Wouldn’t it be great if we could buy any car that caught our eye, experience it without the usual ownership expenses, then hand it off to another enthusiast? It would be financially impossible for most of us to do this with new cars, of course. They lose so much of their value as soon as you sign on the dotted line. But what about older cars that have a more steady value? Could you even make money?
Yes, as it turns out. And it’s as fun as it sounds.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is not your average used car lot.
Like many of us, John Holmes has bought and sold plenty of cars for personal use. He and his friends eventually recognized that, at the rate they were cycling through cars, it made more sense to create a business out of doing what they enjoyed. The plan was simple: buy cars they want to drive, put some miles on them to shake out any issues – you know, strictly quality control – and sell them to the right buyer. Of course, there would naturally be some enjoyment involved between the buying and selling.
“Hey, if you give me X amount of money, I’m going to buy cars that I want to drive, that I want to experience, that were never imported to the United States or imported in super low numbers,” Holmes told his business partner. “I’m going to buy crazy stuff. You don’t really have any say in what I buy, and let’s do this.”
It helped that Holmes had a healthy resume of successful transactions to back him up. He’d spent about fifteen years prior to forming GF Motorsports buying and selling cars for a profit.
“So this gentleman got to see: here’s the buy price, here’s the sell price,” Holmes said. “He knows I have a track record of being ok with money and making money.”
Just like that, GF Motorsports was born.
On the business side of things, the thrill of the chase might be the best part. The way Holmes describes locating, assessing, bidding on, and driving enthusiast cars makes it sound a lot like big game hunting. In fact, he said the sales process is often the least enjoyable part of the equation.
He’s built a reputation (and successful track record) by selling quality cars and knowing what they’re worth. One surprisingly common challenge is responding to negotiations that turn confrontational when a potential buyer’s initial offer isn’t accepted.
“Especially when they feel completely justified in offering you X amount of money without even looking at a car, without even looking at the pictures of the car, without even getting a [pre-purchase inspection] – anything,” Holmes said.
GF Motorsports might not be the place to find a bargain, but they are almost assuredly more thorough in their car selection than most dealers.
“I look for the standard things you look for when you look for a car,” Holmes said. “No frame damage, no rust – especially on old Italian cars you really don’t want rust because you know the rust you see is ten percent of what it is. I’m super picky about what we buy, and where we buy it from, and who we buy it from.”
For someone on the buying end, it’s nice to know a car has been properly vetted. The team at GF Motorsports walks away from more cars than they buy because they are incredibly discerning and have a high standard. Often, that leads them to buy cars from Japan, even if they weren’t manufactured there. Japanese laws require a higher level of maintenance than most countries, and their car culture tends to produce meticulous owners. Rock chips on a front bumper might be considered normal wear and tear in the United States, but many Japanese drivers consider such blemishes cause for a respray of the entire car.
European markets, on the other hand, tend to be more expensive, and many of the cars exhibit more rust due to the climate. Certain makes and models are also unlikely to be seen in GF Motorsports’ lineup because the profit potential just isn’t there. Holmes would love to acquire more Porsches, for example, but the market for them is so saturated that the margins on Porsche transactions have gotten quite thin.
Of course, while many cars are purchased with the intent to sell as soon as possible, sometimes pricing is structured to allow the team to enjoy a car longer.
If you look closely, you can see the sadness that comes from another day stuck with a Ferrari F40.
“The cars over a million dollars – generally everybody knows what they’re worth,” Holmes said. “And some of the ones over a million dollars we’re not all that interested in getting rid of at the current time, so we might be asking more than market value. I call it the ‘pry it out of our hands’ price. If you’re going to pry it out of my hands, you can take it for that.”
Holmes is a no-nonsense salesman, without a doubt. But don’t forget that he’s a car guy first.
“I absolutely love, on the flip side, when somebody emails me and says ‘hey man, I’d like to talk to you about a Lancia Delta Integrale Evo I or II because I don’t know the differences,’” he said. “Man, I’ll spend all day on the phone talking about that.”
Because the company is owned and operated exclusively by verifiable car people, the inventory is as eclectic as it is excellent. Whether you have a budget of $25,000 or “yes,” there’s probably something for you. At the time of writing, their offerings include Chevrolet Corvettes from 1994 to 2019, two generations of Dodge Vipers, delicacies like a BMW Z8 and a Lancia Delta Integrale Evoluzione II, and a pair of Ferrari’s greatest hits: the F40 and Enzo. No minivans or continuously variable transmissions here, thank you.
For what you’d spend on any number of generic crossovers, you could have a Corvette ZR1. Choose wisely.
It’s not hard to see why signing over the title to cars like that is harder than moving Accords and Altimas off the lot.
“All the Lancias when they leave, I have a mixed-emotion day,” Holmes said. “I’m generally not good to be around that day, and I’m kind of less than pleasant.”
With an inventory that diverse comes an equally varied clientele – especially when it comes to cars that gained stateside notoriety in video games and television.
“I’ll have some 20-something kid that I don’t think can afford this car walk up and hand me cash for something I didn’t even think he knew existed,” Holmes said. “I’ll get a 70-year-old man that pulls up and, you know, I thought this guy was 40-something, he’s 70, and he lived in England, and used to go to rallies, and that’s what he wants. All over the map.”
To be honest, I don’t think I’d have the heart to sell this one.
After buying, driving, and selling some incredible cars, there are always others to look forward to.
“I have a list that aren’t mature enough for us to import yet; i.e., don’t meet the 25-year rule,” Holmes said. “I can’t tell you why, because I don’t like anime, and I don’t like cartoons, and I don’t care about transformers, but I want a Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution so bad. There’s two in the United States that have United States titles, and I’m so furious that certain states will allow a lot of things to slide. Texas is not one of them. I’d love to have that. I’m a huge wagon guy. My wife and I are both wagon people. So a Stagea – which is the Skyline station wagon – love to have one of those.”
Life in the world of cars has given Holmes a great perspective, and we’d do well to take his advice.
“I have an unwritten rule that if a car doesn’t do 1,500 miles a year, you have to sell it because I don’t own artwork,” he said.
When it comes time to buy, the first thing he recommends is checking your emotions at the door. Buy with your head, and your heart will be happier in the end.
“Find somebody that deals in the car that you want,” Holmes said. “Find somebody that owns the car that you want, even if you have to get on a plane and travel to them. Travel to them, look at the car, look at as many of that marque as you can. Find somebody that’s reputable that can find you one, and pay them their fee. Always inspect the car, always inspect the car, always inspect the car. Whether you have somebody that knows what they’re doing that you trust inspects the car, whether you fly to it yourself.”
Heed those words, and you will find what you’re looking for. Remember that you’re chasing a car, not a transactional victory.
“You just have to be patient,” Holmes said. “The right car is out there. And if it’s the car you want, and it’s the right car, and it’s a little bit more money than you want to pay, pay it. Be done with it.”
Scott is a lover of motorized fun, whether on four wheels or two. A child of the ’90s, he has a particular soft spot for hatchbacks and believes all aging cars deserve a second chance at life. Scott works as a freelance marketer for Dingo Productions in Fort Worth, Texas. If he’s not behind a camera or a computer, he’s probably chasing down new coffee shops with his wife or throwing a frisbee for his dog.
The views and opinions expressed here are his own and may not align with the founders of Everyday Driver.