Business-Building, Passion Project
A couple years ago, Tony Fajao’s Cape Cod Collision Center was in trouble.
A nearby dealership, which fed his facility the European vehicles it specialized in, changed hands and the work stopped showing up. The future of Fajao’s 6,000-square-foot, three-man operation in Hyannis Port, Mass., was suddenly uncertain.
“I was nervous,” says Fajao, who has owned the business for 25 years. “I didn’t know what was going to happen.”
To make ends meet, Fajao, a longtime classic car enthusiast and tri-five Chevrolet expert, took on a couple restoration projects. Those jobs led to more classic car work and Cape Cod Collision Center quickly developed a reputation for restorations, particularly among owners of ’55–’57 Chevrolets. Serving as a showpiece for that work—which today is a big contributor to the little shop’s $850,000 in annual revenue—is Fajao’s immaculate, twice-restored ’56 Chevy 150 Sedan.
Fajao, 53, has owned his the car for more than 30 years. When a friend pointed him to two rusty ’56 Chevy Bel Airs in 1980, Fajao snapped them up for a total of $1,000, using one as a parts car to help restore the other.
The restored car was built from the frame up and brought back to better-than-new condition. Fajao decided to hot-rod the car a little, dropping in a warmed-up 350-cubic-inch engine and a four-speed manual transmission. To top it off he mixed and sprayed a candy-inspired paint job.
He calls the colors Good & Plenty Pink and Refrigerator White. On the trunk lid, Fajao painted a box of Good & Plenty candy to emphasize the theme.
He drove the car regularly after its restoration and after 20 years, it was getting a bit weathered. When Fajao’s daughter asked to use the car for her wedding in 2001, he decided to perform another complete restoration.
This time, he added the front frame and suspension from a 1980s Monte Carlo SS, a 454-cubic-inch engine, a six-speed manual transmission and a 12-bolt rear with 4:11 gears. Fajao once again sprayed the car in his custom candy mix.
Since his daughter’s big day, weddings have become a semi-regular job for Fajao, who has been asked numerous times to chauffeur couples in the ’56. He happily obliges for a modest fee.
“I put on a zoot suit and play the part,” he says.
These days, Cape Cod Collision Center always has a ’55–’57 Chevy project in the works, along with other vintage jobs. Fajao has even started making tri-five tailfin mailboxes for customers. He says the restoration work adds to his bottom line and reduces stress from the daily grind of collision repair, which he says has grown more challenging in his area because of increased insurer involvement.
“I’m finding some happiness again working on old cars,” he says. “The collision stuff, I don’t go chasing after it anymore. I used to be an ambulance chaser, I guess you could say.”
Fajao has done well enough to build up his own personal collection of classic vehicles. The 150 Sedan will always be his favorite, though, and the one that serves as a shining example of his shop’s new specialty.
“I’ll die with that car,” Fajao says. “Everything they say is for sale, but it would have to be something absolutely stupid for me to say, ‘Yeah, OK.’”