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"My father bought a 1947 MGTC when I was 5 years old.  That is my trigger car.  I remember riding on the platform that is behind the driver’s seat with my sister.  No seatbelts and our heads were above mom and dad’s.  The wind in our faces was fabulous.  There was a bar across the back of the driver and passenger seats that my dad called the “Chicken Bar.”  He would say, “If you are a chicken you’ll hold on.  Otherwise put your hands in the air like you’re on a roller coaster!”

 

Former Griot's Garage President and Founder of CarsYeah.com, Mark Greene

by Ziva Allen

 

Fill R UpMark Greene is an automotive enthusiast.  He is also an entrepreneur.  Lucky for us that he has chosen to combine the two and devote his time to interview other automotive enthusiasts and bring us their fascinating, entertaining and informative stories via his podcasts at carsyeah.com.  Take a look below at what Mark has to say and then check out carsyeah.com for a closer look into what makes Mark tick and to listen to his interviews.

 

Q.  I appreciate your ability as an interviewer to “get under the hood” as you say of your subject.  Obviously this is a key ingredient that makes your podcast so successful.  When did you first realize your talent for interviewing people? 

 

 

A.  I have attended races, car shows, concours events, and more for over 40 years.  Since he was a little boy, I often took my son Blake with me to these events.  In fact, he’s attended the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance for 13 years in a row and he’s only 21.  After helping to build a car care company for 20+ years, I left to start something new.  One day while walking with my son, I asked him, “What do you think I should do?”  This is a question more typical for a son to ask his father than visa versa.  Blake said, “Dad, you’ve taken me to car events my entire life.  What is it that I always tease you about when we get there?  You can’t walk past a car without stopping and talking to the owner.  You ask questions about their car, their life, and their passions. There’s your answer.  You should start a podcast.”  I guess you could say I’ve been interviewing people my entire life.

 

Q.  Tell us about your podcast?  For how long have you been doing your podcasts?  Who are your favorite few interviewees and why?

 

 

A.  I launched Cars Yeah on the 28th of May 2014.  That was one year after I left my last position at Griot’s Garage.  I produce and host 5 shows a week, Monday through Friday.  Choosing a favorite guest is like asking me to choose my favorite child.  This is very difficult because they all have a unique perspective on their lives and careers around automobiles.  However, if I must choose a few, I would suggest Jonathon Ward of ICON, Wayne Carini from Chasing Classic Cars, Rod Emory from Emory Motorsports and Peter Brock from BRE.

Q.  You’re an automotive enthusiast.  You’re also quite the entrepreneur from what I have read about you.  Although I think many people yearn for a life in which they can earn a living doing what they love, very few are that fortunate.  How did you go from bicycle pin-striping your way through college to Griot’s Garage?

 

A.  My father had his own architectural firm in San Diego where I grew up.  Dad grew up on a farm in Texas and I suspect his farming work ethics and mentality rubbed off on me.  My father and mother both worked very hard and always provided the necessary things for my sister and me.  I was fortunate to live in La Jolla, a beautiful seaside suburb of San Diego.  It’s an affluent area.  However, we were not as affluent as most of my friends’ parents.  As a result, I was exposed to many successful people.  Seeing their lives pushed me to figure out how to be like them, from a financial standpoint.  Since I knew my parents were not going to buy me all the cool toys my friends had, I had to figure out how to do it on my own.  Both my parents always encouraged my ideas about how to make extras spending money.  I had a paper route for 5 years.  Getting up at 4:00 AM every morning and venturing out on my bike in the dark, rain or not, instilled a work ethic.  If people didn’t have their paper in time, the phone would start ringing.  The good thing about getting up early is that I would finish my route and have time to surf before going to school.  I had many money making ventures from pin striping my friends’ bikes to a venture with my buddy Steve called the Playboy Bar.  We built a boys only clubhouse, outfitted it with cool stuff we got for free from people in the neighborhood and served drinks to the neighbor kids.  We figured out we could buy liters of soda and serve them in cups and turn a nice profit on every drink.  We expanded to candy bars we would buy in bulk and resell for double our cost.  We found a stash of his dad’s old Playboy magazines (this was the 60s so they were rather tame back then) and let the club members look at the pictures.  It was a nice money-maker until someone blabbed to his sister and she told her mom and Steve’s mom shut us down.  My next door neighbor was a bachelor FBI agent.  In 1973 he purchased the new Mercedes 450 SL.  I was admiring it in his driveway and he asked me if I would clean it for him since he often saw me washing my parents' cars in our driveway.  I was 15 years old.  He let me back it out of his carport and drive it to my house, albeit only next door.  I spent all day on that car and returned it before dinner.  He said it was cleaner than when he got it from the dealer.  I said thanks and started to walk away.  “Wait, how much do I owe you?” he asked. “You mean you want to pay me?” was my response.  “Of course! I didn’t expect you to wash the car for free.”  He laughed.  He gave me $25 dollars.  That was a fortune and I ran in the house very excited.  My father said he noticed how much I enjoyed detailing the SL and suggested I start a detailing business.  I stayed up late, designing a flyer and dad made copies for me the next day at his office.  The next morning I put them in my newspapers and that night the phone started ringing.  AutoCare was born.  I ran that detailing business through college and a few years into my marriage.  Both the paper route and my car care business taught me many things about interacting with people, business, communications and it provided me with a very nice income.  Funny how I ended up back in the car care business at Griot’s years later.

 

Q.  Tell us about Griot’s Garage.  What was your involvement?  What was your position there?  Were you an/the owner?  How long were you there? 

 

 

A.  I majored in Graphic Design in college with a business minor.  I landed an internship at a design firm in San Diego while in college and ended up workingCars Yeah 4 there for 11 years.  While there I became a partner and I was the creative director and I also went out to land clients.  Griot’s Garage was just starting and they mailed me their first catalog after acquiring the local Porsche Club mailing list of which I was a member.  I called on them and convinced them our firm was the one they needed to design and produce their catalog (this was prior to the internet days).  I became friends with the owner and he asked me if I wanted to join him in building the business.  There were only 5 people in the company at that time.  I received a small percentage of ownership and joined Griot’s as the Marketing Director responsible for the brand development, merchandising, marketing, design, copywriting, and more.  The company was small so I wore many hats.  I traveled extensively all over the world to find products we could sell.  I designed all the marketing materials including the catalog, packaging, advertising, etc.  I created product lines and was responsible for merchandise selection.  I wrote all the copy for the products, usage descriptions on the bottles and designed and produced a 100 page how-to car care book that sold in the thousands.  I directed photo and video shoots.  Over time I became the President and the company grew from a direct mail catalog business into e-commerce, manufacturing of our own car care products that I helped develop, to retail sales.  We built our own distribution and manufacturing facility in the mid west and I designed the layout, look and feel of a corporate headquarters in Tacoma Washington where we had a flagship retail store, events center, a car care school and concours area.  I was there for 20+ years and when I left, I sold back my ownership shares and real estate interest in our facility.

 

Q.  On your website you mention a pivotal moment for you occurring while watching a Ted Talks video by Simon Sinek, which led you to create your Cars Yeah website.  Tell us what you learned in that video that caused you to recognize your desire to inspire (ooh I like that!)?

 

 

A.  Since I was a child I have been inspired by all things automotive and the people who create them and love them.  When I was developing the concept for Cars Yeah, one of the key elements was “Why.”  Why should I do this?  I watched a great video on Ted Talks by Simon Sinek where he suggests one should “Start with Why.”  Sowhy?  Because I enjoy people and cars.  Finding a way to combine the two and provide others with inspiration became my Why.  So, I decided that Cars Yeah should be a place for inspiration.  The mantra Inspiring Automotive Enthusiasts™ is a double entendre.  It is a place to inspire automotive enthusiasts and a place to learn about inspiring automotive enthusiasts.  These are people who have figured out how to wrap their passion for cars into their lives and vocations.  I trust I have found my why.  I hope my listeners are inspired by the stories.  I have started receiving emails from listeners that tell me it has worked for them.  By making my guests the stars and promoting them and their businesses I’m giving more than I’m getting.

 

Q.  What was your major in college?

 

A.  I attended UCSD in La Jolla California for two years out of high school as a Communications major.  I then attended UCLA for a year and transferred to San Diego State University as a Graphic Design major with a minor in Business Administration.

 

Q.  I absolutely love your photography skills and your eye for an interesting shot!  Do you photograph non-automotive related objects/subjects as well?

 

 

A.  Thank you for your kind words.  I have loved photography since I was in junior high school and shot for our high school yearbook where I was on the editorial staff for two years.  I have mostly photographed my two children as they grew up, nature around the ocean since I spent so much time on the beach as a kid surfing, and of course cars.

 

Q.  Do you participate in track day events?  If so, what are your favorite tracks and why?  What is your current track car?

 

 

Cars Yeah 3A.  I attended my first track events with the Porsche Club in San Diego participating in autocross with my 1974 Porsche 911 and 1984 Porsche 911 Cabriolet.  When we moved to the Pacific Northwest I did a lot of track days with the BMW and Porsche Clubs in my E36 and E46 BMW M3s and my 1991 Porsche 911 and a 1998 Porsche C4S 911.  I took a performance driving school at Skip Barber Racing at Laguna Seca Raceway.  There I received my racing license and started racing vintage cars with SOVEREN, our local vintage racing club.  My first car was a 1960 Lotus 18 formula junior.  Then I graduated in to a 1972 Lola T290 sports racer.  I mostly raced at Pacific Raceway in Seattle but I also ran at Laguna Seca, Sear Point, Elkhart Lake, and Thunderhill.  Each track has its own challenging and fun elements and if I had to pick a favorite, I would say Laguna Seca.  I love the many different features and challenging corners at that track and feel most at home there even though I’ve been around Pacific Raceway a lot more times.  I purchased a few motorcycles and did some track days on them but mostly rode on the street.  The bikes were an MV Agusta F4 and a Ducati Monster. I stopped racing as my time became more and more limited and the high costs were draining my children’s college funds so as I say, my sponsorship dollars were diverted to more important areas in my life, my children.  I sold the bikes after far too many near misses due to inattentive drivers who nearly hit me on the streets.  I still have an E46 M3 and a 1987 Porsche 930 Turbo that are both fun lapping day cars.  I would very much like to get back on the track in a vintage car and if I had my choice it would be an open wheel F2, 1960 era race car.

 

Q.  Do you also enjoy driving for pleasure?  What about driving do you like?

 

A.  I do enjoy driving and love club tours in older cars.  The friendships in club events, whether concours shows, track days or club driving tours are great.  Getting out on fun roads in an old car puts my mind in another place.  You slow down a bit compared to the intensity of racing and you can relax.  I had a Beck Spyder (a replica of the iconic Porsche 550 Spyder James Dean drove and died in) and that was a really fun car to tour in.  Open top.  No radio nor was there a heater.  Just driving with my string back gloves and the open road.  My son and I drove it from Long Beach California to Gig Harbor were we live when I purchased the car.  Five days on the road with an 8 year old.  It was great and a fun story in of itself.  I hope one day to participate in many of the iconic tours around the world in a historic car like the Mille Migle in Italy and the many tours here in the United States.

 

Q.  What was your first car?

 

A.  My first car was a 1967 Chevrolet Nova.  While I didn’t really like it that much (a four door granny car), it provided me freedom and a way to get my friends and me to the beach to surf.  I sold it for three times what I paid for it after a year and bought my “poor man’s Porsche,” a 1967 VW Karmann Ghia.  That was a really fun car.  I repainted the car in a mixture of Porsche Guards Red and Porsche Tangerine.  I rebuilt the engine and did a bunch of modifications and drove it through college.  In high school I was known as the Ghia Kid and I was the only one that covered my car every day at school.  I would love to have another Ghia someday.

 

Q.  I think we all have memories that are inextricably linked to cars we’ve had, especially as children, whether they be family vacations, Sunday drives and so on.  I know for me, every time I see a classic old blue Ford station wagon (nowadays only in the movies), it reminds me of how my dad used to hide our dog in the back to sneak her into drive-in movies with us!  Tell us about a car that you’ve owned that triggers a grand memory for you (keep it clean....kidding), whether it be something fun, sad, celebratory...

 

A.  My father bought a 1947 MGTC when I was 5 years old.  That is my trigger car.  I remember riding on the platform that is behind the driver’s seat with my sister.  No seatbelts and our heads were above mom and dad’s.  The wind in our faces was fabulous.  There was a bar across the back of the driver and passenger seats that my dad called the “Chicken Bar.”  He would say, “If you are a chicken you’ll hold on.  Otherwise put your hands in the air like you’re on a roller coaster!”  Of course nowadays he would be pulled over for risking his children but we would put our hands up and scream.  The other trigger car is my Beck Spyder as I mentioned before.  The memories of that 5 day road trip I took with my son will be with me forever.  I wrote a story about it that will be published in an upcoming book by one of my Cars Yeah guests David Dickinson titled The Old Car Nut Road Trips.  

 

Q.  What car(s) do you currently drive and why?

 

A.  My daily driver is an E46 M3.  It is a great all around fun car.  I’ve had four M3s and they are super fast yet comfortable for communing in traffic.Cars Yeah  Fortunately my commute is now down the hallway as I work at home so the car sits far too much.  My fun car is a 1987 Porsche 930 Turbo.  One of only three painted in Metallic Orange at the Porsche factory.  It was a dream car for me in the 80s and I finally have one.  I found it on eBay about 4 years ago.  I recently sold my 1972 911S that was a great collector car as well.

 

 

Q.  What is your dream car....that you haven’t (yet) owned and why?

 

A.  There are too many and choosing one is near impossible. So, I’ll give you my top ten:

1973 Porsche RS Carrera

1956 Austin Healey 100M Le Mans Competition Roadster

1970 Ferrari Dino 246 GT L Series

1990 Ferrari F40

1961 Jaguar E-Type Series 1 3.8 Litre Roadster

1958 Porsche 550A Spyder

1977 Lamborghini Countach LP400 Pericopio

1971 Lamborghini Miura SVJ

1958 Mercedes Benz 300 SL Roadster

1958 Porsche 356A Carrera

1964 Ferrari 275 GTB/C Speciale by Scaglietti

Oops, that’s eleven.  The why part of these selections has to do with their design, the engineering that went into them and their place in automotive history as tradition breakers, whether on the race track or in people’s hearts and minds.

 

 

As for newer cars…

2003 Ferrari Enzo

2014 Aston Martin Vanquish

2015 Porsche Cayman GTS

2015 Lamborghini Huracan LP 610-4

2015 Ferrari 458 Italia

2015 Porsche Turbo S

 

Q.  How do you explain the common fascination people have with cars?

 

A.  Cars provide people with a specific feeling.  Feelings are what drive (excuse the pun) people to do things.  We make most of our purchases because of how that product makes us feel.  Automobiles evoke feelings because of the past experiences we’ve had with them and because of what their perceived future experiences with that vehicle will be.  It’s emotional.

 

Q.  Any one or two pieces of advice you can give our readers regarding how best to protect their cars after a hard day at the track?  You know, there’s some serious dirt and grime kickin’ up out there!

 

MarkGreeneA.  I was integral in developing the line of car care products while at Griot’s.  As a result, I know a lot about protecting the surfaces of your vehicle and their proper care.  I’m a nutcase when it comes to keeping my cars clean.  I wash them in the rain, in the garage, and while on road trips.  Without getting in too deep, it starts with keeping up on the cleaning and not letting things go too long between washes.  When dirt, grime, oils, brake dust, bird bombs, sit on the surface it eats away at the paint.  A good coat of wax or sealant helps and wiping the car down in a proper manner as often as possible is always best.  There are so many great products on the market, and lots of poor ones, so try things and discover what works best on your vehicle and in your environment.  Keep it clean!

 

Q.  Do you have any future plans regarding your Cars Yeah website that you can share with us?

 

A.  Cars Yeah started as a platform for podcasts.  The shows are accessible via the Cars Yeah website, iTunes, Stitcher and Cars Yeah Youtube.  The show will soon appear on a new on-line subscriber service called Autowerkz.TV where visuals will be added to the show.  I am forming alliances with quality automotive companies and the Cars Yeah website will soon have those products featured for discerning automotive enthusiasts to find and access.  I will be building out a Resources area on the site as well so that enthusiasts can utilize that area for finding the best in automotive products and services.  There are future plans down the road to expand Cars Yeah into much more so stay tuned and enjoy the journey.

 

Thank you Mark for a great interview! 

 

 

For more information about Mark, his podcasts, to read his blog and much more, go to carsyeah.com.  

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