INTERVIEW: Classic car expert Wayne Carini on his love for all things automotive
Wayne Carini, star of Velocity’s Chasing Classic Cars, may have the coolest job in the United States. An automobile expert with decades of experience under his belt, Carini travels the highways of America looking for rare vehicles he can purchase for his network of clients. It’s seems like a “dream come true,” and there’s no slowing down in sight. Chasing Classic Cars continues with its fifth season, and Carini will also be featured on the Thursday, July 12 episode of Discovery Channel’s Auction Kings, where he tries to grab a 1955 Golden Rod Thunderbird for a bargain.
Recently, Hollywood Soapbox talked with Carini and the executive producer of Auction Kings about their respective shows and this unbelievable battle to nab the T-bird.
Here’s Part II of the series: A candid talk with Wayne Carini (click here for Part I). Questions and answers have been slightly edited.
Can you believe Chasing Classic Cars is still going strong?
It’s hard to understand that what I do for a living people really like. It’s hard to grasp that, but we’re thrilled that the people enjoy it. It is a lot of fun what I do for a living.
How did the show begin for you?
There was an article written in The New York Times that I chased since I was 16 years old, and I bought it when I was 52 years old. One particular car, the exact car. Jim Astroski, the head of Essex Television Group, read that article and called me on Monday morning and said, ‘I produce television shows, and I’d love to do a show about you and what you do for a living.’ I said, ‘Oh, I don’t think it’s very interesting.’ He came up an hour later. We sat in my office for 15 minutes, and he got his camera out of the truck. We’ve been doing it ever since.
Do you like the production schedule and the long hours?
The show consists of three of us on the road. So myself, Hanna Lintner, who is our executive producer, and Jim Astroski, who owns the company. He created the show, came up with the idea, and he’s also our cameraman. … It’s a real easy team to work with. We travel well on the road. We all eat healthy. All the things that can go wrong on the road, we’ve seemed to have figured it out. We go to the gym in the morning. We work out. We go out and do our thing and film it. It’s real easy.
How do you track down the cars that are featured on the show?
I was very fortunate that I was brought up in an automobile family. My father restored cars and did basically what I do when I was growing up, except he did it with more classic cars from the ‘20s and ‘30s. And so I picked up a lot of cues from him on how to search for cars and hunt for cars and look in people’s garages and barns.
We used to go towns … and sit down in the barber shop and start talking to people. Next thing you know, it would turn into a lead and you’d find a car. Or you go into a restaurant, a little diner.
Now things are, of course, a lot different with the Internet. People can call me and tell me about their car and I can see it on my screen in 10 seconds. Before, you’d have to send a picture in the mail, there was correspondence with letters back and forth. It was a totally different process.
More than anything, people say, ‘How do you know certain things?’ I use this analogy. I say to them, ‘Your mother is coming in on the 5 o’clock train and 500 people get off the train. How do you know which one is your mother?’ You just know.
Do you find owners who don’t understand the value of their cars?
Absolutely. There’s people that sometimes don’t realize what they have. But it’s not as often as it used to be. We never want to take advantage of a situation either. If the person doesn’t understand what they have, we want to make sure that we explain it to them. Because we never want to be blamed. That’s why I have such a great reputation. You never make a mistake. You never steal something from somebody. You always pay them a fair price, and then hope you can make a profit on top of that.
How did the crossover episode with Auction Kings evolve?
I’ve got a client that has been looking for this T-bird for a while. And somebody happened to mention it to me that there was a yellow Golden Rod T-Bird that was going to be sold at this auction down in Atlanta. Then come to find out they were filming it for Auction Kings. So it worked out really well to go down and be part of their show, and try to buy the car for my client.
How many cars do you keep yourself?
I always tell people, ‘I never give that number out, basically because my wife, if she ever really knew how many cars we had, she’d probably have a fit.’ We’ve got a great collection of cars. We’re very serious about making sure for the amount of money that we have to spend on cars that we’re investing properly. But it’s not just the investment; it’s making sure that you love the car. But what we do, we have a daughter with autism. She’s 23 years old now, and we have a trust fund set up for her that’s funded with cars. So it’s just like a portfolio in the stock market.
Does a car’s value always increase over time?
Not really. … If it appeals to you, and you’re hopefully going to break even with the car, I always say that’s a good investment, because you’re getting something out of it, your enjoyment. But if you want a car for a good investment, it’s like buying a stock in the stock market. Get someone’s advice that’s really educated in the field. Some cars will lose money; some cars are going to gain. We always try to invest in automobiles that are very limited production cars. Cars that they made 45,000 of, it’s not really probably a great investment, because there’s a lot of them out there. But the cars that they only made five of, 350 of, whatever the number is, as long as it appeals to you and it’s a low-production car, I think you’ll always make out in the long run.
Do you get giddy like a little child when you find a great car out there?
It’s all about the chase in the show. That’s what it is really. It’s all about hearing about something.
I’ll give you an example. A few months ago a guy got a hold of me about a 1929 Pierce Arrow Dual Cowl Phaeton that had been in a garage for 55 years. He said, ‘I think … she wants to sell it.’ So I just picture that in my mind, what it looks like sitting in this garage with probably all the tires flat and all dusty. That’s the stuff that really gets me enthused. It’s like Christmas morning. You know what’s sort of in the box, but you can’t wait to open the box. And once you open the box and you play with the toy for a while, it just becomes another toy. But it’s that anticipation that’s so exciting.
So this Pierce Arrow, we went and there were trees growing up in front of the garage door. And nobody’s opened the door on this garage in 55 years. What a thrill to open it up. It’s like opening a tomb, you know, King Tut. You don’t know exactly what you’re going to find, but you have some kind of idea.
We dragged it out of the garage, and the girl stood there for about five minutes and all of a sudden went over to the car and started weeping. Now this was her father’s car, and she enjoyed going to car shows and things with her father when she was a little kid. She looked around at me after about five minutes, composing herself and she said, ‘I can’t sell you the car. I’m sorry. I just can’t do it.’ So here we go home, and now we’re empty-handed. But I’m persistent, and I called her every week. And I sent her notes.
She called me day before yesterday, and she says, ‘I’ve made up my mind. I want to sell you the car.’ So I bought it yesterday. So now that story continues on.
Will you ever retire?
I was brought up in a farm family, and nobody ever retired. You worked in the field, so to speak, until you just dropped. First off, I’m having too much fun. Chasing the cars is one thing, but the relationships and the friendships you make are the biggest part of this. You make such great friends and meet such nice people all over the world, all over the country. Why would you ever want to give that up? I would never want to sit in front of a television during the day. … I don’t mind playing golf, but I wouldn’t want to do it every day of the week. But I want to do this until I’m gone. The answer to your question: I’ll never retire, because this is too much fun.
By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com
Chasing Classic Cars airs on the Velocity channel. The special crossover episode featuring Wayne Carini on Discovery Channel’s Auction Kings airs Thursday, July 12 at 9 p.m. Click here for more information.