In the recently completed Olympic Games, gold was the reward for ultimate achievement.
With credit cards and other contests, especially those involving rankings or expert judging, platinum is often used to signify a level of achievement that even surpasses gold.
A 1992 Ferrari 348 Challenge, backed by a team of automotive technicians in Loudoun County, scored platinum and another prestigious award in the Cavallino Classic car show in Palm Beach, Florida, in January.
“Cavallino is the largest Ferrari show in the country every winter,” said Greg Miller, co-owner of Loudoun County Exotics. “There were thousands of cars there, both for spectating and for showing and judging.
“You have to score a 97 or above to be judged as platinum, and then the highest score is Platinum First in Class. We won the Platinum First in Class Award for the Challenge model and the car also won for being the finest V-8 Ferrari in the field.”
Miller said achieving that 97 score and platinum designation is not easy, as meticulous judges know every detail about Ferraris – right down to the shade of the trademark rosso corsa (racing red) paint.
“At Cavallino, they have trained judges that judge on originality of how the cars were presented from the factory in that day and age,” he said. “Everything has to operate and function properly and it needs to be clean and show well.”
For Miller and his partner, Casey Bremilst, the awards are the equivalent of a rookie smashing a home run in his first at-bat in the major leagues. The two had worked together at various dealerships in the area before deciding to open Loudoun County Exotics in October of last year.
The new entrepreneurs already had a strong reputation that led to them partnering with the car owner from New York.
“I was approached back in October by the car’s owner,” Miller said. “He heard about me through another guy. Word travels. “He said, ‘I have a couple 348 Challenges that are in pretty good shape but I want to take them and show them at Cavallino. Can you get them ready?
“We said, ‘Sure, we’d love to take on the challenge of prepping a couple cars for the show.”
The car that won at Cavallino carries a pedigree that makes it iconic, even in the storied stable of Enzo Ferrari’s automotive dynasty.
“The car is really a unique car,” Miller said. “It was the prototype Challenge car for the entire Challenge series that exists today. When they started the Challenge series, they said, ‘OK, we are going to build a car to present this Challenge series to the world.’ Guys might want to drive a car before they invest any number of thousands of dollars into it. So, they would bring them out to Italy and give them this car to test drive around the race track.
“This was that very car. The fact that it landed here and in our hands, and the fact that we got to take it and show it, was just huge.”
In addition to preparing the car for the trip to Florida, Miller accompanied it to the show.
“With vintage cars, there is always the possibility of something going wrong,” Miller said. “During a driving event the day before the judging, a relay wiggled loose on the air conditioning, and they check every button.”
Miller grew up in Clifton and has been working on cars since he was old enough to reach the engine compartment.
“I started working on my parents’ car when I was 12 years old,” he said. “I just kind of fell into it.
“I ended up going to Universal Technical Institute, which is a trade school in Houston, Texas. I went through their BMW Step program. When you come out of that program you are a trained master technician under contract with a dealer in the United States for about a year to pay back the tuition.”
After about a decade working at BMW dealerships, he moved on to Ferrari of Washington.
“I became the Ferrari service advisor and basically ran the Ferrari team for them for three or four years,” he said. “At that point I thought it was finally time to open our own business.”
Miller said he and Bremilst had often discussed opening a car repair business of their own.
“It was always a goal,” Miller said. “I enjoyed working for dealers, but at least on our own we can treat people right. We can set our own pricing and do what’s right – not by the company bottom line but what’s right for the customer at the end of the day.
“I believe in building long-term relationships.”
The goal turned to reality when an acquaintance made the partners aware of an opportunity at their current location on Quicksilver Drive in Sterling.
“It was an automotive repair facility that kind of specialized in performance and tuning,” Miller said. “I guess they needed to restructure into a smaller facility. I knew their financial backer and he knew I was looking for a place, so he approached me about basically buying their assets and taking over their lease. That’s how we came to land in this facility.”
While the garage bays are full of Maseratis, Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Porsches, Miller said Loco Exotics repairs all types of vehicles.
“We’re a general automotive repair and diagnostic facility and we are open to servicing all makes and models on the road,” Miller said. “I could be working on a Kia one minute and a million-dollar Ferrari the next minute.”
Bremilst is from Massachusetts and met Miller at a BMW dealership in 2003. While winning trophies and fixing and showing vintage performance cars is a special opportunity, Bremilst said he enjoys simply finding a problem and fixing it.
“It’s the satisfaction of fixing something for me,” Bremilst said. “Taking something that’s broke and fixing it and making a happy customer.”
For more information, visit locoexotics.com.