As far as we can tell, there are three retail outlets in Maryland specializing in classic and muscle cars. Two are in Northern Anne Arundel County. A couple weeks ago we profiled Browns Performance Center on Ritchie Highway in Glen Burnie. Today, we are going to focus on Universal Auto Sales and Classic Cars in Linthicum. As you will see, even though Browns and Universal reside in the same general area of the state, and cater to the same customer, their business models are on opposite ends of the spectrum.
Since Browns Performance Center is part of the Browns dealer group, they operate as a standard dealership unit, meaning they buy muscle cars that are nearly ready for sale. They will have a mechanic check the vehicle's drive train, fix anything that is amiss, and maybe tune the car up. It will go to a detailer for a good buffing to make it "showroom ready," and the car is offered for sale. Browns Performance Center's showroom is retro and glitzy designed to make an impression. Location on Ritchie Highway is also important to their success.
Universal Auto Sales and Classic Cars operates almost in reverse. Their "showroom" is a high roofed aluminum structure located on a side street off Nursery Road. If you blink, you could miss the street, Wedeman Avenue. Once you turn onto Wedeman, you may think you are in the wrong place. The street is lined with aging residential bungalows. Universal sits at the end of the houses on the right.
There is no glitzy showroom. In fact, there is no showroom to speak of. None is needed. Inside the aluminum building are muscle cars taking up every inch of floor space. Along a back wall, hydraulic lifts allow muscle cars to be stacked above those resting on the ground. The building is literally wall-to-wall cars from the fifties, sixties and seventies. Most have been completely restored while others are in the process of being restored This is where Universal Auto Sales and Classic Cars distances itself from Browns Performance Center.
After spending more than an hour with owner Mike Needle and observing his small staff, we could tell that these are people who enjoy what they are doing; bringing old cars back to life. Some of the muscle cars that make their way to Universal Auto Sales and Classic Cars are in decent shape, but these are not the cars that get Mike and his staff excited. It's the ones they find that owners have tucked away for the past two or three decades in garages or barns that get them excited.
Universal Auto Sales and Classic Cars is about bringing these cars back to their original condition. They do frame-off restoration, engine tear-downs, transmission and rear axle rebuilds, and full interior replacement. Whatever is needed to resurrect an aged muscle car, Universal can do it. If the customer wants something special, no problem. Universal Atuo just completed the rebuild of a 1966 Chevelle SS with an eye-catching candy apple red paint job that has something no other '66 Chevelle we know of has; digital instrumentation. While Universal Auto strives to keep their rebuilds as original as possible, they can also accommodate a customer's wishes.
There are a number of muscle cars that caught our eye, but the one that stood out was a 1957 Chevrolet BelAir. Not only is the body of this car immaculate and eye-popping with exquisite chrome detailing, tire carrier and fender skirts, it possesses a 283 V-8 beneath the hood. The red-and-white interior is immaculate and true to Chevy's styling for that year. One other thing that stood out is the manual transmission with the shifter on the column. Common place for that year, but hard to find these days, since most manual shifters in this class of car were converted to floor units by previous owners.
If you are in the market for a classic muscle car, we suggest checking out Universal Auto Sales and Classic Cars website. If you see something that strikes your fancy, owner Mike Needle will be more than happy to put you in a muscle car of your youth.