Robrt L. Pela | Phoenix New Times | September 23, 2000
It wasn’t enough, Roger Falcione thought, just to buy an old car. You had to be passionate about the car. You had to be willing to compete for it.
“That was a lot easier to do before the pandemic,” said Falcione, founder and CEO of the Phoenix-based Collector Car Network. “So now we’ve got a new service called AutoHunter.com.”
An offshoot of Falcione’s ClassicCars.com, the new site offers a virtual auction where you can beat out others who are after the same 1972 Dodge Challenger T/A Coupe you’ve coveted since high school.
Falcione started his first company — a website devoted to auto racing — in Boston two decades ago, then sold it to a fellow in Arizona. His wife liked the weather here, so the Falciones settled in the Valley where, he explained, he “dabbled in stuff” for a while. The sound of revving engines called to him, though. He founded ClassicCars.com, a collectible auto sale site, in 2007.
“The timing was perfect,” Falcione said with some sarcasm. “The next year, the country fell into the worst recession in decades.”
Several thousand Ford Torinos later, Falcione has built a chromed-fender empire. ClassicCars.com logs more than 1.5 million visitors each month. Buyers who can’t live without their father’s 1973 Pontiac Catalina ragtop will likely find it among listings from the site’s 500 auto dealers. For his part, Falcione makes sure that each of the cars and sellers on his site actually exists.
“Boy, there are scammers all over the place,” Falcione marveled in a phone conversation last week. “Believe it or not, they will actually steal a photo from a website and relist it as their own. The car isn’t real, the seller isn’t real. What a world, huh?”
A few years ago, Falcione noticed that the majority of visitors to his site would sort of just buy a car and then leave. So he hired a couple of former journalists and launched Classic Car Journal, an online addendum that claims 400,000 readers per month.
“All the time, we have breaking news about things in the automotive world,” he boasted. “Just all the time.”
The rest of the time, Falcione sells collectible automobiles. Buick Rivieras with 12 coats of custom paint and Ford Broncos with souped-up engines and the occasional Ford Fairlane Galaxie 500 hardtop.
“Muscle cars rule the world,” he said. “Exotics are always popular. The Ford Mustang will always be sought after. Dodges are quite important. And all age groups want a Camaro and a Chevrolet Corvette.”
Falcione said he’d been thinking about what constitutes a classic car to someone just coming of driving age today. He figured that if you weren’t working on cars with your dad, who might be obsessed with the autos of his own youth, then you might be someone who thinks of a 2003 Ferrari as “classic.”
“So we do annual car shows during Car Week in Scottsdale every January,” he explained, “and these young people who come to us about a 20-year-old Honda or a Celica, we’re helping them see the financial rewards of collecting much older cars. We tell them how in the worst year, their vintage Mustang will sell for at least what they paid for it.”
Folks selling off their collection account for Falcione moving more vehicles than ever during the current economic downturn.
“The second month of the pandemic, all sorts of good things happened,” he said. “Our traffic increased. People who had lost their jobs were selling off collectible cars because they needed money to eat. And people who have money are benefiting because they can still afford to buy cars for their collections. During the pandemic, we’ve had a 38 percent increase in people asking for specific collectible cars.”
Falcione was proud to report he hadn’t had to lay off any employees due to the country’s ruptured economy.
“In fact,” he said, “thanks to AutoHunter, we’ve added eight new employees. Some of them are in Ahwatukee, even. And they’re here to help people buy a Ferrari or a Porsche during the pandemic.”
Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ’s Morning Edition.
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