There’s an entire world of enthusiast cars for sale that don’t appear on Bring a Trailer, Cars & Bids, or any of the other well known internet-based auction sites. Perhaps the sellers don’t want to deal with the perceived extra hassle, the wait-to-listing time, or the comments from the peanut gallery, so they sell things on the internet the old fashioned way—or as old fashioned as anything internet-related can get at least. That means model-specific forums, sites like AutoTrader, craigslist, and other places on the world wide web that existed twenty-plus years ago.
Paul Levitz and Kyle Roberts, the creators of Built for Backroads, a website dedicated to providing enthusiasts a curated collection of cool cars for sale, know exactly what I’m talking about. Levitz and Roberts took what started as a group text among friends for sharing interesting, enthusiast cars for sale, and turned it into a fun-car online treasure trove that went live in December of 2020. Even though I’m not in the market (who am I kidding, I’m ALWAYS in the market), I often find myself just browsing through their listings and daydreaming of more garage space. Aside from the impressive breadth of manufacturers and models listed, Built for Backroads is completely free. You don’t need to sign up. There are no fees to submit your car. There are no fees to contact a seller. There are no fees to browse the site. There’s no catch. Free.To find out more about Built for Backroads, I reached out to the site’s co-creator, Paul Levitz. Levitz and Roberts both live in the Huntington Beach, California area and have been friends for the past fourteen years. Both are avid car enthusiasts and attend many local events and club drives, sporting their Built for Backroads gear, of course. While they have careers outside of their website, Levitz said, “We’re doing what we love, trying to find cars that we really like, and share them with enthusiasts so that everyone can benefit.” Since going live nearly two years ago, they’ve shared over 2,000 cars. “98% of the cars we feature have manual-transmissions, mostly because those are the ones that are really hard to find. That’s not to say that dual-clutch cars or others can’t be driver-focused, but it’s really about the cars that people struggle to find,” Levitz pointed out. Due to the rarity and low production numbers of some of these manual-transmission-optioned cars, Levitz said the website is like a “haystack made entirely of needles.”
Their website relies heavily on enthusiasts’ submissions, though Levitz and Roberts do a fair amount of searching as well. Levitz says, “We’re always glad to get good submissions because finding cars is really time consuming.” He added, “There are other sites out there that are more about the market. I want the people that find these cars to go out to drive them and enjoy them. We try not to focus too much on the financial piece. I don’t want to enable collectors, I want to enable drivers. Kyle feels the same way.” All of their finds are private-party listings only; they don’t list dealer cars. Levitz says this is because “it’s not just about finding a car, but also being part of a community of enthusiasts.”
At this point, you’re probably thinking, “That’s all well and good, BimmerLife, but what does this have to do with my beloved marque?” Well, guess what brand is heavily featured on the Built for Backroads website. That’s right—BMWs. Additionally, the site’s co-creator, Levitz, is a twenty-plus year BMW CCA member and has owned a number of pretty cool BMWs himself. He’s even done two European deliveries, which included trips to the Nürburgring, as they should.
When I asked Levitz what’s currently in his stable, he said, “I currently have a Saab 9-3 SportCombi with a manual transmission–which is more fun than you might think–but for a long time I was really looking for an E60 5 Series Touring with a manual transmission. I also have a fully-electric BMW i3, which is fun to drive—all carbon fiber and super light weight.” Looking towards the future, Levitz said, “I’m trying to get into a project. I’m looking to build either an E46 Touring with an S54 swap or a 1M clone with an S65 swap.” S54-swapped E46 Touring? Hold that thought, I may know a guy…
Both Levitz and Roberts have really enjoyed connecting with so many people, saying “It has been rad getting to meet hundreds of car enthusiasts who are searching for their dream spec, be it a bone-stock E46 M3 or a tracked-out E30 325i.” Many of those connections are made through the Built for Backroads Instagram account, which Roberts handles. Roberts does an excellent job as that’s how I first learned about Built for Backroads, by seeing a series of cool BMW photos in my Instagram feed (and I just had to click profile link to find out more).
Of those enthusiast connections, Levitz shared a recent feel-good story that led to happy buyers and sellers. He began, “Not too long ago, someone had posted an Integra Type R for a very good price. Someone we knew through our Instagram account wanted to buy it. Unfortunately, the seller got cold feet because he was afraid he’d never find another one again, so he took it off the market.” The buyer then reached out to Levitz and Roberts, asking if there was anything they could do to help. At that point, they contacted the seller and relayed, “there’s someone who really wants this car; it’s their dream. If you would consider selling it, or at least talking to him, that would be awesome.” Levitz said that after making contact, the buyer and seller ended up going back and forth for three or four weeks and became friends. The seller finally agreed to part ways with the Type R and the buyer jumped on a plane to pick up the car, stayed the weekend, and drove it home. Levitz added, “The new owner couldn’t be happier and drives their new car everywhere, constantly posting new photos of it online.”
I know when I’m talking to a true car enthusiast when I wrap up an interview and 30 minutes later we’re still talking about automotive-related topics. This is how it was with Paul Levitz, and I’m sure talking to Kyle Roberts would have been the same. These guys seem to truly enjoy their work, all while doing the car enthusiast community a solid. If you’re in the market for a needle, I highly suggest you check out the Built for Backroads haystack. In the meantime, I’ve convinced myself I don’t actually need any more garage space. There’s plenty of street parking in front of my house for another project—and I know just where to start looking. —Mike Bevels[Photos courtesy of Built for Backroads. Title photo by Darren Martin.]