Though his family had moved to California, Jeff Leonard decided to stay after his graduation from Ferndale High School. He found a job at a local mail-order company so he could work his way through the University of Michigan. But things weren’t working out as he had hoped, and he realized he really didn’t enjoy winter weather, so he, too, headed west.
Thus, in 1976, just as he was turning 20 years old, “I bought a Camaro in Palm Springs and it needed some work and I couldn’t find anything (the parts) for it,” Leonard recalled. Among the things Leonard needed for his 10-year-old car was replacement carpeting.
“I found a guy in Santa Monica who was an expert in cut-and-sew carpet,” Leonard said. Not only did Leonard get new carpeting for his car, but he realized there likely were others with similar needs. He started acquiring unsold inventory from a Chevrolet dealership’s parts department.
“I put a small ad in a magazine and started getting calls,” said Leonard, who put his mail-order experience to use and founded Classic Camaro, selling hard-to-find parts to fellow owners of the Chevrolet coupe.
Fast-forward and Classic Camaro’s parts catalog expands to include other GM vehicles and then Chrysler/Mopar parts. Recently, Leonard purchased California Mustang to complete the lineup of Detroit Three parts available from a company that has grown from Classic Camaro into Huntington Beach-based Classic Industries, a major supplier of aftermarket parts to the collector-car hobby.
Oh, and that’s supplier as in manufacturer of those parts, many of them under official license from the original-equipment automakers.
Leonard said Classic Industries’ growth can be traced to providing people with the parts that wear out, and with paying close…