About 10 years ago, Tony Costa went out one morning for some dog food. He came home with the dog food, plus a very unique, one-of-a-kind Yesteryear golf cart that he has since tricked out with almost every imaginable bell and whistle.
“It has everything but air conditioning,” he says.
The cart was topless when he bought it, on a lengthened frame with four-passenger forward-facing seats.
“At one time there were two identical carts, but one of them has been lost, so now this is the only one left,” he says.
Among the additions Tony has added are lights all round and blue lights under the frame. A canvas top was added and inside, on the underside of the fabric, are tiny fiber optic lights that glow and change color – in the dark they resemble ever-changing psychedelic stars. The front dashboard, except that it’s wood, looks like it’s from an aircraft with multiple switches, dials and gauges.
“It was probably built in 2001, according to the serial number,” Tony says. “And it was used in parades and for demonstrations by The Villages Golf Cart company.”
Of course, the cart has an AM-FM stereo.
“I was warned that if I bought it, I’d get a lot of lookers. I said, ‘OK, fine.’ And I do,” Tony says.
The Yesteryear golf cart is Tony’s chief method of transportation in The Villages. “I use it every day.” And it always gets looks. “No matter where I go – to the stores down in the squares, to the golf course or the bowling lanes – people smile and give me a thumbs up. And that makes me happy because they’re happy. They’re looking at a cart like they’ve probably never seen before.”
He estimates the value at between $30,000 and $40,000.
There’s a GPS and a back-up camera in Tony’s cart.
For the past nine years Tony has been president of The Villages Yesteryear Golf Cart Club. The main goals of the club are to enjoy their golf carts, be part of the big Villages parades and to raise money for charities. The only requirement to be a club member is to own a Yesteryear golf cart.
“We have a tree lighting event and 50-50 draw at Christmas and half of the money goes to the Sumter County (Sheriff’s Office) to take kids out shopping. We’re in the St. Patrick’s Parade – which is our next big event – and we have a cruise-in in April.”
The Club meets at La Hacienda Recreation Center on the first Monday of the month at 3:00 pm. For information call Tony Costa at 352-350-2870.
Tony made a wooden shelf for the back seat, with cutout cup holders, to match the one in the front.
Safety is always of paramount concern, Tony acknowledges. “You’re in a machine engineered to do 18 miles an hour or so. If you hit a little curb at a high speed, with these tires and frame you’re going to bounce, and the cart is probably going to flip over.”
Tony’s cart has an unbreakable Lexan windshield and electric wiper.
Tony lived most of his live in Plymouth Meeting, just outside Philadelphia. For about 30 years he was in the textile industry with a company that manufactured uniforms for the military, police and fire departments. In the late 1980s, the company closed after 120 years and Tony went into real estate for 13 years.
The bold, chromed ‘CAMILLE” on the side of the golf cart looks like the model name, but it’s really in honor of Tony’s wife, Camille.
In 1999 Tony and Camille bought a rental property on the Historic Side of The Villages.
“We had friends that we visited here starting in 1996,” he says. “They bought their current home, in the Village of Glenbrook, in 2004 and moved to The Villages permanently in 2006.”
There’s a leaping Jaguar chrome radiator cap ornament and three “Buick ports,” with lights, on each side of the hood. The flat grill is custom-made. “I’ve never seen another one like it,” Tony says.
“Where else in the country can you travel around three different counties by golf cart?” Tony asks.
Most of the work on the cart has been done by Tony and his friends. He’s had to install an additional battery to run all of the electric accessories and extra lights.
“I want to make the cart as visible as possible at night as well as very visible during the day,” he says. “I want to make sure people see me if I’m stopped at a light.”
Of course, the lights also help with the overall bling effect.
The flexible plastic side windows, front and back, roll up into the top with electric motors. Tony has controls on the driver’s side for all of the windows.
Yesteryear carts start out as standard golf cart frames, motors and running gear – and no body. The fiberglass bodies, modeled after Fords from the late 1930s, are made locally from hand-made molds and everything is married together, along with the custom paint jobs, at a facility near The Villages. Two styles, a coupe and a truck, are available. The Villages Golf Cars are the exclusive new Yesteryear dealer.
The doors on Tony’s cart are detachable to make it easy for golfers to get in and out.
Sourcing materials for the cart updates often requires some ingenuity. The door handles and latches are from a refrigerator manufacturer. The hinges from covers for outboard boat engines. Some of the parts are manufactured or assembled on Tony’s own garage workbench with assistance from other club members.
Air shocks help cushion the ride and there’s a ‘HEMI’ logo on the lower-side chrome panel. “It’s a small hemi,” Tony says with a laugh.
The next addition? “I’m always trying to come up with something new,” Tony says. “I’m considering air conditioning. We’d have to find space for some extra batteries to run it.” But he knows of a company that makes a small battery-powered unit that would work.
If you see Tony and “Camille the golf cart” around Lake Sumter Landing or anywhere in The Villages, give them a wave and a thumbs up. They’re there to make everyone smile and enjoy their day.
John W Prince is a writer and Villager. For more information visit www.GoMyStory.com.