Thanks to Alfa Owners of New England and John DeWaele for organizing a car-crazy person's treat: a road trip to visit with Wayne Carini, a car enthusiast:
Let's start off with John's DeWaele's impressions of F40 Motorsports and its owner Wayne Carini.
After a delightful run up Route 6 and Route 66 into Portland, CT, we arrived to meet several other AONE members at F40 Motorsports. We were greeted by Wayne's daughter Lindsay and invited to look around a bit and enjoy coffee and donuts.
Our tour started in the showroom amongst a wide variety of incredible cars (the showroom will soon be enlarged to hold 40 cars)! The group of 25-30 members and friends enjoyed a lively chat as Wayne gave us a brief history of F40 and how his TV show, Chasing Classic Cars got its start. We also got to meet and chat with Roger Barr, mechanic extraordinaire and very successful formula car racer back in the day. I have always marveled at Roger's mechanical ingenuity and enjoy listening to his Rogerisims on the show!
Since he was a young lad, Wayne had his heart set on buying a Hudson Italia from a longtime customer named Hazel Robinson. He not only serviced the Hudson over the years, he also became a part-time handyman, helping Hazel with small projects around her home. The day finally came when Hazel made Wayne's dream come true by telling him it was time for the Hudson to go and it should go to Wayne.
Wayne's life is not only filled with buying and selling classics, but he turned his body shop into a full scale restoration business. Add in the many trips to auctions and car shows, as well as checking out those barn finds, he is one busy guy! A family man as well, Wayne is a huge advocate for Autism Speaks, a charity that is near and dear to his heart.
With all that he has going on, we really appreciate the time that Wayne and Lindsay spent with our club. Check out www.f40.com to learn more about Wayne, F40 and Chasing Classic Cars.
— John DeWaele
The show's premise is simplicity itself: a small crew including a cameraman trails behind him as he moves from his shop in Portland, Connecticut, to just about anywhere in the United States or beyond. Short of tracking him into the restroom, whatever happens in a day's shooting generally ends up in a show episode.
How Chasing Classic Cars came about. In 2006, automotive writer Donald Osbourne wrote a piece that appeared in The New York Times about a Carini shop customer and friend Hazel Robinson, who had a Hudson Italia once owned by her brother, Raymond Robinson. From age 16, when Wayne first saw the car as it was serviced in his father's shop in Portland, Connecticut, he knew he had to have it someday. He was smitten by its American-designed body, built by Italian coachbuilder Carrozzeria Touring in Milan.
Decades later, in the story Osbourne wrote, Hazel offers him the chance to buy it. The article caught TV producer Jim Astrousky's attention, and he called the next morning with an offer. "I'd like to do a TV show about you." Surprised, Wayne responded, "What do I do that's so special?"
Jim answered, "I don't know; I think from reading the article that this would be really cool." Wayne had one major reservation but liked the idea. "I'm not an actor," he told Astrousky. "I don't want to recite lines. But I'll give it a try if you really think there's something in this." Astrousky took advantage of the moment and stepped away to retrieve a video camera from his car. Within an hour and half of the time they'd met, Wayne told us, they were filming Chasing Classic Cars for The History Channel (it now appears on the Velocity channel).
"Jim owns the company, and he's the camera man because this is his pet project," Wayne says. "After two hour-long episodes, one called World's Most Expensive Car and the other on Monterey Week, the network asked us to do a series. We could call the show anything we wanted; we could do anything we wanted. They believed in us."
"Your life's about to change." Shortly after agreeing to appear in the show, The History Channel's head of programming took him aside while they were having coffee, sat him down, and uttered these fateful words: "Your life's about to change. I just thought I'd give you a warning. Within a year, everyone will know your name."
Like a rock star. And it did change. In just one year, Chasing Classic Cars catapulted Wayne from being a reasonably successful buyer and seller of interesting classic cars to becoming known as one of the automobile world's most recognizable faces. "It is amazing," he says, shaking his head wryly as he considers the night-and-day change in his status. "No matter where I go across the country and around the world — in Kuwait I was like a rock star — people were screeching to a halt, jumping out of their cars, saying 'Oh my God, I can't believe I'm seeing you.'"
And it's not just people on the street who recognize him, but top race car drivers, titans of the auto industry, and politicians who are very well known in their own right. "One of the people I've looked up to over the years, read about, and who has been important in my life, is Don Prudomme [the third highest-ranked driver in NHRA's list of 50 top drivers between 1951 and 2001 and the first to hit 250 mph in a funny car]. I always loved watching him," Wayne explains. "We'd go down to Connecticut Dragway and see him.
"We were going to a kickoff party held each August on the Monterey Peninsula by Gordon McCall [his party is a must-do A-list-only private event], and Gordon told me Don was going to be there," Wayne tells us. "I asked, 'Do you think you can introduce me?' and Gordon brought me over to Don and says, 'Don, this is Wayne Carini,' and Prudomme goes, 'Oh my God! Wayne Carini!' and he's shaking. And I thought 'This is really strange.'"
The same scenario has played out many times since, Wayne says. "I'm walking across the parking lot one day, and I see Bob Lutz [the ultimate car guy and father of some of both General Motors' and Chrysler's most iconic cars] and Bob's waving in my direction. I look over my shoulder, wondering, 'Who is he waving at?'"
Another time, Wayne boarded an airplane and encountered a very well-known U. S. senator sitting in first class. "Everyone is saying hello to him and shaking his hand, but the senator looks over, interrupts them, and says, 'Oh my God, do you know who this is?'"
Sometimes it gets a little tiring. "One day I was on the plane, tired and thinking about catching some sleep, and this team of five guys all knew who I was and wanted to talk. After one guy finished, I'm thinking 'Thank God, now I can…' — and then another guy takes his place. Five guys! I didn't sleep."
Telling stories the way he wants to, doing some good along the way. Although his celebrity status may lose him some sleep on one of his frequent trips, Wayne makes it clear how much he appreciates what his fame has meant to him personally and for his business. "It's been an amazing ride," Wayne admits. "I'm really thankful that I get to tell stories the way I want to. There's no script; it's all about what happens." His accidental celebrity also allows him to do some good for others, and he often involves his family in the show. "You'll never see my wife on the show. But we have a daughter with autism and we do a lot of advocacy for Autism Speaks and raise money across the country for that charity. She's on the show; my dad's on the show a lot too."
[Let's hear a huge AONE round of applause for John DeWaele, who made all the arrangements for the event, and for Jay Woodruff, who captured it in words so exceedingly well! —Ed.]
(Click on the thumbnails below for a larger view, and then