Classic Industries in Huntington Beach helps vintage car owners with new parts

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. -- It's not hard to find classic muscle cars around Southern California. They're usually out in force on any sunny weekend.

But you might wonder where the owners find parts for them. One big source is right here in our own backyard: Classic Industries of Huntington Beach.

The company started out as a hobby by Jeff Leonard, a Camaro enthusiast originally from Detroit. He had bought an older one in the late 1970s and found that he had to have replacement carpet custom-made by an upholstery shop.

"I thought, well, if I need carpet or I need parts for my Camaro, other people probably do too," Leonard said. "I had a little bit of mail order experience, so I put a little ad out and started getting calls, and the rest is history."

That history led to Classic Industries becoming downright huge. At the main company headquarters and warehouse building, many of their approximately 200 employees work at a fast pace to ship parts to customers all over the world.

And while it started out as a parts supplier for Camaro and other General Motors vintage cars, Classic Industries now offers parts for Chrysler vehicles and Fords too, as of this year.

All the work is done in-house, including staffing the call center. Employees right in Huntington Beach take both order placement and technical support calls. In another portion of the main building, a photo studio is set up for capturing product images for the website and printed catalog.

And while there has been temptation to join the trend of moving operations out of California, the man who started it all insists they're staying put.

"There are other places we could go, obviously for tax purposes. And a lot of companies are actually leaving, just for those reasons. But we're pretty established here and we want to stay, for as long as we can," Leonard said.

The product lineup is extensive, with everything from reproduction center consoles to entire body panels to replacing sheet metal damaged by collision or rust. Basically, all the items that dealerships stopped carrying decades ago. And while most of their customers are all around the world, they also operate a retail store for locals.

Angel Garrido, of Laguna Niguel, is a regular. He's restoring a 1969 Plymouth Barracuda that his father owned.

"I actually spend a lot of time in here. You're looking in the catalog or looking online, and you're saying 'I need this and I need this. Do they have it? Can I get it?' Sure enough, yes. Little by little I've been able to get everything I need," he said during a recent shopping trip in the Classic Industries showroom.