When we asked Lenny Shiller – president of the Antique Automobile Association of Brooklyn – how many cars he owned, he paused for a moment. "Pretty sure it's 70," he says. "Somewhere in there, but of course if you include my everyday cars (a well-used mid-2000s Mini Cooper and a Ford work van of about the same vintage), it's even more."
His fleet is always growing. Over the past several decades, Shiller has become a kingpin of sorts among a community of vintage and antique car collectors who regard themselves as stewards of automotive history. Most of them own several vehicles, but finding a place to park them in Brooklyn, N.Y., the second most populous of New York City's five boroughs, can be tricky. So when someone gets a tip on an all-original, low-mileage car they think Lenny might be able to absorb into his collection, they give him a call.
Shiller's secret weapon – aside from his passion for old things – is the fact that he owns warehouse space in Brooklyn's industrial Gowanus neighborhood. Unlike most of his peers, he has room to continue adopting orphan classics. The result is several rows of cars: a Hudson, several unique Chryslers, an old Stolz Bros. soda truck and the '36 Chevy his grandmother gave him as his first car among them. In the dim light of the old bread factory building that houses his rolling armada, a dull glow can be seen here and there from a piece of brightwork or a shiny fender that's been dusted off for parade or movie set use. The walls are festooned with all sorts of memorabilia – hundreds of old bicycles and service placards, and seemingly every fan belt ever produced.
"People always ask me if they all run," he says. "Yeah, they all run, but I'm not sure if they all stop."