R yan Wager isn’t just renting out classic cars with his new startup, he shared, he’s loaning out memories.
North Kansas City-based RND — launched earlier this year — allows community members and visitors to take classic, RND-restored cars — like his own 1958 Chevy Corvette — for a spin with daily rentals.
Ryan Wager, RND; photo by Nikki Overfelt Chifalu
Want to take your kids camping in a 1978 VW Bus like your dad did? Wager said he and his mechanics are working to make such nostalgia opportunities reality.
“If you ever go to car shows, even touching a car is off limits and even getting in a car is off limits,” he explained. “For us to be like, ‘Do you want to take this home?’ And it not be this insurmountable amount of money — $250 or whatever — to have your dream car. It’s not like we’re gonna just let you go around a track a couple times and say, ‘Thanks for your money.’”
“Take it home,” he continued. “Take your girlfriend out. Go to your high school reunion in the car you drove in high school, whatever it is you want to do. We just want you to love the car and give us a nice review on Google.”
The RND inventory already includes more than 20 iconic American and European classics in its 130,000-square-foot facility that houses a garage with four lifts, alignment station, and body shop for its three mechanics — led by Phil Snedeger — and one body and paint specialist.
“I want to build a dream environment for mechanics,” he added. “Part of these cars is how they are put back on the road. That’s part of their story.”
Click here to see RND’s rental inventory.
Ryan Wager, RND; photo by Nikki Overfelt Chifalu
This is a passion project for Wager, who said it’s being made possible by his other businesses, RevLogical and Retail Rebel. The North Kansas space previously was left empty when he had to expand his warehouse to Liberty.
“We’re not trying to build something that’s gonna become Hertz,” he noted. “I don’t want to sell cars. I want to build cars and build a collection of cars and then get rid of the stigma that these are ‘look but don’t touch’ cars. I take the approach of, the more people that get their hands on these vehicles, the bigger our community is and the more that people will want to keep these things from ending up in a dump somewhere.”
The inventory includes what Wager called “go” and “show” cars. Go cars are more fun to rev up and drive. Show cars are the fancier ones that are ideal for events like weddings and photo shoots.
“We have a ’68 Firebird that is not fun to look at, but it’s really fun to drive,” he explained. “It’s a go car. It’s cheaper. You don’t have to keep it inside. You don’t need a garage. You want to go light up the tires and do some donuts in your company parking lot? That’s what that car is for.”
“The show cars are like my old Corvette,” he continued. “We need to know you have a covered driveway or just take it for the day and bring it back. We’re putting rev limiters on those cars.”
RND also rents out some off-road vehicles like a 1980 VW Dune Buggy and a 1974 Ford Bronco 4×4. And the cars are even delivered by a 1955 COE (cab over engine) truck.
“We tried to get random stuff to just see what people would be interested in driving around that isn’t their car,” he added. “It’s been the most fun I’ve ever had building a company, that’s for sure.”
1958 Chevy Corvette at RND
Mean green dream machine
Wager was inspired to start RND — named partly in honor of his friend David who passed away before their shared dream could be realized — after his own experience with his 1958 Chevy Corvette, he shared. His dream car caught his attention when he saw it in the movies “Animal House” and “True Lies.”
“That car kept showing up and it always sparked my interest,” he said. “Then it made me finally intrigued enough to look into them and I started just falling in love with the whole story of the brand.”
1958 Chevy Corvette while being renovated by RND
Finally in the market for one, he continued, he found a green model at an estate auction in Iowa — where he is from — just a town over from where his grandma lived.
“If it’s got a good story behind it, this is supposed to happen like serendipity,” he added.
Turns out, Wager explained, he was bidding against the owner’s son. He got to know the family and found out that the car had been sitting in a barn since 1962.
“The guy had basically wrecked it, fixed it, quit drinking, and quit driving that car all in the same day back when his son was a young boy,” he noted. “The son had never been in the car, never driven it, any of that. He was that dad. It was like, ‘Maybe someday’ and it just sat there.”
Feeling bad about taking the car out of the family, he said he promised them that, once he got it running, he would bring it back to Iowa and let everyone take a ride in it.
“I gave all these local people rides,” he recalled of making good on his promise, “because they had been told their whole lives, ‘If you do good on your math test, maybe Mr. Holloway will let you take a ride in the ’vette.’ It was like this carrot dangled in front of kids for generations and I’m up here ruining it. But I’m like,’ I’m from here, too, and I promise I’m not going to chop this car up.”
Once he got the car back to KC, Wager said, it was much more difficult than he thought it would be to restore the car and maintain it. He was living downtown at the time, so it was just parked in his space in their shared parking garage.
“I’ve changed brakes on a Pontiac before,” he added of his experience. “This thing is 11 years older than the first computer. There’s nothing about my technology background that helps me here. And I fiddled with it forever.”
He ended up finding someone he knew who let him use their newly-built shop to house the Corvette as he and David — the car expert of the duo — worked on it for two years.
“Then it got to the point where I was like, ‘If I’m really going to take care of this car, I need to hire somebody,’” he said. “So I started hiring a mechanic just to come to my garage at my house to work on it. And then I came up with the (RND) business model and I said, ‘Why don’t we just go a little bit bigger?’ and that’s how we’ve ended up here. It’s just turned into this amazingly fun, fulfilling thing.”
Phil Snedeger, RND
Back to the future
As Wager adds to RND’s inventory, he said he’s also launching another feature that will allow others to pay the company to house and maintain their classic cars and then receive a check for renting it out.
“It’s a way that we can help people who are in my situation — where you want to take care of this thing but you can’t or you don’t have anywhere to put it, so it’s stuck in your driveway and it’s getting rusted,” he explained.
Click here to learn more about RND’s CarPay option.
As they get the venture moving, Wager added, he’s hoping to launch YouTube tutorial videos — like of a LS engine swap — with Snedeger, who used to run Manheim Auctions garages, teach at Vatterott College, and write manuals for Mitchell. And he’d like to even figure out how to have live tutorials where clients can come in and ask questions.
“Phil is a natural teacher,” he said. “Maybe he’ll let you scrub in. I want to break down the barriers between the mechanic (and the client).”
Eventually once their inventory is built up, Wager shared, he would like to clean the showroom and open it as a museum and event space.
“A museum where you can rent the art,” he explained. “I want people to just be able to spend their lunch period here and just pay five bucks and walk around and actually sit in the cars and rev the engines. We’re trying to build a lounge area and pool tables and just make this a place that people can come and expose themselves to these cars. And not just be the place where you can rent the car to take your high school reunion but have your 50th year reunion here.”
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