Interstate Motorsports owner Steve Waldie has gone from selling “Cheap Cars” in Atlanta to exotic vehicles in Hopewell

By Bart Jackson

Arabian sheiks, pro athletes, Fortune 100 CEOs, and those who want to feel like them make the pilgrimage to Waldie’s Interstate Motorsport showroom newly opened on Titus Mill Road in Hopewell.

At Steve Waldie’s dealership, visitors (by appointment only) lean over the balcony and yearn for Lamborghinis (Countach, Diablo SE30, Jalpa, and Murcielago LP640); Ferraris (575M Maranello, 512 Berlinetta Boxer). A Bentley Arnage enticingly stands here; a Dodge Viper SRT and some Mercedes there. Even a Hummer stolidly offers its own kind of image and four-seater capacity.

Waldie purchased the 25,000-square-foot former racquetball club last August. He began tearing out walls and refitting the entire building to better entice the exotic auto purchasers.

In March, with offices and show rooms amply, but by no means finally intact, Waldie moved in and opened his doors for business. About 30 autos currently fill the shop. A hundred will fill the various chambers as the building continues its ceaseless makeover.

Waldie’s purchase of the old building with its four acres adjacent to the Hopewell Swim and Tennis Club was a matter of long serpentine patience followed by an explosion of speed.

“I was looking for a plant, but everything even adequate was at least $3 million,” Waldie said.

He saw the building listed, but waited until the price fell under $1 million. Then, he moved quickly to buy, bidding three-fourths the asking price. The deal was accepted. Within a month, Waldie had the zoning variances he needed to open his doors, and he had a place to show his automotive expertise.

At age 15, Steve’s father, William Waldie, slipped a blindfold over his son’s eyes and instructed him to feel and define each of the headlight bulbs in the bag before him. As owner of Quakerbridge Auto Parts, he required each of his three sons who would work behind the counter to memorize and distinguish every part in the shop. William was an old construction veteran who knew the advantage of on-the-nail service.

Having son Steve able to quickly reel off every part required in a customer’s car and instantly produce it from the back room kept Quakerbridge Auto Parts competing handsomely against the increasing invasion of major chains.

For Steve Waldie, those days behind the counter sparked his romance with ultimate automobiles and provided a competitive discipline for success. After high school, in 1986, Waldie became a state trooper. He said his fellow officers soon titled him “The Book,” referring to his encyclopedic knowledge.

“I memorized every statute we had to enforce,” he recalled. Ironically, Trooper Waldie, while stationed at the Hopewell barracks was sent out on patrols that included checking the doors and grounds of the very Titus Mill Road property that would one day house his dream.

Always a car collector, Waldie actually took the auto-entrepreneurial step with his first dealership, “Waldie Autos — Cheap Cars” in 2005 in Atlanta. But even as he sold mass-market vehicles, Waldie drove around in a Porsche.

The people who can afford to indulge such a high-end obsession are typically more akin to art collectors than the folks who kick tires in the local Ford or Toyota dealerships. They are seeking more than mere transportation; they crave a specific piece of automotive art. Most have selected the exact model and year of the collectible for which they yearn before contacting Interstate Motorsport. It is unusual for the specimens on the showroom floor to sway their opinions, but such changes of heart do occur.

Waldie said that a while back, he picked up a buyer who had just flown in from Dubai in his personal jet. The two men joked and the customer jibed that because his hat had three “R”s on it, he was in the mood to buy three cars. After signing for the original car that had brought him to the shop, Waldie convinced the buyer that he had to get a Lamborghini Countach truck as purchase number two. (Yes, Lamborghini actually does make a truck.)

Still in a buying vein, the customer surveyed two more models that Waldie displayed. With an “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe,” the buyer chose car number three, running up a tab of more than $400,000. Then again, if you are a sheik with more than $4 billion to play with, even Interstate Motorsport will allow certain purchasing eccentricities.

While the ranks of those driving out in one of Interstate’s exotics are filled with professional athletes, Wall Street sharks, and corporate owners, not all are among the ultra-rich.

“I’ve sold to a lot of guys whose car costs more than their house,” Waldie said.

Even though he now lives quite comfortably in Columbus with wife, Danielle, son Steve Jr. and daughter Samantha, Waldie himself has been among those self-impoverishing collectors.

Each model of car holds its own type of buyers, Waldie said.

“Ferrari folks have a bit of the silver spoon in their mouths. They are used to purchasing the best. They pick their model and want nothing else,” he said.

Often this is not their only collectible car.

“Lamborghinis, on the other hand,” Waldie said, “Well, they’ve hit the lottery. It’s newer money and they want to show it around a bit.”

Waldie points to a lime green 2007 Lamborghini Murcielago lighting up the floor center.

“Look at that,” he said. “You would never see a Ferrari that color — no Ferrari owner would be seen in that color.”

Porsche owners represent a different breed.

“They want to be waited on,” he said. “They’re the ones with a thousand questions that other owners have already looked up. They also are more likely to haggle.”

Waldie hates to haggle over objects he holds so dear.

The showroom includes American muscle cars as well as six-figure exotic foreign cars.

The exotic auto market is small and very personal. Waldie estimates there are only about 250 active sellers who deal in his kind of product. Often there exist fewer than a dozen models of a specifically desired auto — and only five people in the globe who may obtain it. Waldie, antennae ever out, strives to be one of the five. He haunts trade shows, visits the tracks, pays a small fortune to very private websites, and always, always is asking around. To survive, he must be an opportunist, ever on the hunt.

Most of his sales come through this kind of brokering. Someone like collector and corporate owner Paul Davis must have a certain kind of yellow Lamborghini. Waldie finds and delivers. Prices may rise as high as the $4.6 million, 740 horsepower Lamborghini Veneno, which Waldie helped sell. The manufacturer says only three Venenos were made.

Although Interstate offers several new cars, most are classics. Constantly tracking, Waldie follows ownerships of individual autos and then hops a plane and grabs them when the occasion arises. He has purchased several autos from the estate of famed O.J. Simpson defense attorney Johnnie Cochran.

Exotic auto dealers are hard to come by. For a small town like Hopewell to have two is hens-teeth rare, indeed. Rob Burt’s Sport & Specialist Cars (U.S. 1, June 22, 2005), which has operated on Broad Street in downtown Hopewell since 1974, retains a cordial symbiosis with its new cohort. For years Sport & Specialist has dealt more in restorations, as well as being an official Lotus dealer, a model conspicuously absent from Interstate Motorsport’s showroom.

The full-time staff consists of himself, wife Danielle, who sits diligently in her office climbing the mountain of paperwork, and his nephew, Alex. At age 20, Alex is the recipient of the same kind of training Steve received from his father. Yet more personnel will soon be brought aboard.

Waldie told of plans to transform this business into an elite club that would keep the lounge area and make full use of the weight room, sauna, and locker rooms downstairs. Further augmentations could include a theater room, library, videos, added floors, conference rooms inside, and party areas in the outdoor gazebo.

Interstate Motorsport, 109 Titus Mill Road, Hopewell. Phone: (609) 239-7800. On the Web: interstatemotorsport.com.