All posts by Tom Trace

Tom Trace has been producing automotive content including broadcast, web and print features for more than 20 years. He has contributed to Speed Channel, AutoWeek magazine, Fox, ESPN, ABC, Discovery, A&E, NBC Sports, Velocity Network, Barrett-Jackson, Mecum, Auctions America, Ford, Chevrolet, Porsche and many others. He is the founder of HotRodders4Humanity, a non-profit organization that benefits children with cancer and their families. Tom resides in Indianapolis and at www.TomTrace.com.

The Interview: McKeel Hagerty

McKeel Hagerty
McKeel Hagerty

McKeel Hagerty is president and chief executive of Hagerty Insurance, which is based in Traverse City, Mich. Since 2000, he has served as a judge at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance for the Federation Internationale des Vehicules Anciens (FIVA) preservation class and was the youngest person ever to be asked to serve in such a roll.

He is executive publisher of Hagerty Classic Car magazine and has appeared numerous times as a classic car values and trends commentator for ESPN, SPEED and the Discovery Channels.  He serves on numerous boards and advisory groups, including the Automotive Restoration Program at McPherson College, LeMay Museum, REVS Institute, and is a judge for the International Historic Motoring Awards.  

He attended Pepperdine University, Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary and Boston College for graduate work in philosophy and classics. He also is a member of the Young Presidents Organization, a network of global business leaders from more than 75 nations.

Hagerty and his 911
Hagerty and his 911

Take us back to the beginning.  Do you remember the first collector vehicle that “tripped your trigger”?  Time?  Place?

I grew up working on older cars and wooden boats in the garage with my Dad.  We always had interesting projects in various states of restoration in the garage while my parent’s daily drivers were forced to sit outside. The projects varied widely from Fords to Corvairs to Porsches.  But, the first car I really fantasized about as a little kid was James Bond’s Aston Martin.  And it wasn’t just the car that I thought was cool.  I also wanted to be James Bond, because in my mind he had it all… the cars, the girls, and such a thrilling life!

You have attended thousands of collector vehicle events. They all possess certain virtues.  Name a couple of your favorite events (and why).

I attend many amazing events all over the world and I truly enjoy what each has to offer.  The big auctions and concours are fun. But the events I love the most are driving events where I can really experience the car closer to its full potential.  I am talking about events like the Colorado Grand, Mille Miglia, and the London to Brighton Run.

Style, performance or innovation?  What attracts you the most to a particular collector vehicle? 

Innovation first, I guess. I appreciate it when a car is the full expression of a performance or engineering idea. My first “old” car was a 1967 Porsche 911S that I restored with my Dad when I was age 13.  That car and I have grown up together and over the years I have learned how to take advantage of the performance capabilities of a short wheel-base rear engine sports car.  I would say that car ticks all three of those boxes.

On the other hand, I have a nicely preserved 1915 Model T Ford touring car that I enjoy driving just as much as the 911, but for completely different reasons.  The Model T is one of the most innovative vehicles of all time and each time I hand-crank it and drive it I enjoy living that part of automotive history…even when it stalls in traffic!

In your opinion, what makes the collector vehicle hobby so alluring?  Is it a hobby or a lifestyle?

Some people may call it a “hobby” but to me it truly is a lifestyle.  Think of how so many people document significant life milestones with photos next to a car such as homecoming dances, wedding photos in their getaway car, bringing your newborn child home from the hospital, and then later in life standing next to a car you were attracted to in your younger years. For those initiated into this lifestyle, cars are both possessions and opportunities for great experiences.  This is one of the few lifestyles that transcends all socioeconomic levels and geographies from all over the world.

If allowed to offer only one piece of advice to someone who is considering the purchase of a collector vehicle what would you suggest?

Judging at Pebble Beach (Hagerty in blue cap)
Judging at Pebble Beach (Hagerty in light blue cap)

The best piece of advice is buy the car you want to drive and then buy the best example you can afford. This may sound obvious, but not all vintage cars drive the way people hope they would.

And as far as affordability, people ask me all the time which cars to purchase for investments and it is a fair question given the dramatic value increases over the past five years for many segments of classic cars.  However, the fact that most cars do increase in value over time should be a secondary benefit to owning a car that you enjoy having and driving.

 

The Interview: John Kraman

John Kraman | Photo courtesy Mecum Auctions
John Kraman | Photo courtesy Mecum Auctions

John Kraman was raised in automobile crazy Los Angeles during the 1960s and he never grew out of his obsession with cars. He has been the full-time consignment director for Mecum Auctions since 2006. Since 2008 he also has been a commentator and analyst for television coverage of Mecum auctions. His personal collection of cars includes a 1964 Pontiac GTO, a 2014 Mustang GT, a 2010 Corvette C6 and he is looking at Hemi and Six Pack Mopars. He enjoys riding motorcycles and handling guitar/vocals for the classic rock band Redline 7000.  Follow J.K. on Twitter at @CarKraman or watch John in action on NBC Sport’s coverage of the Mecum auctions. 

I know you love design. Name three cars, one from each decade (’50s, ’60s and ’70s) that you feel that embodies wonderful design.

There are many automobiles from the ’50s to ’70s that are considered landmark designs. However, a few truly define and represent pinnacle status for their time.

The ’50s saw a rapid evolution of both performance and design featuring lavish chrome and towering tail fins. I feel the 1959 Cadillac is the ultimate example of this era because of it’s almost comical proportions. Cutting edge and trendy when new, and almost immediately considered out of fashion after a few years, the 59′ Cad today is highly regarded as the icon of the Atomic Age.

In the 1960s, with the emerging Baby Boomers starting to drive, the debut of the Ford Mustang in April 1964 was nothing short of sensational. Here was the perfect design and price point for appeal to the youth market and was received with record sales. In fact over one million Mustangs were sold by 1966 and established a legend that continues in production today.

My favorite design from the 1970s is the Pontiac Trans Am. With engine performance on the decline Pontiac refined the handling/braking and wrapped it all in a wild package with spoilers, stripes, decals, and that giant “Screaming Chicken” hood graphic! Of course as the star of the hit movie, Smokey and The Bandit, the TA was exposed to a huge audience with sales peaking just under 100,000 sold in 1979.JK3

If money is no object, name three cars you would park in your dream garage.

Classic American Muscle is my No. 1 love! My 3 choices are all from 1969 and represent the wildest performance cars available at that time from the Big Detroit 3. First up I’d choose a Dodge Charger 500 (or Daytona) with the mighty 426 Hemi, then a 427 ZL1 COPO Camaro (only 69 built), and finally a Boss 429 Mustang.

Would you drive those dream cars or keep them parked?

All three would be kept tuned up and ready to rumble with a twist of the key. Drive them? Absolutely!

Auction myth or reality:  “When the top goes down does the price go up?”

Reality. Convertibles are regarded as the most valuable versions of vintage cars with only a few exceptions. The 1963 Corvette Split Window Coupe is worth more than the Convertible and the Mustang 2+2 Fastbacks from ’65-’66 are rapidly reaching the values of the Convertibles.

What do you feel makes the collector vehicle hobby such a “fraternity”? Does it transcend socioeconomic status?  In other words:  Will a rich car guy talk shop with the average Joe?

It seems to me that the fraternity exists between fans of the same brands! Not unlike sports rivalries, many enthusiasts are extremely loyal to their brands and do not discriminate for economic reasons. Try putting a Camaro and Mustang fan together for a discussion and see what happens!

 

The Interview: Steve Magnante

 

Steve Magnante at work.
Steve Magnante at work.

Steve Magnante has an extensive hands-on automotive background. He spent a decade as a mechanic and machinist before becoming an automotive journalist and television personality, including technical editor of Hot Rod magazine.  For 10 years he has been a host of live TV coverage of Barrett-Jackson auctions. He is the author of several books ranging from “How to build altered-wheelbase cars” to a unique collection of muscle car trivia. He recently became content manger for www.redlinedoge.com and is a spokesperson and historical consultant for the Dodge Division of Chrysler Group. He resides in North Brookfield, Mass., spending much of his spare time in his eight-car garage working on his latest high-performance creations. Connect with Steve and learn more about his world and work at www.stevemags.com.

Word on the street is you are a classic Mopar lover.  True?  Why?

I love all automobiles, really. But it is true that my “core” is Chrysler products — particularly those with high-performance intent. I lean toward Mopars due to the fact their engines, transmissions and suspensions were the most potent of all competing makes. Chrysler didn’t mess around, they delivered serious performance instead of stickers, stripes and gingerbread. Compare a 1965 Dodge A990 Super Stocker to a ’65 Tri-Power GTO and you’ll see what I mean. Again, I love them all but respect Chrysler’s many offerings the most.

A rich relative gives you 1 million dollars and says, “Go build a car collection.”  What would you buy? Why?

I’d whip up a re-creation of the fleet of altered wheelbase A/FX cars that made their debut at the 1965 AHRA Winternationals at Bee Line Dragway in Scottsdale, Ariz. The million-dollar budget might need some extra funds, but to see replicas of the cars campaigned by the Ramchargers, Sox & Martin, Dick Landy and all the rest of the Factory Experimental field would be an awesome thing. I’d tour the group of cars around the nation and put on Match Bash Madness drag strip shows.

Steve Magnante at his other work.
Steve Magnante at his other work.

You get to drive a dream car for a day and invite a car “hero” (dead or alive) to ride shotgun and hang with, talk cars, etc. What is your dream car (why) and who would you invite?

I’d probably ask Tom Hoover along for a ride in a ’66 Street Hemi Coronet — just like the one he had when he worked for Chrysler in 1966 as the “father” of the entire 426 Hemi development program. Going further, I’d get a time machine and set it for Woodward Avenue, summer of 1966. I’d even have Tom do the driving as we hunted down GM and Ford engineers in some street racing action. Word has it that one factory engineer put a Street Hemi in a ’65 Plymouth station wagon and then attached a small fishing boat and trailer to the rear bumper. Looking like a total dingbat, he then lured suckers into street races. It must have been amazing to be along for that night of action.

Resale red: paint a car red and the price goes up.  Fact or urban legend?

I’d have to agree with this one — though I don’t agree with it. No doubt, most cars look fantastic with a bright red coat of paint. But it is a shame when well preserved factory paint in less exciting colors is stripped and replaced with red. It was a very common thing in the Corvette and GTO world back in the Seventies and Eighties. Lots and lots of pure, unmolested cars got screwed up in paint booths by flippers looking for a few extra bucks.

What is the toughest part of your job at Barrett-Jackson? Most rewarding part? 

The toughest part is the pre-auction preparation. I make notes on every car we’ll see cross the block. This generally takes about as many hours to do as we spend on the stage. So for Scottsdale, when we do about 40 hours of TV time, I also do about 40 hours of note making and vehicle research in the week before I hit the road to Scottsdale. I do all of this preparation to make sure I have something interesting to add to each vehicle as it crosses the block. I sure wish cars could talk. But since they can’t, we have to give them a voice. The most rewarding part of the auction is just what I said, shining a light on interesting and novel features pertaining to each car and sharing the knowledge with the viewing audience. Again, these cars don’t talk. Being able to show off an unusual option of detail is very fun and rewarding for me.

Steve Magnante at play.
Steve Magnante at play.