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Rare Playboy cars made in Buffalo return for auto show

It was like stepping back in time.

Hundreds of classic cars — aqua green, gleaming black and bright red vehicles — were parked along Delaware Avenue, as a version of Duane Eddy’s “40 Miles of Bad Road” played from a set of speakers at Kenmore’s Paddock Chevrolet dealership.

It could have been the 1950s, when Eddy’s rock 'n’ roll hit took off up the Top 100 chart.

But David Kaplan, 55, and Lee Singer, 69, both of Williamsville, wanted passersby at the dealership Sunday to experience a bit of Buffalo’s history from the mid- to late 1940s.

It’s a bit of history Kaplan and Singer said they’ve fought to preserve.

Kaplan and Singer collect and restore Playboys.

No, not magazines — cars.

Kaplan’s late grandfather, Louis Horwitz, following World War II, in 1947 helped found the Buffalo-based car company, Playboy Motor Car Corp.

“We’re caretakers,” Singer told The Buffalo News, at Paddock’s annual classic car show, where several Playboys were displayed. “We hope that the next generation appreciates these cars, themselves.”

Hugh Hefner – the original Playboy himself – who died on Sept. 27, 2017, named his magazine after the company because a friend of Hefner’s told him about it, Kaplan said.

Playboy Motor Car Corp., while operating out of a factory at the site of GM’s current Tonawanda plant, went bankrupt in 1949.

Now, Kaplan only knows of 49 Playboy cars in existence.

Fifteen of those cars were at the Paddock show on Sunday.

“Ninety-nine percent of the people in Buffalo never heard of the car,” Singer said. “All we want to do is let people know (about Playboys).”

One of the Playboys at Paddock was found in Missouri. Another was found in Iowa. A few cars at the show, including Horwitz’s original prototype, were restored by Kaplan or Singer in Western New York.

Horwitz, who helped create the Playboys, died when Kaplan was 2 years old. Kaplan, while not knowing Horwitz, wants to make sure generations of Buffalonians remember his grandfather as a visionary, he said.

“(It’s) what our goal is, ‘Let people know that something, which we think was pretty great and special, was built here,’ ” Kaplan told The News. “We go to car shows all the time, and people still don’t know what a Playboy was.”

Paddock hosts the annual car show in Kenmore. Kaplan and Singer were able to use it to organize a first-of-its-kind event for Playboy owners to display their rare vehicles.

The two friends plan to keep showing off Playboys in the future, and hope people soon discover other unknown relics of Horwitz’s old dream.

Ed Brant, 92, of Angola, at the show Sunday, grinned during an interview with The News — Brant had a hand in building the very cars Kaplan and Singer spent years tracking down.

“We worked our lives off,” said Brant, a former employee at Playboy Motor Car Corp., of the Playboys’ preproduction.

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