We met Dave Neyens at the Amelia Island Auction earlier this year and found a kindred spirit in the midst of all of the hype and gloss and dollar signs flying around. He just loves cars and we just love cars and that's what we want to be about.
It turns out, we had already seen a lot of Dave before we met him. Or rather, we had read a lot of Dave's writing. At all of these auctions like Amelia Island or something at Sotheby's, print catalogs preview every lot with a bit of history, a bit of style, and a summary of why that car deserves to be under the hammer.
Which is interesting, because how does anyone know enough to write about the Ferrari Dinos going up for sale, and then turn the page to write about one of the Ford Station Wagons in the same auction? Well, you it helps if you are Dave. That is, you must live and breath and bathe in cars.
Dave told me all of this and more over the phone last week. We talked for almost an hour about cars and writing, why we love what we do, and his opinion about not driving the cars you have (He's not a fan of the non-driving collections...). He's a "911 Freak", which we relate to. Really, he's just the kind of guy you love to talk with.
So, we had asked if he wouldn't mind doing an interview, and he was so kind as to chat for a bit and said we could post what we talked about. I had anticipated talking more about writing itself, but every time we'd talk about the writing craft, he'd start talking about a this car or that car or something that happened at Amelia this year. Which was great. Here's some of that conversation with him. Enjoy.
Could you tell me a little about where you grew up?
My parents grew tobacco near Langton, Ontario. Our farm was just outside of there.
(Seth: A tobacco farm is interesting!)
Yeah, you know, it was neat. Now, it's a dirty word...whatever Big Tobacco was doing to the tobacco itself, that's another story, but I remember the blood, sweat, and tears me and my parents put into it. It was nice living on a farm, I remember being 8 years old and my dad would say, 'If you want to drive the truck, just be careful.' I'd drive his brand new Chevy pickup around the farm and could barely see above the steering wheel...'
How did you get into writing about these cars for a living?
It's kind of been a long road to getting here [laughs]...I've always loved autos -- classic cars, racing cars since I was a kid. I think I was five or six when my dad bought me my first copy of Hotrod, so that's back in 1972, when it was 75c a copy. From that point on I was hooked. Around that time too, there was still a lot of the American muscle cars running around where I lived...GTO Judges, Six-pack Roadrunners, stuff like that.
You noticed some cars at Amelia Island that you liked that was maybe different than some of what was getting attention. Could you talk about that?
[Laughs] "It's pretty wide, actually...A lot of people that had brought their cars for the Amelia Island Driving tour then parked them in the parking lot...they had driven them, parked them outside, there was a little bit of rain coming and going -- some of the cars were open. Then they went inside to preview the auction cars. The cool thing that I was laughing at with Mike [One of the owners here at Ehrlich] when we were talking -- I was just captivated."
"These were cars that could have been inside the auction room for preview, but they were out in the parking lot, having been driven on the tour, and just parked there. I thought, 'Now that's cool. They're being used, they're being driven, and people aren't having a meltdown because they're getting rained on.'"
"And one was a 375 MM Racing Barchetta - Ferrari- that I thought was really cool, and it was driven on the tour, part of the left-front had a little bit of a ding in it from a prior little mishap, and the guy was out driving the thing. And this thing had race history, a very limited number of these were ever made, a really classic Ferrari, open racing Barchetta."
What is it about that? "Get out and drive", this motivation to not just put things behind glass?
There were a number of cars, there was a Porsche Speedster that was out, the top was up, but it was out and there were leaves on it. There was a Mercedes 300SL Roadster that was there in that parking lot, and then there was this Ferrari. The cool thing was, they're being driven. They're being used. They're not being kept in some, like you said, 'Behind glass' somewhere. These were made to be driven. They weren't made to be parked somewhere all the time."
"That Ferrari was a racing car that was expected to have a very short competitive life, all out...that it survives to this day is one thing that is really interesting about it. The fact that the owner tours with it a bit and isn't afraid to show it with a dent in the left-front quadrant is even cooler. These things were made by people to be used by people, and no one ever expected that they'd be fetching prices like they do now..."
"The owners aren't doing them any good keeping them under lock and key in some collection somewhere...I know I would find it very hard to resist the urge to bring one of them out on the road every now and then. That's what they're made for.
"There's noted experts out there who know how to fix these things, the parts are available, and if not, they can be manufactured by skilled artisans. If you're in the market for a million dollar car, you should be prepared to spend money to keep it going and enjoy the thing. If not, it should be in someone else's hands...that's just my rant [laughs]."
That was what stood out the most from our conversation, that there was a team who sat down behind a desk to design that Ferrari Dave mentioned. And they didn't design it to sit still.
Of course, I had one last question for Dave, especially because he's so well versed in so many cars, and it brought him back, yet again, to childhood, to being a kid.
Is there a favorite car you have? If you had to pick one?
[Laughs] There's just so many...I'll give you two. One is from the Classic Era and one from the immediate Post-war era. I love Packards. Just love, love, love those cars. Because they're just so over-built and so soundly engineered. I handled one for someone for auction a number of years ago, a 1948 Packard Touring Sedan."
"And I know not a lot of people like that body style of car, but the thing just fired up, and you could put it in overdrive, you could cruise at sixty on a good highway, there's room for everybody. I love, love them. And the prewar stuff from Packard too, the convertibles and stuff. And they don't even have to be...it could be a six or an eight, it doesn't have to be the twelves. But they're screaming bodies in that space, those are amazing cars to drive, even today."
"Certainly, post-war, it'd have to be a 911 for me. I wouldn't throw anything out of my driveway, literally have not met -- I have encountered very few -- automobiles that I don't find something cool about. In my little town where I live now, theres some old motor guys that have cars from the 30's, 40's, early-50's that they've turned into mild customs and it's the stuff from their youth. Those cars are not fast, they're not quick, but there's something to appreciate nonetheless...
Seth: It's like a piece of history in a world that's changing quick.
"Yeah, exactly. And me as a kid, in the 70's, I'd have seen lots of muscle cars. I can remember hearing them go by all the time. But I always loved seeing, they called it the Horseless Carriage Club, I don't know if they have it in the States, but there's a classic car club up here. Every year, Thanksgiving Weekend, they do a tour, and the procession would always go on the highway past where our farm was."
Seth: Oh, wow!
"Yeah, and I always, even as a little kid, it would be Sunday, it'd be after church, Mom would be getting lunch ready, and I would hear them coming. My dad would say, 'The old cars are coming!' and I'd go run out to the road, they'd be honking they're horns and waving. That's just something that's burned into my memory bank.
"So there were all these 30's Fords and Model T's, stuff like that going by...50 or 75 of these cars going by. IT was like an annual thing for me to watch them do this. Every Thanksgiving weekend on Sunday, by noon, I'd be out by the road watching them with my dog."
I learned to be careful about asking a car guy too many questions about his favorite cars in an interview, but we can definitely relate here at Ehrlich. You gotta do what you love, and we're glad Dave is doing just that.