Classic cars dealer retiring, auctioning off memories

During 43 years of restoring antique and classic cars at his dealership in Harrison Twp., Ron Hilen has turned wrenches on a long line of splendid rides — 1940s-era Cadillacs, 1950s-era Fords, even some vehicles used for a hit film.

Today, it’s all being auctioned off as Hilen, 77, takes an exit and the road to retirement. Tuesday, he planted a kiss on the rear bumper of a beloved 1941 black Cadillac convertible as it rolled out the door at Hilen’s Antique & Classic Cars on North Main Street and Swallow Drive.

Patricia Zimmer, 48, of Kettering, bought it for $19,000.”Helluva deal,” she said as the vehicle was loaded onto a tow truck. With it went a lot of memories.

There’s the work Hilen did restoring three 1949 white Buick Roadmaster convertibles used in the 1988 hit movie “Rain Man” starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman. Hilen spent 30 days working nonstop to accommodate the film’s production needs. He even got a cameo appearance riding in a car that passes by the two stars during the film.

“It’s been a great ride,” he said. “You gotta do what you gotta do, and my love is old cars. Some of these cars I worked on when they were new. All these are history now.”

Hilen’s showroom has more the appearance of a car museum than a place where vehicles are sold. There are promotional materials from Ford and Chevy and a parts department with thousands of rare and vintage components, jet-plane shaped hood ornaments, fuel gauges, glass oil bottles, and old gear shifter knobs.

It hasn’t all been about antiques, although they are Hilen’s passion. In his working life, he has also served as a volunteer firefighter for Randolph Twp. and as a raiser of Dalmatians with his wife, Dee.

A series of three online auctions selling off cars, parts and everything else in the 20,000 square-foot business will conclude Aug. 11. Already, the first auction of 40 or so vehicles, small mountains of car parts and other antiques has generated winning bids totalling $221,179. A second auction for the real estate ended with a winning bid of $116,600. The bidder is a local used car dealer who is expected to continue operating the site as a dealership.

The third and final auction will be of a huge trove of rare parts, manuals, antiques, vintage license plates and more items, said Auctioneer Penny Worley. There are shelves upon shelves of boxed antique auto parts stashed in storage rooms.

William Hesch, Jr., Worley’s Senior Project Manager, said the collector car community has responded to the auctions in force. They’ve attracted 173 bidders from 16 states plus Canada.

“When people want the classic cars they once drove or wish they did, bidding gets very competitive,” Hesch said. “The feedback we consistently get is that auctions are fun, and our Aug. 11 auction will give bidders the opportunity to treasure hunt through thousands of rare parts and antiques.”

As for his plans in retirement, Hilen leaves no doubts. “I’m going to put a chair out in the front yard and watch the grass grow,” he said.

The final online auction is open to the public. There will be a public preview on-site at 5020 N. Main St., Harrison Twp., on Saturday, Aug. 10, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Bidders must register prior to bidding at worleyauctioneers.com.

For more information, contact Worley Auctioneers at (513) 774-9182.

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