Around a bend on a two-lane highway in the hills of Kentucky, there is a row of rusty classic cars collecting grass and sun. Behind them are several garages decorated in vintage signs from the business of past decades. This is a welcome mat to the property of Marty Lee and his family business. Here, five generations of Lees have sold, traded, repaired, restored, built, and collected just about anything you could steer.
Marty Lee is a trader, by trade. There isn’t much he will not trade for and over the last few generations, his family has carved themselves a piece of America all their own.
“I got motorcycles, horses, cattle, private dogs, airplanes, golf courses, bluegrass festivals, junkyards, antique cars,” Marty says. “I started in 1973. We do racing. We got race cars. We fish. We hunt. We golf. There ain’t nothing that we don’t do here. It all comes from this work right here.”
Marty hosts and runs the Poppy Mountain Bluegrass Festival on his farm each year. He has endless acres of cars and vintage signs. But none of it matters more than family. About the only thing not for sale in Marty’s collection is an old 1930s Inland Tires and Tubes thermometer.
“I got about 100 antique cars,” he says. “I got everything you could imagine, except money and my son. My son died two years ago. He brought me that thermometer one morning. It’s about one of the only things he ever brought me, so I keep that there. He got it from a guy over in Carter County by the name of Burtons, and it hung in their garage since 1930. And they were playing poker and drinking beer and he came out with that the next morning. He won it in the game. He brought it to me and said, ‘I know you’ll like this.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I do.’ He was 39. We worked here every day. His name was Michael Lee.”
Lee’s Car Lot is a family business soon to be in its fifth generation.
“My grandpa was Haskell Hack, they called him Hack,” Marty explains. “And my dad was Harmon Lee. He was one of the main dealers. Then me. Then Michael. He was taking over and I was putting everything in his name. Then he died, so I had to put it back in my name again. Now, I got my two grandsons getting ready to take over. Dylan and Jagger, they’re taking over.”