Born a day before his dad’s birthday, Scott Wagner was destined to work for his dad’s automobile business, Wagner’s Classic Cars at 741 E. Front St., Bonner Springs.
Now 44 years old, Scott Wagner has done just about everything that Willie Wagner has since opening Wagner’s Classic Cars in 1968. He has restored cars, cleaned cars, sold cars and when he is away from the business, Scott Wagner drag races.
Cars are simply in the Wagners’ blood. Scott now finds time to watch his 13-year-old son compete in junior dragster events.
“Our family background is a lot of sports,” Scott said. “We’ve done a lot of drag racing. He (Willie) raced, I race, my son races. That is three generations there.”
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Drag racing is a passionate hobby and a fun activity for the Wagners. Wagner’s Classic Cars is what puts food on the table, it helped put Scott through college at Washburn University and brings joy to people around the world.
Working with his son brings added joy for Willie, who will turn 71 on July 9, one day after Scott’s birthday. Interestingly, Scott’s daughter’s birthday is a day before his.
“One of the biggest things is I walk into the front door and I see my son,” Willie said. “That is always a plus. We have good people here who have been here a long time.”
Willie started his automotive business two years before Scott was born. Initially, it was a collision repair business at 80th and Leavenworth Road in Kansas City, Kan.
“I added used cars first, shortly after that,” Willie said. “We got into a lot of Corvettes back then. I built and sold Corvettes in the 1970s, and then the classic stuff came shortly after that.”
From the time he was a child, Scott followed his dad around. He started off sweeping floors and cleaning cars. The work eventually grew into restoration of vintage cars.
“He is my shadow, always has been,” Willie said. “He has worked here since he was a kid. He got out of college and came straight here. He has never worked anywhere else.”
Baseball also played a big role in their lives. Willie coached Scott in youth leagues. Scott went on to play baseball at Washington High School and then Washburn University, where he earned a degree in business.
Scott knew he was going to return to the family business after he graduated from college.
“I grew up around it,” Scott said. “I had an early passion for cars and took right to it. I liked what he was doing. I like being around it. We did a lot of car shows, racing and everything revolved around that. We liked hanging around together.”
In 1996, Wagner’s Classic Cars moved to Bonner Springs.
“It gave us the space to do the work we need to do, have all the cars in one place,” Scott said. “We used to have the cars stored in a separate location. That was a hassle running back and forth. This puts everything in one room.”
It is easy to see many of the vintage cars in the showroom from K-32.
“It is quiet out here,” Willie said. “There are a lot of good people out here, a small-town atmosphere. We do have a good location here.”
While they still do collision repair, the main part of their business is the sale of classic cars. For Scott, that means a lot of time on the phones and answering emails for people across the country and around the globe who are interested in their cars.
Thanks to the Internet, their inventory is easily visible. For a look, go to www.wagnersclassiccars.com.
Scott now spends most of his time dealing with sales, marketing and advertising and less on restoring cars.
“My son always asks me what are you going to do at work today, and I never know,” Scott said. “I might have a busy day on the phone or answer emails all day long. I might have to work on a car to get it going somewhere.”
Scott said they have had buyers from New Zealand, Australia, Sweden, Finland, Italy and Canada.
“We strive on quality,” Willie said. “We are known nationally for our quality. We sell a lot of cars on the Internet to people who don’t come to look at (them).”
Quite naturally, son and dad have the same philosophy when it comes to restoring cars.
Before starting a restoration project, they said, it is important to have a vision of what the final product is going to look like.
“Some people get started, but they don’t have that vision of the finished project,” Willie said. “You have to have patience and a good vision.”
It’s obvious Willie enjoys what he is doing. Over a week ago, during lunchtime, he was working two phones at once. He patiently took care of both callers.
“I stay busy all day,” Willie said. “There are not enough hours in a day for me. I just enjoy cars. That is all I have ever done.”
Scott is the same way.
“I get to talk to a lot of people all over the world and meet a lot of different people,” Scott said. “I get to hear a lot of stories of cars they had through their life and all the good stuff.”