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3 20-somethings turn love for ‘toys’ into career

<p>This past weekend’s Molson Grand Prix has whizzed by, and the movie The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift is high- tailing its way out of theatres. But life for three youngsters who have made a profession out of their passion for fast cars revs on.</p>


Stephen Lee photo



Names: Harvey Lin, 24, Stephen Lee, 21, and Allen Wong, 22.

Occupation: Performance Car Parts Specialists

Home: Toronto


This past weekend’s Molson Grand Prix has whizzed by, and the movie The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift is high- tailing its way out of theatres. But life for three youngsters who have made a profession out of their passion for fast cars revs on.


Five years ago at age 16, Stephen Lee started dabbling in the sales of aftermarket automotive parts.


Like the clients he was serving, Lee was one of those car buffs who got a kick out of spending his weekend under the hood, souping up his roadster by swapping its original parts with performance-enhancing ones, hence the term “aftermarket” parts.


Passion, however, led to a profession.


Having secured the distribution rights to car parts of many large U.S. companies, Lee soon bore the vision of creating an online aftermarket automotive trading website that catered to performance car enthusiasts — that is drivers of sports or race cars, who place greater emphasis on things like power, braking, maneuverability, weight and road holding as opposed to comfort, passenger space and economy.


Lee pitched his plan to his best friends, fellow performance car junkies Harvey Lin and Allen Wong, and www.TunerTrader.comhit cyber space one summer ago.


“All three of us are performance junkies. We all drive customized vehicles, tuned from engine to exterior. I don’t think we will ever drive a stock car,” Lee says. “I guess modifying cars is not just a hobby, but a personality trait.”


That trait has helped the site grow from 100,000 to 1.5 million hits a month. However, Lee hopes the popularity is attributed more to an attractive image that doesn’t include the criminal and dangerous act of street racing.


“Modifying your car does not make you a street racer,” Lee says. “It’s like people who prefer to buy brand name clothes. It’s about the freedom to choose an image.”


Revenue from the site is generated the traditional way — via advertising with car manufacturers strategically splashing promotional banners throughout its pages.


Performance car buffs, meanwhile, are able to buy and sell a variety of vehicles and parts, including anything and everything from emblems and decals, to brakes and wheels, to ignitions and exhausts — all of which can be done via free listings on the site.


Stores and small businesses burdened with the cost of designing their own website can create their own online store for free on TunerTrader.com, which, of course, comes with the perk of already having a niche consumer base attached.


And for pleasure’s sake, the site features a popular video gallery with a string of clips ranging from funny ones to enthusiasts extolling automotive tips to specialized segments categorized by certain car manufacturers like BMW and Mazda.


With Lee, 21, overseeing operations, Lin, 24, supervising sales and Wong, 22, taking care of marketing, early success at TunerTrader.com has also opened the doors to a peripheral business: marketing consultation, and print and web design for prestigious clients like Downtown Porsche and Downtown Fine Cars Group, which comprises Volkswagen, Audi, Infiniti and Porsche.


The three lads must be doing something right because, after only a year of operation, business is booming, and they’ll be moving their outfit from their homes into a new office by year’s end.


Here’s one for the boys and their toys.




whohot@rogers.com

 
 
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