Beyond Saab: George’s Imports looks back at its 60 years in the European car business
George’s Imports Has Specialized in Foreign Cars for over 60 years
By Kathy Feist
George’s Imports has several cars waiting for repairs: an MG, Triumph, Rolls Royce, Mercedes, Audi, Volvo, and most of all Saabs.
They won’t be there for long. “We try not to keep them for more than a day,” says owner Brad Schaffner.
George’s Imports, known as Kansas City’s only authorized Saab service provider, specializes in all makes of European cars. It is located in Martin City at 505 E. 135th St. (next to Jess & Jim’s).
“European cars have the same set of parts, the same technical aspects,” explains Schaffner. “You don’t need to learn a new set of thinking.”
Schaffner’s been thinking about cars since he was a child. In 1957 he was already helping his dad, George Schaffner, hone cylinders. He was only 8 years old.
George’s Imports began in the 1960s as George’s Foreign Car Service at the family home off 87th & Blue Ridge Blvd. George, a machinist by trade, had been tinkering with automobile repair for some time and had developed a specialty with foreign cars. “He was real good at fixing things others couldn’t,” Schaffner says of his father. His reputation grew.
“People just kept bringing stuff to the house. Our driveway was lined with Rolls Royces, MGs, Jaguars,” says Schaffner. “Everybody at school, when they would drop me off the bus, would ask, ‘Do you live at a country club?’”
Eventually the shop was moved to 54th and Prospect. And in 1964, the shop expanded and became an exclusive dealer of Citroens, a French automobile.
“They told my dad, ‘Tell you what. You come pick up a couple of cars and when you sell them, pay us!’”” he laughs. “It’s a whole different world now.”
The dealership ended 10 years later when Citroen chose to no longer export their cars.
Searching for a new identity, the business changed its name to George’s Imports, moved to 7746 Wornall Rd., and became the Kansas City, MO, exclusive Saab dealership in 1976.
When the dealership outgrew that space in 1995, it moved to 8011 State Line Rd., formerly Jack Roach Cadillac.
George’s Imports made its final move to Martin City after it gave up the Saab franchise in 2010. It became Kansas City’s exclusive authorized Saab service center. Saab stopped manufacturing its cars in 2011.
George’s Imports has always been a family-run business. Most customers are familiar with Schaffner who primarily runs the shop. But his brother Terry and nephew Terry, Jr. also have a hand in operations. Schaffner’s wife Bobbi runs the parts department.
Schaffner is especially proud of his daughter, Kerrie. Kerrie began going to races with her dad at the age of 14. She won the Powder Puff Derby at the age of 16. Schaffner, who had won several races himself driving Saabs, built her two racing cars. She continued to compete in local races, and eventually attended a sports car racing school in Florida. She helped build the company’s website. In 1999, at the age of 25, Kerrie succumbed to throat cancer. She was one of many victims who received diluted cancer treatment drugs from convicted pharmacist Robert Courtney.
Schaffner himself has recently experienced health problems, having lost 100 pounds due to a kidney issue. But he says he is in good health now. At the age of 68 he has no plans to retire.
Schaffner says he sees fewer Saabs these days. “A few die every year.”
Nevertheless, Schaffner’s favorite car is still a Saab. Why? For reasons that could just as easily describe him, his business, and the car. “I like its robustness,” he says.