Behind the Wheel with Wayne Carini

By Author: Tim Allen, Date: Jan 14, 2020

Wayne Carini is a passionate automobile collector, master car-restorer, and popular television personality. He has been chasing classic cars on television for over 15 years. But, in reality it has been much longer than that. Growing up restoring cars with his father, Wayne’s passion for vintage vehicles took hold from an early age and he chased down his first car by the age of 14. We were lucky to get him to slow down long enough to find out more about his automotive passion, his charitable endeavors and his television show. 

You grew up in an auto-related family. Do you remember the first car you worked on?
That’s pretty easy, Model A Ford. My father restored Model A’s for a living. He restored all sorts of different cars but Model A’s were our lifeblood. I can’t tell you what year but I know it was a Model A Ford. 

What was the first car you owned?
A 1950 Chevrolet two-door hard top. Twenty bucks from the neighbors. It just so happens that it was sitting in a lean-to next to his house and it was probably about 1965, I mowed his lawn and asked what are you going to do with your Chevy? He answered, “you want it, twenty bucks” I said yeah, I want it, so that was it. 

You fell in love with Ferrari at a young age, what is it about Ferrari that makes people so passionate about them?
I think it’s the mystique of the car. I became a fan when I was 10 and we were on vacation up in the Catskills, at a resort where each family had their own cabin. The guy next to us was a doctor from New York and he had a short wheel-base Ferrari, and I took one look at the engine one day, he opened the hood and was showing my dad and myself. I said to the gentleman, this thing has two of everything. This has got to be the fastest car in the world, it has two oil filters, three carburetors, two distributors, it’s just got to be the fastest car in the world. Then he took me for a ride and that hooked me. 

After that it just became Ferrari was into racing and I would read Road & Track every month and then watch Wide World of Sports and watch all the racing that was going on. Then we had the Ferrari dealer in Greenwich, Connecticut and my dad used to take me down and let me look in the showroom windows. About every six months or so we’d take a ride down there and do that. As I grew older, I got to know all these guys with Ferraris and I started fixing them and the next thing you know, I was the guy going in to that showroom in Greenwich and fixing their cars, and it just hooked. You become passionate about something when you really enjoy what you’re doing and so Ferrari became my passion. 

Like us, Wayne is a fan of cars and bikes

You spend a lot of time attending many different car clubs and events. What is it about cars that brings people together?
I think it’s the relationships you make with your fellow enthusiasts that really is a big part. A car touches your senses. You can look at it and visually it’s beautiful. Then you can smell it when it starts up, and you smell the leather interior. Then you feel it as you’re sitting in the seat, the vibrations and then it’s the sense of speed. It really touches a lot of your senses where collecting a stamp, you know, it’s nice to look at and it’s got great history but it doesn’t go much further than that. 

How did your interest in collecting cars come about?
I really didn’t start collecting to collect until I think I bought my Hudson Italia which I knew I was going to keep. We had always bought and sold cars for years. There were very few cars that I kept. I kept my original Mini Cooper I bought when I was a senior in high school and still have it. But, a special car like this Hudson Italia, I knew I’d keep it and then all of a sudden, I found something else that was cool and I kept that and then I kept this. Suddenly, you have this huge barn full of cars and you go “how’d this all happen?”  

What are some of the shows that are on your list to attend every year?
There’s Pebble Beach of course, this past year has been my 37th straight year attending. Amelia Island, I’ve been to every one of Bill Warner’s events. We go to a show as a family, the Boca Raton Concours, that I’ve been the Grand Marshal of that for probably eight years now. It’s all in where your friends are. Yeah, you make new friends but there’s nothing like going and seeing old friends you haven’t seen in 6 months or 8 months, or a year. It makes a difference. 

Tell me what makes Chasing Classic Cars such a popular show?
We had a great opportunity to do something that I thought I would never be able to do in my life, and do it my way. I think the public really enjoys the show because it’s more than just automobiles. We talk about people and their relationship with cars, their family. We talk about so much and bring all of that to them and then we bring the viewers places they’ve never been before and may not ever have the opportunity to be there again. A lot of people email or call me, or just stop in and say “I’ll never make it to Pebble Beach but thanks for going and bringing me along with you.” And, you know, a lot of shows are dedicated to a certain type of mark, a certain type of drama. Our shows have no drama, it’s telling a good story and you never know what you’re going to see when you turn it on week to week. You never know what I’m going to find. It’s kind of like ok, where are we going to find Wayne this week?

How many hours of production go into making one episode?
I really couldn’t tell you. There’s a lot that goes into it; hours and hours and weeks to put one show together. I just have the opportunity to go around and do what I normally do for everyday business and they follow me with a camera. It can take a long time to put one episode together and a long time in terms of calendar because we’re working on a car today that may not be finished and go to Pebble Beach for another year. We’re finding a car, fixing it up and selling it at auction and you know, that may be process of six to eight weeks or three months or something like that. To really give you a number, I just can’t do that. We shoot at least once a week if not three or four days a week sometimes. 

You’re involved in a number of charitable events and causes. Tell me a little bit about that. 
I’m very fortunate that our show is not scripted, it’s not written and I can talk about anything I please. The network backs me up and I’m very fortunate for that. I always want to talk about autism as much as I can because it affects our family and it affects so many millions of people all over the world. I just want to be able to tell people what autism is and maybe just bring the subject up so they start looking into it themselves. So, going around to charity events and offering my time to bring awareness to it and raise money. I do a lot with Special Olympics. We have a great Special Olympics program and car shows here in Connecticut. If people ask me to do something, it’s hard for me to turn them down. My wife put a sticky note on our bathroom mirror that says no, because I don’t know how to say that word. 

Is it okay if we have garage envy?

If I opened your personal garage door today what would I find? What would be the one or two things that really stick out?
I think what people are sort of amazed with at times is how eclectic the collection is. I collect things that make me happy. I’ve got a horse-drawn carriage and somebody once asked “What do you have that for?” I said, I don’t know, every time I look at it, I love it. I love the looks of it, I love the history of it and that’s where the automobile started. I’ve got brass cars, I’ve got nickel cars, and then I have up to the modern stuff. I like cars that there are very few of. I like stuff that people have never seen before. I just bought a Griffith 200. I took it to cars and coffee in Virginia one weekend because I bought it in Falls Church, Virginia. I took it to Great Falls and people were like “I’ve never seen one of these before, only in magazines.” I like that, I like people being aware of this stuff. 

You’d find a lot of stuff. One of my favorite cars right now, and I’ve got a lot of them, is a ’65 Shelby GT 350 Mustang. It sort of does everything for me. I like American cars of that era, I like V-8s, I like the speed, the sound, the vibration and it feels like a true race car for the street. And then next to it in my garage is a 2014 Cadillac CTS-V wagon, you know 575 hp, six-speed. I think it’s a fantastic car. I love station wagons. I’ve got Paul Newman’s Volvo station wagon. 

Do you have an everyday driver?
Well, it all depends on the weather. I’ve had Mini Coopers my whole life and I bought one and just took delivery of it this morning. A ’61 one-owner car, it only has an 850 in it but it brings me back to my youth because that’s the cars I had when I was in high school. Even that little 850 Mini, it’s a ball to drive. If you get in a car and it’s just a means of transportation, what fun is that? It’s got to do something for you. 

People will ask me “how do you know when it’s time to sell a car?” You take it for a ride and you park in your driveway and walk toward your house, if you don’t look back and say “damn, I love that car,” it’s time to sell it. 

Living in rural Connecticut, do you have a favorite driving destination or road trip?
Yeah, we’ve got a road, 168, that goes down by the shore with very little traffic and a lot of twisties and stuff. My daughter and I, we let mom have Sundays off sometimes, so we’ll get in the car and go have breakfast in the morning. Just an easy drive, probably a round trip of 30 miles. 

Any tips for a successful road trip?
Well, there’s two different ways of looking at that. Sometimes, your best bet is, of course, be prepared. On the other hand, it’s a type of thrill that you just get in a car and go “well, I’m going to New Hampshire this afternoon,” and not have anything with you other than a pair of pliers and a screwdriver. If I can’t get out of trouble with a pair of vice grips and a screwdriver then I just call AAA. 

The adventure is sometimes the most exciting thing. With an old car it’s amazing. If you pull over with a problem, people stop instantaneously. But, if you have a modern car and you pull to the side of the road and put the hood up, state police will go by you, everyone goes by you. But if you have an old car you make new friends instantaneously. 

Any final thoughts?
Sometimes the question that people ask is “how did the show (Chasing Classic Cars) start?” 

Donald Osborne, who you may have seen on Jay Leno’s show, is a very good friend of mine. I had bought a Hudson Italia. I chased that car from when I was 16 years old and finally bought it at 52, the same exact car, I kept after it. Donald wrote that story for the New York Times. Jim Astrausky from my production company read it on Sunday and called me Monday morning and he came to my office and we agreed to just have him follow me around with a camera. I said I’m not an actor, I don’t know how to read a script, I don’t memorize lines but if you want to film me just being myself let’s see how it goes. That’s what happened 15 years ago. It was as easy as that. I was a very, very lucky person to have this happen to me. 

And we are very lucky to get to watch Chasing Classic Cars and live out many of our dreams vicariously through you. Wayne, thank you for taking time to talk to us a little bit about your passion for automobiles and how you got the chance to share it with the rest of the world. We look forward to catching up with you again at one of the many Concours d’Elegance, or at least get a chance to watch it on TV. Thank so much for your generosity with your time.

Tim Allen

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