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Lenny Shiller is still having fun, fun, fun — and he doesn’t even have a T-Bird.
But that’s pretty much the only classic car this Park Slope native doesn’t have in one of his two garages on Douglass and Union streets.
In the past 40 years, Shiller has accumulated about 60 vintage rides. A man obsessed, he spends hours each day maintaining and tinkering with his collection — even in 100-degree heat — and regularly takes his cars out on the town to street fairs and other community events. Shiller’s got a veritable showroom of historic vehicles, even a German model that looks like a clown car next to Shiller’s 6-foot frame.
“I’ve always been about quantity when it comes to cars,” said Shiller, a building owner who has been president of the borough’s Antique Automobile Association for the past 12 years. “I’m never satisfied with the amount I have.”
Shiller first became gassed about old-school automobiles in the 1967 when his grandmother passed along her old 1936 Chevrolet. The following year, he purchased a relatively new model, a 1954 Mercury Monterey, and was officially on the wagon, or rather, the car.
“Lenny has simply got more cars than anyone I’ve ever met,” said Vincent Massucci, one of the founding members of the 50-year-old Antique Automobile Association, which organizes area car shows. “And he’s been such a motivator for the club, helping us go from 135 to 300 members.”
He’s got as much zeal for wheels as Prince did when he sang about his “Little Red Corvette.” Shiller’s really driven to get the oddball cars that no one else has. For instance, he has a 1979 Checker that was owned by one of the city’s first female cabbies.
“I don’t care so much about the price value of the cars, I just want to have the rare cars that you don’t see often anymore,” Shiller said.
Shiller’s cars may be old, but he fixes them up to keep them drivable. He brought out some of his fleet for Park Slope’s Seventh Heaven street fair last month, drove his pink 1957 Cadillac convertible in this year’s gay pride parade and showcased more whips at a Park Slope assisted living center on Aug. 8.
Shiller loves showing his collection to senior citizens who were probably driving those models when they were first released. Every year, he takes his 1965 Good Humor truck to Prospect Park Residence, an old folks home on Prospect Park West, and hands out ice cream to the seniors. He even dresses the part, sporting a black bow tie and brimmed captain’s hat that make him look like an ice cream man on Leave It To Beaver.
“His classic ice-cream truck and outfit reminded them of the good old days,” said Kathy Azbell, a Prospect Park Residence director.
Shiller has a four-wheeled vehicle for every occasion, but believe or not, he gets around town on a two-wheeler: his 35-year-old Fuji bicycle.
“Bikes are more convenient because I don’t have to deal with parking, and they’re good for the environment,” Shiller said. “I actually don’t really like driving, just fixing up cars.”
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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