By Jimmy Magahern
CEOs of Airpark businesses catering to car collectors have their own auto obsessions.
Adam Corolla is obsessed with owning every car Paul Newman ever drove.
The TV and podcasting personality, a major Newman fan who in 2015 wrote and directed the documentary Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman, is said to own the largest collection of cars built for the legendary actor, race car driver and salad oil magnate. And he’s determined to complete it, say those in the rarefied world of vintage car collecting.
“He just paid $4.4 million for the 1979 Porsche 935 that Newman owned,” says Chris Hines, who, as president of Arrow Lane Racing and Restoration in the Scottsdale Airpark, specializes in restoring, fabricating and racing vintage race cars. Back in 2011, Hines and his friend Bob Hardison, president of Hardison/Downey Construction, purchased a 1990 Oldsmobile Cutlass Trans-Am race car owned by Newman and driven by his star driver, Scott Sharp, who together propelled the Newman-Sharp sports car racing team to multiple victories. Corolla heard about it and began putting in a few calls to Scottsdale.
“Adam Corolla has been trying to buy this car from Bob and I for the last six years,” says the goateed 54-year-old pro driver, who cut his teeth racing dirt cars and sprint cars in the ’80s and competed in NASCAR from 2000 to 2004. “But he’s not gonna get this one! We want to drive it and race it.”
Hines says he raced the Newman-Sharp Olds at the Coronado Speed Week races in San Diego two years ago and won handily with the “stupid fast” car, which Arrow Lane fitted with a new transmission, among other period-correct modifications. For Hines and others into vintage sports car racing, though, it’s not only about the horsepower but the history: Hines says Arrow Lane’s team spends an enormous amount of time researching where their expensive finds came from, along with who drove them and what races were won with the vehicles.
“It was the first car built in the latter part of ‘89 for the ‘90 Trans-Am series, and Scott Sharp finished second in the championship in that car,” he says of the Cutlass. “It’s really extremely rare.”
At any given time, you can find between 30 and 40 rare sports cars under the roof of Arrow Lane’s 10,600-square-foot garage just east of the Scottsdale Airport runway. Started by Edie Arrowsmith, one of vintage racing’s pioneering women drivers (who now lives in California, where several of the largest annual races are held), the shop houses many of the historically significant sports cars that its clients – primarily wealthy business magnates who travel the vintage racing circuit as a hobby – keep at the shop between competitions.
“Basically what we do is we take our clients racing all over the place, and we maintain and take care of their cars when they’re not driving them,” Hines says. “Most of them fly in and fly out, they drive their cars for the weekend and then we bring their cars home at the end of the weekend, go back through them all again and get them ready to go for the next time.”
As the man in charge of, as he says, “bringing these cars back from history,” Hines gets to drive all of the multimillion-dollar collector’s vehicles that Arrow Lane maintains.
“Whenever we restore a car, the first guy that drives that car is me,” he says. “I’m kind of like the Arrow Lane test dummy. I make sure it’s operational and actually does what it’s supposed to do before I put someone else in it.”
When he’s not hitting Firebird Raceway to test-drive pricey gems like the 1968 Lola 270 Spider that Scottsdale homebuilder Steve Hilton keeps at Arrow Lane and the “pile” of ’65 and ’66 Mustang Shelby GT350s the facility boards, Hines also maintains an impressive fleet of his own classic sportsters.
“I’m currently campaigning a 1983 Firebird that was raced by [retired Sports Car Club of America racing champion] Rob Dyson in period,” he says. ”I also have some fun street cars that I drive. I have a 1968 Chevy C10 truck with a 550 horsepower LS3 engine in it that we call Goldilocks, because of its gold exterior. That’s my little daily driver. I also have one of the new 2017 Dodge Challengers that’s been completely upgraded with crazy suspension, crazy wheels. It’s 575 horsepower, 600 foot-pounds of torque, and it’s a car I drive back and forth to work. And I’m currently in the middle of rebuilding a 1968 big block, all-aluminum L88 station wagon Corvette, which is very rare — there’s very few that were ever built. Quite frankly, it’s a pretty weird-looking deal! But I fully expect it to be a very competitive race car.”
As co-owner, with wife Josephine, of the Russo and Steele collector car auctions, Drew Alcazar is acutely aware of the hazards of being a car nut working so closely with European sports and American muscle cars all the time.
“Well, you know the old adage: Don’t get high on your own supply!” says the affable auto auctioneer, parroting Michelle Pfeiffer’s classic unheeded advice to Al Pacino in Scarface on selling coke. “I’ve never had much luck adhering to that, I’m afraid,” he adds, with a laugh.
“But truthfully, the Russo and Steele Auction was always just kind of a natural extension of the enthusiasm Josephine and I have for eclectic cars,” he adds. “And I think that’s kind of the appeal of the auctions, to some degree. We’ve always kept it real close and personal – kind of like inviting people over to our home.”
Alcazar estimates there are probably 25 or so cars in the couple’s personal collection at the moment, including a Ferrari 250 GT Coupe he recently purchased to match the Mercedes-Benz Cabriolet that Josephine favors. All of the Alcazar’s personal cars are owned jointly, Drew says, although there’s sometimes a his-and-hers division in who drives them.
“There are some cars that she wouldn’t be caught dead in – like the 1970 Mark Donahue-edition AMC Javelin I bought. So there are some cars that are mine just more or less by default.”
As for which is his favorite, Alcazar says that often comes down to practicality.
“My favorite is the one that, when I go out to the garage, it starts and runs,” he says, laughing. “It’s the joys of collecting old cars. You get in one, and discover it’s got a bad battery. Get in another, and it’s just not running quite right because the carburetor is gummed up. Finally you go through three or four and one actually behaves itself and you go, ‘Okay, this is the one I’m taking!’
“It’s nice to have a variety of cars,” he continues. “Cars that you can vintage race, cars that you can rally and cars that are just fun to jump into on a Sunday morning and go to breakfast in, like our little 190 SL Mercedes. That’s about the only time that one sees the light of day. But all of our cars actually have some sentimental value for us. Josephine still has the very first Jaguar I bought for her after we were married as a Valentine’s gift. And I’ve got a 1980 Trans Am that’s got only 370 miles on it. People scratch their heads when they see that one. But the scoutmaster in my Boy Scouts troop had one, and I thought it was so cool that when I actually could afford one, I had to get it. That’s often how it goes.”
Another problem for obsessive car collectors is finding a place to store all their hulking possessions. The Alcazars keep most of their cars at the Russo and Steele showroom east of the airstrip off Redfield and Hayden Roads, along with a few at home and in Newport Beach, where the company holds another annual auction (a third is held yearly in Monterey). But Alcazar is well aware his collection may eventually outgrow those facilities as well.
“I’ve come to find warehouses are like bodies of water: They sort of seek their own level,” he says. “The minute I had a 10,000-square-foot warehouse, I filled it up. Then I got a 30,000-square-foot warehouse and I filled that up.”
Alcazar laughs. “To any collector that uses the excuse, ‘Hey, I can’t buy another car because I’m out of room,’ I tell them, ‘That dog doesn’t hunt,’ because none of us think that way. We always buy more cars than we know what to do with. That’s just part of the craziness.”