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Cover Story Feature Steve White Of S/S Motorsports And Southern Jet

feature-steve-white-s-s-motorsports-southern-jet

Steve White

Southern Jet

S/S Motorsports

Dreams Become Reality

By Ed Bertha

Photography by Giovanni Lunardi

cover-steve-white-ss-motorsports-southern-jetAs a child Steve White had a huge fascination with airplanes. “I used to draw them all the time. I liked to sit at the airport and watch the planes take off and land,” he offers. His childhood held another attraction, cars. “As a kid I loved cars. You always have pipe dreams; that’s a cool Mustang or a rocking Camaro. Back then you didn’t think about the super exotics like the Ferraris of the world.” Ironically, now Steve has them all.

Plotting the course for Southern Jet, a private charter jet service, and feathering the throttle at S/S Motorsports, a renowned builder/restorer of classic American muscle cars, now fulfill his dreams. However, most dear to Steve’s heart is his car collection, containing some of the rarest, historically significant, contemporary vehicles found anywhere in the world. It’s time to fasten your seatbelt.

aston-martin-dbs

Black on black in a stylish Aston Martin DBS.

Growing up in Demarest, a small New Jersey town, two individuals significantly influenced Steve’s beliefs and moral compass. “I know it’s cliché but my dad was my role model. My dad was the primary influence in my life. He was a successful man, but his friend, Mr. Odabash, was wildly successful. From a kid’s perspective he did everything right. He had a lot of money, but you never knew it. He flew under the radar. I said to myself if there is ever a time in my life I’m fortunate enough to be in a similar position as Mr. Odabash, I would emulate him to a certain degree. I try to live my life according to both of them,” he shares. Unassuming and down to earth one would never know of Steve’s accomplishments, courtesy of his mentors.

Southern Jet

jarod-white-steve-white-eric-sanchez-thomas-hood

The Learjet 55 team left to right: Chief Pilot Jarod White, Steve, Director of Sales Eric Sanchez and Director of Operations Thomas Hood.

Operating a jet isn’t cheap and those wanting charter services typically have amassed a nice lifestyle and choose to fly private for a reason. It is an expensive endeavor. “It is one of those things when you do it once you are hooked. Especially now with TSA and how the commercial airlines have evolved. It is a luxury and not a necessity, no question about it. For those who choose charter services, it’s a great experience and we try to make it even better,” Steve muses.

Steve indicates that the on demand charter business is growing rapidly and Southern Jet is expanding right along with it, setting new records each month. He attributes the growth to clients still traveling the way they want to travel, at a lower cost than fractional or other means of plane ownership. The bottom line is clients only pay for what they use.

steve-white-eric-sanchez

Steve and Eric review the Learjet’s schedule for the week before taking off.

“Business professionals and celebrities alike are very busy. They need to get where they need to be, transact their business and get back. Beyond that we offer comfort and security. That type of client is a big part of our business,” he states.

Asking what sets Southern Jet apart from the others, Steve immediately replies, “The people that work for Southern Jet. The employees of Southern Jet are extremely conscientious. The safety and comfort of our passengers is the utmost concern. All of our employees follow that thinking or they don’t work for us.”

Southern Jet stresses safety and I ask Steve to explain their approach. “The FAA does a huge job to regulate what we do, more so than commercial. Unfortunately, as in any industry there are people who don’t follow the rules. There are people who will say that a particular item doesn’t need maintenance now, it can wait. When it involves safety there’s no question, I’d rather lose a flight than chance it. Everyone in the company believes the same thing. Yes, we are in the business to make a profit, but there is no question that safety is paramount. We don’t skimp on anything or cut a corner. All of our planes have real time radar, which even commercial planes don’t have. At all times, our pilots know the flight conditions.”

Routinely flying clients from Sarasota, Steve closes with, “We’d like to make sure Southern Jet is the provider of choice for the people of Sarasota.”

The Thrill Of The Hunt

enzo-ferrari

With a push of the start button the 12 cylinder Enzo emits a ferocious, deafening bark, it is unmistakably Ferrari, and all business.

Although Steve’s car collection is varied, I sense an intense love for all things Ferrari. I soon learn Ferrari passion stems from the historical significance of the brand and Steve’s experiences in his short time of collecting them.

ferrari-enzo-nose

“Ferrari always had an iconic brand and constantly was a step ahead in engineering compared to cars of similar scope. They are driven to be better, faster and more reliable. Mind you, they just came out with a 7 year, unlimited mile maintenance agreement. When you talk about Ferrari there’s a lot of history and pride in the brand, and I respect that.

ferrari-enzo-cockpit

“I purchased the Enzo because of its uniqueness. I like the car, I love the car, but there are other cars I like better. Because of the collectability, the uniqueness of the car and finding a color that I didn’t even know existed. That’s why it is here. Jay Leno was the original owner.

ferrari-enzo-tail-lights

“It’s kind of like the thrill of the hunt. You set your goal to find a particular car and then all of a sudden you find one in black and you know there’s not many in that color (399 built, rumored less than a hand full in black). Just like the Shelby, the one I have in maroon. I have a few Shelbys, but I only have one in maroon and that’s because there is only one in maroon. The thrill of the hunt feeds the passion.

“It’s maddening to drive the Enzo in Sarasota because it’s tough to get excited with 611 horsepower going 20 mph between red lights. And then it always draws a crowd. It’s a showstopper. So it’s a challenge driving around town, especially in season.

ferrari-enzo-v12-engine

“I have the F40, again, for what it stands for. The F40 was the last car that Enzo Ferrari shared in the design and build before he passed away. To me that’s historically significant. It also is regarded as the world’s first super car. They made roughly 3,300 F40s over a two year period. I looked for 2 ½ years to find that example. It’s not a particularly comfortable car, but it’s a blast to drive. It’s raw power, loud, basically a race car with street clothing on. A lot of fun.”

Rolling up his left sleeve Steve shares the Ferrari crest tattooed on his upper arm. All things Ferrari. 

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The Ferrari crest, worn with pride.

S/S Motorsports

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Steve after competitive hot laps in his Carrera GT. “It’s an adrenaline rush.”

Like many, Steve and his wife Kris relocated to Sarasota for a change of scenery and to get away from colder weather up north. Once in Sarasota he commissioned a custom car with a fabricator that had restarted their business after a number of idle years. Little did he know at the time it would lead to the creation of S/S Motorsports.

steve-white-office

Steve’s office, doubling as a game room, showcases numerous automotive works of art.

The process of building the car was absolutely a horrible experience for Steve. The car was not done properly from start to finish and to top it off, was very expensive. “What it did is lead me to my current partner, Steve Keech, who was their engine builder at the time (He had nothing to do with building the car). Steve (Keech) is light years ahead of anybody else out there. We met, discussed what we both did best and S/S Motorsports was born,” he recalls.

“We know the other builders. They have their own niches. Personally, I don’t think anybody else does it as quite as well as we do. We’re not the cheapest builder, but we are the best. You will get the highest quality finished product through us,” Steve says matter-of-factly.

69-corvette-f40-ferrari

Looking over the top of a racing Carrera GT2 RS at an S/S Motorsports’ 1,200 hp 69 Corvette and Steve’s F40 previously mentioned. $299,000 and the Corvette parks in your garage.

Quality is evident as Steve talks about using solid $20,000 donor cars, not thin-walled reproduction bodies or rust buckets, spending $800 a gallon on premium paint when others are using $100 a gallon paint and hand building the motors while competitors are using assembly line built crate motors. “The average builder looks at it as saving money. I’d rather quote the client a more realistic price and use the best materials and components available on their car,” he adds.

Surprisingly I learn that all S/S Motorsports vehicle run on pump gas, even the monster 1,200 hp dual turbo 1969 Corvette parked around the corner. Smiling, he informs me that the Vette’s horsepower could easily rise to 1,700 or more and still run on pump gas. Steve shares “Our cars are very drivable. They are bespoke like a Rolls Royce or a Bentley. Down to the smallest detail, the client has the opportunity to choose. Whether it’s ostrich skin, alligator hide or leather, the choices are endless.”

challenge-mustang

“I like the Challenge Mustang because it’s raw American muscle power and I can beat up on a lot of imports. I like to show my American pride.”

When you talk about S/S Motorsports you quickly learn that both partners view it as a service business, not a car business. “It’s a living breathing thing as we go. We encourage the client to be a big part of the build because we are just assembling the car on their specifications. As much as it is a car building business, it’s a service business.”

Horsepower usually leads one to a racetrack. With American muscle that normally translates to the drag strip. S/S Motorsports not only builds a drivable car, the cars perform. I ask if S/S guarantees low 11 second passes at the strip. Without hesitation Steve launches, “I would even say they crack the 10’s. We had my partner’s 4,200 lb car with one of our baby motors run a 10.30 (seconds, 143.95 mph). If that car ran 10:30, a Camaro that’s 500 lbs less would knock off ½ second. All on pump gas.”

One can only wonder what will roll out the doors of S/S Motorsports next.

Southern Jet
6301 Porter Rd
Suite 5
Sarasota, FL 34240
(954) 495.7101
(800) 228.9388
eric@southernjet.com
www.southernjet.com

S/S Motorsports
5705 Jason Lee Road
Sarasota, FL 34233
(941) 921.7223
info@carsbyss.com
www.carsbyss.com

Copyright © 2012 REAL Magazine
Links to this article are encouraged

Photography used under license from Giovanni Lunardi Photography
Photography Copyright © 2011 Giovanni Lunardi Photography

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