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John Marconi on New and Old Technology in the Automotive Industry

Charlie Guarino talks with John Marconi, owner and trustee of the Marconi Automotive Museum, about his passion for car collecting, giving to charity and the future of automotive technology

Charlie Guarino: Hi everybody. Welcome to another edition of Tech Talk SMB. This is Charlie Guarino and normally when I'm doing these interviews, it's typically done online, and the special guest is at their remote location. This is a different situation because I'm actually on site today and I'm here in Tustin California at the Marconi Automotive Museum. I have the unique pleasure and privilege to sit here with the owner and trustee John Marconi. John, it is such a pleasure to be with you today in this wonderful museum.
 
John Marconi: It's an honor. Thank you. Thank you for coming.
 
Charlie: Thank you very much. This is a unique opportunity.
 
John: Especially all the way from New York. 
 
Charlie: All the way from New York yeah. I wish I could have driven in one of your cars instead of taking the flight but that's okay. John, I did have a chance to look at your cars and I tell you. It's just an impressive, impressive collection you have here, and I'm just blown away by it. I know you have some interesting things to talk about the museum so let's get started with that. So, first of all, how did the museum even get started?
 
John: It was kind of interesting. My dad and I, you know, we've collected cars since I was in my teens, and it was those deals where we started racing—he and I were racing. It was interesting. I got him into racing VS him getting me into the racing. Usually, the father passed it down to the son and gets them into racing. It was the other way around, so I started in go-carts and then moved up the ladder from there into four-wheel Ford, Atlantic and Indie lights and TTP, TTU, and Dayton and Sebring but what we did is we raced for probably 35-25-35 years and the third child for me came and then you know we didn't—I wasn't making a living at racing. I was racing to have fun. It became—we had very lucrative business that we created. My father is brilliant and it got to the point where I looked at it one day and my wife and I sat down and say it's all about me and not about the kids so at that point in time I pulled the plug and we retired from racing but the interesting thing is when we—my dad and all of us stopped racing, we had all these wonderful cars in this collection which now is almost—well it's over 100 cars and motorcycles. My Dad said, well what are we going to do with this? I mean this is all about us, again thinking about it's just about us. He came up with the idea and said why don't we put a nonprofit, a foundation together and through special events use the money that we make for kids at risk. His philosophy is learn, earn, and return. Our motto is that children are 100% of our future and whether it be our kids or our grandkids, we've got to make some series changes to this planet. So, the big picture we started the nonprofit, the foundation, put it all together and it was with great success. We have special events here and we've got a kitchen that will feed 600. We do big events, a 35-foot diagonal screen with 10,000-watt surround sounds so what we did is put together programs where we had birthday parties, celebration of life, whatever you want to do inside the museum. Prior to that, my dad's wife took it over, Bo, and she did a hell of a job, put the whole program together over the last 15-20 years and prior to Covid we were donating almost a million dollars a year to kids at risk.
 
Charlie: Wow.
 
John: So, since Covid, since the first of the year my daughter and myself, who is the CEO, has taken it over and the third generation is now in place. We're taking the museum to a whole different level. 
 
Charlie: That’s, first of all, that's wonderful. The foundation for kids is really—it's just a great example of giving back. It's really a testament to your generosity and all those great things. So, as I was walking around and looking at some of the cars, these cars are well out of my league as far as driving them on the street so what kind of cars do you—I mean, I can read the brands obviously. What kind of cars are they? I've seen muscle cars; I've seen high performance cars. What’s the collection compromised of?
 
John: We get asked that quite a bit. They look at the museum and they go well okay. What was the motive—what was your motive behind collecting these cars? They were looking for some kind of continuity. A lot of people will collect all 55 Chevys or they'll collect all four Corvettes or a specific year of Corvette with every kind of model, make, and style—
 
Charlie: Right, right, exactly.
 
John: Of that particular car. We have everything from—I mean we've got a—we're— what am I looking for—dirt track started as far as—it's got a—it's Model T frame with Model A motor in it and it's a simplex. That is where the early roundy round dirt racers started and all the way to the latest state of the art. We've got a Buggati Veyron in here that—it's one of 12 roadsters that was ever build in the Gen 1 Buggati. We've got a Lambarghini Aventador in here with a gulf livery on it; it's gorgeous so it's everything from the latest state of the art cars to where it all started. We've got two Model A's here, a Model T and it gives everybody a cross section. When they walk in, they go oh I remember that. I grew up with that or I grew with that or I grew up with this so—and my dad and I when we collected it was just hey whatever we liked at the time.
 
Charlie: Right.
 
John: So, it's got a huge cross section, a swash of not just super cars. We've got F-50, F-40 Ferrari. Hell, the Batmobile, the Michael Keaton Batmobile is sitting in. This is the real one that blew the flames out of the back. Kit of Knight Rider with David Hasselhoff, #1 is in here. These are not replicas. These are the real deal-
 
Charlie: The real deal.
 
John: Yeah, and then we also have the—the last one we have is on—one of them is the movie cars is the General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard. It is the #1 car. It's here also.
 
Charlie: It's an impressive collection and the fact that you say you have a complete cross section of automobiles actually is a perfect segway into my new question.
 
John: And motorcycles
 
Charlie: And motorcycles of course. Can't forget the motorcycles right when you first walk into the museum. One thing that comes to my mind, John, is advancement—advancements in technology because I did some research online and I was able to construct a bit of a timeline and what I saw online was how technology improved and over maybe 80-75-80-90 years, we went from hand cranking starting cars to electronic ignition and then maybe power steering, electric windows and it took a very long time—air bags in the 1980's and now we have satellite navigation of course but it seems to me in the last ten—well 20 years probably but even maybe the last ten years especially has just been an accelerations of what things—thing that are happening inside cars, the technology itself, what's happening and I just can't believe. I'd like to get your thoughts on that. What do you—what are you seeing? I mean are you seeing an acceleration in how quickly things are coming and going to market in this space, in the race car space? Do you see an acceleration of what technologically speaking what's out there and who knows what’s to come? I don't even know.
 
John: At 64 years old when I was growing up, from the time I was a little kid, you drew on whatever came by. The more noise it made, the more smoke it made off the rear tires and the faster it was was always the thing. You could spend cubic dollars where you turn around and you spend $300-400 in a motor. You put a cam in it, and it generates 20-30 more horse. You put exhaust on it. You get another 8, 10, 12, 14 horse. You put a bigger carburetor; you get a little bit more. Today the technology and that technology yes, you've got power steering, power brakes. You get air conditioning and I mean I grew up when air conditioning was all aftermarket. They'd bolt it on your '65 Mustang and you look at where's it come, and it ran you know more money, more money, more money, bigger, bigger, bigger displacement, bigger this, bigger—better fuels to where we are today. You talked about let's back it up like I said 20 years. All of a sudden, they started—then they started hanging turbos on it and they started putting super chargers on it, which was early stuff, but you could just bolt it on a weekend and increase yourself 250 horse. So now what has happened like you were talking about this last 20 years it's insanity because what's happened it the technology and excuse me because I'm an old school guy. My filter is broken but you see what's going on and a true hardcore racer like myself who has been racing for 40 years—well since I was in cars as a kid; you look at what's happened and you can walk in with a tune, plug it into your—let's give an example your diesel truck your either Duramax or Cummins diesel on a Dodge. You plug that thing in, you throw a tune on that thing and the next thing you know you've gone from 400 foot/pounds of torque, or I'm sorry 600 foot/pounds of torque and 350 horsepower to 500 horse power and now 800-900 foot/pounds of torque that will literally wrinkle the asphalt in a tune. You pay $250-$500 dollars, 1000 dollars whatever for that tune, you plug and play and it's crazy, the technology, even in the gas cars. You take like the twin turbo ecoboost in the Fords. I mean with a simple tune you can put up 75 horsepower now immediately without any changes to the workings of the car and you know God forbid what's happening as the you know DC Millers. I own my own bike company and we have different bikes and a bike-several bike stores and we do our own design work on the electric bikes. That technology has come so fast with the computers and all that stuff. It's so far beyond and above my pay grade but what isn't is the dynamics of the car. The dynamics of the car and the handling have changed so radically in the automotive industry that you know you take—I've got a Corvette out there, probably put about $8000-$9000 dollars into it. It's an LS, it's a 2013 grand sport and it's an LS-6 Corvette. We hung all the suspension on it and all the good stuff on it and everything else. My prerequisite is you've got to go down to the end of the block and you hang a right hand turn from inside lane to inside lane at 45 miles per hour and you don't want the rear stepping out. I mean that to me-okay now I've got a race car for the street. I can have a good time but the technology like the other day I drove a Tesla. It was a Model 3+ or the Model 3 performance you know and a true racer, a true car guy, that sound and that smell is critical. That is what it's all about. You know you're shifting. The RPMs come up; you're hearing the exhaust, all the stuff going on. Everybody loves that three dimensional: Sight, sound, taste and touch so you get—I got in that Tesla and a friend of mine Tad, he owned it and he's a hard ass, absolutely internal combustion tuner. The guy is amazing. He's a frigging prodigy and understands all the tech. I got in this car. I set like I normally do. I started holding the throttle and I give it more and more and more and more. Tad says hit it. Stuff it to the floor. I said Tad, I jump on this floor we're going to wind up in oncoming traffic and we're going to be on the news. I said both of us are going to dead. So, I got on the freeway, and I hit that thing. He said step on it. I looked across at him and I said you've got to be kidding me. I didn't do it on the first off ramp or onramp. So, the second onramp, he said trust me. Just do it. So, I stepped into, and the car will only allow you to put as much throttle to it as it will take. Now you've got to remember. We're not talking mechanical grip here. We're talking what I call the electronic grip. This car is telling—talking to itself in such rapid terms that it is able to take a nine-inch-wide tire VS a 12-inch-wide tire with big treads in it and have virtually the same G force as a 12- or 14-inch tire that we're talking about on a Corvette. I was overwhelmed. It was the most impressive thing the technology. I don't know how fast the code and the data was firing in that car to take the driver completely out of the equation.
 
Charlie: So, let's— you touched on a lot of different points there which I want to go back to. The first one that really, I heard, and it was the last thing you said was about the code and the lines of code. You know in my research John for this discussion, one of the things that because every apparent to me was one measurement that's used in many different things is the number of lines of code, how big these programs are to control these different things and just—now my information might be old because I've done so much research but one example is Facebook, the entire code base, what they call the code base of Facebook is 100 million lines of code to operate Facebook. You know how big Facebook is right of course right. Google with all of its—all of its services is two—I read two billion lines of code. Just to give you a point of reference here. If I were to print out one million lines of code, it would be about 18,000 pages just to give you an idea, one million lines of code so with a 100 million lines you might how big these programs—could you imagine testing all that code? I wouldn't even know how—where you would even start. 18,000 pages is already 14-14 copies of War and Peace to give you an idea how much-how much code is out there but today's average cars they're running 100 million lines of code and from what I read about, it's all about now one measurement and maybe you've heard this term. It's all about what they call the microprocessor based electronic control unit or ECU's. ECUs are all the different little computerized parts that are doing this and that's 100 million lines and that's on a traditional pedestrian car that I can buy from a dealer. A race car, high end race car can have 150 million lines of code and they're saying within five years it can be 300 million lines of code. I guess where I'm going with this is that today's cars are not like the muscle cars of the '60s and '70s. These—and we said it already. These are computers that have wheels. You talked about the Tesla for example. Isn't that a perfect example of how technology has really just overridden the automotive industry itself is one industry that has really latched onto this whole notion of using technology everywhere so what do you think about that? I mean it's here to say for sure right? It will only keep getting better. It's here to stay obviously.
 
John: Well absolutely and for old guys like me you know we've got a lot of catching up to do and we'll never catch up. The data—everything is changing so fast we can't even hang onto it. I’ll give you a quick example. In the museum you've seen that red 1971 Hemi Cuda. Vincent, my son, and I completely did a restoration on it. That is is not a 428. It's a 573 in it, 572 Hemi. It makes 500 horses of crank. It makes 580 foot/pounds of torque. Now, here’s an example. That is 1971 technology. It does have an ECU, yes, we put electronic ignition in it, not really an ECU, just controls the ignition so it's not gone to the next level. You can take right now and that was the epitome in 1971, that's when the Hemi stopped. In '72, it stopped because the smog laws, California air resources board which wasn't really around then—all the stuff with the pollution and gas prices were off the scale. There were gas wars. You know the routine. It was a bad deal. The muscle car died. It was gone. In '71, it went away. That was the beginning '72, '73, it was gone. Everything went down, downsize motor, downsize everything. Now let's move forward 20-30 years. You take a Honda. Now this is the Honda with the ECU, traction control. And when Carroll Shelby was jacking around with front wheel drive. You had the early Shelby which is not the Shelby Mustang we know but it was a little four-cylinder Shelby. He said that you could never put more than 250 horsepower in a front wheel drive car because you can't control it. You jumped and the wheels start lighting up and the car goes straight but with ECU, traction control, yaw control and all the things, that is no longer true. There are cars that make 400-500 horsepower and it's managed by electronics. Now you take a look going back to '71, my '71 Hemi Cuda. It is just faster than hell—not a Honda today, a Toyota today can beat that hemi without even thinking about it.
 
Charlie: Stock.
 
John: Because that Hemi stock because— everybody always drives up next to me and they throw rev at it and they want to race the car. Well one thing you don't line up against is a Tesla because I got a chance to drive one. It goes zero to stupid in faster than— there's Pujantes and everything else out there that will smoke it. You will smoke but the technology and that huge leap, now it's gone to the point where you've got these little four cylinders that are turbo charged that will literally—the hot hatchbacks, it will literally smoke anything on the road. That's how the technology has changed so radically and with the ECU and all the electronics, it's now taken over and taken those internal combustion engines and doing thing with them that we as an old guy couldn't even imagine would happen and now what happens it you've got DC motors, the electronics and you got into— the era of the Tesla and the electric car, you know it's just—it gives stupid fast a whole new meaning and with what the electronic capabilities of these cars now, it's taking the driver more and more and more out of the equation.
 
Charlie: Right exactly. You know one of the things I read about was this idea or this phenomenon called accelerating change and what that basically means is that the reason why it's getting faster and faster and faster exponentially is because the technology itself is recreating the next stage of technology so it's no longer relying on a person, so the technology creates more technology which creates even more technology, so every iteration is so much better than the previous one in a smaller amount of time, so it's accelerating change. It makes me wonder. I mean I go in the show roo—in the museum here and I have eyes of wonder. My eyes light up but I think someone who is 20 years old today, what are they going to see when they're 30-50-even 30? What's the future look like for them? Who knows?
 
John: I can't even imagine. I do have an imagination that's pretty vivid. I think in 3-D terms and most people don’t, but you know you take a look at—let's back up. You said the technology creates new technology.
 
Charlie: Right.
 
John: Let's look at Terminator, okay? The computer became self-aware of X date, and it says okay, we don't need the humans anymore so we're just going to wipe them out. All right? Now what you said is very interesting. The technology is creating new technology and the technology is becoming pseudo self-aware—
 
Charlie: Right.
 
John: So, the driving technology, they talk about autonomous driving and all the other stuff going on and we'll get into that later. I'm sure there's a lot of questions for that but that technology is generation, so rapid and like you said, it's generating new technology, new technology, new technology. It happens so fast where it's not just like putting a cam in a motor, putting ABS on the brakes and all the other stuff. It's such rapid increase that it's geometric. It's growing literally geometrically—
 
Charlie: Correct. Right.
 
John: And every time you see Elon when he talks or says something, you look at the new technology. He has created these new super presses and all the things that he's got going on. That's strictly mechanical but then you talk about the exoskeleton and how that exoskeleton works. The engineering was a guy with a drafting board. The engineering today you can simulate run; you can simulate aerodynamics; you can simulate everything without ever putting it into a wind tunnel because you already know where it is at. You look at the Pujante. Half those Pujantes have never been in a wind tunnel, but they create so much down force and so much aerodynamics that it's jut off the scale and it's again that technology is so rapid, you just—it's geometric.
 
Charlie: This makes me think about when I was a kid again. I had a very basic set of tools when I was a kid. I had my little set of screwdrivers and wrenches and ratchets and sockets, and I could pretty much at the time work on my simple little car and do the most basic repair.
 
John: What kind of car? What was your first car?
 
Charlie: My first car was a Chevy II Nova actually, but I think about today. If somebody was going into automotives today, what's in their toolbox, first of all do they even have tools or are they more developers or software testers or—I mean obviously the need for people with wrenches still exists but you can have so many different career paths somebody can go now in this industry, more so than ever before I think. I mean you see it. I'm sure some of the cars on the floor here must have some amazing diagnostic tools to keep them running well.
 
John: The interesting thing about cars today is I go back to the term plug and play. You plug into the port, and you can diagnose a lot of what's going on with the car. I mean you can figure out okay is the door switch wrong? Is this wrong? Are we getting too many hydrocarbons? Is the O2 sensor bad? It will pick up and throw air codes all over the place. It makes it easier to diagnose. With today's mechanics, they can go in, hit a plug and go. The thing about that is you're still going to have to require a wrench. The old school of having you know a 40–50-year-old guy there or gal that has the experience. They know the car is running rough. Okay it's either got to be carburetion or fuel. So, all you got is carb and fuel. Those are the two things that can go bad. So, you go back through that, and you go okay my experience tells that if it is missing and this is this, this is this. Well, that experience really like you go to an Auto Zone or one of the parts houses now, 90% of these—as a matter of fact 99% of the kids that are behind the counter have never even turned a wrench. What happens is they are computer people and they said okay, it's this part, this part, there's the number, this is the year came off of. Click, there is goes. Okay it's a belt for a '76 Ford Van. Here it is. It's the air conditioning belt or it's the water pump, the alternator belt. You're still with—the automotive industry you're still going to have the guys and the gals with the wrench. There’s no doubt about it but as you get more and more towards electronics and the electronics used to scare the hell out of all of us because more electronics meant more to go bad. You've got the MGs and it was Lucas—Lucas the big joke was he was the prince of darkness because half the time the electronics didn't work. It would take a dump and you'd be on the side of the road but today now the electronics have become so dependable like example a Tesla. Now Tesla's got its own series of problems. Yeah, there's no doubt it's got growing pains but most of these things are modular. They plug and play so you unplug that, put a new one in, it's done. It's got a full diagnosed. You get on the screen and you can self diagnose a lot of this stuff with a simple laptop or your phone and you can diagnose where the problem in and go directly to it. It's still going to require a wrench but as the electronics have advanced so much in electric motors and DC motors, it's becoming less and less. There's less problems. You know you still have to-you got to consider with battery recycling because you know they don't recycle well but there is going to be—the engineering is changed so much. The electronics have changed so much that the need for the hardcore diagnostic mechanic who has got to self diagnose it without electronics is becoming less and less and less.
 
Charlie: Obsolete maybe?
 
John: I don't think it will ever be obsolete. There's always going to be some kind of mechanical modus you know operandi. There's always going to be some locomotion that's got this mechanical it's going to require. Will it require less and less? Yes, but you're still going to have the line mechanic that's going to go out there. The Tesla takes a dump and you've got to pull the motor out. You've got to pull the battery assembly out. You've got wheel bearings that are going to be a problem. You've still got drive shafts. You've still got axels, CV joints. Those things are still in there and unless we get to the point where it become a hovercraft, you're still going to need some type of mechanic that can do it. Now they're going to have to be a little advanced or less advanced. They're not going to be—has to be quite as savvy but they're going to rely more and more on a computer that plugs in, plug in diagnostics.
 
Charlie: And not necessarily knowing what they're actually changing, just swapping a board and that's it.
 
John: No. The code goes off. Okay, let's say it's this—it's this particular part. It's a sensor or a relay or something. You've got to replace that. You're still going to require a mechanical aptitude of some type to be able to go after that.
 
Charlie: Wow. You know we talk about technology and we're saying how dependent we really-cars have become our technology. Then it's actually been created—the prices of cars right now are through the roof because of this big chip shortage I keep hearing, a semi-conductor chip shortage because they can't get enough chips. This is what I'm reading on the news and prices for cars are just escalating beyond belief right now. What do you think about that?
 
John: Well, you've got to take a look at our environment where we're at and this is my—again my own opinion and I deal with China and Taiwan a lot because of our bike business. We do our own development, own design work on the bike and I'd like to say I'm the guy that does the form and I've got—Anthony my general manager does the function. He's really tight on components and understands it. Where we're at with what's going on; let's put Covid aside. Let's back this thing up. The chip problem: Covid. The other stuff: Covid. We've got a worldwide pandemic that whether real, right, wrong, or differ or blown out of proportion it's still a thing that happened you know. If I was going to order from Shimano right now to get bike parts, okay two years. We're looking at two years.
 
Charlie: Two years.
 
John: Two years so what happened is the whole dynamic of the world has changed. Let's go back to the original question. We see chips and everything else but take a look at—let's back up. Take a look at a Prius and Prius are what? $40,000?
 
Charlie: Sure. Sure.
 
John: And you take a look at—you go and buy a Tesla. Tesla's entry level $40,000 okay. They got some new stuff coming out. A Tesla 3 base model is $40,000.
 
Charlie: So, it's apples to apples.
 
John: Apples and apples. You take a look at where we're at. You go and you buy a truck; you know you buy a diesel 4-wheel drive truck. It's going to be $65,000 to $80,000 so actually you talk about the prices have gone up. If you throw out all of the outside—let's for a lack of a better word outside you know downside pressure of all the stuff going with chips and everything else. Particularly what's going on with the advent of the electric car but the big picture here is the price of cars are going down. You are looking at me going what?? Take a look at the technology. Look at Prius okay. If you look at the Tesla entry level and they're $40,000 all right. Well, you know when you and I were growing up hell the hemi Cuda like we got outside let's give that an example in '71. That car was $4,000, $4,100 for the full dress Hemi Cuda. For the strip model Mustang in '68-'65 in that area okay that strip model was you know was $1900.
 
Charlie: That's completely true. All right let's switch gears and let's talk about safety. I read an article recently that if you can imagine the most—or the safest airplane, so I guess it applies to cars also. The safest airplane would be one that didn't have any windows. Now why would you—why would that be the case? Apparently where the windows are into the airplane, that's the weakest point-
 
John: The seals. That’s right
 
Charlie: The seals exactly right so if they can eliminate that, then you have a unit that is far more— the integrity is far more and we can survive a crash but wait a second. I'm inside this thing. What do I do? Well now they use what's called Augmented Reality AR and on the walls, they're projecting images of what's happening outside so you have the illusion that you're still looking at a window but you're not and you're in this now safer design. I wonder if the same technology would be available in a car because everything, I've been reading online cars in the 2050's or 2060's might not have windows. You're going to go into this little bubble and using AR, Augmented Reality, you're going to be seeing what's going on around you but you're not going to need to see out because the car is going to be driving itself so there you go.
 
John: Well, you could take a look right now. I think Tesla is one of them and several other car companies. They have no rear-view mirrors. They're trying to get it approved but DOT, Department of Transportation, so they're all video. So, what happens it you are looking at the screen and you don't ever look outside so it enables you—it's got an obviously, you've got a mirror that goes two dimensional unless you have convex mirror. You saw it in Jurassic Park, things in the mirror are closer than they appear when the T-Rex was chasing it down the street. The big picture is with that you could put a wide angle 180-degree mirror on it so you can see everything from your peripheral all the way back over the top. Then they got the 3-D cameras on there now. They're stitched together. There's a camera on each corner of the car that is electronically stitched together so you get the complete pattern of where you're at. You can see where you're parking stuff. It looks like you're being followed by a drone.
 
Charlie: We talk about these autonomous self driving cars and obviously that's a huge departure from where we are today because—and I think a lot of people will never want it because they don't want to secede control of the vehicle right but I could argue I suppose or people could argue that it's a far safer proposition if you're not the one in control. I'm just—maybe because I don't have the ability potentially. The car has the ability because it is communicating with other things. It can see around blind spots that you may not know about. It can see things over a hill that you may not—you don't know what's coming up whereas a car has that information. It's getting information in real time so the culture—we're talking about the culture, the driving culture. How is that going to affect? What’s the impact on human culture, human driving culture?
 
John: I tell you what. I'll give you an example. This is just from an old guy okay?
 
Charlie: Sure okay.
 
John: It's being obsessive compulsive, ADD and all the other things that make me who I am. It would be a very difficult thing to be able to give up that steering wheel because I understand the dynamics of the things that can happen being you know a race car driver all my life. Example, I've got a friend of mine had the new Mercedes AMG whatever it was, the one that looks like kind of like a pig. It's all routed and stuff. It does everything. It will drive in the lines—within the lines and do all the routine. Here's the interesting thing. You come up and this is—I was driving his Mercedes and it was on the auto drive program. We flicked it off auto drive, but it has the brake sensing on the Mercedes. Now you talk about —it's able to respond faster than a human could even think about it. You can't even process as fast as that thing can go off and it's already tagging the brakes. This is an exact incident that happened to me. I'm going down the 91 freeway. I'm in the fast lane. I started moving over four lanes to get off, I'm two miles ahead and I come up on the back of another car. I'm probably—we're doing 65-70 miles an hour and I'm 20-25 feet behind the car. Well, as I pulled into the draft of the back of this car, the Mercedes I'm driving out freaks out. Immediately it jams on the brakes and put—if it hadn't been for seat belts, it would have put everybody through the front windshield.
 
Charlie: Wow. Wow.
 
John: So I sweep across the back, this goes off. Now that's neat and wonderful, okay? I've got to adjust my driving style or turn the damn thing off. Here's the problem. That's reacting so fast. What about the car behind me that was 35 feet behind me? He can't react or she can't react that fast.
 
Charlie: And they don't have the same technology yet.
 
John: Boom. Slams in behind you and you're talking 30-40 years before all this technology is out there and the auto drive-what happen? All of a sudden next time that guy plows—or gal plows into the back of you. Now it created a problem that was never there. We're talking about flow. We're talking about car culture. People flow at a certain rate. Everything has a frequency in life. As we drive, we have frequencies. Now we screw up and check up. There's read ends all the time and all this stuff; people aren't paying attention. In general, for the average person absolutely but if you're driving the least bit aggressive and you come across somebody's bow or somebody's stern on their car, it's going to react and if it reacts, can the person behind that react that fast? The answer is no, it can't happen, so you've got these issues. Then the autonomous driving. Okay, yeah GPS. What happens when you lose GPS? Oh, it's going to follow the dots in the road. What happens if you go under a bridge and there's no dots in the road on an old piece of real estate as far as the road. There's no dots in the road or there's no blinds in the road. Well, what happens if it's the least bit funny are cars coming at you and he comes into your lane. Well, what are you going to do? Are you going to-it's going to do everything it can to keep you from hitting the car next to you and it's going to do everything it can to keep the car in front of you but if you can't brake fast enough, this guy is coming after you. You have to make a decision. Do I sideswipe the guy next to me and move over or do I take a head-on? So those decisions the car can't really make at that point in time but do people screw up? Yeah. There are more screw ups from people betting in accidents. I think it would make the road safer but you still have equations that are not addressed based on car culture.
 
Charlie: So, it's so, I think what you're saying in maybe 20-30 years we'll all be better off but it's that transition period we're in, that gray area right now that we're in that's the—
 
John: I think you're going to see some—it's going to be very unique to see how technology deals with nontechnology cars and nontechnology—
 
Charlie: But that's not— that's here today. I mean we have that today.
 
John: It's happening today.
 
Charlie: Yeah.
 
John: Everybody thinks the autonomous driving will be done within the next two or three years. Everybody will be driving electronic cars that don't need to be driven. That's not true. Underneath power lines, different things. There’re obstructions. There's stuff in the electronics—
 
Charlie: That's true.
 
John: There's all kinds of pieces that you have to deal with. Now in a perfect society like you, Manhattan. You're driving down through New York. Do you think all those signals are going to get through from the satellites with all those—
 
Charlie: Right. [Chuckling]
 
John: Through all those high-rise buildings?
 
Charlie: Right.
 
John: The answer is no way. Do you think it's going to be able to incorporate New York drivers? Come on. You and I have been how long in New York? You were raised in New York. You think on the snow and the ice and all the crap that goes along?
 
Charlie: Well, you're right. So, I just have a couple—
 
John: I don't know about right. It's just like I said—
 
Charlie: It's an interesting—
 
John: I'm old and it's just an idea and an opinion. 
 
Charlie: It's an interesting opinion though for sure. So, two more questions and we'll kind of wrap this up. Are there any cars out there today that you would love to have in your collection, and I don't mean a brand-new car? It could be a car that's 100 years old. What's the one that you said oh my collection would be complete if I had this one car. What would it be? Is there one first of all?
 
John: That's a very difficult question.
 
Charlie: Okay. Why is it difficult?
John: Well, there's—what I would like to have in the museum is— it's a very hot item now. The GT3 Porsche.
 
Charlie: Okay.
 
John: There is one that was —it's five or six years old. We call it the pumpkin car. It was black with orange—all orange accents. That would be a wonderful car to have here. They resale up to $200,000.
 
Charlie: Okay.
 
John: Being a small museum, we have a rental program where people rent space from us, so they bring their exotic cars, and a lot of these guys have big egos which is awesome, and they want their cars talked about so what we do is we put a big story together. We launch it on our website and on our social look what's here. We are rotating inventory a lot because it's other people's car, so our inventory is always fresh so it's kind of neat. Could I—could we afford to go buy a million-dollar roadster Buggati Veyron Gen 1? There's only 12 in the world. Now, it was bought at a million, now it's worth two million. Could we do that? No, not as—you know which you've got to ask yourself which charities aren't going to get the money and—
 
Charlie: Right.
 
John: That's not happening but through our rental program where people rent space from us. It's our premier auto housing. It keeps our inventory updated all the time. There's always something new to see and when we launch it, let them know, let people know on our web site like I said and on our social that hey look what's here like the Batmobile—
 
Charlie: The Batmobile right. Exactly.
 
John: But if I could—I would love to have a Pujante, one of the top end Pujantes. It's a very interesting technology car, all carbon fiber in there, 2.5 to 3 million, depends on how crazy you get with it. That would be a neat car to have, and I think it would be—when I always look at this museum, it's no longer personal. It's what the draw would be get people in here to be able to generate money for the charity and that is—I have to take my ego which is large out of the equation and we have to take a look at what our consumer—consumer is what people want to see. It's basically in the bike business called model inventory. What is the model inventory that will bring the most people into the museum and that's that particular car. Some of new Ferraris are incredible. We'd love to see one of those in there, but you know the Porsche, I know it sounds small compared to the you know I mean the F-50 we got is 3.-3.8 million. The F-40 is 3.2 million and then the 195S which is the serial number 53 is 6 million dollars. That's the 53 car ever built and there's only two in the world.
 
Charlie: Wow.
 
John: So, you know the Porsche or one of the new Pujantes would be a real, real neat deal. That would be big icing on the cake.
 
Charlie: You know what my car would be?
 
John: What would that?
 
Charlie: It would be a Tucker; a Tucker Torpedo I think it was called.
 
John: That is a whole story on its own.
 
Charlie: There's a great movie—
 
John: The big boys put him right out business.
 
Charlie: Exactly.
 
John: That Tucker had technology—you turn the wheel the lights turn.
 
Charlie: It had seat belts.
 
John: The seat belts. I mean the stuff that-the stuff that we take for advantage-take for granted today. That Tucker you know I mean obviously the big three killed him. 
 
Charlie: Right.
 
John: They put him out of business—
 
Charlie: Interesting story.
 
John: Because he had some serious technology back then.
 
Charlie: I had the good fortune to actually not sit in it, but I got to be near one, take a picture with one once in my life and that was—
 
John: I got a friend of mine who has a Tucker. Maybe we'll get it down here on another show.
 
Charlie: Oh, that would be—
 
John: We'll put your butt into it and let you—
 
Charlie: That would be over the top. That would be— I would be getting on a plane the next day if I knew you had a Tucker in here.
 
John: Well, I'll see what I can do.
 
Charlie: That would be awesome.
 
John: We've got some—we know people.
 
Charlie: I think you do know people. That's wonderful. John, I've got to tell you. This entire experience, seeing the cars and talking to you, you know one thing that's very obvious to me is not just your knowledge because that's hands down very obvious to me is your knowledge but your passion and that's what really comes through and really came through in this whole discussion is your passion. You were concerned to do this discussion I think because it was technology based but it didn't matter. Your passion overrode the entire thing and for that I love. Anybody who speaks with passion is somebody who I love chatting with so thank you very much for your time. I've got to tell you.
 
John: Well, we greatly appreciate it. I mean just to have— really enjoyed the interview and like I said that passion is what drives us. That passion drives my daughter. It drives the Marconi family and that passion, and that commitment has been instilled in us from my father and we are like I said we're the third generation now. My daughter has taken over and I'm backing out on the reins. She is doing a phenomenal job and she's got—she makes my passion look like child's play so.
 
Charlie: Wow. I think it's wonderful. Well, tell you what John. I think we're going to leave it here and just as I said I want to just truly thank you. This has been such a unique opportunity for me to actually come to the museum, see it again. I should point out one more thing just as an aside but how you and I first met. I did attend an event here. Thank you for the ocean computer user group. They're the ones that had the event here and they made the introduction for me so thank you to ocean user group as well. That was a few weeks ago—
 
John: Absolutely.
 
Charlie: But to you and to your entire family and I think that you share your collection and also more importantly the foundation for the kids is just a wonderful selfless act. I just think it's so commendable and noble so thank you for doing that as well.
 
John: That's what we do events to generate money for kids.
 
Charlie: It's great.
 
John: Thank you very much.
 
Charlie: It's been a real pleasure. John, I hope to see you again, come back to the museum more often and maybe one day I'll come back and we'll get a chance to sit in that Tucker. We'll see.
 
John: Well, you don't need a green card to come from New York to California.
 
Charlie: That's what I hear; that's what I'm told. Exactly right. Thankfully. It's been a real pleasure. Thanks so much.
 
John: Thank you very much.
 
Charlie: Okay, thanks.
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