NAPLES, FL—A few years ago, Nuno Rei took his wife’s almost-new Cadillac DTS sedan out to run some errands. A few hours later, he came home driving a new 2010 Nissan Murano.
He’d seen the Murano. He liked it. He bought it.
His friends will tell you, “That’s Nuno. He loves cars, and he loves buying and selling them.’’
Rei likes new cars. He likes to drive them, keep them in impeccable condition. Then he likes to trade them in.
He’s an auto dealer’s dream customer, buying high-end vehicles with outstanding cars as trade-ins.
However, he’s not a collector. He’s not into building extra garages—or a warehouse—to accommodate a cars that gets driven only on special occasions.
“As much as I admire collector cars, I don’t want the maintenance problems they bring. They squeak, and they don’t handle particularly well,’’ he says.
We first met Rei a year ago when he was driving a 2006 white, base-model Corvette. He’d put on an eye-catching set of custom wheels and what he calls some red “hash marks,’’ two additions that turned an everyday Florida ‘Vette into a head-turner.
When I saw him this winter, I asked, “How’s the white Corvette?’’
“Somewhere around town,’’ he said. “I sold it.’’
Instead he was driving 2012 ‘cyber gray’ Corvette Grand Sport that was, if anything, more spectacular. “It’s got a much nicer interior and is a better cruiser,’’ he says.
Rei’s own story is as interesting as his taste in cars. His family moved to Cambridge from the Azores in the 1948 when the then 8-year-old Nuno spoke no English.
Fast-forward 15 years and he’d graduated from Lowell Tech (now UMass-Lowell) with a degree in chemical (plastics) engineering. In a career working with Ventron in Beverly, his work led to 30 United States patents and more than 100 worldwide.
Rei’s first new car was a 1966 red Pontiac GTO convertible with black top and interior. “It had the 389 engine, four-barrel carburetor, four-on-the-floor, and red line tires,’’ he says. He also put on a set of Cragar mag wheels.
That was the start.
The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles probably is the only place that could track the majority of his vehicles.
“Pretty much everything,’’ is his answer when asked what he’s owned.
“I’ve had Fords, even a Pinto wagon. I had one of the earliest Toyotas sold here. I had a 1969 Volvo that probably was my biggest disappointment,’’ he says. “The Volvos may have lasted 11 years in Sweden back then, but it couldn’t even pull my small trailer. It had absolutely no power. But Volvo’s come a long way. I’ve even thought about getting another.’’
Cadillac is the most common marque on his resume.
“My brother Manny and I joke that we kept DeVoe Cadillac in Naples in business during some tough years for the car industry,’’ he says.
Earlier, he’d owned a Cadillac Catera. “The so-called critics hated it, but it was a great car for me,’’ he says.
He also enjoyed a pair of Fiat Spider convertibles. “I had an ’82 that I really loved. I babied it,’’ he recalls. “When my son was accepted to West Point, I told him I’d give it to him if he graduated with a B average.
“He did, and I did. He then drove it to Fort Bragg and beat the heck out of it for two years and then said, ‘You can have it back.’ Afterwards it sat in my garage under cover until one day when my cousin Richie was installing air conditioning in the house. He asked what was under the cover. When he saw the Spider, he said, ‘I’ll trade the air conditioning for the car.’ The car had a solid body and he’s since done a frame-off restoration and it turns heads wherever he takes it.’’
Besides the long list of luxury cars he’s driven is Rei’s Snowbird car, a Scion xB that he uses to drive between the North Shore of Massachusetts and Florida. “I’ve had three of them,’’ he says. “They’re great cars for the drive. You can park them everywhere and just say, ‘What the heck,’ if they get a ding.’’
He has trouble choosing a favorite between his two current cars, the 2012 Corvette and the most recent of several Cadillac STS sedans.
“They’re apples and oranges,’’ he says. “The Corvette handles beautifully, gets good gas mileage, and you can’t beat it for the money. I’d like to take one on a cross-country sightseeing vacation. But the Caddy is a great riding vehicle with lots of room, and it’s really luxurious.’’
That 2010 Murano Rei brought home has the longest tenure of any vehicle they’ve owned. His wife, Mary Jane, loves it just as she’s loved the rides of their life.
However, she knows better than to get too attached to it. “When I take a car in for service, I always make it a point to peruse the showroom,’’ he says.
What he’ll drive home is anyone’s guess.