Since 2009, Brian Styles and his girlfriend, Samantha, have worked to amass the Styles Collection. They have chased after the rarest vehicles with a commitment to preserve and share each automobile’s history. As a result, their south Florida-based collection is home to some of the most desirable American muscle cars, and Japanese muscle cars. They also collect European die-cast toys and vintage pinball machines.
CCN: How did you and Samantha get into collecting cars?
Brian Styles: I have been a car guy ever since I was a child. My grandparents would take me around and teach me different makes and marks, and I used to like to go to junk yards and car races, and of course, I had every Hot-Wheel and Matchbox car as a kid. It’s just always been in my DNA.
My girlfriend, Samantha, shares the passion. The collection has been a joint effort since 2009. We have different tastes, but together we make a good team.
CCN: A majority of your car collection is focused on a three-year range, 1969-1971. Why?
Brian Styles: Like most collectors, I think you start each collection by filling up garage space pretty quickly. You end up with a lot of cars, and then you get a bigger garage, and at some point your like “what am I really doing?” Of course, like many, you start to refine that collection and transition into what you really want to keep for the next 20, 30 or 40 years. For Samantha and I, that process has really narrowed down the collection to the rarest and most desirable of the muscle and pony cars, which is typically convertibles of the time with the biggest, or second-biggest, engines you could get.
We have taken advantage of a down economy to fill that lifelong dream of owning a really cool collection of cars.
Our collection has plenty of E-body Mopars, F-body Chevrolets, Camaros, even some A-body Chevelles and GTO’s. It’s clearly popular items and I think popular for a reason, they appeal aesthetically, that’s the desirability factor, and of course if you’re a collector you set out like “I really like how the ’69 convertible Firebird looks, might as well go out and find one of the 17 Ram Air IV’s that they built.”
If you look at everything that makes up the collection, with the exception of a couple of “future collectables,” and the 1967 Shelby GT500 convertible, everything else falls between 1969 and 1971, just three model years.
There is something about those years, I think it has something to do with my age, I’m coming up on 50, and where I grew up, which was in Buffalo, New York, not too far from Detroit, it was a blue collar town and people kept cars a bit longer, so my generation, I think, you are going to find that these cars were a sweet spot.
I think the muscle car era could have lasted a little longer had the government and the EPA not stepped in with all the pollution controls that limited all possibilities of horsepower. Because of the pollution controls, the rising gas prices, rising insurance prices, a lot of these manufacturers really underestimated their horsepower to keep within that power to weight ratio that insurance companies always liked, even so the cars always produced way more horsepower. You look at cars like a 6.6-liter Trans Am that had less than 400 horsepower and it just doesn’t make sense.
I have a 1969 Mercury Cougar XR7 convertible. It came with a 428 Cobra Jet with Ram Air and a 4-speed, it is one of 31 produced, next to it is a 1970 model with the same specifications, but it is one of four produced. So from 31 cars down to four we can see the demise was already there. We can see it with the Mustangs and with Mopars, you couldn’t get a Hemi after 1971 because it was the end of an era.
CCN: Muscle cars of the late 60s and early ‘70s dominate your collection, but you also have what you consider to be Japanese muscle cars of the 1990s, which you refer to as “future collectibles.” What is the motivation behind collecting those?
Brian Styles: My girlfriend is younger then I am, and for whatever reason she loves that era of muscle cars, but she also has gotten into newer stuff, Japanese muscle cars from the ‘90s, and has since got me into that. I’d say I have an equal appreciation for Japanese muscle of the ‘90s because they kind of took over where American muscle left off, and they did it in such a way that was ingenious.
When you look at the muscle cars from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, we were playing a game with underrating horsepower to get lower insurance premiums while the Japanese were like “hey we have a better approach, lets come out with a car with an inline-6 engine block that’s capable of handling 1,000 horsepower, but with our Japanese gentlemen’s agreement, we will limit the car to leaving the factory with 300 horsepower.”
Then look what happens: kids can afford them, adults can afford them, they have reasonable insurance costs because they have 300 horsepower, but we just gave birth to the whole tuning scene.
There is a bunch of old-timers who don’t understand that.
I have a 1998 Toyota Mark IV Supra and I see it as timeless and sexy. It has all the right symmetry, curves, proportions, and it is desirable, but also rare. The car was made 20 years ago and it still looks fresh from a styling perspective, so its standing up to the test of time. I think when you have a car that looks good at 20 years old, it’s still going to look good at 50 years old. It just will. Especially when it has all the right curves.
The same can be said for the first generation Acura NSX, the Mitsubishi 3000GT, especially if it was a Spider because they built give-or-take 1,600 of them and that’s still a rare car.
CCN: In addition to cars you also collect other things like pin ball machines and model cars, how did you get into that?
Brian Styles: I’d have to say that collecting is like a disease, once you start, you can’t stop. I don’t know a single collector who only collects one thing, because when you are a collector, you collect and collect and collect and then you reach a plateau in collecting.
Like there are probably two cars we are looking for right now, of all the cars in the world, just two we are looking for and we just haven’t found the right candidates yet. Waiting a year, or five years, maybe even 10 years between acquisitions because you are waiting for the right car, doesn’t quench the thirst as a collector. That’s when you start collecting other stuff. It’s like being a shopaholic.
CCN: Is the sentimental value these things have for you, the muscle cars and toys, the reason you started collecting?
Brian Styles: Collecting I think, I usually summarize it by saying collecting is often acquiring what you always wanted during your most influential times, which is typically your adolescence. So when you get the opportunity in life where you find that you can do something about that, you are going after the things that were always just a little out of reach. Collecting can also be the opportunity to replace what you had and enjoyed and lost over the years due to changes in your life. That probably covers at least 90 percent of why people collect.
For me, the toy collections are definitely filling the voids of things I always wanted, or had and lost over the years. The cars fall into the first category of things I always wanted, and in some cases, things I didn’t know to exist, but if I had known, I would have wanted them.
More tomorrow with Brian Styles