Dennis Gage really doesn’t like the name of his popular television show, “My Classic Car.” To him, it’s a misnomer. Taken literally, a classic car is post-World War I, pre-World War II. That leaves out a slew of collectibles, including the 1965 Mustang, 1957 Chevrolet and 1959 Cadillac.
Unfortunately, “My Historically Significant Car” doesn’t have the same ring to it. So, who would fret over such a minute detail? Leave it to the most overly educated person on television, which Gage possibly is.
He has a Ph.D. in chemistry and helped create several popular products, from Pringles potato chips to Boost energy drink. The mad scientist also has that trademark handlebar moustache, which he describes as a leftover from a ZZ Top beard he sported back in his college days.
Each episode of his show ends with the catchphrase, “Honor the timeless classics.” Gage plans on doing just that as this year’s honorary chairman of the Hilton Head Island Motoring Festival and Concours d’Elegance.
Gage took a few moments to speak with Hilton Head Monthly leading up to the event. You can meet him from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Nov. 6 at the Coastal Discovery Museum on Hilton Head Island.
Q: How does it feel to be the honorary chairman of the Hilton Head Island Motoring Festival and Concours d’Elegance?
A: It’s a cool thing to be. I think (the festival) has come a long way in 10 years. It’s not easy to establish a legitimate concours, which this is. Hilton Head provides a really wonderful place for the best-of-the-best, elegance of design and a quality of restoration crowd. It’s a museum on a field of green grass.
Q: I know you are an avid collector. What is the favorite of your collection?
A: All of them. Each is my favorite for a different reason. I don’t consider myself a collector, mine is more of a grouping. It’s just stuff that I think is cool and fun ‑ ’56 Lincoln Premiere, ’63 Studebaker GT Hawk, ’63 T-bird, ’67 T-bird. Frankly, they’re all 20-footers. From 20 feet away, they look pretty good.
Q: Your show has produced more than 250 episodes, spanning 16 seasons. Why do you feel it is so popular?
A: I get to go to all these cool places and meet all of these interesting folks ‑ people from Jay Leno to Joe Q. CarGuy. It’s just experiencing the car hobby and I get to take everybody along with me. It isn’t reality TV, it’s real TV. It’s real people doing real things.
Q: In your opinion, what makes the hobby so special?
A: There is a car for every pocketbook. Go get yourself some little old lady’s ’67 four-door LeMans in beige, purple-brown or something like that. If you are a high school kid, that will still be the coolest car in your group because nobody else has one. And the thing will cost you like $800.
Q: Is the look of Mr. Pringle a coincidence?
A: The short answer is yes, but as with most urban legends, there is an element of truth. I’m one of the developers of Pringles, that’s true. My name is on a patent or two. I had the handlebar moustache when I was working on that, but the logo predates me. I always explain it as, “I’m not really on the can, I’m in the can.” It’s funny though because even a lot of people at Procter & Gamble just thought that was me to this day.
Q: Obviously, you’re a smart guy and you could do anything you wanted to do. Is this the perfect job for you?
A: Yeah, because it’s a lot of fun. This has got to be the ultimate job.
By Lance Hanlin