The Interview | Randy Elber of R&R Restoration

Rivay Randy Elber

R&R Restoration and one of their 330 preservation projects

On a nondescript side street in a sleepy town in Westchester County, New York lies an unassuming warehouse. The area looks like any other industrial park. But inside this building is anything but ordinary – it’s home to R&R Restoration.

I was first introduced to R&R Restoration, or simply R&R, through a friend (none other than Mr. Tony King, Rivay chatted with him here). My wife's 1970 280SL needed a proper once over and Tony recommended R&R. Having owned a couple vintage cars, I’ve been to a lot of “shops.” This is not one of those shops. There is something special happening here.

Co-owner, Randy Elber, was kind enough to give us a tour of the shop and answer some questions. Enjoy!

JR: Tell us about R&R and how it came to be:

Randy: Robert and I met discussing a potential 300SL Roadster acquisition he was looking at in Long Island. It really was not a good car, and definitely not the car for him. We got along well from the start and once we both realized we live in Westchester County, we met up again a couple months later at his garage space. I’d been building the business plan for the shop for quite a while, and he had always had the idea of a restoration shop simmering, so we began developing what that idea and partnership could look like. We developed R&R from there.

Randy Elber Rivay
Randy Elber Rivay

The split window 356

Randy Elber Rivay
Randy Elber Rivay

JR: Was there a particular moment in your life when you knew this was the profession you were passionate about?

Randy: I bought my first car at 13, which was a 68’ LeMans (I converted to a GTO) for $600. I always had an interest and was fortunate to have a great mentor, Gus Trzop, who stoked the fire to learn this trade. Four years later (and all my money and free time) I had it on the road. Hard to describe that feeling of the journey to build something like that at that age. Cars and sports really drove me through high school, and with college approaching, pursuing vintage cars felt like my calling. The whole process left such a lasting impression that I knew vintage cars were never leaving my blood.

JR: You’ve seen/worked on/restored & preserved some amazing cars, what’s the favorite and why?

Randy: Impossible to answer! Honestly, I have been fortunate to be involved in some incredible cars and that question is impossible to answer. Every major project ends up cementing a place in your memory for different reasons. Each and every restoration project or preservation project requires a personal commitment to the craftsmanship and originality. They all hold a favorite component whether it was the amount of originality, ownership story, or amount of effort to chase a particular detail, show debut, etc.

JR: What part of the process do you enjoy the most?

Randy: I’ve enjoyed building things my entire life. I really enjoy the whole process from disassembly, research, restoration, and assembly. To narrow it down it would it be finally assembly. The culmination of chasing details, restoring components, and reaching the finish line on any project is the highlight. That first test run of the engine or that first test run down the road is always memorable.

JR: The vintage car market has exploded over the last decade; do you have any advice for someone looking to purchase their first vintage car?

Randy: First - Buy and seek out what you love. Cars are supposed to fun, driven, enjoyed, and shared. Second - Develop a relationship with someone in the field who you trust. There is an intimate knowledge required to properly vet/buy 50-60-70 year old cars that just can’t be learned quickly. Take advantage of someone who has vast experience in the car you are looking for to avoid major expenses and mistakes. Third - If possible try and get some seat time in a good example of what you hope to buy. Vintage cars are unique in many respects, so much easier to learn a car by driving/experiencing one. You may be dead set on a 50’s era car only to realize after a few drives your real “vintage” experience might be better served by something a decade or so more modern. Lastly, vintage cars require regular care. Plan for who will service/repair it, clean it, store it, etc.  

JR: What’s an underrated classic car that no one is talking about but should be?

Randy: There are still so many cars that catch me off guard to be honest. Recently had the opportunity to service and drive a Maserati Khamsin. The era of the wedge styling doesn’t get enough attention for the cars that were designed at that time. So many good options that are still somewhat affordable for what the cars really are.

JR: Okay, you’ve got a maximum of $75K for any vintage car or modern classic, what are you getting and why?

Randy: Porsche 912 or Alfa Romeo 105 series. Durable, classic styling, great handling, great parts support, and easy to maintain. Unfortunately, I think that budget might not be enough soon, but they are great cars for the money.

JR: Now, no budget – sky is the limit - what’s the dream car why?

Randy: 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Alloy GW. Capable of getting coffee or ripping across the country. The capabilities for a car from the 1950’s are unmatched and I would never get tired of the styling. Plaid interior of course…

Randy Elber Jon Ruti Rivay

Randy & Rivay Founder Jon Ruti. Randy wears the Tarpon Utility Shirt in washed black. Jon wears Rivay's Slub T-Shirt in faded black

Randy Elber Rivay
Randy Elber Rivay

JR: There’s a catch with the dream car though; It can only have one cd/tape/8-track in it forever, what’s the album?

Randy: 2pac All eyez on me. That is assuming the 50’s radio is up to the task?

JR: Favorite road trip ever taken?

Randy: New York to Acadia National Park with my wife.

JR: You have one hour to escape your normal day, what do you do?

Randy: Something I don’t do enough of lately, but head to the gym.

JR: Now you’ve got two weeks…

Randy: Ski trip no question. No better way to reset than spending time in the mountains.

JR: Place we’re most likely to find you…

Randy: Winter-Vermont, Summer-camping with the family. And to be completely honest the shop of course!

Okay, speed round

JR: What will we always find on your nightstand?

Randy: Omega Speedmaster

JR: Last Google search?

Randy: “When to harvest your first batch of Arugula from your garden.”

JR: Drink of choice after a long day at the shop?

Randy: Vodka cocktail

JR: And finally, what’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?

Randy: Easily opening the shop. We were juggling a 2-year-old, a second on the way, a home purchase, and recently relocated back to the area. Timing was certainly not ideal, but sometimes you have to make the calculations and pull the trigger. Going from employed to self-employed is a jump that just can’t be understated, and with a growing family it felt massive. Happy to be 4 years down the road from that decision!

Thanks, Randy!

Randy Elber Jon Ruti Rivay
Randy Elber Rivay
Randy Elber Rivay


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1 comment

Great article— love Rivay and enjoyed hearing Randy’s story. Also- the friendship you two have formed is really nice to see.

Russell Mohr

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