Never Stop Driving #42: The storytelling art

My official title at Hagerty is Senior VP of Media, but I prefer to say that I’m a storyteller, a profession I stumbled upon while pursuing a life with cars. Few things bring me joy like having a meaty topic to research, organize, and present to an audience. As a perpetual student of the storytelling craft, this week I felt a mixture of awe and envy over Jason Cammisa’s history lesson on the BMW M1.

Cammisa is a car nerd in the best possible way. Like all of us here at Hagerty Media, he takes storytelling to obsessive levels. That means hours and hours of research to unearth unknown and curious details, which are then deftly spun into a format that’s educational and entertaining. As I often tell anyone who will listen, every car has a fascinating backstory—the trick is making it compelling. Very few do it on Cammisa’s level and I’m grateful he shares his passion with us.

The BMW M1 is a sleeper of an exotic car because it’s not on the broader cultural radar like the Lamborghini Countach and the Ferrari F40 yet it is every bit as much an automotive milestone. The M1 has the lowest value of the three—about $600K—yet is rarer and more usable. And the M1 was actually raced. This BMW is one of the oddities of the collector car market, where the hard facts don’t necessarily line up with buyer perception and preference. Come to think of it, the M1 is a great candidate for our annual roundup of up and coming collector cars, the Bull Market List.

BMW M1 interior driver cockpit

I’ve been a huge M1 fanboy ever since I raced one in 2013. I was nervous to get behind the wheel, unsure what to expect. Even back then, the M1 was worth far more than my house and it had nearly 500 horsepower in a car that weighed less than 3000 pounds. Plus I would be sharing the track with many other high-dollar vintage race cars like the Porsche 935 during the Monterey Historics at Laguna Seca. The sleek BMW, however, drove like a Miata with three times the power. The M88 inline-six stuck out for its tractable power and 9000-rpm wail. If I win the lottery, the M1 is my first buy.

BMW M1 rear badge detail

Speaking of deft storytelling, my colleague Sam Smith produced an excellent new podcast called Driven to Fail and this week he featured former Ford engineer John Coletti. You might remember Coletti as the man who saved the Mustang from extinction. He’s also one of those car execs with a huge passion for cars, a personality to match, and the drive to make something great (Coletti was also behind the first comeback Ford GT). You will love that conversation.

All our channels are updated daily with fascinating stories and information, brought to you by hugely talented car folks. Bryan Gerould uncovered the origin of the traffic cone and Brandan Gillogly discussed the mid-engine Toyota MR2 and Pontiac Fiero. Tony Angelo blew up a Ford V-8 and Cameron Neveu shared his favorite roadside attractions. Let me send you into the weekend with a couple of my own stories that I loved telling: uncovering the long-lost Bullitt Mustang and a video from that time I tried to flip a Corvair.

Before I sign off …. Ricky Bobby’s house is for sale!

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    Thank you for your succinct weekend summary of the week’s Hagerty Highlights and the interesting video about Corvairs. As I got older and more experienced I came to believe two axioms: A. There is a reason for everything- it just isn’t the reason you expected. And B. In any debate there are two sides grinding their own axes and the truth usually is some-where in the middle. There is no absolute black or white, it’s all shades of gray in between.
    The later Corvairs were great cars but the first were an attempt to make an American Beetle but suffered the chronic domestic car manufacturer disease of bean counting. Improved fan belts and mountings, gaskets and anti-sway bars made the difference on later cars.
    Was the Corvair unsafe in your hands? No, you are an extremely capable driver with a competition background. But in the hand of an inexperienced driver that dreaded oversteer was most definitely hazardous.
    My first experience with a Corvair (and I have had a lot) was going from my father’s used car dealership in Cincinnati to Dayton to pick up a nearly new Corvair 4-door from Hertz. Dad bought it after a rollover accident and I drove it back 50 miles in the rain with the roof pillars bent about 15 degrees to the right and no windshield. (The rain really pelts about 60 MPH). My head was tilted against the lowered headliner. The point is what a terrible car to hand to Joe Average car renter. Sure, Corvair Club members love them as do self-appointed crusaders for opposite reasons.
    Keep up the good work and keep your perspective.

    I agree Ralph, the Corvair’s safety is a complicated topic. Actually safety in general is complicated. I once had a safety researcher tell me that the one thing any driver can do to dramatically reduce the risk of dying in a crash is to simply stay off rural roads on weekend nights.

    I have been a LONG time member of Hagerty and ENJOY your articles & stories. Two of my brother have a few Corvairs. I collect automotive coloring book images – so far I have over 1600 for just Chevrolet from 1911-2023. Has Hagerty ever thought of doing an “activity / coloring book?” Keep up the GOOD WORK !

    Regarding your remarks on the BMW M1 in that not only were they raced but are eminently driveable to boot and yet lag behind many others pricewise I would add to that the E9 CSL. Jaguar E Types of which there are thousands outstrip them for valuation despite the CSL being a genuine homologation special produced in limited numbers and yet still a great driving usable car. It has been thus during their entire life. Difficult to understand.

    I love the thin pillars of the E9. Such gorgeous cars. I’ve somehow never driven one and you’ve given me a mission for this summer.

    I’m super impressed with Hagerty’s publications of late, and now eagerly won’t miss any of Cammisa’s episodes as soon as they’re released. He needs to do them quicker imo…. Unlike the great Clarkson’s wacky opinion on cars (but still love watching him too) , I agree with most of Cammisa’s opinions and observations…. I’d love to help you guys with the storytelling, when can I start the job? 🙂

    Larry, I saw Sam’s interview with John Coletti. Very well done and insightful. John’s are difficult guy to interview from what I’ve heard. So kudos to Sam!

    Thanks for watching. I would argue the other side….once you get Coletti going, he’s a fantastic story teller.

    Thank you to all of you at Hagerty Media for all the time and effort to inform and entertain car nerds like me. You work so very hard on each article and production. I am sure no one knows all involved to make it happen.
    Thanks and keep up the great work!

    I second that, Scott! True, I don’t read every, single article, but I often find that if I go back and click on one that I didn’t find interesting at first, I get something out of it even if it isn’t a topic that’s near-and-dear to me. Being a good storyteller isn’t easy, and it’s a special gift.

    Thank you both as we strive to produce a wide range of material. We’re very grateful to have the gigs.

    Remember Larry, the M1 launched in the era before manufacturers intentionally created “Collector Cars”. BMW made 400 because that’s what was need to homologate the model. Very few people were buying new cars as investments then. When an M1 was sold on the used car market, it was just that – a used car – suffering the same depreciation as any run of the mill Malibu. With that as a backdrop, as awesome as the M88 is, in the glorious days of 70’s and 80’s excess, who was going to spend significantly more for a 3.5L straight-six when their friends all had sexier, more powerful (as well as less expensive) V-8s or V-12s?
    I actually contemplated buying an M1 in the early 90’s, but (don’t laugh) purchased a Lancia Scorpion – and a house(!) – instead. No regrets though: did OK on the house, had a lot of fun in the Scorpion, and probably would have sold the M1 before it became stupid valuable.

    Sounds like a bit of fate in your favor Woodrow? As for the M1 as Cammisa pointed out, the car was crazy expensive when it was new. I think that the lack of an engine with a high number of cylinders or a wild bodywork, the M1 was too easy compared to a 635 or some other sports coupe.

    Larry I must commend you and the other story tellers at Hagerty. Hagerty wordsmith’s have enlightened it’s subscribers with tales of classics we may have heard of but really didn’t understand the full story. Great work by all involved.

    Larry – automotive journalists that are great story tellers – that certainly includes you and several of your editors / contributors – I also like reading John Stein’s feature articles (e.g. reconnecting with his old GTO, or his overnight adventure in his old Big Healey). Jean Jennings (a.k.a. Lindamood) and Brock Yates are two other favorites. All that said – and maybe as the result of actually knowing him, with my 11 years spent at Automobile Magazine – David E. Davis, Jr. was a master story teller par excellence – whether it was a story involving automotive topics, or just life experiences – he could hold the rapt attention of his audience like no other…


    I love a story. We all know folks who can tell a story and those who can’t. Telling one is an art. When you are on a podcast, you are an easy and interesting story teller.

    I have curiosities, ideas and questions, maybe for an interesting story. How do I send them to you?

    For example, I was thinking about how so many car models used to have both a two and a four door of the same car. (Cadillacs of the 1970s with both a coup and sedan Deville, or a Mercedes in when both two and four doors of the same model were made.
    1) What killed this? Why no more? Or at least I can’t think of any current cars like this. No two door SUVs anymore.
    2) Remember when the Explorer was only two door? Everyone knew a four door would be more useful. Then they did it and the two door died? Why wasn’t the two door left as the low price entry car? Did no one buy them once four doors started to be built?
    2) Who bought a Coup Deville in 1975 rather than a Sedan? Did they think it was actually sportier? I rode in my grandfather’s Sedan Deville, he would never have owned a two door. Not a symbol of his immigrant success and having to get out to flop the back of the seat forward for grandkids to get in the back seat to go to Dennys was not his style.

    Hey Ryan your comment is a perfect way to send your ideas. Shifting buyer preferences and the need for manufacturers to reduce factory complexity killed the 2/4 models. That’s not a perfect explanation as there are always exceptions, but a decent one. Maybe someone here can add some color. To answer your other question about who bought the coupes, I agree that’s a head scratcher. Hey, cars are emotional purchases and therefore not always rational. If they were we’d all be driving Priuses, right?

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