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How Sandy wrecked the classic car industry

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    From left, the show's hosts Jeff Glucker and Jael De Pardo with Corvette owner Jay Divone. American Collectors paid out 'many millions' in claims after Sandy.
    From left, the show's hosts Jeff Glucker and Jael De Pardo with Corvette owner Jay Divone. American Collectors paid out 'many millions' in claims after Sandy. - (COURTESY AMERICAN COLLECTORS INSURANCE)

    As the flood waters from Hurricane Sandy quickly rose around Jay DiVone's home in Brick, he made sure to secure his boat in the backyard. Then it hit him.

    "I think, 'Holy cow, the Vette's in the garage. What the hell am I thinking about?'" DiVone recalled.

    DiVone's Vette was a lovingly, meticulously restored fathom green 1969 Corvette. By the time he got to the garage, 7 or 8 inches of water had creeped in. He raised the car up on jack stands, but it wasn't enough — the garage took on 27 inches of water throughout the storm.

    The car was totaled.

    The one-year anniversary of Sandy has many retelling tales of destruction and tragedy. Here's one you probably haven't heard: The storm was the single-worst disaster in the history of the classic car industry.

    A combination of salt water (highly corrosive to car parts) and location (there are more classic cars in this region than any other) had American Collectors Insurance paying out "many millions" in claims.

    The Cherry Hill-based company isn't running from the memory. In fact, it's documenting those stories in the second season of the American Collectors Insurance online TV series called "American Detours," which premiered this month to coincide with the anniversary of the storm.

    American Collectors Insurance launched the Web TV series last spring as a marketing tool, after it was pitched to them by their ad agency, Mint Advertising.

    "We wanted to position ourselves in a unique way. We have been in business for a long time, but marketing is changing," said Laura Packard, vice president of sales and marketing. "And we didn't just want to do the same old print advertising that we've done forever.

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    "Instead, we wanted to create something that not only would speak to potential customers, but would speak to current customers," she said.

    The first season of the show, hosted by well-known car nut Jeff Glucker and actress and Syfy channel TV personality Jael De Pardo, was built around the pair traveling to a different part of the country and exploring the region in the various vintage vehicles owned by American Collectors Insurance policy holders.

    The second season of the series would have included more of the same — if it hadn't been for the extreme devastation Hurricane Sandy inflicted on the Garden State.

    "Sandy was the largest single event to affect the classic car hobby — bigger than Katrina, bigger than any other storm, just because of the concentration of collector cars in the region," Packard said.

    Because of it, the company has dedicated two full episodes to the storm's impact on collectors and their cars.

    "There's a strong resolve and a lot of fortitude among collectors," she said. "Their spirit was not broken."

    DiVone is a case in point.

    It took him five years to find his '69 Corvette and four or five more to restore it. He has photos of his children teetering on stools to peer into its depths. So he decided he wasn't going to just let it go.

    American Collectors Insurance gave him the opportunity to buy back the remains of his totaled car after his insurance claim was paid. Over the course of six months, he brought the car back to life. And in the two episodes of "American Detours" dedicated to Hurricane Sandy, the hosts cruise down the Shore in DiVone's fully functional, immaculately re-restored Corvette.

    "The car almost becomes a part of the family because it's got so much history," DiVone said.

     

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