Nov. 25, 2021

AUTOMOTIVE EXPERT, HISTORIAN, GLOBAL FORECASTER, WRITER, AUTHOR, CAR FREAK | SAM FIORANI

0:11 Max Sterns (Jeff's son) introduces Sam and asks a difficult question! 1:04 Was Sam arrested for crimes related to 9/11? 4:47 Auto Forecast Solutions was founded about eight years ago. "I take all the vehicles around the world and figure out how...


0:11 Max Sterns (Jeff's son) introduces Sam and asks a difficult question!
1:04 Was Sam arrested for crimes related to 9/11?
4:47 Auto Forecast Solutions was founded about eight years ago. "I take all the vehicles around the world and figure out how many are going to be built in every plant. We currently do about 60 countries around the world."
5:32 Manufacturers, suppliers, financial houses
6:48 Let's talk about Warren Browne
12:32 first job ended up selling cars. Sold cars for a Ford Lincoln Mercury dealer very poorly
16:47 what are the three positions of British light switch? Off, flicker and dim
17:39 owned an mg for the last 35 years
19:48 Dad got me a job auditing welfare cases in Philadelphia
21:18 Interviewed at Chilton- spent 5 years there
22:24 Jay Geils for mid 70s Ferrari emissions advice?!
27:28 and Bob Lutz?
31:39 Derek Bell on racing as a spectator
31:57 David E. Davis' advice on starting a car magazine
34:07 first writing was for GM High Tech Performance Magazine
36:20 Automotive Traveler
38:01 my dream was to write for Automobile Quarterly Magazine
40:09 first published article in 1998, for Collectible Automobile for about the Vector
41:10 I've always been into cars. My father thought of cars as appliances.
44:11 my dad pulled me aside. "You have to find other interests besides cars!"
44:55 An MG brought my Dad and I closer

Transcript

Jeff Sterns  0:00  
So you can introduce our guest. So Sam, you hear us?

Unknown Speaker  0:04  
Well, I'm recording now.

Jeff Sterns  0:06  
Okay. Yeah, we're recording. Oh, nice. So say, Okay, this is Max turns on Jeff Sterns connected through cars. I'm here with today's guests. All right, go ahead. Yeah. That's who you're talking to.

Unknown Speaker  0:17  
Cool. So, um, why don't you smile?

Jeff Sterns  0:23  
Because we're on camera.

Unknown Speaker  0:24  
So, thank

Jeff Sterns  0:26  
this now we don't act how we really feel. We smile.

Unknown Speaker  0:29  
Alright. So my name is Max stones, and you're watching Jetsons connect them to a cause?

Jeff Sterns  0:39  
Who's our guest today, Max.

Unknown Speaker  0:39  
Today's episode is mountain same Filani. He is Vice President global vehicle forecasting. And auto forecast solutions.

Jeff Sterns  0:54  
I asked him the one question that we're curious about, William, you

Unknown Speaker  0:57  
only less than my my friends following 911. On, it

Unknown Speaker  1:02  
seemed pretty close to it. Yes. Back in early 2002. We were doing a tour of factories in North in Massachusetts. They were old factories, old car factories, and I was with a number of the Society of Automotive historian board members. And our tour guide was showing us all the different factories that were in, in eastern Massachusetts. So the first factory we pulled into was an abandoned building, we thought it was a chain link fence, we pulled off the road, don't take a look at it, got out of the car, took a couple pictures of it. Not back in the car. And we're pulling back out into the highway when I got a knock on the window. And I look over and there's a military police officer standing there staring at me and I said, Could you please pull in behind the gate? Okay, Officer no problem. So we pull our two vehicles back behind the gate. And you have

Jeff Sterns  1:52  
a hint, do you have any idea or thought why?

Unknown Speaker  1:55  
No idea where I was we were just completely shocked where we were two vehicles filled with septuagenarians and me. And we were all just honest before and there was just enough room in the chain link fence to pull off the highway to take the pictures. And we're just about to pull back on when he told us to pull back anyway. Oh, what's this all about? So we, the officer pulled over? Why are you taking pictures of our building, we're on a tour of car factories, and we had printouts of all the places we were going to go to one of these places here. And he looks around there. All these older gentlemen in the car and me as the driver. And as he's asking us all our questions. A younger MP comes up next to him. And he goes, Oh, yeah, inside there. There's all this equipment for the assembly line. And when they pull the cars across, it's still in there from from what was 80 years before that point. And we all look each other like, oh, what's going to happen? And finally the officer let us go. We were sure it was gonna take our cameras. But wow, they were they were afraid this was a they were casing the joint for some attack on a federal building.

Jeff Sterns  3:02  
So when you had all these printouts of your itinerary, all of the factories you are going to visit that look like maybe for a minute you are casing these to decide some kind of attack.

Unknown Speaker  3:14  
Well, there was a whole variety of buildings, but they were all older buildings. Most of them were factories 7080 years before so it wasn't like they were all they all had something in common aside from being automotive factories, but they were all older, you know, nearly a century old warehouses.

Jeff Sterns  3:30  
Got it. And then of course, the inside of your vehicle look like the cast from the next cocoon movie.

Unknown Speaker  3:36  
Absolutely. No, they were they were all these old, older historians. And it was just how could these guys be planning something against the country there? They can they can barely get up into the Lincoln Navigator I'm driving.

Jeff Sterns  3:51  
It could have been genius.

Unknown Speaker  3:55  
Jeff's Sterns connected through cars. If they're bigwigs, we'll have him on the show. And yes, we'll talk about cars and everything else. Here he is now. Jeff Sterns

Jeff Sterns  4:12  
Jeff Sterns connected through cars with my new friend, Sam floriani. And we're friends through a mutual dear friend, Warren Brown. And I see Sam, that your VP of global vehicle forecasts and auto forecast solutions. So tell us a little bit about what you're doing. Because remember, people watching this could be interested in the car business, but they're definitely not necessarily in it. I only have 55 56% listeners and watchers that are in the industry. So explain to us a little bit

Unknown Speaker  4:47  
on our forecast solutions was founded about eight years ago to provide services for the auto industry, anyone interested in the auto industry where they need to know where things going, how many vehicles are going to be built? All kinds of details like that. So we provide the analysis. And then we provide software so that you can keep track of your parts and and where your vehicles that you have contracts on are going. My job is to do the vehicle forecasting. And so I take all the vehicles around the world, from the ground up from the bottom from the top down, and figure out how many are going to be built in every plant around the world. We do we currently do about 60 countries around the world,

Jeff Sterns  5:26  
okay. And do the manufacturers rely on you, for example, commodities, planning, and purchasing,

Unknown Speaker  5:32  
manufacturers, suppliers, financial houses, anyone who's interested in the auto industry, we provide them the data that they need to do their business, so they can do it more accurately and prepare for ups and downs. So if somebody is going to build sales that says they're going to build 100,000 vehicles, and they come to us like, no, no, really how many they're going to build, or they're going to build 75,000. So they have to be prepared for 100,000 If everything goes as planned, but 75,000 Because we said that's only the only the number the market can bear.

Jeff Sterns  6:02  
Well, I was in the retail car business for about 27 years. And my experiences is that every if every manufacturer hit every forecast number that we would be doing something like 32 million new cars a year. So do the manufacturers targets agree with your forecasting? Half the time most of the time, every time? Is it rare that they do rare that they don't how does that go?

Unknown Speaker  6:25  
No, no, you're you're absolutely right, that they if they were right, this market would be huge, because nobody ever takes into consideration that there are competition out there, that somebody else is building a similar vehicle, and that a buyer would come in and say, Oh, I like yours, but I like theirs better. So if no manufacturer believes that, that their vehicles going to lose in the marketplace,

Jeff Sterns  6:48  
Warren Brown isn't in the room right now. So let's be honest, how do we feel about Warren?

Unknown Speaker  6:54  
Warren is a great guy, he'll call me up and ask me some questions about the industry. And then we will talk for, oh, five minutes to an hour on any topic that he is bothering him at that moment. And it is a great discussion, we get to throw stuff back and forth and figure out what's going on. And sometimes I change his mind. And most of the time, he changes his mind. But he's a great guy to talk to about anything in the industry, anything economic, he's got such a depth of history, that I can ask him about anything. And he'll relate some stories that he knows that he actually went through with that, that topic. It's great to talk to him.

Jeff Sterns  7:31  
So when you say five minutes to an hour with Warren Brown, what do you do after he introduces himself for the hour?

Unknown Speaker  7:38  
Bear? Well, it's usually I just needed five minutes, your time. And then you know, an hour has passed,

Jeff Sterns  7:43  
we get a little scope creep on how long the conversation is gonna go. But I love Warren, he's been a guest a couple of times. And he's really contributed to the growth of the show here. So I love the guy. But I thought if you wanted to take a shot, let's go back. If you don't mind to what you're doing day to day, I'd like to go a little bit deeper. Because I don't know if the well really I don't even know if everybody in the car industry knows what goes into planning. So maybe you can give us a little bit of a timeline, I'll rough it out and then absolutely feel free to correct me don't worry about making me look good. So manufacturer approves a program, or is looking at a program. The program is being pitched by a group of engineers or sales division or what's coming next, whether it be performance cars, or the three wheeled car or electrification or whatever, we need a small truck, we need a big truck, whatever it is, they come out with what we call in the industry, a program a new vehicle coming up and the manufacturer is looking for feasibility. And usually it's ROI isn't going to make money. And there's been times where it's just I mean, you might think why wouldn't always be that. But there's been times where it's been market share this. I mean, who knows. So they go into the feasibility of ROI or it or it's selling even if it didn't necessarily make money. And then they need the analytics guys, which are often in house but in your case contract to tell them how many Sam Are we really going to sell and you also have anything to do with the backing into the actual costs or the backing into what the market will bear on retail feel free to fill in on any of that.

Unknown Speaker  9:26  
Most of our clients are on the downstream side. So their suppliers who have gotten a contract, and they're they're looking at a contract from a vehicle manufacturer, and the vehicle manufacturer says we're looking to get into the minivan space. So we need to look at how big the minivan space is. What are the competitors in and out of that segment, and how many they'll they'll actually build based on what they've done in the past what the market has done in the past. All these different pieces that go into the whole puzzle, and we bring that together and say they're gonna sell 100,000 of these The year, so you need to be prepared for at least 100,000 parts,

Jeff Sterns  10:03  
right. And this could be a windshield, this could be a transit transmission, this could be tires, this could be a power window switch whatever.

Unknown Speaker  10:10  
Over the last 40 years, the vehicle manufacturers have pieced out all their supplier parts to outside companies. So they, they assemble a lot of parts now, whereas 4050 years ago, they made a lot of the parts. So it's it these a lot of these companies have to provide them with the seats with the engine control systems that with all the different pieces that go into their final product.

Jeff Sterns  10:35  
What percent of the parts does the manufacturer make in house now?

Unknown Speaker  10:40  
anymore, it's engines transmissions and body stampings. But then they'll go on from there and make Get the door modules, the windows, all the electronics in the doors are an outside kit that come in interior, a lot of the interior pieces or outside pieces. Most of the vehicle comes from a supplier, but the heart of the vehicle, the core parts, the frame, the chassis, and the engine and transmission. Those are usually in house.

Jeff Sterns  11:10  
Very interesting. And I mean, I don't think anyone who hasn't seen it could fathom the number of parts, miles of wiring loom and whatever that goes into a car or a vehicle. But you have a very, very interesting background like and my audience is like, you got a parts forecast run or I don't don't change the station yet. Because Sam's worked over the last 30 years in in a large range of industries related to automotive. And I'm looking at Sam on the computer now just you know, you could nod or shake your head if I'm going off. But I believe rural Pennsylvania dealership and specializing in British. So I guess you you know you're like self inflicting pain yourself. So how did you start in that?

Unknown Speaker  12:07  
Well, I've always been a car guy like every car guy will tell you from from day one. Cars were of interest to me. So when I went off to college, my idea was to engineer a car. Well, that didn't pan out. So I became an economist. And so after college, I was lucky enough to graduate in the middle of a recession. Looking for any job that I could take, and it ended up being? Yes, oh, absolutely. My first job ended up selling cars. So I sold cars for a Ford Lincoln Mercury dealer. And I sold them very poorly. But I sold seven cars in my short time there. Again, this is a very small town in rural Pennsylvania. So seven cars would have been good in a month, but it took me three months to get there. After leaving there, I was looking for something I needed something that fit me better. And I worked for a shop in Harrisburg that restored British, mostly British cars. So we was fixing mg TFS and Triumph TR sixes and Austin healeys. This, these were the vehicles that came into our shop all the time. And it was a fantastic, fantastic place to work. Unfortunate, unfortunately, a lot of the British owners are typically cheap at being a British owner. I fit that mold, very cheap about what I put into the car, how I fix it. So I do a lot of the work myself. But a lot of owners don't expect an MGB to cost them $5,000 To go over. So we had a few owners who just just didn't expect the price tag at the end of the day. And they also didn't like to deal with I had at least one customer there who just didn't want to deal with mechanics. He was well educated and a pillar of the community but apparently talking to the mechanics was beneath him. And somewhere along the line, he found out that I had a college degree. So I was I was not a mechanic I would I worked in the front of the shop and did little things in the back when they needed me but I was facing the customer most of the time. And since I had a college degree, he could talk to me about what was going on with his car. Like you really need to be talking to these guys back here and they know exactly what's going on. But that didn't matter to him. So when we worked on his mg TF, I was the conduit between him and the mechanics. And it was just me and the boss that actually got to talk to him. So that that was a definitely an education on customer service and how people just deal with the real people who work on products any product.

Jeff Sterns  14:53  
Well I think if you're in any customer facing retail, automotive industry whether it be dealership For a mechanical shop or probably body shop, I think you'll learn a lot about the human condition probably. You learn more in a year there then all of your college education about people,

Unknown Speaker  15:09  
oh, absolutely no, you, you're in college, you're meeting people who are on the same level with you. You're, you're all in college together, you're all going through the same stuff. But you don't get the the experience of people who have 20 years or 30 years experience in real estate, in banking in what have you, where they've, they've got all these experiences with other people. And so learning about these other people, people who just look down upon working people, and these are the people who, who put my car together who fix my house, the all these different things, if they're extremely important, and more knowledgeable than me on so many topics. I'm going to sit and listen to them. And I can't imagine that these people who ignore them or won't talk to them, get and get ahead in life without meeting these people and learning from them. It's amazing.

Jeff Sterns  16:04  
Did you ever hear why the British don't build computers? Not computers? No, they can't make them leak.

Unknown Speaker  16:14  
We had a, I went to a conference one time in Las Vegas. And I was sitting around the table was a medium and heavy truck conference. And at the table with me was a British expat. And a gentleman, another journalist from the United States in between us. And the British ex Pat and I were trading British jokes back and forth. And the guy in between had never heard any of them. Like, why did the British like warm beer? Wise refrigerators? Plenty of them. And my Yeah, my favorite is what are the three positions of British light switch off flicker and dim

Jeff Sterns  16:54  
I was in the roles and belly business for about 10 years. So I had I wish I get in person. But I had a Scottish factory rep, funniest guy in the world. But whenever we would call him with an issue and talk about a leak, for example, that was never a leak that was a location of lubrication problem. And they never broke down. They just ceased forward motion. And there was no problem with the leak that was just internal and external lubrication like an aircraft. But it was funny with the with the broke man. I mean, let's I mean, pretty sharp, funny as hell, no doubt about it. So then what about steel motors?

Unknown Speaker  17:32  
Well as steel Motors was, like I said, I got to touch all kinds of different British cars. It was fantastic to work there. I've owned a an mg for the last 35 years. And so this was where I got to find the parts that I needed to fix my car and learn about what what was wrong with my car and how to correct it. The guys who worked there, Kelby still own that place, and just we were building the place up into what eventually became it was just expanded out from this little one car garage, to a full warehouse where we could fix everything. We had all kinds of cars in there, from Jaguars down to minis, and repair just about anything that came from the islands. Being the smallest person in the shop, I was the one who could change who could check the brake fluid in an MG T D, which meant I had to crawl underneath the steering wheel and then put my finger inside the well to find out how much was in there because you physically couldn't see it from anywhere

Jeff Sterns  18:34  
in the reservoir. Oh my god. Oh, yeah. My God. That's great. And you know, but the British car technicians I mean, you got to give him credit because they were true mechanics true. Diagnosing searching for the problem. It you can't do like a parts replacing deal with those cars, or you'll you'll do the value of the car twice before you figure it out.

Unknown Speaker  18:58  
Yes, I I drove a TF one time. I love this car. It's like it's an old school car. It's rickety and everything. Yeah, it drives like a model team. Like yeah, that's what I like about it. It was it was just, it was just cobbled together. It was just fantastic to drive. Granted, I didn't take it on the highway or anything, but it was it was a fantastic car to to experience. Big, big seesaw steering wheel and no Synchros in the transmission. Just an old school car.

Jeff Sterns  19:28  
Well, right. You need to like know how to handle it. And it was a visceral experience. No doubt about it. So then you moved to Philly to get a job that your dad liked.

Unknown Speaker  19:39  
Oh, my my dad just did not like me working in this shop with a college degree. So he found his through his connections he got me a job auditing welfare cases in Philadelphia. Sexy. Oh, absolutely. They was a fantastic job because because the the people who are on in the cases no The last so well that they can get around everything. And my job was just to find mistakes within the system. And I just went through the paperwork and processed everything. It was the most boring job ever. And the people I worked with were fantastic. They loved me, I love them. But I could just barely make ends meet on this end because it was a union job. I was last hired. So I was going to be the last one promoted the last one with a raise. This is just not what I want to do. So I called around and I haven't had a mentor at the time, Stan Stevenson who used to work for the children's book company. And I said, Stan, I found this company that I really want to work for there. I had a copy of Automobile Magazine, it's probably back there on the wall somewhere. And they had a page of statistics. And it happened to be a local company. It was in what I was in Philadelphia, this was in Westchester, Pennsylvania. I really want to work at this company, and stand, being very honest that he was said, they won't hire you. I know the guy who runs the place, he won't hire you because you have no experience. What do I do? I can't do this job. I want to do something else something automotive. And he said, I'll get you an interview. So he got me into Chilton, to interview for the book company to repair writing car repair manuals.

Jeff Sterns  21:23  
And that's really an iconic name. I mean, to be able to go to children's had to be exciting.

Unknown Speaker  21:28  
It was no I grew up with Chilton books. I've got a Sure. A couple of on the shelf over here. I this on your bench? Sure. Absolutely. Yes. And so my first car, my dad walked home with one of the books and said, Here's your repair manual for this for this car. I walked into an interview for the job. The interview was process of like four different editors. And in one of my interviews, one of the editors said, Well, if Stan said you're good enough, that's good enough for me. I was 24 years old, I was slow. I was driving home going, Wait a minute, I think I just got that job. It was honestly half an hour after he had said that it sank in what he had said. So I got a call a couple days later and I started working there and spent five years at Chilton.

Jeff Sterns  22:11  
Now, what were you doing with children's were you the guy taking something apart and putting it back together so you can put the process down or exploding the part with the arrow the lines pointing to the die? Who were you in Joel,

Unknown Speaker  22:24  
I was an editor, I My job was either writing repair procedures or editing wiring diagrams. When we started, when I started there, I was the last person hired for the old way they did business. So shortly after I got hired, they decided they're going to make everything digital. So we got our first real computers, we were working on word processors before that, around the time that I was working there, that Pittsburgh press I think it was was on strike. And they had a picture of the the reporters room. And all of them had the exact same terminals that we were working on. These are old old terminals with the green and white screens, and a mainframe that ran the whole thing. It would go down two or three times a day, and everybody would lose all the work they had just worked on, because the system crashed on them. So we were getting PCs. And when my boss found out that I knew how to use a PC, he gave me one of like the two PCs we had on the floor. So that was how I did some of my work. But shortly after that, we upgraded so that we could do all our work digitally. So we had to learn a new programming language. We got all these new brand new Windows computers, and then started digitizing all the work we had all had been doing for years. So they hired a whole new set of editors that year to fill up the new discs that we were going to start selling. We were watching the competition that was already on that direction. And so we need to leapfrog them. We found the best technology we can find at the time to generate these new Chilton desks. It worked okay, but it was a lot of work. And I think they lost a lot of money on the on the project. Sure.

Jeff Sterns  24:05  
But you know, I mean to be in your space and be into automotive and get an opportunity to children's I mean, that definitely sounds like citing to me. I also had Jim Donnelly on with who was with Hemmings for a long time it reminds me of that now you've met a few famous people. You name drop a little

Unknown Speaker  24:25  
I can name drop a couple. Yes. When I was at Chilton, we had one project that I just loved. And early on the time I was there, we bought a company called cascade and cascade was producing books that were inspection guide. They were Emissions Inspection guides, and the person who founded cascade did a great job of selling the idea to the state of California. He made them require this book in any shop that did emissions. So his book was on everybody's desk, and he sold that company to Chilton, and we redid the book from the ground up When we took the book over the editor who was in charge of it, kept coming over to me and asking me questions, I was working on a different project. And I had history books and the book, the cascade book, covered from the beginning of emissions from 66 until the present day, and we only covered like five years back. So this was all new stuff to him. And he kept asking me these questions. And I, he said, I'm going to get you on this project full time, like done, get my stuff out of the way. We were to him, brought the Table of Contents. Any brand on here, you don't recognize, I'll take. So I was doing all the ones that we didn't normally work on. And I was trying to find anybody who knew anything about these. I found a gentleman in California, who worked for the company that gray marketed Lamborghinis in the 80s. He was telling me how they changed them, what parts they put on them, all the different information that I needed for my book. But my favorite one gentleman that I worked with, came over to me and gave me this little post it note, and it had a name and a phone number on it. I go. Oh, Jay Geils. Yeah, he has a shop up in Ferrari because of Connecticut. Because no, no, no. That's Jay Geils. From the Jay Geils Band. I said, Yeah, he has a repair shop in Connecticut where he works on Ferraris. So I picked up the phone and I called him and expecting somebody else to pick up the phone. I said, can I speak with Jay Geils? And he goes speaking, oh, hey, how you doing? I work from Cheltenham and this is what I'm doing. And, and apparently his specialty was mid 70s Ferraris like, great. That's the big chunk of them that I need to figure out. So he gave me all the details on that. And so the it was such a casual conversation with him. Like okay, so what about this thing? How did the emissions work on all? Well, that shit never worked? Oh, really? So we're on this level right now. Okay, that's great. So we just chat for half an hour about Ferraris. When I was done, the guy who gave me the phone number. Did you tell him how much you like his music? Like, no, we talked for hours for half an hour. It's fantastic.

Jeff Sterns  27:00  
And so Jay Geils. Now I'm curious about that. So of course, Jay Geils Band, was the band a side gig? Or was Did he did that get him into the shop in the Ferrari business? Like Which way did that go? Do you know?

Unknown Speaker  27:15  
As far as I know, the band got him enough money that he could start this business? Because this was well after? Okay. Your Geils Band had had come down from its top popularity.

Unknown Speaker  27:28  
What About Bob Lutz?

Unknown Speaker  27:31  
So, after I left Chilton, I moved to Massachusetts and was working for Standard and Poor's dri doing forecasting for them. And while I was there, I got involved with the New England motor Press Association. These guys just hang out and talk about cars all day and have dinner once a month. And then they have these guests come in from all over the all over the industry. So one year that I was while I was there, Bob Lutz came out with his book guts. And Bob Lutz was invited to have dinner with us and sat right literally right next to me as we had dinner together. Great guy to chat with great guy to talk to anything about cars, because he has such a depth of history, going back through all the major car manufacturers going back decades. It's he's fantastic that to learn from we were chatting it up, I wouldn't say we were friends. But we were friendly, at least. That was in the late 90s. Fast forward about 10 years. And I'm walking through the car show at the Detroit Auto Show with a co worker, and Bob Lutz is walking towards us. And I said, Oh, that's Bob Lutz over there. And I walked right up to him and reintroduce myself to him. introduced my buddy to him. We talked for a couple minutes and then we walked on and my buddy just nearly freaked out because you just like walked up to Bob Lutz. Like yeah, nice guy. We just we just we've met before and I just want to introduce you to him. It was fantastic to to to run into him and talk talk casually with him even at the car show there.

Jeff Sterns  29:00  
And you're just so jaded. It was no big deal to you. You know, I will be hanging onto his pant leg getting dragged. I've been such a groupie to Baba.

Unknown Speaker  29:12  
Oh, absolutely. Now I've been fortunate enough to run into and meet and know a bunch of great people who most people wouldn't know who they are. And one of them was a automotive historian named Taylor Vinson. Taylor was very active in the Society of Automotive historians when I was there. And he was also in charge of making sure that cars get the proper certification when they come when they become imported into the United States. So his job was just to work the paperwork to make sure that every car company could get their vehicle certified. Connecting Bob Lutz to this Bob Lutz was introducing the Cunningham two at the Detroit Auto Show at the New York Auto Show I believe. And next to it, this saline s seven was just beginning traduced this brand new exotic sports car with a dedicated, big block V eight engine, everything. It was a spectacular car when it came out. But we were at the media introduction. And one of the media said, Do you have all your certification? Without a doubt we have all our certification, we have all the paperwork. And Taylor is standing right next to me any leads ever because they don't have the certification. It's sitting on my desk right now. So I knew that the saline was not ready for primetime yet, but it was coming.

Jeff Sterns  30:29  
Selena seven was a nice car. I actually I went to the petite Lama with Steve saline and his rep because they were talking to us about taking that franchise, the car you're talking about is with all the vents and louvers and all the business. Yep. And that's what I learned when I went to petite Loma, that's when I learned that I could only watch a race for 10 minutes. Maybe 15. I think, you know, the car I'm interested in comes around three times in 15 minutes. And yeah, I'm pretty much done. I think I went to a movie came back, everyone asked where I was, I told him I was at another 10. If you're watching this, Steve, I'm sorry.

Unknown Speaker  31:07  
Good. I I've been a lifelong car guy. But I just never really gotten into racing. And I think I figured it out. It's because I'm a car guy. And I don't necessarily care about the personalities of the people driving them. So when NASCAR decided to make them all the same, same, it lost it for me, I want to see different bodies going around that I want to see the different engines I want to see, I want these cars to be close to what you can get on the street, or at least look like it. They don't anymore. And I've lost that taste for racing.

Jeff Sterns  31:39  
Well, don't feel bad. I actually had Derrick Bell on one of our shows. And I said if you're not racing, how long can you watch a race in? He says, honestly. You know, the car comes around what every four minutes in something. So anyway, you considered starting your own car magazine, but someone that none of us ever heard of talk you out of it?

Unknown Speaker  32:06  
Yeah, well, I, I've always wanted to start a car company. And then I wanted to start a car magazine because that was at least more affordable. So I could do that one. And when I was I was in between jobs. And I said, this is my perfect time to start this this magazine that I've always wanted. So I asked around and ask them people who could help me get the ideas that I need. I need to learn from people who've done this before. Somebody gave me the phone number for David Davis, the man who founded Automobile Magazine and longtime editor of Car and Driver. So I called up David Davis directly and I can remember him picking up the phone and in his gruff voice answering my all my questions. And while I'm thinking about starting this, this car magazine is you know how much it cost me to start Automobile Magazine in 1986. And like know how much that cost? $11 million $11 million. I'll start a car company for that. I write Fortunately, he talked me out of it because that was right before magazines crashed.

Jeff Sterns  33:08  
Thank you. Thank you, David do you do with what the mustache right?

Unknown Speaker  33:13  
Oh, yes. Oh, yes. I have is somewhere around here. I have his his memoir that he wrote. And he autographed it to me is he's big into whiskey and he signs it. Yours Truly through whiskey yours

Jeff Sterns  33:31  
truly through whiskey

Unknown Speaker  33:32  
that if I remember it being out there because he he spelled whiskey without an E and I had always seen it with an E and so it was it was I like that. Did David Davis misspell whiskey like oh, no, that's a red spelling for whiskey. But it was it always stuck with me because that was his his saying,

Jeff Sterns  33:50  
Well, okay, I mean, you know, that could definitely be a slogan for AA. So tell us, Sam about your foray into automotive Traveler magazine.

Unknown Speaker  34:01  
I've been writing a little bit here and there just on the side for a bunch of different magazines. My first writing was for a magazine called GM high tech performance where they wanted me to, to document how this gentleman had swapped engines from a Corvette LT four into a Camaro and I worked for Chilton. So of course, I know how to do that. I didn't but I worked my way through the story and came up with a story of how he did this. But that was my first article. I worked I made articles for auto body repair news, where I talked about how to do repairs on outie eights. The aluminum body structure on Outaouais was fantastic learning experience from the mechanics who did that kind of work. And I met a bunch of other people who work for different magazines and through the years they would ask me to write something here or there. Well, I met a gentleman, rich Truesdale who writes for bunch of different magazines, but he had just started his own publication called automotive traveler and automotive traveler was was great because it combined the cars in the driving, where you're going and how to get there. And the car you're driving in, are normally a magazine, neither does one of the other. But we went here, or we drove this. Well, this allowed us to combine both the tails into one. And Richard just loved that I could, at the drop of a hat write an article for him because a lot of their public early publications were online exclusively, before they actually had a publication. And he had a series where he said not found on ebay, he would find something for sale somewhere, and then write an article about that thing for sale. But because of the timeliness of it, you needed to put it up right away. And he found out that Honda was selling their rate their r&d track, out in the west out in California think it was, and he needed an article now. And I came home from work and he called me up I'm like, okay, and I fired off an article in about an hour and send it back to him. And so it was between the time he told me about it at five o'clock. It was online at 10 o'clock. So it was It was wild, quick turnaround time for him. And I like doing those things occasionally. It's a lot of work if you have to do it all the time. But automotive traveler allowed me to do a lot of different articles, where I got to tour things. We did a wine tour. We we live in rural eastern Pennsylvania. And there's a lot of wineries in this general area. So I grabbed my wife, we grabbed another couple we got in a minivan and we drove all the way across the county and went to all the wineries so we got to taste wines from all over the place. And I wrote a nice article on that one. And that led me to doing a beer tasting article where we drove on to different mini micro breweries and such. And I don't have the taste for beer. I wish I did because there's some great stories that my friends tell me about. All this beer has this flavor and this taste and it's lost on me. i It's beer does nothing, right? Nothing at all. So I grabbed my my two closest beer loving friends. And we got into an Infiniti QX ad and we drove across the state and went to Yingling and we went to Troegs. And then we went to a beer festival all in one day. And it was fantastic because by the end of the day, my friends were sauced and I had to had to babysit them on the way home. But we had a great day, giving us a full tour of a microbrewery of Troegs. And outside of Hershey and Yingling, which is the oldest beer manufacturer in the United States. It was a great learning experience on how they make beer and who makes it around our area.

Jeff Sterns  37:49  
Well, what a perfect designated driver, the guy who doesn't care about beer while they're doing a beer tour that's perfect for your friend, or your friends. We're grateful when I

Unknown Speaker  37:58  
was starting to write, my dream was to write for automobile quarterly magazine, and automobile quarterly. What you can see up here on the top shelves over here. They're hard bound, beautifully put together. When I got into automotive history. The one of the first people I met was Beverly Ray Kimes, and Beverly was was the editor of automobile recorded for years, fantastic historian. She writes some fantastic wrote some fantastic books. And so my dream was to be in that magazine. I wanted that so bad. And so I wrote an article and automobile quarterly, used very large articles, whereas a lot of magazines will take two 3000 words, automobile quarterly wanted 6000 or 7000 words in their articles. And I wrote a nice big story that I had earmarked for that magazine. And I also knew the editor of automobile quarterly at the time, Jonathan Stein. And so I called Jonathan up. I said, Jonathan, I got this article, because, yeah, I can't take it. It's not a dead story. Like what do you mean? Because well, your story doesn't have a definitive end, the car company I was writing about, was not the most stable company in the world. But it was still in business. And he had read, requested an article before about Bugatti in the mid 90s. And between the time that they published it, and the time it came out, the company went out of business. So he learned his lesson from that one. He said, I can't take the story because you don't have a definitive end to it. Okay, I I appreciate that. So a few years later, I was talking to somebody else that's I've got this big article that I spent all this time writing. I want it published somewhere. So they said, Well, why don't you call collectible automobile? And I did. And the editors are clickable, and we were fantastic. I don't know that we have a place for that articles, but we'll call you if we do. Okay. I'll never hear from you. Right and two or three months. later, you have that article, like sure is, Could you cut it down to the 3500 words, and we can put it, I can do that. And so that was my first published article in 1998, for collectible automobile for about the vector automobile

Jeff Sterns  40:14  
vector. So, one thing about collectible automobile and it's funny that you bring it up because moving kids around bedrooms recently moving this kid to that room, this kid in that room, so we start cleaning out the rooms in the house, and I found the stack of collectible automobile magazines that I read religiously. I mean, I probably used to get eight or nine magazines a month, subscribe, and a couple were weekly, etc. And I never got rid of any of those. I always loved them. But now when I was just looking through them the other day, I haven't seen them and God knows 20 years, I noticed that no matter which car, I would have bought on their investment advice, it would have made money. It didn't matter which car I looked at it was so far past, but they were talking about the forecast. So that's

Unknown Speaker  41:06  
no I had I had a incident like that, where I like I said, I've always been into cars. My father, on the other hand, thought of cars as appliances. My father's my grandfather owned a service station, and my dad grew up fixing cars. But to him, they were simply a means to an end. They were how you got to work. They were how you got to the store. That was all it was for. And I appreciate them for the for the aesthetics for how they drove all that stuff. So when I was about 10 years old Motor Trend magazine used to have retrospect, they would have a centerfold in the magazine of an antique car. And then like a four page article about the car. I saw this beautiful car and I showed it to my dad, his dad, check this car out. And he grabs the magazine from me and reads the entire article. And when he's done, he goes, you see this car right here? I had two of them at different times. One of them I bought for 10 bucks. Like your what? Yeah, there was a Chrysler Town and Country. And my father was a state police officer and he was working on the turnpike. And sometime in the late 50s. An owner of a Chrysler Town and Country was broken down and got so frustrated with his car that he signed over the title to my dad and my dad took it back to the barracks did the minor repairs that needed to be fixed. And he literally left it at the barracks for anyone who didn't have a car when they needed to go do something. So their beater car was a 48 down and country convertible. And, and so he gets to the bottom of it guys. Yet this car, this is late 70s. This car is worth $37,000 restored today, if that time, like you spent $10 on the car. You could have put us to college with that money. You know that right?

Jeff Sterns  42:52  
But who knew? Who knew? Is your dad's still around? He is not. Okay. Was he ever get proud of you? Because he wanted you to get the job. He could be proud of you when you're on welfare. Did he get priority?

Unknown Speaker  43:06  
My My father was always very proud of my sister and I. And like I said, I graduated during a recession and there were so few jobs to find. My father said why don't you join the police academy? Well, if I joined the police academy, then I feel obligated to join a police force. And that's not me. And I'm not following in my father's footsteps. Because at that time, my father was the captain and I got big shoes to fill. So I'm not about to do that. Right. So after I started a Chilton, my father was was sick at the time. But when he saw the business card that I worked at chilled, he thought I owned the company. He thought he was so proud of that. And like that, that was enough for me. But the pride he got went to my sister who did become a police officer.

Jeff Sterns  43:52  
Excellent. I'm happy to hear that

Unknown Speaker  43:55  
when I was in college, my father didn't like my love of cars. As a matter of fact, when I was in grade school, I was so obsessed with cars that I could not start a conversation without talking to somebody about cars moving the conversation somewhere into the automotive field. And my dad just pulled me aside at one point, you have to find other interests you really have to find other interests. But this is what intrigues me this I like these things. And so I walked out of his his bedroom after this discussion, just distraught. I don't like other things I like. I like music. I like girls and I like cars. That's that's all about it. So yeah. And so I as I walked out of the room, like I walked into the bathroom and my dad walked out of the bedroom past the bathroom. And I looked at these commodes are so interesting, just knew that I was I was listening to him but not really that so. When I was in college, I bought my MG I worked for for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation One summer. And my job was to help replace the street signs. We drove up and down all the back roads in this rural county and replaced all the street signs. And we got on this one road. And there was this Mg sitting there. And I fell in love with it. So I found the guy who I met the guy whose house it was at, and I said, I'm really interested in this car, because it's my daughter's car. But she sold it to this gentleman, and he hasn't picked it up. And it's been sitting here for a year. So I wrote to the guy, and the guy wrote me back as soon as he got the letter, he goes, it's yours. Let's meet somewhere, and I'll send it over to you. So I bought it for a song. And so I bought this car without my dad's knowledge. And I had a friend of mine who new MGS look at it before and tell me what he thought it was worth. So I paid a lot less than what he thought it was worth. So I was good there. And I arranged for a guy to deliver it to my friend's house because I did not want my dad knowing about this car. My dad was a very imposing figure. And he would not like me having a toy like this, and spend this much money and wasting my time on this car. So I said, I'm gonna send it to my friend's house. I'll fix it up there. And so my mom gave me a check to go pay for the car. I gave her the cash. She gave me the check. So I had a check there. We had a notary sign. We had all this stuff. And I'm about to have the car delivered. And my mother calls me up to tell your dad. I don't want to. There's no no, you just tell him and see what you know. Get it on the up and up. Okay. So I call them up, Dad, I bought a car. And you could hear the disappointment in his voice. And I said, Because would you pay for $250 so I couldn't really complain about that. It was you know, chump change for a car. How are you getting it here? I got a rollback, bringing it over how much you pay for that. Literally. I think it was like 20 bucks to have it delivered for 15 miles. It was so cheap. There's nothing. Do you have a notary sign? Yes, notary sign that thing. Everything's legit. We I own the tight. I have the title. I have the car. He's delivering the car. As a dad, can I bring it home? Yes, bring it home. So this rollback comes in there. I pull in right ahead of the rollback. And my dad walks out of the house. And I have that look like I just got caught with the canary. And dad walks out of the house gives me a stern look like he is really disappointed in me. The car comes off the roll back, he rolls it into the backyard and puts it up on the patio in the backyard. He starts explaining how to take the wheels off, put it up on jackstands make sure it's off the ground, take the tires off, get prepared for fixing. A couple of days later, he walked home with a he came home with a transmission for it. He bought me a battery for it. He loved the car as much as I did. And so it was it was a little thing that we did get the bond over but at the beginning it was it was that that dangerous step between me being an adult and me being his kid. So it was it was a lot of fun.

Jeff Sterns  48:05  
Well, I mean, let's face it, there's a lot of bonding that friend's father and son brother you know I don't want to just say fathers, but definitely father somebody a lot of bonding that can be done through a car and fixing it up in in your dad was so subtle. Let me show you how to set it up to start fixing and then coming home with parts you know, that's great. I love it. I really do. I can Oh man. You know I'm Are you a father.

Unknown Speaker  48:30  
I am a father and my son. We got my son into go karting when he was eight. Perfect. I was one of my articles that I wrote for automotive traveler was a article about how to learn how to drive better through racing. So Volkswagen lent me a car and I went autocrossing and I met all the people at the autocross. And one day, my son was there who was eight at the time. And a gentleman who was autocrossing was in charge of the kid carts. He found them of a small card, what they call the junior card sea level, which is the tiniest little cards. They're just spectacularly small. Honestly, it's like this long. And we put my eight year old in that put a helmet on him sending out on the course. He loved it. Of course what we ended up getting a card for Christmas. And he's this is he's been racing for nine years. He's moved up into the actual shifter karts now so he's racing along his mother cannot watch them because they are way too fast for her. But the last race he was at, it's a the races that the SCCA puts on these races around here. And they are everything from Corvettes and Porsches down to shifter karts. And the shifter karts, while being the smallest vehicle on the course, are the fastest vehicles on the course. And the last time he raced, he was literally the second fastest vehicle on the course. That's just did a fantastic job and he's he is his own mechanic. He is his own driver. He is he's, I pay the bills and he races.

Jeff Sterns  50:09  
That's phenomenal. That really is. I had many, many cars in common many, many cars in common with my father, who had lost about 10 years ago. But my 19 year old son has a 71 F 100 truck in my garage with an engine polar engines not out but the chains are on the engine and a 69 Galaxy coupe ugliest car you've ever seen out in the driveway that all the neighbors are thrilled about, but it's you know, who cares? I mean, that's gonna be what we talk about later what he talks about. So I'm sorry you feel now Sam. Are we good? Yeah, we're

Unknown Speaker  50:45  
good. All right, this has been Sam. Oh my god. Save me money. You see, I forgive me out.

Unknown Speaker  50:56  
This has been Jeff Sterns connected through cars.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Sam Fiorani Profile Photo

Sam Fiorani

Automotive Historian/Forecaster

Everyone says they're "lifelong car enthusiasts" and Sam would as well. From identifying cars by headlights and taillights at 3 to becoming the youngest board member of the Society of Automotive Historians to being a voice for the global automotive industry, he's covered a wide range. Today, Sam writes for Collectible Automobile magazine and is the Vice President of Global Vehicle Forecasting for AutoForecast Solutions. He sits on the boards of the International Motor Press Association (IMPA) and the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles to further demonstrate his breadth interests.