Interview with owner Elliot Cuker
If you walk on the Perry Street block between Greenwich Street and Washington Street you can’t miss noticing the beautiful old cars in mint condition in sleek garages on both sides of the street. Even West Village old-timers such as myself, George Capsis (WV News publisher) and Maggie Berkwist (WV News photographer) have wondered what exactly this business is about. The three of us sat down with owner Elliot Cuker in his office above the garage to get the story:
Elliot has lived in the far West Village since the 1960’s and still resides here with his family. In his youth he was a struggling actor but also the owner of an old Bentley. In order to earn enough to live on, he hired himself out as a chauffeur, affecting a British accent and calling himself Elliot Cooper. This worked so well that he started a Rolls Royce Limo service, employing other moonlighting actors as chauffeurs. By 1978, with 8 used Rolls Royce carsand with his own mechanics, he bought the old garages on each side of Perry Street and began restoring classic cars for others. Twelve years ago he sold the building on the south side and now rents the garage space there.
Today Cooper Classic Cars is a licensed car dealer– according to Elliot he is the leading classic car dealer on the East coast. His good reputation allows him to do 70% of his sales by phone. He ships all over the world, middle-eastern royalty being among notable clients. Cooper FilmCars is a division of the company, renting cars for shoots to the entertainment and fashion industries.
Prompted to reminisce about his days as a chauffeur, he recalled a preacher who hired him and held out the promise of how Elliot could one day “own this car” if he followed the righteous path. He says that a chauffeured limousine can create fantasies, remembering a computer salesman who had no office but who impressed buyers and did deals while Elliot drove them around the city.
It’s not all business:
Although not interested in politics per se, Elliot got involved with Rudy Giuliani early in his political career as his speech and acting coach. Elliot cites Reagan, Clinton and Obama as examples of the power of effective speaking in politics. He was chairman of the Mayor’s Film and Theater Advisory Board during the Giuliani administration and was in charge of New York’s Inner Circle show the year that Mayor Giuliani in drag created a sensation playing Marilyn Monroe in a version of Victor/Victoria arranged by Elliot. More recently he has turned his car showroom into an art gallery as well. The gallery is not intended to be devoted to automobile images, but as of this writing does feature photos of autos by art photographer TimWhite.