If You Sold Exotic Cars, What Would You Drive?
by, 09-22-2016 at 10:51 PM (1014 Views)
The thought often has occurred to me, “What cars do the guys who get to see the most exotic cars on a daily basis drive?” These guys should know their cars, right? Maybe even more than automotive journalists or engineers, these guys are in the driver’s seats of nearly everything and they should have a pretty good idea of which ones are reliable, drivable, comfortable, etc. So, why not ask them?
I decided to talk to Geoff Soule, who works for O’Daniel Automotive Group, owners of the Porsche Fort Wayne dealership. Geoff has been working as a car salesman for about 5 years and like the other two guys I interviewed, ended up a car salesman somewhat by accident. After retiring, Geoff was asked by Reggie Vorderman, one of the proprietors of the local Volkswagen franchise, to try selling cars. When that worked out, he ended up eventually at the local Porsche/Audi shop.
Right now, Geoff has 2016 Porsche Macan and a 1994 Porsche 911 964 Series C2 Cabriolet along with 9 motorcycles. The 911s are beautiful cars, he says, but they are surprisingly low maintenance for such a high performance automobile. Preferring a car that makes you feel involved, Geoff says the handling of the car and the general level of feedback you get as a driver of the 911 were more important than the straight line acceleration of the car.
When I asked Geoff what car he’d call a dream car, he cited the 911R. It’s hard to argue with a naturally aspirated, still old-school manual 911 with all the fun race orientation of the 911 GT3. “It still looks like a Porsche,” Geoff clarifies. Which is true, of course, where something like the Carrera GT can be a bit harder to recognize. And as a limited edition Porsche, if you can afford to put one in your garage, you might actually make some money on the thing in a few years.
I wondered if there was a car Geoff wishes he still had from his own ownership history. He cited two. One was the (OK, full disclosure time) 2007 BMW 335i that I just happened to be the person he sold the car to (so I figured this was at least one salesman that would give me a few minutes of time for this article). Pressed a little further he also said a 1977 911 he owned in California had some fond memories. Carving up the mountain roads in California in a Porsche that makes you work for it a little bit is its own reward, right?
Being a BMW owner myself, I decided to see what the guys at Tomkinson BMW would have to say. I got a chance to sit down with Rob Miller, a BMW Genius. Yes, that’s his job title. How do you get to be a BMW Genius? Rob was answering posts on an E46 message board when he got a call offering him a job doing what he was just that minute doing for free. The universe was calling…
Rob has three BMWs in his garage at the moment. One is a 2015 BMW 328, there’s also a 1999 BMW 323 and ’93 K1100 motorcycle. Why all the BMWs? It’s the handling, again. “It’s a better car than I am a driver,” Rob admits. With the 50/50 balance and the comfort to be a daily driver, it’s easy to find the limits of a BMW without taking the beating you might in a supercar or making an expensive mistake.
But, Rob admits, he’s hoping to get to take a trip to the BMW Performance Day at the M School sometime in the not too distant future. Sure it’s not a cheap affair, but when you consider that you get to burn up a set of tires and ceramic brakes (or half their life at least), it’s pretty reasonable and BMW really has the school set up just so their fans can learn the limits of the cars. “They really have a commitment to their fans,” Miller notes. Which is a good reason to become a BMW loyalist, for sure.
What would be Rob’s dream cars? Well, he needed to have two. One would be a McLaren P1, which can lay a solid claim to being the best driver’s car in the world. “It’s the perfect Man/Machine fusion,” Miller effuses. It strikes the right balance of everything and doesn’t have the funky futuristic looks of a Pagani or a Koenigsegg. Rob has to have a BMW, too, of course, so he throws in the E46 M3 CSL. It’s lightweight and legendary among BMW purists. It takes turns like nothing else and unlike a lot of the E30s, it’s less likely to have been beat to oblivion or picked up rust in the Midwest winters. Good choice.
Finally, I talked to Bill Zielke of SweetCars, a dealership in Fort Wayne that is an offshoot of the Sweetwater empire of Chuck Surack who started a musical equipment dealership in 1979 that has blossomed into one of the largest such enterprises in the world.
Bill also ended up at a car dealership after retiring. I see a trend. SweetCars partly came out of a desire for civic improvement, taking up a dead Ford lot on the way into Ft. Wayne next to one of the city parks he had helped improve as part of Greater Fort Wayne, Inc. and from working with the Fort Wayne Parks department. In the near future, I hope to write another article on how such an exotic car operation gets off the ground in Fort Wayne and how their business operates a little bit, but what cars does Bill drive?
Well, he’s had 5 or 6 Corvettes, he says but right now he has two BMWs in his garage (I promise, I didn’t know this before interviewing Bill, I’m not just a BMW enthusiast, they just seem to be popular here in Northeast Indiana). One is 550 M Sport and the other is a 650 M Sport. He says the tight steering with the heavier feel are a big reason to pick the BMW as well as the handling that is basically exclusive to the BMW with the kind of luxury ride you still get. They are also excellent looking cars without drawing an obscene amount of attention.
What’s his favorite car? “Whatever car I’m driving that day,” he jokes. But, as with SweetCars owner Surack, this is probably the truth. They have 50 exotic cars on the lot, give or take, and that gives you the chance to appreciate the qualities that push a car into six-figure territory. There’s a Fisker Karma EcoSport and an Ariel Atom in the inventory at the time of my visit, so you can imagine Zielke has seen his share of weird and exotic rides.
But, he finally settles on the 2007-2010 model Aston Martin Vantage as a car he considers something of a favorite. He sites the aesthetics of the car, and Aston is known for using mathematical ratios to achieve golden means of beauty on their line of cars. Plus, it’s a very fast car that is relatively easy to drive. I admit, it’s not what I expected. SweetCars is a true exotic car paradise and I had expected Lamborghini, Ferrari, maybe even the crazy Bugatti reboots.
But, I notice with all three of these guys, nobody cited a car that screamed, “look at me” with outrageous wedge styling or racecar on the street performance. They all cited cars that were just fun and relatively easy to drive. People who live around exotic cars don’t want to own something that has to be fussed over or loses a few grand in value with each 1,000 miles you put on the odometer. Likewise, even if you are used to high-end cars, that doesn’t mean you have the skill or patience it takes to push a car like a Ferrari F40 or a Viper ACR to its limits. On Indiana’s roads, you might also want to pick up a mouth guard for your teeth before taking one of those cars out for a spin unless you want a trip to the dentist afterwards.
So there you go. Hit the comments with your daily and dream rides…