Mark Hess grew up in Kingsley, Iowa, population 1,000. Gary Wentzel grew up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. A move to Tampa with his parents gave Mark the desire to relocate to Florida.
Family vacations in Hollywood gave Gary the same conviction. Mark met a man in Iowa and wanted a fresh location—Florida—to start a fresh life with him. Gary told his Pennsylvania boyfriend “I’m moving to Florida. If you want to come, okay. If not, fine.”
Mark, who had been doing restaurant work since he was 16, found a job at Fort Lauderdale’s Cathode Ray club. When its owner bought Chardee’s, Mark became that legendary restaurant’s bartender. Gary was a server at the Fort Lauderdale restaurant, Il Mulino.
They met one evening while leaving Cathode Ray. Discovering a mutual love for vintage cars, they headed together to the Copa where they prolonged the conversation about 50's and 60's cars.” Wentzel says, “You just don't run into too many people who can share your enthusiasm about a 62' Chrysler Imperial.”
The more time they spent together, the more they found they had a lot in common, and that's how it all began. When Mark’s roommate left for Ogunquit, and Gary’s boyfriend left town Gary moved into Mark’s home.
Their love for Classic Cars has gown in step with their love for each other . When the subject of cars comes up you can’t stop them.
“There is a cruel irony abut today’s choices of automobiles” says Mark, “cars are more alike than they’ve ever been, parking lots are melting pots of badge-engineered, generically styled sedans/SUV/sportscars. What happened to the characterful cars our dads were always swearing at in the garage?”
“A lot of things” he continues “ but mostly safety and reliability, features that have made cars better but also far, far less interesting. Safety also means bigger, dumpier bodies. Reliability severed the bonds that tied men to their mechanics.” According to Gary “Classic cars are appreciating assets that recapture the visceral motoring experience while looking fabulous cruising with the top down, and the thumbs up people give you at traffic lights is better than any likes on Facebook.”
In their 27 years together Mark and Gary have bought, refurbished, restored and sold over a dozen vintage cars. If you are sick of driving automobiles that feel and sound like video games, sick of cars you can turn off and walk away from unaffected by the experience take a look at what Mark and Gary have been driving and drool:
Here are their suggestions if you are interested:
When to buy at an auction?
Almost Always - but do your homework first
When to buy on EBAY?
More often than you think but don’t spend more than $20,000. START YOUR ENGINE!
Check out all of SFGN's Cars issue @