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Arts & Entertainment

TV host Wayne Carini: Rebuilding cars has built friendships

| Tuesday, July 17, 2012, 8:56 p.m.
Wayne Carini with 1926 Bentley, 3 Litre Vanden Plas.
Michael Rubenstein/Velocity
Wayne Carini with 1926 Bentley, 3 Litre Vanden Plas.

Question: What sparked this passion for classic cars?

Answer: I was brought up in a car family where my father restored cars for a living and my cousin built hot rods.

We had a family farm in Glastonbury, Conn., and my father converted the old cow barn in his shop. I worked so much when I was a kid — growing up on a farm, you work constantly. But my father made me work through my high-school years, and I had no opportunities to play sports or hang out with other kids. So when I went to college, I made up my mind to have nothing to do with cars. But that didn't end up very well, so I got back into working on cars.

I came back to cars and that was 1973. There's just no escaping it. It just happened so quickly. You fix one car, and there's another one that comes in the shop, and it's a snowball effect.

Q: Have you ever found a car not worth restoring; or, are all classics deserving of a rebirth?

A: Well, what we look at when we're going to restore a car is that, first off, does it deserve a restoration or should it be preserved in its original state? So many people are catching on to that. It may look tattered and torn, but it tells a story. So, I like leather that's a little worn. ... You try to figure out where the car's been. If (the car is) too much of a basket case, you look at the financial outlook and say, “Is it really going to be worth it to restore this car?”

Q: What is it about a classic car that makes people of all ages swoon?

A: Cars in general, they mean freedom. When you turned 16, and you got your driver's license, you felt a freedom. You can get in your car and go places you never thought you could go before.

It's the style, it's the smell — there are so many things about a car. When I go in my garage, and I look at my cars, I just love them. They're pieces of art for me.

Q: How easy is it to sell a car once you've put so much time and effort into restoring it? Don't you get attached?

A: There's a lot of attachment, especially with cars that we're restoring. They become part of you. But most of the cars we restore, we restore for really great clients.

When we restore cars, it's the connection you make with the client, too. They're not just clients, they become friends. Sometimes you don't talk to clients for six months or a year even, and that's what's so great about cars. They bring people together. There are friendships that develop because of that. The cars are a medium to draw people together.

Q: How many classics are occupying your personal garage at the moment?

A: I never tell! I've sort of lost track, but I always tell people it's under 50 but over 25. I never tell because my wife really has no idea how many cars I have.

Q: Where are some of the weirdest places you've found a classic beauty hiding?

A: Well, we just found a great car, a 1929 Pierce-Arrow in Cleveland, Ohio, in a garage that had not been opened in 50 years. There were trees growing up out of the door. We found a Ferrari in a garage in New York where the garage was half the square footage of the house. You just can't tell. They can be in garages, barns. ... But it's always a thrill. When somebody gives me a lead on a car, it's like Christmas. You can't wait to open that present and see what it is.

Q: Is there one model in particular that you're still chasing?

A: I'll chase it until I'm gone and I won't ever get it because it's so expensive: a 1960 Ferrari 250 short wheel base. It's beautiful, compact. ... It does everything right. I've restored seven of them for clients over the years, but a steel body is $5 million, an alloy body is $10 million.

Q: If you weren't chasing classic cars, what would you be chasing?

A: I don't think I'd be doing anything else. I just enjoy what I do. The only thing I wish I had more time for was to spend more time with my family. Helping autism is one of my biggest passions — to try to find a cure.

Kate Benz is the social columnist for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8515 or kbenz@tribweb.com.

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