plastic. That just wears off over time so those models are actually harder to take care of than the original cars. The original ones had steel everywhere. You could fix that. Whereas the other ones, you're painting things that were chromed at the factory. You can’t reproduce that exactly. So it's hard to take care of those newer cars. And they don't have quite the mystique that ones from about '70 do.

The Buzz: What's one of your cars here still holds a mystique in your mind?

RT: Well, I've probably got 50 that do. I'm real partial to '67 427 Corvettes. I've got 20 of them here. You don't need that many in a collection like this, but it's just one of those things that I got hung up with. I do this as much to please myself as I do anyone else (laughing). I can say it's not true, but there's a little bit of disease going on there. (smiling)

Corvette Stingrays inside showroom at the Muscle Car City Museum in Punta Gorda, Florida. [Photo Credit: Tim Wassberg]

The Buzz: Was your background always in this or at least partially?

RT:  I'm in construction and real estate by trade and I own five restaurants. So this has always just been a hobby. It's not really a way I've made a living. In fact, I probably lose a lot of money at this. But, if I ever sell the cars, that'll be a different story, but I don't have a desire to do that.

The Buzz: So you don't want to give up the cars and never sell them yet they have substantial worth because they are all immaculately maintained. You seem like a very business-minded fellow and yet there's this passion that sort of just goes beyond that.

RT: Almost everything I do for work, I take seriously and I do -- it's about money. It's about the bottom line. Usually the overhead of this building and stuff is so astronomical that I would have to sell a large portion of my cars every year in order to really stay ahead of the curve…but it's not why I do this. This is my release, if you would. I do my business out of this office 80% of the time. I'm here probably 7, 8 hours a day, and I might just be working on any one of my companies, sitting back in this office. I’d just rather be here [even though] I've got offices in the other buildings. I just very seldom go to them unless there's meetings or something like that.

The Buzz: So this is a comfort zone…a safe place.

RT: It definitely is. And the people enjoy the fact that I'm here. It gives them a better feeling [in the fact that] you're more keen to it. "This fellow's just here." They like seeing you and knowing that you're here.

The Buzz: When you do your acquisitions, how does that work from your point of view?

RT: I buy every car myself. I don't have any buyers to buy for me around the country or anything like that. I watch all the publications. I go to a lot of the major auctions. [I see] a lot of cars and then people just call me. Having this museum is a lot of help because people automatically think of me when they think of a GM Muscle car so I get a lot of leads that I can follow. But I'm always looking for the most high-performance four-speed in all these performance cars. And when I find them, I buy them. I don't ever wait until the money's right or something like that because money's secondary to me on those. I want the best cars out there. I like a good deal, but I'd rather have the best car and pay too much for it. (laughing) You can't pay too much for those cars. You can only buy them too soon. Their [price is] not going down. The Buzz: Well, that becomes the question. Restoring these cars is probably an insane process, especially with the parts are becoming harder and harder to find.

RT: In the beginning, [I probably] restored two-thirds of the cars I was buying and bought a third of them done. Now, I probably buy 90% of them restored. Your ego gets less as you get older. I used to think I was the only one who could restore a car. But when you get around these cars, there's a lot of people out there with a lot of knowledge…and there's no money in restoring them.

1964 Corvettes in showroom at the Muscle Car City Museum in Punta Gorda, Florida. [Photo Credit: Tim Wassberg]

RT: Every time I buy one at a deal, [it ends up] you're going to put an interior in it, and rebuild the motor and the rear end. That starts, and [then you end up redoing] the whole car, and I have twice as much into it as if I just went out and wrote the check to begin with.  And you get an immediate satisfaction out of buying a done car. You go out and you use it. [All cars] need something. There's not a perfect car out there. If you buy one you think is perfect, you still might do a transmission…you might do something to it, but it's usually a repair, not a tear down, start over situation.

The Buzz: Much of the population thinks they’re car experts because of the internet. What's the main thing to remember when you're looking at cars like this that maybe is misunderstood or a misconception?

JM: Well, there's many venues there on that. There's a hot rod, there's a stock car, and everywhere in between. You could buy a hot rod and it be a good deal, but you have to know that's what you're what buying. If you're really buying a collector car, you need to make sure that the numbers match on it. The biggest thing people don't do is crawl underneath and stuff like that. Unless you restore the car yourself, most people don't know what they're really looking at when they get under a car or around it. If you're going to go buy one of these cars, it is an investment. Hire somebody to take with you who knows what they're looking at and [that will] save you money in the long run.

The Buzz: We're in Punta Gorda. Was that just the place that you ended up building all your businesses or was this there's something about this place from the beginning?

JM: This is probably the worst place to put something as far as doing a volume with it. I have been here since I was 10 years old. I went away to school and things like that, but I've just lived here my whole life. I've made a lot of money in this community. This was just my way of kind of giving back to the community by doing it here. It does a lot of good for the county, and we draw a lot of attention around the whole world because of this place. And when I did it, I decided that-- plus, I still have five or six businesses going on here – that it’s very convenient being here. And, once again, money wasn't the objective. It was more to put these cars out there and let people see them. People drive across the world to see them

The Buzz: Because you love this city, what how would you define Punta Gorda from your point of view?

JM: We're a small town on the west coast of Florida. We're a little bit hidden for the fact that just north of us and just south of us you're out on the green and the blue water of the Gulf. We're on a bay. If you draw a straight line north, you'd go from one to the other, but the coast, the way it goes, puts us on a bay about probably 15 miles [back in]. We're on brackish water on our bays and so forth. We’ve grown a little bit slower that the communities north and south of us. But it’s a beautiful community….a bunch of really great people here. And most people that spend any time here will move from those places they bought on an ocean because of the people in this town.


Tim Wassberg

A graduate of New York University's Tisch School Of The Arts with degrees in Film/TV Production & Film Criticism, Tim has written for magazines such as Moviemaker, Moving Pictures, Conde Nast Traveler UK and Casino Player. He enjoys traveling and distinct craft beers among other things.

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