I’ve found that when you first start collecting, you feel the influence of family and friends from years ago. That may change later, but you’re likely to start with Fords if your father had Fords, or you may covet what your neighbor had, be it Packard or Porsche. Subliminally, you’re still programmed to want what you were exposed to early on.
In my case, I had cousins who built hot rods, my dad restored Fords, sports car racer Candy Poole had a foreign car shop nearby and Chinetti’s Ferrari showroom was an hour away. So I was exposed to all kinds of things all the time, while most of my contemporaries were seeing only Fords, Chevys and Mopars. And then, going to Autorama exposed me to new and unusual things I’d never seen before.
Exposure to different cars can only expand your interests. A lot of people are introduced to cars that are new to them, and they fight it, collecting what everyone else collects. But there are others who have an open mind and are willing to embrace new ideas. In my case, I drove a vintage Bentley, and despite the big difference from what I was used to, I took to it immediately. I also have some really odd things like a Renault Jolly beach car and a three-wheeled Davis, so I guess that varied early exposure made an impression on me.
I love it when people ask, “Why do you collect that weird thing?” And the answer really does go back to the way hot rods and customs imprinted on me when I would tag along with Dad at the Autoramas back in the 1950s and ’60s. While he was showing Model As and Packards, I’d wander off and look at cars like Big Daddy Roth’s Beatnik Bandit and Surfite, which were the coolest things. To this day I love offbeat cars, but I’d never try to push them on my customers. To succeed, I need to go with trends and great cars I know have broad appeal.
So the answer to “Why do we collect what we collect?” is simple: It’s like the old saying, “You are what you eat.” You collect what you were surrounded by during your formative years, and having the cars from our past is a great way to relive memories. Fortunately, I still have all those great memories, even if the Polaroids have faded.