Among the Bentleys, Jaguars, and Mercedes Benz at Chequered Flag in Marina del Rey, you’ll find Benjamin Simon.
Simon, who is developmentally disabled, visits Chequered Flag each Wednesday where staff say he has been a fixture assisting them for the past two years.
Chequered Flag, a classic, luxury and performance car showroom with a foreign and domestic clientele, has been at its current location at 4128 Lincoln Blvd. for 25 years.
“We attract the enthusiasts,” said Tim Bird, general manager.
Simon, a Marina del Rey resident, is not attracted to the exotic, fast cars on display in the shop. He only has eyes for one car: a ruby red 1966 Volkswagen Beetle.
“Of all the cars we have in here, that’s the one he likes,” said Bird.
Simon described his favorite vehicle, saying, “It’s very clean and the engine is quiet.”
Simon’s passion for VW Beetles began when he was a boy living in Toronto, where his mother bought a 1967 Beetle. The young Simon found a VW repair shop in the neighborhood and soon became a regular there.
“From about the age of four, Ben had an uncanny ability to identify cars,” said Rita Eagle, Ben’s mother. “The Beetle was a cute car for a little boy, like a toy car.”
She added, “Ben has a collection of Beetles including cars, phones, models, you name it.”
Now, Simon has found a new VW home at Chequered Flag where staff say he knows the details of each VW in stock, making him the “resident VW guru.”
“I like this place,” said Simon.
His mother recalled what initially sparked his interest and repeat visits to Chequered Flag.
“Once we stopped at Chequered Flag to look at the cars,” Eagle said. “Then he would bug me to go back to see the Beetle. Then Ben made a deal to come every week.”
Simon has a keen mind for detail and keeps on top of the competition by going to other car dealerships and checking on prices and availability. He also keeps track of the Chequered Flag website which includes Simon’s recommendation for his favorite car.
“He’s our Internet look-out,” said Bird. “If we have wrong information, he gets us to correct it.”
What does Simon bring to the showroom?
“Ben is 100 percent positive, 100 percent of the time,” said Steve Cunningham, showroom manager. “It’s just a fact. He’s never any other way. He’s the director of fun.”
Bird added, “Ben greets customers and is very sociable. He brings innocence and has quite a sense of humor.”
Simon is also a musician and plays the harp. On one occasion, to show his appreciation for the staff, he brought in his Celtic harp and gave the staff a recital.
“It was amazing,” Bird said of the performance. “We never knew he played the harp.”
Simon’s presence, along with his enthusiasm for cars, has had a strong effect on the staff who have come to know him.
“Ben lifts our spirits when he’s here,” said Cunningham.
“He simply puts a smile on our faces,” said Bird. “We’re getting a lot more than we’re giving.”
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