Lifelong car enthusiast Barry Meguiar knows a thing or two about hot rodding. As the host of the Velocity Channel's long-running reality show "Car Crazy" and President and CEO of his 100 plus year old family car wax business, he recently helped the United States Postal Service to unveil an all-new duo of forever stamps inspired by a pair of famous cars. Examiner spoke exclusively with the personable Meguiar on June 6, touching on subjects ranging from his favorite "Car Crazy" moment to the near-death experience that birthed a powerful new ministry.
I'll start by asking how and when your passion for cars developed.
Barry: I really didn't have a choice. I was born in Southern Calif. just as the car hobby was beginning. The GIs came back from World War two and they had a lot of knowledge about aerodynamics and engines and they started applying it to their cars, specifically their '32 Fords, and hot rodding was birthed. It happened all around me. So I saw the cars cruising down the street, we had car shows all around, and of course, my family business was car wax, and not just generic car wax, but Meguiar's Car Wax, which began when my grandfather started the business in 1901. The culmination of my business and my natural inclination for loving cars kinda just went together, so I've had a lifetime of never working [laughs]. I hang out with car guys in my family, in my business, all the events. We sponsor 9,000 car shows across the United States and another 3,000 outside the country, so I go to every kind of car show from Volkswagen to Ferrari shows to you name it, we're there.
To have the U.S. Postal system affirm and really applaud hot rodding [with two brand new forever stamps] is... really special.
I saw some pictures of the stamps and they look like they're pretty neat. Do they live up to your standards?
Barry: Well yeah, and how. The black one with the flames looks just like my hot rod, my '32, so I feel really good about that one. The other one is one of the most famous hot rods of all time. It was actually the first '32 Ford to appear on the cover of Hot Rod Magazine way back in October of 1948, so it's a very famous car, held by a lot of famous people through the years.... That is an iconic car... they just knocked it out of the ballpark.
I have to ask about "Car Crazy." Why did you develop the show in the first place?
Barry: You know, if you go back about 20 years, the car hobby was suffering badly. Car shows were having poor attendance, car clubs were ceasing to meet in a lot of cases. For our business, that was catastrophic.... Car guys --and when I say 'car guys,' it's guys and gals. If you love cars, you're a car guy-- saw the hobby falling apart and said 'somebody needs to do something about it'... with computers and video games and whatever we were losing the hobby and somebody had to do something. So we created "Car Crazy" 18 years ago as a PR mechanism to get people excited about what [car shows] look like and how great the people are and how much fun it is and how wonderful these cars are. So that was the birthing of it.
And today we have the car hobby, it's robust, there's 30 million car guys now in the United States and I don't mean to say 'we did that,' but I'd like to think that we had something to do with it, you know? It's been great fun. There are a lot of car shows on and most of them are about the cars, but ours are not about the cars.... They're about the people and their emotional connection with cars. And it's that passion. People watch our show and get excited.... The community of the car hobby and especially hot rodders is so incredibly special.... I think we're doing something great for mankind because car guys are the best. They're generous, they're kind, they're giving, they love their families, and I have to say, if there were more car guys, there'd be less wars.
Do you have a favorite experience from "Car Crazy"? Was there a particular person who really stuck in your mind?
Barry: A 12-year old kid came up to me and he was with his dad and he told me how he was working on a car with his dad and how much fun he was having.... He said 'when we're working on cars together, we're buddies.' It's so hard to keep an adolescent these days on track, there are so many negative influences, but when you get your son or daughter --and I have a granddaughter who's a car guy-- and you get them working on a car, tell them 'when you turn 16, this is going to be your car'-- and you end up having a grand excuse to spend hundreds of hours with your adolescent... you can talk about God, you can talk about values, you can talk about dating, all these other things.... I don't know of another way to talk about these things so easily. So that one was special to me.
I know you almost died a few years ago and that changed your perspective on things. Could you talk a little bit about that?
Barry: God created a special virus for me [chuckles] and put me in the hospital for about two and a half weeks --I was in Pebble Beach, of all places, I mean, God couldn't just take me from Pebble Beach but he did. Without going into long detail and I don't want to get preachy, but God really spoke to me there. I really felt impressed years before that I should start a ministry. I like to love on people, you may have noticed that. Christians should love on people, not condemn them, and Jesus said 'they'll know you're my disciples by your love'. And we just need to love on people and stop all this saying 'you're going to hell'... just show love. So we started Revival Outside the Walls. It's all about telling Christians 'stop being so mean! Stop being so judgmental and intolerant and start loving people.' We're honoring God when we do that.