Behind the Wheel
See the latest issue of Briefings at newsstands or read in our new format here.
By: Vindhya Burugupalli
It’s a warm summer afternoon and Inii King, cofounder of the luxury advertising firm King and Partners, is behind the wheel of a red 1971 Mercedes 280 SL. The sun sits high as she cruises the streets of Bedford, New York, surrounded by green hillsides. There is a soft breeze. She feels charmed, carefree, and straight out of a film from Hollywood’s Golden Age. Most days of the week, the 39-year-old chief creative officer is cooped up indoors, attending client meetings and whipping up creative strategies, but come the weekend she hits the open road in one of her prized collector cars.
(click image below to enlarge)
Unlike some other vintage autophiles, King doesn’t solely seek out high-end collectibles. The millennial, who launched her career amid the Great Recession, instead invests in pieces that can be driven daily. While she admittedly savors the nostalgia of straight lines and sharp angles over today’s curved auto design, both aesthetic and practicality inform her purchase decisions. Her first classic car, a go-anywhere coniston green 1997 Land Rover Defender 90 that smelled like cigarettes, is all box and sentimentality. Not unlike the olive green 1992 Fiat Panda 4X4, which King imported from the Italian countryside to her Westchester garage. “I love the craftsmanship, beauty, and romance found in vintage cars,” she says.
King driving a Rolls-Royce Corniche in Miami, Florida.
King’s passion also holds professional value, serving as a source of mutual interest with clients and colleagues. While top bosses coveting luxury classic cars is not a new phenomenon, there’s been a recent surge in interest among younger executives to inject new life into old models. The forces driving this zeal are also unique—a blend of social media hype, maker mentality, and wistfulness. Experts say that in times of crisis, such as a global pandemic, climate catastrophe, or impending recession, people tend to look back to periods held up as better times. King can attest, saying it was the combination of such longing with new platforms like Bring a Trailer, an online community that makes it easy and engaging to research, buy, and sell classic wheels, that cultivated her current passion. In a survey by Classic.com, which tracks the collector car industry, auction listings soared 43 percent from early 2021 to mid-2022. Meanwhile, classic car insurer Hagerty reports that overall transactions in the market rose 20 percent in 2021.
King sitting on the roof of her coniston green 1997 Lander Rover NAS Defender 90.
Refurbishing or even simply maintaining a classic car is a significant undertaking that business leaders are particularly suited to. “It requires a huge amount of project management, which is definitely a leadership skill—and a lot of patience,” says Rob Howard, CEO of Kindred Motorworks, a company that modernizes the technology of vintage cars. “The nostalgia around cars is rivaled by little else. It’s a very visceral experience,” he says.
When King attended her first auto show, the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance, more than a decade ago, she wasn’t an enthusiast. But the physical expression of these hunks of metal spoke to her. She saw them as fine art. Her favorite designs hail from the 1960s. “People thought more about beauty and luxury, instead of focusing purely on performance and efficiency,” King says. “It’s hard to do that now."