Talking Vintage Cars and Wine With Kindred Motorworks
If drinking Albariño in a vintage (electric!) Chevy pickup truck sounds like your thing, you need to meet Rob Howard of Kindred Motorworks.
Vintage cars get modernized at Kindred Motorworks, an ultra-cool vehicle-building company not far from the vineyards of Napa and Sonoma counties in San Rafael, California. “We make your formerly irrational desire for a vintage car completely justifiable,” states the Kindred website, and we totally get it! Bring on the vintage objects of our dreams.
The Kindred team, led by founder and chief operating officer Rob Howard, builds modernized vintage cars like no one else. The technology at work allows them to “map the genome of each model in such detail, that we can manage our workflows in ways never seen before in vintage cars.” Kindred clients end up with a well-built car that captures the intrigue of the past with the efficiency of the present — resulting in the vintage car of the future.
We sat down with Rob to get his thoughts on inspiration, wine-loving, and what to drink while admiring a vintage Ford Bronco. Here’s what he had to say.
Verve Wine: How did you get into vintage cars? Has it always been a passion for you?
Rob Howard: My Dad taught me to work on cars in our driveway in Philadelphia. In our family, when it broke, we fixed it so all the Howards learned to be handy at a young age. I’ve been working on old cars ever since, primarily once my wife and kids go to bed.
VW: What was your inspiration for starting Kindred Motorworks?
RH: Every time I ‘finish’ a restoration or buy an old car, I’ve been disappointed. There’s always a number of things I want to change which is really difficult and when you add up the unreliability, the lack of modern conveniences (seat belts for example), and 10 miles per gallon. The joy was drained from owning and driving old cars. Kindred modernizes these vintage cars with the goal of eliminating unreliability and poor performance so you can just be present in the moment and truly enjoy the experience.
VW: Kindred Motorworks and Verve Wine both have a mission to create joyful experiences — how does this mission translate into your everyday life? Have you been able to notice more joy in your day-to-day since you started Kindred?
RH: I built two other companies previously, one in supply chain and one in technology. Building companies is always difficult but Kindred is a more rewarding experience. The cars are tangible, nostalgic, and frankly, so impressive. I’ve also been able to recruit a bunch of folks that I’ve loved working with at my previous two companies which creates a more loyal and casual working environment. Being able to test drive these cars home every night brings my work home in a joyful way that I can share with my whole family.
VW: How did you get into wine?
RH: On a trip to Las Vegas in my 20s with my three brothers, we splurged for a nice steak dinner. My oldest brother has always been a real wine lover and despite heckling from the brothers, he called over the sommelier and paired wines for our meal. I couldn’t name the wines he chose but it was the first time that I experienced how wine could enhance the taste of the food and the overall experience. Since then, I’ve always tied wine to creating joyful and memorable experiences.
VW: Does your approach to the details in your work translate to your interest in wine and what you look for in a bottle?
RH: The painstaking process of designing and building our cars mirrors the efforts you see winemakers going through. We also hear from our customers that they have an interest in wine along with their interest in vintage cars. In fact, our production facility is on the Napa River on the border of Napa County so we often arrange for customer visits to our favorite wineries. On their behalf, we look for wines and wineries that provide a memorable experience for us and for our customers.
VW: Are there particular regions and vintages of wine you gravitate towards?
RH: The Howard family loves to travel and we’ve spent a bunch of time in some great wine regions, particularly in Spain and Italy. Wines that we encountered in these areas bring back those family memories in a powerful way. We also live just 30 minutes from Napa and Sonoma so we’ve been lucky to meet friends that run some great wineries. When we take out-of-town friends up to Napa or Sonoma, we always visit wineries that our friends operate as they are more meaningful for us.
VW: If you could pair a wine with each of your models, what would it be?
RH: Bronco — For the Kindred Bronco it wasn’t easy to get the design, power, performance, and stance just right. With respect to wine, that probably best aligns with the complexity of a bold red wine. How about a big red from Bedrock Wine Co., a Zinfandel blend or Syrah? Complex and bold enough to keep up.
VW: Bus — The Kindred bus is just pure JOY. Everyone who sees the bus cracks a smile and when they realize it’s electric, that smile gets bigger. How about pairing the bus with a celebratory sparkling wine from Las Jaras in Mendocino, CA?
Learn more about Kindred Motorworks here.