From his F40 Motorsports in Portland, Conn., Carini works the major auctions and concurs shows, along with tracking down rare and valuable vehicles thanks to a network of contacts built over 40 years in the business. That Carini even does this for a living was something of a accident as well; while he started working in his father's shop in grade school sweeping floors for $5 a week, he went to college to become an art teacher, but ended up taking over his family business in 1973.
"I had no idea I would be doing this when I was in school," he said in an interview, "but because of my love of Ferraris, that’s what hooked me."
And Carini had more exposure to Ferraris as a kid than most, thanks to a friendship with Luigi Chinetti, the man who built Ferrari's business in the United States and did more than anyone outside of Enzo Ferrari to build the prancing stallion's reputation in racing. Carini's specialty is classic Ferraris, and among those he's restored include Chinetti's own unique Ferrari 365P Tre Posti three-seater.
"That was one of the big reasons I was in love with Ferrari," Carini said. "My dad and I, we’d go down to Merritt Parkway to Chinetti's, and I would get to look in the window of his showroom. Down in the basement was the Tre Posti." Years later, Luigi Chinetti Jr. called on Carini to restore the Tre Posti for the Meadowbrook Concours — and gave him a deadline of four weeks. "We put six guys on the project, stripped all the paint off, took it apart, re-did the suspension, painted the car...and we showed it at Meadowbrook. Then we took it to Pebble Beach, and showed it for Mr. Chinneti. It was like a dream come true to drive it on the lawn at Pebble."
While the restoration and auction scenes of "Chasing Classic Cars" hold the drama — and occasionally some financial pain for Carini when a project doesn't earn back its investment — what makes the show unique is his talent for finding cars that haven't been shown in public for decades. While Carini had a strong network of contacts before he became a TV personality, the show has only helped him uncover more rarities, like a 1938 Bugatti Type 57S Atalante owned by an heir to the Macy's department store fortune who left it in a barn for decades. The car later sold for more than $700,000.
"We have a great find coming up this year in the fourth or fifth episode, a Lamborghini Miura in the Midwest, just sitting in the garage since the '70s, covered in cobwebs," Carini said. "Every time you think you’ve found the ultimate car or circumstance, there’s always another one that takes over. It’s like having Christmas every day." Another episode features him reuniting with a Hudson Italia, a rare Italian-bodied coupe, that he first saw when he was 16 years old.
The global boom in auto collecting has made several of Carini's finds million-dollar deals; Carini says he appreciates the financial attention, but tells his clients that they're investments are meant to be driven, not just parked. "They only made so many vintage cars," he says, "and with the wealth and they way the world is now, there are only so many cars to go around."
The first two episodes of "Chasing Classic Cars" airs on Velocity next Tuesday at 10 p.m.; Carini says the show will have 26 episodes filming through fall, and he and Velocity have talked about doing it as long as he's still interested.
- Luigi Chinetti