Spielman went into commercial real estate instead, on the East Coast. In 1973, he made his first foray into collecting, spying a 1966 Corvette coupe for sale in Hemmings Motor News, a trade publication. The car was in Miami. He flew there on a one-way plane ticket, intending to drive back with his new acquisition.
It broke down just outside Miami, introducing Spielman to the temperamental nature of high-end wheels — and to the generosity of other collectors. One spotted him stopped along the side of the road, called a friend who serviced Corvettes, and before too long Spielman was back on the road.
About 20 years ago, he decided it was time to transition into the next phase of his life. He'd done well in real estate and wondered if he could turn his car hobby into a business. He moved with his wife to San Diego and opened a company to service, buy and sell classics.
He said he knew he was on the right track when he was unloading equipment at the shop and a guy walked up with questions about the new enterprise. Spielman explained what he was up to and the guy said, "Great! I have three old Lincolns I want you to restore."
Spielman isn't mechanically inclined himself, so the work was done by others. "If I get in there, I can bleed on your car, but that's about it," he joked.
The service side of the business closed five years ago so Spielman could devote more space to another passion, military history. That's become a side museum in the same building, with artifacts from various U.S. wars, including the one he fought in, Vietnam.
When he came home from his stint overseas, in uniform, he got spit on in airports, he said — a reflection of how polarizing that conflict had become among Americans.
"Some day," he remembered telling himself, "I'm going to do something to fix that." He regularly hosts gatherings of service members, military veterans and school children to share the memorabilia.
A hobby grows
Collectors often zero in on a particular make or style. Muscle cars, maybe. Rolls-Royces. That's why there are multiple classes at events like the La Jolla Concours. This year's featured marque is Bugatti.