Kicking the Tires
This post was originally published in the May 2017 edition of Lake Norman Currents.
After 17 years in the NFL, Olindo Mare shifts gears – literally
It is difficult to say when and where retired NFL kicker, Olindo Mare, saw his first Ferrari or Lamborghini. As a boy living in South Florida during the flashy, flamingo-filled time of Don Johnson, Rico Tubbs and Miami Vice, exotic cars were more the rule than the exception. Case and point, a trip to South Beach might lead to seeing more brightly painted imported sports cars in an hour than most other boys around the country might see in a year – or a lifetime.
It was a trip to an auto show with his father when Mare was just ten years old that won his heart over to cars. Walking the display floor and seeing vehicles in every size, shape and color opened his eyes to the world of wheels. But the Mare’s were a conservative, practical family, and the possibility of a higher-end exotic car finding its way to the family’s driveway was never really a possibility.
“We had a mini-van that was always in the shop and a Buick whose doors wouldn’t shut,” explains Mare, who lives in Mooresville. “There was the one time my Dad brought home a Supra; the one time in his life he splurged on a nice car. Within the first month it got stolen, then we found it stripped.
Instead of replacing it with another Supra, Mare’s dad went back to a minivan.
Cars in the league
Coming out of Syracuse as a soccer player converted to a football kicker, Mare was signed by the New York Giants as an undrafted free agent and later found a home with the Miami Dolphins.
“When I got into the league, you’d see the parking lots; they were car shows unto themselves,” he remembers. “The rules were different back then, so the athletes got all the car deals.
Athletes are competitive in nature, and that spilled over into cars. “If one guy drives in and sees someone else with a newer or better Mercedes or BMW or Ranger Rover or whatever, he tries to get the next one up or do something to make his better.”
But Mare was different. During his first year in the NFL he lived at home with his mom, trying to save as much money as he could. His first “real” car was a Honda CRV and he paid it off, telling himself until he signed a long-term deal, he would not buy a new car. Since he kept signing one-year deals, he would tell himself annually, “I’m never going to get a car.” That exotic Ferrari or Lamborghini would have to wait.
When he finally signed his first long term deal, a six-year agreement negotiated by uber agent and friend Drew Rosenhaus, he still wouldn’t pull the trigger on buying the car of his dreams.
“So I told myself, screw it. After I play ten years in the league, I’m buying a Ferrari,” he remembers. “But the closest thing that happened was Ricky Williams driving me to the airport in his Ferrari. As cool and smart as Ricky was, and as amazing as that car was, nope, I didn’t do it.”
A new venture
After leaving South Florida as the Dolphins’ all-time leading scorer, then swinging through New Orleans for a season, Mare was traded to Seattle before landing with the Panthers and finishing his 16th NFL season kicking for the Chicago Bears. Living in Charlotte since 2008 while playing three seasons in Seattle brought its share of logistical challenges, especially when it came to vehicles. In his last season with the Seahawks, he splurged – a bit – and bought both a ’67 Mustang and a ’67 Camaro, telling himself whichever car he liked least he would sell and the car he liked more he would keep and restore.
“I sold the Camaro to Marshawn Lynch basically because the logistics of having and moving multiple cars and moving from coast to coast, five of us plus the dog, was too much,” Mare explains. “And while I was in Seattle, I had Billy [West] working on the Mustang.”
West, co-owner of Denver’s Klassic Rides, admits he’s not a sports fan and that he didn’t recognize Mare when he first came in asking him to do work on his Mustang. “I treated him like any other customer,” he says. “I saw a conservative guy when it came to spending money on cars, someone with a huge passion for cars who had specific taste, who knew what he wanted, and who knew a heck of a lot more about exotic cars than I did.”
West and Mare found fast friendship, and in the early years after Mare retired, the pair became partners when Mare bought into the business as a co-owner in January 2014.
A self-proclaimed “non-mechanical car guy,” Mare became the shop’s front man, doing everything from walking current and potential customers through the shop and discussing projects, to reaching out to athletes and marketing the shop’s services, to picking up phones whenever needed.
Before long, he gave in house auto mechanics a try, changing the four-speed transmission of his beloved Mustang to a five-speed. “When I put in the five speed transmission I got a taste of the work the hands-on guys do, and I saw the other side of the business,” Mare recalls. “It took me five tries over I don’t know how many days.”
In less than three years, Mare has helped grow the company’s stable of projects “in the works” from about three dozen to more than 70. Klassic Rides restored a Jeep CJ for friend Rob Conrad, a ’67 Chevelle for Nate Clements and a ’49 Jaguar for Humpy Wheeler.
“When I walk in and see 70 cars, I get excited,” Mare says. “I love talking cars. I love working with clients on developing ideas for their projects. I love seeing their visions become reality. I love test driving almost every vehicle that passes through the garage and, I’ll tell you what, I’d go to car shows every day if I was allowed.”
And maybe, just maybe, somewhere out there at a car show in the not too distant future, Mare might finally make the decision to purchase that Ferrari he saw with his dad as a kid.
“Someday I’m going to get one, I know I will,” he says. “Maybe it’s just right now I’m having too much fun behind different wheels you might say or, sure, I’ll admit it, maybe it’s that I just don’t have the guts to drop the big bucks.”