Ted Gushue Interview - The Art of Automotive Storytelling
Describing him as an automotive editor, writer and photographer, only begins to scratch the surface of Ted Gushue, this week's interviewee. He used to be a professional DJ, is the current Global Ambassador to St Moritz, has released a book on Bentley Continentals from the ‘90s, and is the Founder and Editor of Type7 (@type7), Porsche's Instagram-only magazine. He is a man who truly never stops, usually at some automotive event, car shoot or on a plane, though admittedly less so with the current pandemic. We hear a bit about his non-stop life, his passion for effectively capturing and telling automotive stories and also hear the backstory behind his 1976 Porsche 911S... all whilst he is climbing a mountain in Sardinia!
Charles Clegg interviews Ted Gushue for The Apex by Private Collectors Club. Recorded and Produced by Jeremy Hindle & Demir Ametov. Transcribed by David Marcus. Edited by Charles Clegg.
Growing up you were surrounded by some cool cars in your family. What was your first automotive memory and was there a particular car which really kicked off your passion?
Well, I came home from the hospital in a 1982 911SC in Guards Red. Cars were just always a part of my family. We weren't a wealthy family, but back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, you could buy incredible cars that were just considered old beaters. Unfortunately it's something that our generation now, because of the current speculative market, it's really difficult to do. My family couldn't afford a new lease but we could afford a grey market two door Range Rover that was imported by Peter Livanos, because it was just a rust bucket and nobody wanted it, so it was five grand. We just always sought out these interesting cars that were just kind of overlooked by people because they were too high maintenance, they weren't the newest and latest and greatest. And so we've always had cool cars in our family.
For me, it was as a 4 or 5 year old in my father's Ferrrari 328 GTS. It's carved in my memory, not only the sounds and thrill of being driven in it but also the smell of the leather, which is very distinctive. I remember weird things such as my father only had one cassette in it, Paul Simon, Graceland and still to this day it is my all time favourite album as it takes me back to that exact moment, my father at the wheel, targa roof off, bombing around some Cotswold lanes. Do you think it is these shared experiences which bring classic cars from being just an interest, into a passion or even a way of life for some people?
So, for instance, the car that I drive, a 1976 911S which you've met a few times, this was the car that I was raised in. I think my father bought it when I was four years old or so, and he paid $5,000 for it in ‘92. It was just a car to him and it was a very cool car but we didn't think of it as an investment, it was just a cool Porsche that was cheap and we loved it. It's just always been a way for our family to go on roadtrips, to go to polo on weekends, whatever the event would have been, there was just always something that we were going to in this car. And so to your point of being brought back to a memory, that's exactly what it is. Every time I sit in that car, which I still own, I smell the memories and I can hear the memories and it's a very special thing.
Am I right in saying that cars went back beyond your father, and your grandparents were even involved with old cars?
Yes exactly, my grandfather on my father's side, he was a mechanical engineer by trade, I guess is correct to say, but by night, what he would do is he would buy wrecked cars and restore them. You would see my grandfather panel beating on a 330 GTC and then restoring it and then driving the hell out of it and then selling it for a profit. So that was just like his hobby on the side. My father and my uncle just grew up around incredible cars coming in and out of the house, so that they could be restored, just for fun, just to make a quick buck.
Back then, when you totalled your Ferrari or totalled your Porsche, it's not like today where the insurance companies just take ownership of the product or take ownership of the chassis and you're not allowed to touch it, you just kind of had to deal with it yourself. So people would go list in a local newspaper like ‘crashed Ferrari for sale’, and my family bought them and fixed them. It's not accurate to call it a business, although eventually my uncle started a body shop and restored cars that way, but it was just a cool thing for them to do and it was a shared passion for my family.
When I was thinking about how to introduce you for this interview it was quite tough... professional photographer, connoisseur of classic cars, watches and cigars; editor of Type 7, writer, media consultant, brand advisor; documenter of the awesome Bentley Continentals from the 90s (which I am a particular fan off as I used to have a 1996 Continental T!) and the list goes on. But what I realised is that regardless of the medium or publication, it seems that the consistent theme has been about capturing and telling a story. Is that a fair assessment and, if so, what, to you, is so interesting about capturing a story?
Yes, probably the way I would describe myself most is just a story teller. I've had many great opportunities open up to me because I've sat there and tried to tell someone's story, and it's just led to everything. One door has led to another because of the art of storytelling. I think it's as old as time. People have a great need to be told great stories, and for me I saw a huge lack of this being done in the car world.
You had traditional magazines that were just really traditional and quite boring in my opinion, and so when I joined Petrolicious in 2015, to start as their Editor in Chief, I just was like okay guys, we need to really focus on bringing the editorial story quality of the videos that we do. You guys are probably familiar with the Petrolicious style video where you would find the owner and you would tell their whole life story through the car. The car became the canvas, and this to me seemed like the most beautiful concept and I took that concept and ran with it, and it's always just maintained itself as something that I'm really passionate about.
I've never been able to really sum up what I do, you've made a beautiful attempt to try to say what my career has been like, but it's been just trying to tell a story and finding that common thread throughout everything and finding a way to bring people together through storytelling. I think that's a big part of what's happening in the world today. People are losing touch with how similar we all are. It breaks my heart because I've travelled the world for the last 10 years, and I've met so many people in so many places that have such diverse backgrounds, and especially once I got into the car world, I just saw that we're all so passionate about the same thing. We all might have differences like someone might be conservative or liberal or whatever, but at the end of the day when you step up to an engine we're just like ‘wow, okay, that's f***ing cool’, and that to me was just such a bonding force for humanity. I can ramble about it all day but it's quite simple, I just really love telling stories because I think it does the world good.
I completely agree with you about the passionate community element of cars, and indeed it's similar with other things. I know that when you first moved to New York you were a professional DJ and, of course, music is another world that's got a really passionate community associated with it. From your experiences of both, do you think there are any parallels between the passion in these communities?
Well, I think the kind of passion that comes out of night clubs at 2am in the morning is a little different than the kind of passion that makes people wake up at 6am in the morning to go to a cars and coffee. [laughs] They're slightly different objectives, I would say, in those communities. But the art of playing music for a group of people and understanding their mood and understanding what they need and what they want to hear and what's going to bring them to a new level, is the same to me as editing a magazine or editing an Instagram page, or however you want to say whatever I do, it's all the same. It's just trying to understand what people need and then finding out what I can give to them in a very special package. To me it's totally equal. It might be difficult to see the connection for some people but playing music to people that want to dance is the same as editing a magazine.
Obviously the most recent thing you've done that with is Type7 (@type7), the Instagram only publication you founded in association with Porsche, and already you've managed to build a large and heavily engaged following. What's your secret to building these communities, and not only building them but also keeping them engaged?
There's no secret sauce, that's the beauty of it. There's not like ‘oh I've got this one simple trick which allows you to build a community’. No man, it's about quality, consistency and care. You have to invest in quality, you have to be prepared to be consistent, like we post three things a day, so we give you three beautiful things a day that you can consume, and then you have to just really care.
I've been very lucky to have a team at Porsche who approached me about the project, before it was even called Type7, and they cared. They cared about the next generation of Porsche enthusiasts, they cared about a generation of people that don't even think about cars. How cool is that that a car company as big as Porsche, would sit down and say we care enough to try to talk to people, young guys and girls who live in cities, who don't think about cars at all, and we want to say ‘look, even if you don't buy a car from us, we still want to hang out’.
I guess you could make a savvy marketing strategy out of it, but to me it was a genuine interest to connect to those who aren't even trying to be a part of a car conversation, and they say we don't even have to talk about cars, let's talk about architecture, let's talk about art, let's talk about travel. Obviously less travel now, but let's talk about the beauty that's in the world and I fell in love with that concept. I said ‘oh, I had to get involved.’
At first it was just me and then the team at Porsche, and my colleague Franziska Jostock who is great. Now we've got a team of four people working full time on it. I've got my editor, Nat Twiss, he's our managing editor who handles the day to day of the publication. Our creative director, Thomas Walk, who is based in Sydney who joined us from Deus Ex Machina. He designs our books and he also does a lot of the photography for us as well on that side of the world, a really talented photographer.
I'm totally blessed, it's a dream project. I couldn't imagine a scenario where a young guy in my position gets approached by his dream car brand to go create a work of art. I had to pinch myself to even think about it.
That's certainly something which any person passionate about the automotive world really cares about, certainly myself, trying to get younger people to come into our world and understand the history, pick up the skills and enjoy the vibrancy of the community. I think it's just so important because otherwise it will wilt. You're targeting under 35s with Type7. Do you think they're picking up the passion and do you think they'll be interested in tinkering with a ‘60s 911 in 20, 30 or 40 years time?
The goal isn't to get them necessarily tinkering, the goal is to just open the door to the conversation. So we will create a beautiful story about an incredible architect in Brazil, and fans of this architect will then find it, because we've tagged them and the architect reposts it or something. They then see the post and they come in, and then they'll scroll through and they'll see every fourth post is about a young person who has a bond with a Porsche, and they can't help but not look at this person who has this bond and not get it. Because we put it together in such a light, that it's just really easy for anyone to understand.
I think people can, when they see things in a sympathetic light, it's easy for them to get invested, and that's our goal. It's just to say ‘wow’, not even necessarily go out and buy one or tinker or whatever, just to be sympathetic and to understand it, so that when you do see a Porsche in the world it's a positive thing.
Talking of Porsches, over the past couple of years we've done a couple of rallies together where I've either been trying to keep up with your Porsche 911S or I've been trying to escape from it. I know there's a cool story, what is the backstory of that car?
So like I touched upon earlier, we're the second owners, we bought it from a guy named Myron Schuster who is a great collector and a good friend of my fathers. For whatever reason he was just like, ‘I've got too many of these ‘76s’, he had like three of them or something, and he said ‘Ron, take it for five grand’. My dad paid him five grand on the spot.
It's really quite straightforward how it came into our lives. But then it's had a pretty crazy story since. It's been rebuilt twice, first by the former speed shop Farnbacher Loles.
[Ted reaches top of Sardinian hill] Sorry I just got to the top of a hill here, it's a little bit windy. It's so beautiful here, I wish you guys were here with me, it's just stunning.
I wish I was as well.
So the car was rebuilt by Farnbacher Loles, which at the time was called Speedsport Tuning, by another guy who passed away recently actually, a chap named Spencer, great guy. My dad has always just really loved this car. When I was 16, I snuck the keys and I really did a number on the gearbox. I think I broke a few teeth off third gear or something because I had no idea what the hell I was doing.
So the car was always just this mystical thing to me. We had finished the big restoration at Speedsport in 2014 where we put a 3.2 litre in, I think there was a Billy Boat exhaust or something, a big mean exhaust, the car was really dialled. Then in 2015, my dad sees that I'm moving out to L.A. to go work at Petrolicious, and he literally just hands me the keys, and he goes ‘look, this car is going to change your career and change your life’ because, as he rightly predicted, if you have a classic car it's much easier to talk to other classic car owners. When I was going to go work at Petrolicious he understood that if I was rolling up in a classic, it would make my life a lot easier, and he was totally correct.
It allowed me to very quickly join the Porsche community in Los Angeles and just really express my sincerity in wanting to be someone to tell their story. And it totally changed the trajectory of my career at Petrolicious and I can very very comfortably state that if he had not given me the keys, I wouldn't have been as successful as I was there in growing that community, because I would have been somewhat of an outsider. I would have been taking an Uber to go to a photo shoot or whatever. It really disarmed people in a way that allowed me to tell their story in a much more natural light. Not that I was plotting or anything, looking back it opened the door to me in a way that was just so natural.
Plus it was, for a young guy who was taking on a whole new adventure, moving to a different coast that he really didn't know, it was a bit like having a piece of home with me. It was my family in the embodiment of a car and I didn't feel lonely, I felt like I had my family with me all the time and I still feel that. I've driven the car all throughout Europe this Summer and I've had it over here since 2017 and it's been to every event imaginable. It's built all this history with me and the bond has only grown, which is interesting because we've had to redo the car again in 2018. I guess it was two or three years ago now, maybe it was 2017. A friend of mine borrowed the car for two seconds to park it for me and ended up bending the chassis. It was a stupid mistake and so then I called up my friends at RUF in Pfaffenhausen, and they said ‘look, don't worry about it, send us the car, or we'll pick it up with a trailer and we'll make it right’.
Three or four months later the car was totally brand new. We left the interior as original, but the car was completely restored by hand by RUF and so now it's got this killer RUF exhaust and they've done all these great things to it, and it's really just intensified how special the car is. They took it up to 11, before it was really special to me but now it's just like wow, okay, so I've got the history of RUF in there. And then because of my location in Europe, I've been able to service the car at some of the best Porsche workshops in the world. Like I did the gearbox at Maxted-Page. Yes, there's just all these great little things like that that really add up.
Given you're up a mountain I think we've got to talk about the Alps and specifically St. Moritz. Indeed, I believe you are a Global Ambassador to St. Moritz, which I'm not sure how that happened but what an awesome title! What makes St. Moritz so special and can you tell us a bit about the car events there, particularly the ice racing and concours?
Yes, so I first came to St. Moritz in 2017. I was working at Petrolicious still, I believe I was, or maybe it was 2016, whatever it was, you'll notice I'm not very good with dates, I showed up to St. Moritz. I had wanted to go there my whole life and I had grown up with zero time spent in Europe. I was an aggressively competitive skier when I was a kid, and it was just one of those places you kind of always dreamed of skiing.
So I come in the Summer to go and attend the Bernina Gran Turismo, which I think was in its second edition, and I just found this place so magical. I can't even describe it. I arrived and I just said look, they've shut down the Bernina Pass so that the Ferrari Breadvan and like 70 other of the best race cars you'd ever see at Goodwood, can do a top speed FIA sanctioned hill climb. They've got police barricades blocking traffic so these crazy cars can go up it.
At dinner we'd be in some epic chalet that's been there for 150 years and just eating all this local cuisine, immediately it hit me how special the place was. And that was before I even really started scratching the surface of all the history there and all the winter sports and the Cresta Run, and everything that makes it so special. I hadn't even scratched the surface, so I said look, this is the coolest place I've ever been, so I started posting like crazy about it on my Instagram and on Petrolicious.
At the end of the weekend, I get tapped on the shoulder by a guy named Fabrizio D'Aloisio, who is Italian born but has been there forever, he works at the tourism office, or he's on the tourism board for the city, and he says look, we've been sponsoring Ukrainian butt models to come here and take the same picture of the holding their boyfriend's hand in the hot tub, the classic influencer photos, and nothing ever makes a difference. You've come here in one weekend and the town's Instagram has picked up 5,000 fans. And I go, wow, that's crazy. I had no ambition towards trying to impress them, I was just like this place is awesome.
You'll notice the work I do on my personal Instagram or my clients or whatever, it's always sincere. I'm not trying to sell you something that I wouldn't buy myself, if that makes sense. So I just sincerely fell in love with this place, and then at the end of it, he's like how could we formalise to make sure that you come back here more often. They basically said, ‘you really seem to understand the place, let's have you back here, let's talk about how we can work more together’, so I keep coming back.
Eventually they said we'd love for you to be our first Global Ambassador so that you can be a testimonial to what goes on here, because it's difficult to understand it unless you go there, unless you see it in person. If you see it in person and if you come with me to the right restaurants and meet the right people, everything, it's a magical place. I just said how could I turn that down, so they gave me a little identity card and all this stuff. It's not like they pay me some crazy salary or something, it's more just like a nice invitation for me to spend more time there. Over the past few years I just say this place just rocks.
After this crazy period on earth, the past six months, I said look, I'm not bullish of the situation. I know that people that were in the Alps during lockdown had a very nice life, and for me being around nature is really important and being able to hike or ski or whatever. I really needed to be happy. I lost my lease in London on this great house boat that I was renting from a friend of mine, she very rightly had to increase the rent, and so I said let me see what else I can get for my money.
I happened to be in St. Moritz for a meeting and so I looked at a couple places just for fun. I opened the door to the first place and I'm like ‘okay, sold’. It's so cool, it's like the coolest little two bedroom with three balconies overlooking the lake and it's got all the wood panelling and very typical Engadin style. I said okay cool, I'll hide out here for a year and work from there.
It could be worse. On that theme around coronavirus, You recently posted a photo from Porto Cervo of a building with the saying "A smooth sea never made a skilled pirate", which resonated with me giving these past few months with the coronavirus pandemic. You are normally non stop travelling, barely in one country for more than a day, making Phileas Fogg look sedate. Obviously this has all changed with coronavirus. How have you dealt with such a drastic shift and have these past few months changed your outlook at all?
Well, my biggest philosophy is that every crisis is an opportunity. I have lived with inconsistency in my life forever. I didn't come from money, I had to work for everything I had. I had access to opportunity because of the privilege of where I was brought up, but success was not guaranteed to me in this life. So I've always dealt with uncertainty with a very positive outlook because when things are uncertain, that's when cracks open up, and cracks are when you can kind of wedge yourself in and find out a whole new way to exist.
I was nocturnal for the first two years living in New York DJing, that was a whole different life. And then I was a management consultant for a year working for NASA and the Dow Jones. That was a radically different life. Then I was a nightlife reporter working for a newspaper, going to every party in New York City for a whole year meeting everyone I possibly could. A radically different life. Each one of these was an opportunity that came out of the previous one, not going through a crisis but just reaching its end point.
By the nature of the path I've been on, every time a chapter closes, for me it's for a reason. The last three or four or five years, I have lived in airplanes and I have seen more in this life I think, in my relatively short period on this earth, than many ever will get to and I'm so grateful. But if the world says to me ‘sorry we're closed’, I'm not going to sit there and cry looking at my suitcase, I go ‘great, what's the opportunity here?’ And I go okay, now the opportunity for me is to really start investing in places that I really want to be.
Because of the strength of my passport luckily, despite my country's best efforts, I can very comfortably move around Europe and for me the places that make me happiest are Italy and Switzerland. I've been to so many places, I've kind of evaluated how I just naturally feel when I'm in that place. And so for the summer I'm here in Sardinia and then after the 15th September I'll be in St. Moritz and then we'll see where the world is in six months.
There is not a single part of me that says ‘oh man, I'm sad not to be in the first class lounge of JAL’. All of the travel was wicked. Actually it's not true, I do miss Japan. Japan is the greatest experience in this life. But honestly I really kind of pivoted just to focus on being happy, healthy and rediscovering exercise which is something that really kind of fell off when I went through this travel period. As you know, when you travel, it's not easy to stay on the ball and you end up drinking and whenever you go to a new place for three days, it's like boom boom boom, as opposed to cool, how can I focus on being a local for the next three months and learning how to live that lifestyle. So that's been my pivot, if that makes sense.
One of the things I've noticed that might be one of these new doors opening is that you've been posting quite a lot about boats recently. Indeed, we chatted about it briefly last night. Growing up a friend of mine had a Cigarette Racing Boat for many years before buying an Apache, which I just loved blasting around South of France on. I see that you've done a number of posts about Magnums and all sorts of cool boats. What's your interest in that world?
How could you not be into boats if you're into cars? To me, it's such a lateral obvious move because the shapes are just as sexy, the stories are even crazier. The chances of death are way higher for the people that were competing and often they did die. So for me the narrative is right in tandem with classic car racing and the evolution of the automobile. Truthfully I see the boat community as being really bad at storytelling and I just keep looking at it and I go ‘why is no one talking about this, why is no one talking about XYZ boat, why is no one talking about that?’ And every once in a while you'll see someone post about the Ferrari speedboat from the ‘30s, you'll get a post here and there, but the community isn't as structured as the car community. So I'm just sitting here looking at this incredible history and I'm like gosh, look at this, this is just bonkers.
My friend Guglielmo Miani, from Larusmiani, he's invested in a shipyard and started restoring the Monte Carlo Offshorer 30s from the ‘80s, which is the first design that Carlo Riva did after he sold the Riva Company that his family founded. So now I've been helping them doing their communication on this project, but basically they're doing full restomod versions of these really killer boats that are just so much fun. The thing is like a Ferrari on the water. You can't really explain it any better than that. We've been screaming all around Sardinia and Porto Cervo and Costa Smeralda this Summer. Just talking to all sorts of people about it and it's just a really fun adventure.
A lot of fun. I'm conscious of your time, so to end with we have some quick fire questions. So firstly, automotive hero?
Denis Jenkinson. Jenks. If there's anybody I've wanted to model my life on, it's him. That guy defines find the ticket, taking the ride and telling the story. Who else would just get in the car like that with Stirling Moss and just go ‘you know what, **** it, I'll navigate’, and then win. And to live to tell the story. So I think that guy deserves all the credit in the world. Without him, we wouldn't have these legends. You would have newsreels and all this stuff, but that would be at the finish line, but this guy was in the car at every step of the way with the most iconic people on earth and the most iconic cars. He's the reason why they are iconic and he's the reason why we have those stories. Without him I think the classic car world looks very different.
Well, I'm very biased towards Leica because it's the cameras that have really helped shape my career. I shoot the M10-P right now, which is a really great addition from my friends over at Hodinkee the watch magazine. They did a great limited edition camera with them. It's been a fantastic camera and it's really helped me shape my style as a photographer. It's constantly teaching me because it's totally manual. I've always just loved their cameras.
They're not cheap, so I tell people if you're going to buy one you've got to be using it. For me it's a business case but a lot of people who have the dough will go and buy it and it will just sit there, which I think is a crime. Only buy the stuff you need.
Modern or old, ultimate Porsche?
I own it, I already own it.
Okay, that's a fair answer. Last question - money no object, excluding your Porsche, three car garage?
Well, I'm building right now a Fiat Panda 4x4, the Series 1.
I'm fully restoring that. We're doing the full interior with all the fabrics of my buddy's company, Larusmiani, big fur seats and all this stuff. So that's going to be my little St. Moritz weapon for the Winter. And then my 911 for sure.
Oh, excluded. I'm a huge fan of the 996 GT2. I think this car is just such an animal and I'd love to own one. My friend James Marks just bought one the other day, I'm pretty jealous. I'm not an envious guy but this is one 911 that I'd love to own someday because I think it's one of the last of that era that really could kill you. These modern cars have so much traction, so much grip, so much technology to keep you on the road that you're on rails essentially. With this GT2 it's just really trying to kill you, it's super cool. I love it, and I've always loved the 996 styling. I guess because it was probably the first modern Porsche experience I had. My dad borrowed a friend of his C4S cabrio, and we just had an amazing weekend with it, he and I and my brother. That's just a very important car to me. So I've always loved the 996 style.
Then last car, so we've got the Panda 4x4 sorted, we've got the GT2. I don't know, what would be the last car? I drove a friend of mine's original Le Mans history D-Type, and this was really an incredible experience. I did about 140 mph in it, and it just felt like it wanted to go further and further and further. To have that experience in a car of that age was really quite moving to me.
Great choices. Certainly I would love a D-Type, Panda, GT2. I wouldn't be complaining. Excellent. Ted, thank you so much for your time, it's been absolutely brilliant. I am sorry we're disturbing your walk up a mountain, I hope that all goes well and I look forward to seeing you hopefully in the next couple of months.
Yes, we'll get you through the tunnel and come over to the mountains this Winter. I'm sure you'll be needing it. I have a feeling that we're all heading back towards a very strange Fall, let's say.
Yes, back to the cabin. We'll see, fingers crossed. Ted, thank you so much and see you soon.