When buying and selling classic cars, Mark Hyman can never be accused of following the crowd
Mark Hyman, 58, began his career as a real estate broker during the early 1980s, a time when favourable exchange rates between the dollar and sterling meant good business was to be done by buying up some of the many British sports cars of the ’50s and ’60s that had been exported to the US, and sending them back to where they came from to feed the burgeoning collector car market in the UK and Europe.
What began as a sideline that enabled Hyman to indulge his passion for classics gradually grew into a business, leading him to abandon the real estate game and focus fully on trading cars – initially from a modest, rented garage covering an area of just 4,000 square feet.
Within two years Hyman Ltd of St Louis, Missouri, had expanded to premises of three times the size and now operates from a vast, 67,000sq ft purpose-built facility conveniently close to the city’s international airport.
Hyman Ltd maintains a continuous stock of between 200 and 250 cars at its impressive showrooms, operates a high-end restoration and repair workshop, and employs a permanent staff of 15 people.
But it’s Hyman himself who remains largely responsible for keeping pace with the firm’s remarkable average monthly sales figure of 25-30 cars, travelling the world to seek out suitably interesting, rare and often quirky vehicles with which to replenish the stock list.
Browsing through the inventory at any one time will reveal a few examples of typical post-war classics that are considered hot property among investors. But if you’re looking for the usual, endless rows of Porsche 911s, Aston Martins and Ferraris you’ll be disappointed.
Because what has driven Hyman’s success is his keen eye for tracking down the unusual, the overlooked and sometimes the unloved to create what he believes to be the largest offering of pre-war cars available in the US and probably one of the largest in the world.
As a result, he’s frequently criss-crossing the Atlantic in search of suitable stock – when we spoke, he had just returned from a trip to Europe during which he picked-up a Bugatti Atalante and a Delage skiff.
“I want people to walk into our showroom and say ‘holy cow, I’ve never seen one of those’,” says Hyman. “If they do that, I’m happy.”