Vintage Car Importers in the 21st Century
Og Mandino writes: “Time teaches all things to him who lives forever, but we have not the luxury of eternity. Yet, in our allotted time we have to practice the art of patience for nature never acts in haste”. Now, I memorized this years ago when I read a little book called “The Greatest Salesman in the World” when I traveled the globe, but it never had the true meaning… or impact it holds for me today.
Simply because over the years since I started #VCI, it’s become the biggest challenge that not only got us to where we are today, but also one of the most frustrating and continuous lessons, in the seven plus years we have been operating. To bring this into context, I came back home from overseas in 2005 and decided to study International Logistics as my father owns his own logistics company, and naturally someone needed to take over the family business one day.
That said being in your mid-twenties, halfway around the world and sitting in a class with kids fresh out of High School, knowing its 3 years of commitment… and working full time for my dad, wasn’t the ideal situation as I was travelling with little responsibility for a few years. We were raised to never quit, I was ready to come home and so it was what it was. I also met my wife in my second year, who was a first year at the time and also to this day works in International Logistics.
Then in 2010 an opportunity came along which was nothing more than an idea at the time, but the seed was planted. Trading in classic cars, what commodity can be cooler than that right??? I still remember the first thing I looked up to try and sell in SA… the top twenty movie / TV cars of all time. I grew up in the Eighties and I have always had a love for old cars, so cars that immediately came to mind was the DeLorean from Back to the Future; Magnum PI’s Ferrari 308 GTS; KITT from Knight Rider; the A-team GMC van; Eleanor from Gone in Sixty seconds; James Bond’s Lotus Esprit submarine… and the list goes on.
I was fortunate to have the theory and practical simultaneously while I studied so in time it became second nature, and once you understand the Supply chain you can pretty much trade anything… or so I thought. Easier said than done, but the possibility that it could work, the ambition to remain independent… and not feel like I have been handed something I didn’t build, or for being perceived as “being born with a silver spoon” was enough to pursue this. Again, the timing was right as it was something I could start in conjunction with my responsibilities at Tankcon Logistics, so the decision to pursue this was a no-brainer and I was encouraged to go for it. Plus I had someone I could bounce ideas and strategies off. My father always taught us to “scratch our own pot” so that one day we can look back and say we did it on our own and built something from nothing.
However, resigning in 2013 after eight and something years was not met by the reaction I was expecting or hoping for. To this day I cannot be sure why. Maybe it was his fear that I would fail, sadness (or relief) that I was leaving his company? All I know is the reaction was very different to when I started. It left me wondering why we were being taught to take risks (calculated) and be independent, yet when doing so the response we get tells a different story.
I can say this, I have learned more from my father since I have been on my own than I ever did living in his house or working for him. How? “School fees”. Yes I have been warned repeatedly, no I didn’t always listen (and still don’t). I made mistakes (and still do), but it’s a lesson learnt… most of the time without repeat. In the end it’s not how we make mistakes, it’s how we correct them that define us. That is how we grow, through our own experiences and the knowledge to do it better next time. What mattered at the time was that I had encouragement and support from my wife and a friend / partner that could help me take the business online.
Taking the business online. Again, easier said than done. Given the digital technology available today and the magnitude of suppliers that specialize in building websites, one would think it would be relatively easy right? Wrong! This has probably been our biggest stumbling block over the years. While it may be simpler to build a website today, it’s not easy to build a platform that is both functional and provides the best information and advice on the products and services you offer. We have tried and partially succeeded with three websites in seven years without getting it completely right.
I say partially succeeded as I was never truly satisfied with the end result as it always lacked something. Each website had successful elements which in turn generated leads and in seven years we were never reduced to ‘cold calling’ for business but it was never exactly what we needed or wanted to communicate. Along the way we started taking more risks to diversify our business and I became a Co-Founder of My Octane, learned the ropes as a car show presenter and also became a co-creator of a vlog episode series yet to be released. We partnered up with Vamedias Productions as we dreamed beyond just selling classic cars.
Thomas Edison also said he never worked a day in his life, it was all fun, which I assume is where the saying comes from “if you love what you do you will never work a day in your life”. Personally I think its bullshit. It’s not always fun, hard work and fun don’t go together, but I love what I do so no matter how tough it might get it will be worth it in the end. The lesson learnt through these “failed attempts”, or rather what didn’t work, was to pay attention to the details that truly matter when you are in the business of selling dreams.
So, in February this year we decided to build another website, only this time a one-of-a-kind, ground-up, nut and bolt restoration so to speak. And by “we”, I mean VCI’s in-house Transmedia team of developers and creatives. We realized that there was something missing in classic car websites of today as most of them (present company included) fail to educate collectors and good advice is hard to find, as is up-to date key information. So we put it all in one place. We also wanted to create a global database of the finest classic car dealers in the world so we can assure our clients of finding the best deals possible. In addition saving time when sourcing vehicles and that way improving our clients’ purchasing experience.
The majority of the owners, enthusiasts and traders of Historic and collectible vehicles are from generation “X” so being thirty six years old and thus considered Generation “Y”, we are perceived as infants in the industry… but age is just a number and should never be underestimated. Let’s face it, this an ageing industry. The lack of general knowledge and investment opportunities in the commodity of classic cars is mostly unknown to the next generation, but more so has a stigma that only the super wealthy can afford them… which is not the case at all. Yes there are cars selling for millions of dollars, but there are also great cars that don’t cost you an arm and a leg, and acquiring the right car at the right time can yield good returns. Not only that, a classic car is something you can enjoy and use while it appreciates in value, it enables one to start trading and building a portfolio and become part of a community of car enthusiasts.
This was our goal, to offer guidance and expertise to the classic car community especially in South Africa, portraying the correct information, procedures and processes with focus on the South African community, but most importantly focusing on the next generation and the endless possibilities and adventures that stem from owning a classic car. If you don’t ask questions the answer is always no, which made our task ever more important. Over the last nine months we combined our knowledge, expertise and experiences to answer the questions we face daily. Now we are almost ready to share the new #VCI website with our community.
The South African Government also made a few changes to the import regulations regarding collectible vehicles of late which will make it much easier and way more affordable to import vehicles from outside our borders, all be it five years too late. Be that as it may, the changes could not have come at a better time, for us (in our purpose) and for the Classic Car community of South Africa. In short, it means that cars can now come in at a reduced rate and can be traded by those registered with Trade and Industry. Which in turn can create a lot of work as we have affordable labor and coachworks, but also the expertise and business acumen. Cars like Aston Martin DB5’s (James Bond’s classic Aston Martin from Goldfinger) are imported from Europe, restored to top quality in South Africa, and re-exported at half the cost, so this really does open a lot of doors for a lot of people!
The only remaining problem is the issue of importing LHD vehicles to South Africa. Not that you cannot import LHD vehicles to South Africa. Contrary to public belief it is still possible. According to ITAC (International Trade and Administration Commission)- the Governing Body that issue import permits for vehicles in SA- any vehicle pre 1965, i.e. 1964 and older qualifies as a Vintage Car in South Africa and thus automatically qualifies for an import permit, be it RHD OR LHD. So a 1961 Chevrolet C1 Corvette can be imported legally to South Africa, registered as a LHD and legally drive on our roads, as a LHD vehicle. Any vehicle after 1964, i.e. 1965 and newer can still be imported legally should it qualify as an international collector’s item, but in order to be legally driven on our roads require special concession from the MEC of Transport, or alternatively be converted to RHD within a calendar year from importation. I know, this doesn’t make any sense, age doesn’t make a difference it’s still a LHD vehicle. But neither does the delay in changes they brought in recently which is as I said, five years too late. So hopefully in another five years’ time we can expect a change in this department as well, hopefully for the better.
For now, we shall exploit the new changes and use them to our full advantage to educate and assist the classic car community of South Africa and hopefully contribute to the influx of cars through our borders. So many have left in recent years and so little coming in which has reduced the number of cars we have on offer and almost verged on the implosion of the industry.
So our vision is simple; To be the gateway for Classic cars in terms of collecting, purveying and trading, to educate and inspire the next generation and take classic cars to the 21st Century and beyond. Since 2010 we have handled and owned in excess of six hundred unique cars, each with their own story whether it be good or bad. I can probably write a book on my Mini adventures alone as I have owned more than I can count, but therein lies the beauty as no car is the same, and each car has something that makes them unique and memorable.
While my heart is in South Africa I see the world as one big car adventure waiting to happen. Being able to collect and deliver cars anywhere in the world means our reach is unlimited and we can literally offer our services on a global front. Which is extremely exciting and a challenge we look forward to. There will come a day when we close that multi-million dollar car and deliver it personally to its new owner… with a film crew as we capture one of my classic car dreams coming true.
After four years of training and time under the belt for My Octane we decided to take another leap of faith. To do something remarkable by making a new kind of Podcast/ Vlogcast. Now, if I mention the words Podcast or vlog cast to my dad, I doubt he would have the slightest idea what I am talking about and the same goes for most of Generation “X”, the majority owners and collectors of classic cars around the world. Most of whom move in smallish circles and semi disconnected from the outside world as they are not as tech “savvy” as we are. I might get a few raised eyebrows for that statement but it is not meant to be disrespectful, on the contrary we can also be teachers in turn, if given the opportunity.
Moving on, the world is ever changing. The resources available to us today means that we are no longer restricted in our approach. Podcasting is simple, it’s conversational. It isn’t Corporate or over-produced. It is an opportunity to be real, have fun and entertain the audience with our passion for classic cars, racing and whatever comes our way. NO stuffy rules to limit the fun factor! YouTube and Netflix changed how we consume content. Consumers now choose what content to watch and when to watch it, on demand!
Over the years we have forged strong relations with a few key industry players. The first is Peter Pretorius, Chairman of the Garden Route Motor Club (GRMC) whose mentorship, support and vision aligns with our aim to educate young people to become classic car people. With all the work behind the scenes, ever growing Knysna Car show, and good fortune from Government things are falling into place and we are looking toward the future and open up new dynamic partnerships to get the message out there.
One of those dynamic partnerships is with Motor Magazine, spear-headed by Johann Hauptfleisch which was formed recently, but also very long ago. It will make sense in a minute don’t worry. Johann and I have been friends for the better part of twenty years. From High school when we talked about making a car show one day (Pimp my ride with Busta Rhymes was the inspiration in our late teens), to sharing a house with three Aussies in London when he was working for CNN magazine. On our return home we embarked on a parallel journey, with him going into publishing and me into logistics and the family business, but it would ultimately come together in cars when I placed my first ad with Signature Magazine via Johann when I started #VCI. Which was risky business as it didn’t come cheap (at the time) and I didn’t really have that kind of capital. Needless to say it paid off as VCI is still around and it certainly put us on the map.
Our journeys were destined to come together again when Johann launched Motor Magazine in October 2015. In a span of two years he is on the verge of taking Motor magazine to the top spot of motoring magazines in South Africa, currently 2nd only to Car Magazine. Knowing Johann the top spot is number one on his shit-to-do-list. Our journey now enters a new chapter where I will share my knowledge and expertise within the classic car industry with Motor as they now happen to have a dedicated classic car section. Hopefully I can return the favor and assist Johann with his shit-to-do-list and contribute to the growth of their Motor community. Who knows, I might even get to write an article or two down the line 😉 It’s not what you know but who you know right? Better to have both.
Looking forward we are on the verge of launching our new website and in the not too distant future our Podcast / Vlogcast for #MyOctane. Before we get there we can promise some surprises and pivotal announcements but all will be revealed in due time. We are working as a team to achieve our goals, we have dared to dream and we have been rewarded for our efforts as we build a strong foundation for the future. I am blessed to have the guidance and support of a small yet dynamic team, who care to listen and help create the pathways to making my dream with #VCI a reality.
Since I started this blog with a quote from The Greatest Salesman in the World it is only fitting I end with it as I am about the read it again. It holds so many life lessons that we tend to forget from time to time, and it is truly an inspiring little book… that will take you ten months to read if you do it right! “The career I have chosen is laden with opportunity yet it is fraught with heartbreak and despair and the bodies of those who have failed, were they piled one atop another would cast its shadow down upon all the pyramids of the earth. Yet I will not fail, for in my hands I now hold the charts, which will guide me through perilous waters to shores, which only yesterday seemed but a dream”- Og Mandino
In the end I will leave you with these words… Welcome to the new Vintage Car Importers, how can we become part of your classic car story? #VCI Dream facilitators for the most sought after classic cars!
Blog Post Syndicated from #MyOctane click here to read the original post “Vintage Car Importers in the 21st Century” published Dec 7, 2017 @ 20:05.