Classic Auto Mall
by Greg Carloss
Online shopping has completely reshaped the car buying business. But while the brick and mortar model has lost its attraction for many, dealers still have a need for indoor showrooms. And our Greg Carloss has found one with a fresh take on a fading formula.
GREG CARLOSS: For decades, indoor shopping malls were the hot spot in town all across America, now many are closing and leaving behind acres of unused, well lit, air-conditioned space, now some may look around and see this as ruins of retail past, others see an epic automotive showroom.
Nestled in a valley just off the Pennsylvania Turnpike outside of Philadelphia sits a one-of-a-kind car corral called Classic Auto Mall.
STEWART HOWDEN: Well Classic Auto Mall is really two different places: it’s part museum and part showroom. We have a collection of about 400 barn finds on display, not for sale...and then we have about 600 cars that are for sale on consignment.
This came about because my partner needed a place to put his 400 cars...it was an old outlet mall and then he decided, well if I’m gonna put my cars in there and I’ve got all this extra space, why don’t we make a business out of it?
GREG CARLOSS: The former outlet mall can house over 1,000 vehicles. And even with 336,000 square feet of floor space, maneuvering the merchandise can be tough. That’s where the Stringo comes in.
The Stringo gracefully guides cars in and out of the tightest spaces without ever starting an engine, keeping the indoor atmosphere nice and clean.
Unfortunately our visit came during the COVID-19 pandemic, but during a normal week, Classic Auto Mall sees between two and three hundred daily visitors. The best part of all, there’s no admission fee. Anyone can come to shop, buy, consign or just look around.
STEWART HOWDEN: Most of our cars come from within about a 300 mile radius. This is car country around here like you would never believe. But we’ve taken consignments from California, from Texas, from Florida, and then on the sales side we sell them all over the world.
GREG CARLOSS: Consigning a car with Classic Auto Mall is simple. There are no up front or monthly fees. Just sign an agreement for an initial 90 day stay and 10% sales commission. Then leave it at the mall for Stewart’s team to put on display.
STEWART HOWDEN: Somebody asked me one time they said, “ well how do you decide if it’s a classic or a special interest car for you to sell it? Would you take a 2019 Toyota Camry?” No, unless it was owned by you know a racing legend and it had a hopped up engine or it was something different or special or it had one mile on it from original”
GREG CARLOSS: When a car gets here to Classic Auto Mall, they bring it into the garage first, check out vin numbers, parts, make sure everything is where it’s supposed to be. Then it comes in here, where they take pictures of every single angle of the car so that the buyer knows what they’re getting and making this the first ever shopping mall photo booth I’ve ever been in.
STEWART HOWDEN: We do our best to show everything about a car, good, bad, or ugly. So if there’s rust underneath, we show it...The best compliment we get when we sell a car is the car was a little bit nicer than you described.
GREG CARLOSS: MotorWeek has tested a lot of cars over our 40 years, but Classic Auto Mall’s inventory gives our Retro Review archive a run for its money. Naturally, there’s the usual Mustangs and Camaros, but then you stumble upon a 1904 Cadillac in one display, a replica 1936 Maharaja Duesenberg in another, there’s even a Richard Petty NASCAR for sale.
STEWART HOWDEN: What I tell people when they come to Classic Auto Mall is...if you’re not into cars it doesn’t matter. Because your grandpa had one of those and your dad had one of those and your first date was in one of those. And the memories that come with the history of the American automobile is right here.
GREG CARLOSS: So if you have some money to burn or just want to do some window shopping, this is a mall worth walking.