Editor’s note: Follow all of the action and updates on our special Monterey Car Week page.
In June, Mark Hyman sounded the alarm for the collector car community in regard to President Trump’s proposed 25 percent tariff on importing cars and parts. While aimed at new vehicles, the tariff also would affect buying and selling vintage vehicles.
Among those who responded publicly and re-sounded the urgency of Hyman’s call to action were Sandra Button of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and John Carlson, president of the National Association of Automobile Clubs of Canada.
But Hyman took it a step further, flying in July from St. Louis, where he bases Hyman Ltd. Classic Cars, his collector car dealership, to Washington, D.C. to testify at a U.S. Commerce Department hearing.
Earlier this month, Hyman was featured in an article in The New York Times about the impact that federal tax law changes approved in 2017 by Congress — specifically the 1031 like-kind exchange program — will have on car collectors.
Why, at age 59 and after 30 years in the collector car business, has Mark Hyman decided to step forward in such a public way on behalf of the hobby and the industry that supports it?
“I’ve always been outspoken,” the never bashful Hyman said with a laugh Monday over breakfast in Carmel-by-the-Sea as he prepared for Monterey Car Week 2018.
But, he continued on a more serious vein, he has gotten to a point where he sees things he strongly feels need to be corrected and realizes that someone has to speak out.
“People can do things to change the world around them,” he said.
“These are important issues,” perhaps not in the greater scheme of world order, but at least to Hyman, his business and his friends in the car community.
While Mark Hyman’s involvement with cars began at an early age, his involvement in the community took longer to develop.
“I was obsessed with cars,” he said, adding that he still has his Matchbox and Dinky toy-car collections, as well as his first car, a 1937 Dodge pickup truck he bought and restored when he was 16 years old.
Hyman’s father owned retail tire stores. Hyman went to college to study business, but instead of the family business, he worked in real estate development. But every time he looked at a commercial property, he’d ask himself how many cars might fit inside.
After a decade, he went back to school to pursue his master’s degree in international finance. He also bought and sold a couple of collector cars at a profit.
“This is a lot of fun,” he realized, wondering if such activity might be enough to cover both grad school expenses and his monthly mortgage payment.
It was, and it has for 30 years.
At first, he specialized in finding 1950s and ’60s European sports cars that had been imported, driven and retired to Midwestern barns and garages. He’d find them, buy them and sell them to Europeans eager to repatriate their automotive heritage.
One customer was so pleased with the 1989 Facel Vega that that he sent Hyman an entire a shopping list of cars he wanted. From that point onward, Hyman was able to build the business, sending batches of multiple cars back to Europe.
“We’d build a wooden platform and put six sports cars in a container, three on the bottom and three on the top, and ship them to Europe,” Hyman said.
“Little by little I upped my game,” to the point that Hyman Ltd. specializes in the higher-end of the collector car marketplace, although he does buy and sell more-affordable five-figure vehicles if they are “unique and of special quality.”
He also likes the original Datsun 240Z, saying it had iconic status similar to the early Ford Mustangs and adding, “Tons of people had them and they are amazingly good cars,” he said.
But while some collector car dealerships focus on muscle cars or late-model supercars, and are starting to chase early Japanese cars, which some see as the next big wave, Hyman expects a resurgence coming in the full classics, the pre-war beauties with their exquisite coachwork.
“I see them coming full circle,” he said of a category that may be overlooked on the auction block where newer and sportier cars draw most of the attention.
Hyman identifies three tiers of classics.
The top tier includes only “the best of the best of the best,” high-six and seven-figure cars that, believe it or not, are easy to sell.
The real resurgence is in the middle category, among excellent cars that were restored 10-15 years ago. Many such cars are re-emerging as desirable, especially among newer collectors who are drawn to the flash and sizzle of super and sports cars but are developing more knowledgeable tastes and realize this group of vehicles can be purchased for less than their owners invested in those restorations.
Hyman said such cars offer elegant design, mechanical innovations and an easy and enjoyable driving experience and are becoming appreciated as buyers round out their collections.
However, there is a third tier of more ordinary classics, the four-door sedans and other basic cars, that don’t figure to be included in the resurgence, he said.
Hyman not only wants to supply that need but to be sure that lawmakers and government officials will keep a place for them in our country and space for them on our roads.