Bobby Green became obsessed with classic cars after leaving his native Oklahoma for L.A., where he sped down the wide boulevards in a 1957 Chevy.
"I'd see all these rad Cadillacs cruising," Green, 44, says. "Los Angeles injected something into me."
When the time came to replace his ride, he got a '54 Ford, thus beginning a lifetime of finding, repairing, and racing collectible cars. Last fall, at the annual Race of Gentlemen in Wildwood, New Jersey--an event he co-owns and produces--Green drove a 1922 Whippet Speedster. He recently acquired a sleek, silver HAL dual overhead cam sprint car from the 1930s. "The original paint is still on it," he says.
A co-founder of the nightlife company 1933 Group (named in honor of the year Prohibition was repealed), Green creates bars that also hark back to America's past, like Sassafras, a Savannah, Georgia, townhouse he turned into a jazz-era cocktail lounge and plunked down in the middle of Hollywood. He splits his time between 1933 ventures--its eight bars took in $13 million last year--and his Old Crow Speed Shop, where he stores more than two dozen cars and motorcycles and a trove of automotive memorabilia. Vintage carburetors protrude from walls, car club jackets from as far back as the 1930s hang near the window. How does he get this stuff?
"A lot of networking," he says. Before computers, "it was swap meets, or you'd go to the local cruise night, like Friday night at Bob's Big Boy. You get to know Jay Leno. You know all the car people."
Green's dedication is such that he favors vintage-style clothing--newsboy caps, three-button vests--and commutes in his restored cars unless bad weather forces him into his new Chevy truck, which includes features like air conditioning and a roof. "This is the opposite of practicality," Green says, starting up a cherry-red 1931 Ford roadster. "This is incessant freedom."