CEDAR RAPIDS — A Ford pickup and a Pontiac Bonneville sit outside Mike Wiegand’s used car office, alongside a Honda, Suzuki and Kia.
The more life stays the same, the more it changes. For Mike, 69, started in the car business long enough ago that, while his grandfather did sell Bonnevilles, the Honda and Suzuki names were likely attached to motorcycles and Kia didn’t sell cars in the United States.
That was more than a half century ago.
“All of this really started when my grandpa sold Buicks and Cadillacs. He’d take me with him. In those days you went to people’s houses, farms. You’d sit at people’s kitchen tables and sell them a car.”
Sometimes, on a cold call, his grandfather wanted to show off a new model. Other times, a faithful customer had requested a visit.
“Of course, I always wanted to go. When we got out on the back roads, I got to drive.”
As a teen, Mike repaired cars at a Dubuque service station. He stayed in his hometown after graduating from Senior in ‘63 to work as a service adviser at a dealership in an old two-story building. Cars would be driven up a ramp for second floor service.
“In the winter, those cars would melt and drip down on my office.”
Mike also dispensed car parts for a while before moving into sales. That first sale, a used 1964 Ford Galaxie, established his future.
“Used,” he says. “That’s where my interest has always been.”
After he joined Roshek & Doss Used Cars, Mike might spend cold winter nights at the dealership. He’d get up every few hours to start the cars.
“If you wanted something to sell the next day, you had to have something that ran,” he says.
In 1983, after a stint in Texas as a reconditioning manager, he came to Cedar Rapids as used car manager for Bob Zimmerman Ford. But, always in the back of his mind, was having his own place. He opened a wholesale used car business Aug. 1, 1987, and, a couple of years later, a retail outlet along Mount Vernon Road. He’s been in the present location, 4712 Mount Vernon Road SE, for six years.
“I wanted to do it my way,” he says. “I wanted to treat people like I wanted to be treated.”
Mike sits in the front office while Carole, his wife of 35 years, does paper work in the back office. They keep a dozen or so cars around, two to ten years old, generally priced from $4,000 to $12,000. He finds good cars, he says, because of long-term knowledge and business connections.
One car recently went to Omaha. Others have been sold from California fo New Jersey, from St. Louis to Kansas City …
You see, it’s not really that different. Like his grandfather, Mike sells cars at the kitchen table — via the Internet and his website, www.mikewiegandmotors.com