Americans love their cars, and they especially love the cars they grew up with, whether it was a ‘57 Chevy, a ‘66 Ford Mustang or a ’73 Plymouth Barracuda.

Keeping that romance alive is the business of Lebanon-based Trim Parts Holdings Corp., a growing manufacturer and supplier of literally thousands of interior and exterior parts for classic automobiles.

Trim Parts, started about 40 years ago in Milford, changed hands a couple of times before being acquired two years ago by the Greenwich, Conn.-based investment firm Dubin Clark & Co., whose portfolio includes several automotive aftermarket names such as Hurst Shifters, Flowmaster, Performance Exhausts and B&M Racing.

The man behind the wheel at Trim Parts is CEO Mitch Williams, an Atlanta native and car enthusiast who wanted to be a psychologist.

A love of auto racing and a business supplying parts for other racers to pay for college led to a 30-year career in Europe and the United States with some leading auto parts suppliers. Williams can still put his psychology degree from Emery University to work analyzing American’s love affair with pre-1980 chrome and sheet metal.

“We’re almost selling a time machine,” he says. “It’s a chance to revisit your earliest years. If you think about a special time in your life, a special place or a special person, a lot of the time there’s a car involved. What we’re helping people do is get back to that special time, place or person by restoring the car they had or wish they had.”

Trim Parts, which makes General Motors-certified exterior trim—door handles, emblems and badges, as well as molded floor carpet—has been on a buying binge, acquiring four other classic car suppliers over the last year and expanding its footprint to include Ford and Chrysler products.

Last year it acquired Parts Unlimited in LaGrange, Ky., a supplier of interior parts: seats, door panels, seat frames, convertible tops and sun visors.

Earlier this year it acquired Canton-based First Place Auto Products, a maker of restoration Mopar parts for Chrysler muscle cars—hood scoops, spoilers, weather trim and window felt—and consolidated its operations in Lebanon and LaGrange.

This summer, it acquired Mr. Mustang, a Dayton maker of Ford Mustang restoration parts and consolidated its operation in Lebanon. It also purchased the Right Stuff Detailing, a Columbus maker of disc brake conversions and other brake parts and fuel lines for classic cars.

“Our business model is to supply everything for the inside and outside of the car and now with the Right Stuff, we’re moving into suspensions and brakes,” says Williams.

Brent Paris, Dubin Clark partner and Trim Parts chairman, says his firm looked at several car restoration companies before deciding Trim Parts was the right fit. It produces parts that are certified by General Motors, using GM tooling. “Car restoration enthusiasts want their vehicle to be as original as possible,” he says.

The Right Stuff is part of one of the fastest growing segments of the classic car market called “Restomod.” It retains the classic look of the car or truck and replaces what’s underneath with the latest mechanical, safety and environmental equipment. “Basically making the car better than when it was new,” says Williams.

As important as what it makes is where Trim Parts makes its products.

“We manufacture 75 or 80 percent of the products we sell. We’re proud of that. A lot of people have given up on manufacturing in the United States, but we’re proving you can do it daily,” says Williams.

With plants in LaGrange and Columbus in addition to Lebanon, Trim Parts employs about 200, including about 40 in Lebanon.

“The Ohio Valley and neighboring states have always been a hot bed of auto suppliers,” says Williams. “You have strong tool-making skills and fabrication skills. There’s a good base of people who know how to make things. A lot of those people who worked for the Big Three automakers or their suppliers ended up buying the cars they helped build.”

Williams says this region has a mother lode of classic cars in various stages of restoration as a result.

“I think this area is equaled only by Southern California in terms of the quality of classic cars it has.”

Williams won’t disclose revenues, but says sales are in the range of $50 million annually.

A former chairman and board member of the Specialty Equipment Market Association, he estimates classic cars—everything from buying and selling vehicles to restoration—account for about $4 billion of the overall $33 billion retail value of the specialty motor vehicle market.

Trim Parts markets its products through a network of 800 dealers around the country and participates in about 60 classic cars shows annually.

Williams, who has his own fleet of more than half a dozen personal vehicles—including a couple Porsches, a Shelby Mustang and a rare mid-engine Ford GT worth more than $250,000—doesn’t currently own a classic vehicle.

“I haven’t the time,” he says. But he can satisfy his classic-car craving with more than a dozen restored classic Mustangs and Chevys the company owns and displays at shows.

Among them is a 1973 Mustang convertible with 23,000 original miles on the odometer.

“We love those low-mileage cars because they are like time capsules,” he says. “You get in it and it looks, feels and even smells like 1973.”

Despite its size, Williams says the classic car market is highly fragmented and Trim Parts and Dubin Clark are looking to acquire more companies in the business.

“We think our group will be probably be not less than eight companies and it could be 10 or 12 when we’re done,” he says. Paris says Dubin Clark typically grows its companies to the $100 million-revenue range.

And the company has not ruled out companies supplying parts for classic foreign brands such as BMW, MG and Mercedes.

“It’s been a really good investment for us, an interesting investment,” says Williams of Trim Parts.

“This is not a product you have to have. This is a product you don’t have to have, but you want to have it. Sometimes ‘want to have’ is a more powerful motivator than ‘have to have it.’"