Chris Koch was bitten by the car bug at an early age, and built an extraordinary career by following that passion. We asked him to share with us the story of his journey in the American auto industry, and why the Amelia Island Concours d’ Elegance is an event not to be missed.
When did you first get into cars?
Even as a small child, I always loved cars. I always knew the makes, models, and years. When I was about fourteen years old, I bought a 1949 Ford. I wanted to see what made cars tick, so I took it all apart. I couldn’t figure out how to put it back together, but I learned a lot about how it worked. I worked on cars as a teenager, and in college I won my class at a national drag racing championship. I also bought and sold cars working my way through college.
When I was trying to choose a career path, I got the good advice to “try to make your vocation what your avocation is.” So I went to work for Ford Motor Company, and eventually worked my way up to zone manager. I quickly discovered that the more lucrative side of the car business was the retail side, so I began buying dealerships.
What do you like most about the auto business?
I like that it is a dynamic business, subject to the whims of the economy. I like to be able to react quickly to those changes. It’s a highly competitive retail market, and I love the challenge.
How does the Amelia Island Concours benefit the global car community?
It’s the first major worldwide [auto] event of the new year. Our chairman, Bill Warner, is able to come up with a different twist every year, so each year is unique. I don’t know how he does it, but each time, he seems to be able to pull a rabbit out of a hat. In 2013, we were honored by Octane Magazine as having the finest car event in the world.
In what ways does it impact our region?
It’s wonderful for the economy. It leaves a huge economic footprint. The Chamber of Commerce in Amelia Island did an impact study showing that it brought in an excess of $15,000,000. It benefits the restaurants, hotels, gas stations, and trickles down to all of the businesses.
It also provides people in the Southeast region of the US to experience things they may never experience otherwise. It’s a world-class event.
What does the event offer for those who are not into car collecting?
It has something for everyone to enjoy. The amenities of the Ritz Carlton and the surroundings of Amelia Island are really wonderful.
At the event, there’s art on exhibit, and there are opportunities to test-drive cars that you may never have the opportunity to drive otherwise.
What advice do you have for someone buying a vintage car and restoring it?
Unless they are just doing it for nostalgia, I would advise them to look at it as an investment. Make sure that it is the type of car that is rising in value. Don’t buy something that needs a lot of work, and always pay a little bit more for quality.
It’s also important to try and get something that is unique. For example, some of the cars in my collection are “one-off’s,” and you can’t duplicate them. One of them is a 1934 Ford Luxus (not Lexus), which was built for Mr. Edsel Ford, the only child of Henry and Clara Ford. I also have a 1937 Packard made by Henri Chapron. Find something a little unique, and you will get your money out of it.