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.
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.