Howard Kroplick said he blames his wife Roz for his blossoming classic car collection.
“The first car that I ever owned was a ’66 Mustang, and I loved that car,” Kroplick, of East Hills, said. “When we got married, my wife said, ‘We’ve got two cars — one of the cars had to go.’ She had the big Grand Prix and I had my Mustang, so I sold the Mustang. From the moment I sold that car, I regretted it, and for 31 years, she heard me complaining about selling the Mustang.”
In 2003, Roz was sick of the moaning and sent her husband on a mission to find a 1966 Shelby Mustang. Kroplick said he bought an upgraded model from the original he sold decades earlier.
After Kroplick, who also volunteers as Town of North Hempstead historian, took the Shelby Mustang to a car show and won an award, he said, he was hooked on the experience, slowly acquiring the Alco Black Beast, which won the 1909 and 1910 Vanderbilt Cup Races, a seven-passenger limousine from 1937 built as a gift for Walter P. Chrysler’s wife, a Mustang III concept show car from 1963, making it the oldest Mustang on the road today, and his newest purchase, a coveted Tucker sedan in his Waterfront at Roslyn garage.
Kroplick’s Tucker was the 44th built of the 51 pilot production cars made by the Tucker Corporation in 1948. Kroplick said only 47 of the hand-built cars still exist with other owners including 18 museums, George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola.
When Kroplick found out the car would be auctioned, he began doing his due diligence to make sure the car was what the auction house was representing. After a few calls, he ended up in touch with Tucker Corp. founder Preston Tucker’s great-grandson Sean Tucker.
Now, Sean alongside his twin brother Mike Tucker and modern coachbuilder Rob Ida are helping Kroplick restore the historic automobile to its former glory, including repairing the unique middle “Cyclops” headlight to rotate with the steering wheel, detailing the rear engine originally built for a helicopter as well as returning the paint and upholstery to the originals.
“What’s amazing is the metal on this car is excellent,” Kroplick said. “It only has 8,000 miles after 70 years primarily because of the previous owner had it for 34 years and only put 15 miles on it. I think he found the transmission difficult to figure out. This car was basically kept in a barn for a long period of time.”
Since purchasing the car in January 2017, Kroplick has put 180 more miles on the car and its cord transmission, which Kroplick said is backward from a standard transmission, requiring the driver to select the gear before using the clutch.
“During the summer, I had three open houses for car clubs to see the collection, and they came to see all the cars, but the Tucker was the star,” Kroplick said. “There haven’t been Tuckers on Long Island for about 20 years. I don’t know if anyone ever owned a Tucker on Long Island, and a Tucker that’s drivable is like seeing a unicorn.”
Kroplick said of all the cars, he drives the Chrysler the least because it’s “a work of art,” and the Classic Car Club of America recently gave it a perfect 100 for its evaluation. He said he enjoys driving the Black Beast, including in the parade laps during the Indianapolis 500 centennial celebration in 2011.
Though Kroplick has been steadily building his collection for more than a decade, his focus until August is preparing the Tucker for the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in California.
“This year, I’m ‘Tuckered’ out,” Kroplick joked. “For the last few years I’ve been adding cars, but this year I’m focusing on the restoration. These restorations usually take two or three years, but we have a Pebble Beach deadline of August, so we’re ramping it up. I always keep my eye open for the next ‘wow’ car, but right now I’m happy with what I’m working on.”