Flipping a car for profit is one part science, one part art form. The science is in identifying one that can be salvaged, and the art is in re-tooling it to look and perform like new. If you can't balance those elements, you won't make much money flipping cars.
Jeff Allen has been striking this balance for years. As the owner of Flat 12 Gallery in Lubbock, Tex., he buys, restores and sells classic cars. He has no guarantee whatsoever that he will find a buyer, or even make back the cost of getting a car to his shop from a faraway city. But he consistently earns top dollar for his flips, so he must be doing something right.
He doesn't do it all on his own. Restoration artist Perry Barndt makes sure each detail is painstakingly restored, and technician Eric Ables has been known to bring even the most hopeless engine back to life. Last but not least, his fiancee of 18 years, Meg Bailey, runs the shop's day-to-day operations, which includes making sure that once a car is restored, it gets sold, no matter how much Allen has fallen in love with it and wants to keep it.
What follows is a list of 10 memorable flips from Flat 12 Gallery's history. All of them were discovered in different states of disrepair, restored to perfection and sold for a profit. Allen has provided his recollections of the circumstances that marked each car's transformation from junkyard find to collector's item.
1957 Chevrolet Bel Air
This car appears on the first episode of "The Car Chasers." Allen found it in what he described in an interview as "excellent condition," bought it for $18,000 and sold it for $25,000 to his next-door neighbor Chad.
Chad would visit the shop daily in the hopes of finding a 1979 Camaro. Instead, he fell in love with the Bel Air and bought it before Allen could even finish working on it. "I was going to change the wheels to make it more modern and increase the value, but Chad wanted it as is," he said.
1932 Ford Model AA
Allen said that he bought this 1932 Model AA for approximately $4,500 and sold it for "nine grand, off the top of my head." He described the buyer as "an Australian fellow in the entertainment business. I forget which studio."
He said that the truck was originally the property of an elderly man, and it had been his "pride and joy." The owner had kept it in good shape, but it hadn't been driven in many years. This meant draining the fluids, fixing the radiator and carburetor, installing a new battery and giving it a complete tune-up in order to make it run again.
2008 GT Tjaarda 550R
This car based on the Ford Mustang appeared in the 2009 film "Fast and Furious," and it set Allen back approximately $25,000 to buy it. He flipped it and sold it for roughly $40,000 at a Dallas auction.
He said this car was in such excellent shape that it was like a brand new car when he bought it. "I didn't fix it," he said. "I just drove it. I drove the crap out of it. I loved that car."