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There's not a lot of downtime for successful real estate professionals in Southwest Florida, especially during season. Wes Kunkle, the president and managing broker of Kunkle International Realty in Naples, knows that well after working as an investor and broker here for nearly 40 years.

Still, he manages to find a few hours a night to pursue his own form of relaxation: restoring classic cars in his 830-square-foot shop off of Enterprise Avenue in Naples.

Kunkle’s latest project arrived in a heap: a partial carcass of a vehicle, the inside of which was stuffed with parts such as fenders, tires and a gas tank. He then got to work.

A year and a half later, the 1969 Chevrolet Camaro is taking shape as Kunkle assembles newly painted pieces on the frame and awaits a few exterior and interior finishes. When it’s done, he promises, it will be a beauty. Then it’s on to the 1976 Corvette that’s on deck.

“There’s a pride factor when you start with a bucket of rust and then get it back into shape,” says Kunkle.

It’s a passion that dates back to before he was old enough to drive. “I started doing this when I was 15 years old,” he says.

His inspiration came from his dad, Weslie Kunkle Sr., who had his own shop to tinker in when the family lived in Westland, Michigan, not far from Detroit. He had worked in the auto industry that was “in everybody’s blood up there.”

The younger Kunkle had also taken three years of auto shop in high school, so he learned to work on cars that, he admits, were much easier to work on than today’s highly computerized models.

After moving to Naples in 1979, Kunkle continued his hobby at a garage on Shirley Street. He also began racing stock cars. His speedway days are gone, but his heart is still in the restoration work. (His father also frequents the garage.) Plus, his pastime can be therapeutic. “I know it sounds funny, but it’s relaxing to me.” 

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