After a tree fell on his Mercury Mountaineer, Brian Waskovich bought himself a Land Rover to replace it.
That purchase led him to a whole new career and passion restoring the iconic trucks for rabid fans of the British brand of vehicles.
He’s now known as Mr. Land Rover.
“Hurricane Irene dropped a tree on my truck and started a Land Rover obsession,” Waskovich said from inside his shop at the South Shore Mall in Bay Shore.
The shop is named Outback Garage. But that’s not the whole story.
It’s a little complicated, but his showroom where he also sells motorcycles and ATVs (he does not sell new Land Rovers), is called ICON Motorsports. The shop where he restores and rebuilds Land Rovers is called Outback Garage.
He wanted it to be called something else.
“Originally it was Dreammaker Motorsports but I couldn’t afford all the letters on the sign,” he said. “I had to shorten the name.”
He settled on ICON because to many, the Land Rover is just that.
After the tree crushed his truck, Waskovich went searching for a new one and discovered the joys and addiction of Land Rover.
He bought his first one off Craigslist for $2,000 and ended up selling it for $7,000.
“Then I bought another and then another.”
He now has over 30 Land Rovers of his own.
Waskovich is in broad company. Many Land Rover enthusiasts become lifers after purchasing their first one.
“I am a 16-year Land Rover owner,” said Adam Hofer, a real estate agent at Douglas Eliman in Southampton and self-proclaimed Land Rover obsessive.
Hofer says that Waskovich is as honest as they come, and when he went to the shop after a recommendation from a friend, he was sold on a vehicle restoration — and on Mr. Land Rover himself.
“He’s got an amazing operation over there,” Hofer said during a phone interview. “He definitely knows what he’s doing. He’s honest and fair and I was impressed by his operation.”
He currently has an order in with Waskovich for a Range Rover restoration that the Outback Garage crew is building for him.
All of Waskovich’s business comes from referrals within the community.
“It’s started as word of mouth and that’s how it’s grown for me,” he said.
If you drive around the building you might be overwhelmed by the sheer number of trucks he has in stock.
He has more than a hundred Land Rovers in various states of disrepair (or repair depending on how you look at it) on his premises.
He uses them for parts, or his mechanics will use one of the bodies as a base for a custom-build for a client. He runs a crew of five mechanics and they work double shifts. He only does restorations and not the day-to-day repair work of a typical garage.
All of his tools are British imports, just like the vehicles themselves.
Most of the mechanics that come to him don’t have prior Land Rover experience and he said that it’s hard to find more employees.
Despite the reputation among mechanics, he says it’s not that hard to work on the Land Rover if you’re dedicated to one vehicle like at Outback Garage.
There aren’t many like him around who know Land Rovers inside and out and people travel from all over to come to his shop. He says it’s a reprieve when they walk through his door because most aren’t used to his level of service, and his price.
“They’ve been beat up for so many years,” he said.
He also offers a six-month warranty on all the trucks he builds.
Another big draw is that he has enough parts for his projects.
“That is one of the big things about the UK trucks is getting the parts,” Waskovich said. “That’s why we have so many trucks.”
Waskovich has a few choice vehicles that he’s either restoring for customers or he’s put aside for himself to add to his ever-growing personal collection. He’s imported them from as far away as South America and Europe.
There are plenty of interesting projects going on inside his shop at any given time.
One of the trucks he’s currently working on is what he called a “right-hand side” Defender model (think English vehicles where they drive on the opposite side of the road as Americans).
Once completed he estimates it will be worth around $30,000. An Italian import, which is a left-hand drive (the one we are used to), starts at $30,000 and can go for upwards of $80,000 when restored.
The most expensive Land Rover that rolled out of his shop went for $180,000. He customized that one with a Corvette motor and special Brembo brakes for stopping power.
Outback Garage is the biggest restoration shop between Maine and the Carolinas dedicated specifically to this vehicle.
“We are the largest and most well-known in the area,” Waskovich said.
But it wasn’t always that way.
His hobby started after the incident with the tree but quickly grew. Still, Waskovich ran his operation out of two tented garages in his backyard.
Like the act of God that started it all, another one almost ended it.
Waskovich had a fire on his property in 2015 and it destroyed everything. His insurance didn’t cover the damage. He had lost his tools and his garages. He also lost hope..
“I said I’m done.”
His voice was flat as he recalled the fire. He had just begun carving out a nice little niche for himself and it was suddenly taken away from him.
The Land Rover community wouldn’t let him go.
As you can imagine with any enthusiast culture, they tend to stick together in times of trouble. It’s a tight-knit group. They have gatherings where they share their obsessions and trade ideas.
Before the fire, Waskovich had become a fixture of sorts at four-wheel drive events. He would offer his mechanic’s services to anyone who needed it during their off-road excursions for free.
That’s when people started calling him Mr. Land Rover.
Waskovich says that he has been a mechanic his whole life, growing up on a KOA campground that his father owned in Pennsylvania, fixing vehicles and working on farm equipment. He thrived in the outdoors, among strangers, helping people out.
At one event he fixed a truck using a potato and two screws.
“I made what is called a ballast resistor,” Waskovich said. “He ran the whole weekend with it.”
His altruism was the best kind of advertising and created a key networking opportunity for him, one that led to his current location at the South Shore Mall.
At an event in Pennsylvania, Waskovich and his wife helped a guy stuck in a mud hole. They spent six hours digging him out. A log was jammed into the differential so they had to cut that out with hand saw.
For the record, the guy was driving a Jeep — but Waskovich helped him anyway.
“I told him you’re like a step-child in a Jeep,” he said.
That Jeep driver ended up becoming a valuable connection later.
The Land Rover community had stepped up big time for Waskovich after the fire. Someone started a GoFundMe page to replace what he lost and he secured a spot sharing a location with another garage, but within a year he outgrew it.
He needed a place of his own but finding one was becoming an exercise in futility.
Most buildings he found in the size he needed were entirely out of his price range, costing millions of dollars. He had discovered this one location for rent at the South Shore Mall that was perfect, a 16,000-square-foot facility, but it was still a little too expensive for him.
That’s when the guy in the Jeep who Waskovich helped out of a mudhole for six hours became a very useful person to know.
Unbeknownst to Waskovich, the Jeep-owner’s family ran a huge franchise company in partnership with Westfield Mall. And the South Shore Mall happens to be a Westfield property. After a brief conversation, the next call Waskovich received was from the president of the corporation.
“He said, ‘I hear we got to set you up in a Westfield Mall,’” recalled Waskovich.
They made him a deal and after help securing the financing, he had his new location.
Mr. Land Rover was bigger and better than ever, ready to embark on a new endeavor in a new location. He jumped in full force.
“My business plan was, let’s give it a whack,” he joked. “It’s a hobby that in a few years grew into this.”
Waskovich describes his strategy in very simple terms.
“I leased this building for 10 years,” he said. “It’s not worth it to rob people for the first three.”
And his shop, he says, is growing fast.
“The thing about those cars is it’s all about getting a good one,” said Hofer, the enthusiast who has an order in with Waskovich. “And he makes it a good one.”
Hofer was referred by a friend who is another big fan of Waskovich, Howie Guja.
Guja is a celebrity of sorts.
You might recognize him from his side hustle as the guy who delivers the big checks for Publishers Clearing House. He’s also a real estate agent working out of Bellport and Guja has a huge following on Instagram where he posts pictures of his beloved Land Rover Defender.
He bought his first Land Rover from Waskovich.
“It’s a 1988 Defender 110,” Guja said, describing his prized possession on a phone call. “Everything was original, imported from the UK. I’m the second owner.”
Guja went so far as to track down the original owner, reaching out to let him know that the vehicle ended up across the pond.
“He called it ‘The Beast,’” Guja said. “The Beast is now on Long Island.”
Guja had wanted to get a Defender since he was in high school and after he happened upon Waskovich he knew this was the time to make that dream a reality.
“I spoke to Brian and he’s a super-honest guy,” he said. “Unless you’re an expert, the ability to be taken advantage of is high. But he’s such an honest, good guy.”
Guja uses his influence on social media to refer people to Waskovich any chance he can get.
When people ask him on Instagram about his Defender he refers them right to Outback Garage. Guja estimates that for every picture of his truck he posts, he gets 20 to 30 people asking him about it.
“If he has one for sale, I post it,” Guja said.
If someone needs one restored he tells them, “you got to bring this to Mr. Landrover.”
Waskovich says he feels blessed by his good fortune and the community that rallied to support him. He compares his situation to a lesson learned in Sunday School.
“Karma is what brought me here,” he said. “I lost everything and I thought that was it. Like in the Book of Job, He took it all it away and gave it back ten-fold.”
Now, he feels rewarded every time a giddy Land Rover enthusiast leaves his shop with one of his restored vehicles. “When the customer comes in to pick up their truck and I see the white of their teeth, it’s all worth it.”
Photos of Brian Waskovich at this shop in Bay Shore. (Credit: Lon Cohen)