The history of automotive imports in post-war America is neat: G.I.’s returning from Europe after World War II brought fun-to-drive sports cars, showing Americans a new bent on driving; British Fords catching hold with some Americans until Volkswagen came to town; and everyone and his mom trying to penetrate the American market after Volkswagen’s success, mostly with lackluster results. However, there is another story about imports in America, and that story comes from Max Hoffman, an Manhattan-based importer, distributor and car dealer who represented Jaguar, Porsche, Mercedes, Fiat, Lancia, BMW and more. A book about the man and the legend has just been released: “Max Hoffman — Million Dollar Middleman” by long-time automotive journalist Myles Kornblatt.
The story of Max Hoffman is so much more than selling funky cars to college professors and the hygiene-challenged. Hoffman was instrumental in pushing the manufacturers for such significant cars as the Mercedes 300 SL “Gullwing”, Porsche Speedster, BMW 507 and Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider. As you can imagine, New York (and the Northeast in particular) was a hotbed of import activity, expensive or otherwise, and the Austrian immigrant was the man who helped shape the futures of European car companies. “He pushed manufacturers specifically for cars that would strike a chord and make everybody involved richer,” says Kornblatt, but Hoffman’s marketing acumen also came with a cost: a vindictiveness that included lawsuits against his suppliers, threats of mob hits and more.
“Sometimes the hero, sometimes the villain, but more often than not, Max Hoffman was the unseen puppet master behind some of today’s best classics,” adds Kornblatt. Among other things, Hoffman was the sole importer and distributor of BMW in the United States until BMW bought his business in 1975. Certainly, there is a story to tell, and Myles Kornblatt’s book on this history is overdue and welcomed.
“Max Hoffman — Million Dollar Middleman” is published by Veloce Publishing.
V5503 • Hardback • 9.84 x 8.14 in • $50 • 160 pages • 227 colour and b&w pictures • ISBN: 978-1-787115-03-3 • UPC: 6-36847-01503-9