Talk to Roger Falcone for a little while and it’s easy to understand how his office on Chandler Boulevard in Ahwatukee has become the nerve center for one of the most successful set of websites on the planet, pouring $750,000 into the local economy last year alone.
With a dash of motorhead, a sprinkling of computer geek – and a whole lot of business savvy and foresight – the 20-year Ahwatukee resident has developed a skein of automobile websites that command the attention of millions of people around the world and employ 27 people in Ahwatukee.
Through the websites that Falcone birthed and nurtured over the last 13 years, owners of classic and collector cars meet each other, sell to and buy from each other and – as of a month ago – also auction vehicles.
As the CEO of the Collector Car Network, Falcone presides over the world’s most comprehensive collection of resources for buyers, sellers and owners of classic and collector vehicles.
His enterprise has twice been inducted into the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing privately held companies in America that, as his website explains, serves “the passions and lifestyles of classic automotive enthusiasts” who can easily and safely buy and sell classic and collector vehicles of all ages and makes.
His flagship brand, ClassicCars.com, is the largest online collector car marketplace in the world and ranks 2,954 out of a billion domains for web visits and engagement, according to Alexa Rank, the Amazon tool that measures such internet activity. Among millions of U.S. websites, it ranks 612.
His ClassicCars.com Journal is a regularly updated site with hundreds of articles on everything automotive – or, as the site puts it, “steel, rubber and soul” – from how to pick a good restoration service to backroads where you can see vintage car shows in motion to the latest concept designs and even 50s movies like the 1958 “Hot Rod Gang.”
It also has been voted the second most influential automotive blog in the country.
Another brand under the Collector Car Network umbrella, called futurecollectorcarshow.com, features pictures of souped-up cars and hot rods from Falcone’s Future Collector Car Show that kicks off Arizona Auction Week. That show will be held Jan. 17 on High Street in North Phoenix, where, since 2016, owners have a free chance to show vehicles of any make, model, year and condition.
Now, Falcone has added another brand to the Collector Car Network.
AutoHunter.com is his new online auction for collectible vehicles – offering people to sell and buy vehicles on a bid basis like the restored 1948 Ford Super Deluxe Woody Resto-Mod powered by a 2019 GM engine that had a high bid of $7,000 with 16 days left to raise the ante or the 1996 Porsche that, with three days to go, had a top bid of $3,000.
Right now, you can place a bid on a 2003 Red Ferrari 360 Modena F1 with a mere 33 miles or a 1960 MG MGA Roadster with a 5-speed manual transmission.
The possibilities on Falcone’s sites are almost endless – as is his business. Classiccars.com, the backbone of his enterprise, pulls in a monthly average of 4.5 million visitors who can peruse over 35,000 vehicles for sale.
So popular is the site that the pandemic barely made a dent.
Indeed, from March to July, Falcone said, traffic grew 34 percent year-over-year.
Falcone’s top two people in the enterprise say it’s easy to understand how all that traffic has become a major force in the local economy.
It not only has created fulltime jobs for people who vet the vehicles, the owners and potential buyers, but also has provided business for local vendors and services like mechanics and transporters who can connect buyers halfway around the world with a vehicle they bought from someone in the Valley.
“The collector car industry and hobby, by its inherent nature, consists of being able to get out on the open road to enjoy the innate passion for the automobile,” said Mike Langthorne, vice president of ClassicCars.com. “With the COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacting in-person gatherings, the expansion of our digital platform has helped to feed and foster the passion of collector car enthusiasts, providing a much-needed bridge to the collector car community as we eagerly await a return to some sense of normalcy.”
As for auto hunter, Thomas Bechtel, classiccars.com operations director: “We’ve leveraged the operational and transactional knowledge that comes with listing millions of vehicles over the last 13 years to build an effective, safe and engaging new online auction platform.”
Falcone didn’t expect to settle in Ahwatukee when he moved out here from his native Boston to sell his company, an online site that carried stories about motor sports, to a buyer that made products for the same industry.
“It was supposed to be three years and turned out to be 20,” he quipped.
Before he ever got into online businesses, he had worked for an energy company in Massachusetts, where he was in charge of several computer-related departments.
Then, “I started to break out on my own and start my own business.”
He had started the motor sports site in 1994 – when the internet was barely a baby to the world at large – and at the same time bought the domain name classiccars.com.
He had gone to a couple conferences and learned about the internet, then “I decided to take the lead.”
“I first had to explain to my wife and family what the internet was – that shows you how long ago it was,” said Falcone, who with his wife Diane has two grown children.
What followed can only be described the way Falcone explains it: serendipity.
“I’ve always had an interest in cars,” he explained. “I’m not a mechanic or mechanically inclined in any way, but I’ve always had an interest in cars and I was introduced to this gentleman at the time and told him I was I was interested in starting the company and it just so happened that he owned a racetrack.”
In 2007, Falcone decided to do something with the classiccars.com domain.
“I’ve always loved the history and the beauty and the stories and the passion behind classic cars, so I thought I’d give that a shot,” he said.
The only problem: The next year saw the advent of the Great Recession.
“Yeah, so my timing wasn’t always great,” he chuckled. “But we managed to grow throughout that whole ordeal. We were really really fortunate. We were able to still grow the company.”
“Now we’re the largest car marketplace and we’re right here in Ahwatukee,”
He has also built a reputation among car lovers for his company’s efforts to protect buyers from shady sellers – and vice versa.
Sellers have to prove they actually can come up with the cash for vehicles. Buyers get a protection plan that insures them against ending up with a car that has no title or has undisclosed damage or hose make and model year were misrepresented.
And between his automotive specialists and other employees who assist owners and buyers with all facets of the online operation, his enterprise has won customer service awards for the last five years.
Falcone is psyched about autohunter.com.
The difference between classiccars.com and autohunter.com, he said, is that the latter “is not just classic cars and certainly not old or older classics….This is about interesting and collectible vehicles. And so, if you go to the site you might see a 2003 Ferrari or a 1992 Toyota. We wanted to broaden our reach.”
And Falcone gets a chuckle that while people around the world know his brands, you’d barely notice the nerve center where his global enterprise is based – right across Chandler Boulevard from the Safeway supermarket.
For passersby, he said, “the trees are blocking every once awhile until they trim them a little bit. It’s probably the world’s best kept secret in a way.”
But he’s happy to be here, stating:
“We’re proud to be in Ahwatukee and we’re certainly proud of having so many of our Ahwatukee folks working here. It’s a very special place.”