About Francis G. (Frank) MandaranoYour Car Guy Tour Guide!
- Car Guy Since Age 12
- Decorated Veteran
- Licensed Commercial Pilot
- Founder of Maserati Club International and MIE Corporation
- Founder of Concorso Italiano
- Founder of the original and one and only Car Guy Tour
- Still a Car Guy at 69 and loving it!
Where to begin?
Frank, like a lot of you, became interested in cars and all things mechanical at a young age. In 1958, at age 12, he was already building model cars and airplanes and reading hot rod magazines. His favorites were Car Craft, Hot Rod, Rod and Kustom and many others.
His first car at age 16 was a ‘47 Ford convertible that was immediately suped up with reversed wheels, white side wall tires and three 97s. The flathead was eventually replaced with a small block 283 with the obligatory “Corvette” valve covers. The engine was mated (via an adapter) to the stock “three on the tree” trans which later gave way to the 39 Ford floor shifter.
Those were the “Happy Days” back in Bellingham, when Frank could be found out in the garage late at night with the Ford jacked up in the rear, while he and his friend Hank replaced another broken transmission. (Okay, technically they both should have been doing their homework.) The Ford was eventually replaced with a ‘56 Ford and then a ‘55 Chevy.
It was off to Vietnam after high school. After his tour of duty, he arrived in San Francisco, looked in the classifieds, went out and bought a red ‘61 Corvette Fuelie and jumped in and drove back to Bellingham Washington.
He is a fourth generation Washingtonian, whose great grandparents emigrated from Italy in 1901. Frank served in the US Army from 1966 to 1968. Due to his high mechanical aptitude, he was trained in multi-engine, gas turbine, multi-rotor, heavy lift helicopters, as well as single engine gas turbine UH1B “Huey” Gun Ships. As a Helicopter Flight Engineer, Frank was authorized to make any repair to the “ship” in the field to make it fly. Twice decorated for heroism, he received the Cross of Gallantry and Air Medal with “V” devise for valor while participating in aerial flight. Those were exiting times for a young man!
After the military, Frank settled in Seattle and enrolled in flight school at Boeing Field. He became a private pilot and went on to earn a commercial pilot license, with float and twin engine ratings. His hopes of being a commercial pilot were dashed when an old 30,000 hour pilot told him, “Pilots are like piano players. There are a lot of them, but very few make money at it.”
In the late ‘60s, Frank ventured into the real estate business and bought the old Fremont Hotel (the left bank equivalent of Seattle), where upon he set out to transform not only the building but the neighborhood along with it. He didn’t make the cover of the Rolling Stone but he did warrant a full page article. (See “Un-hassled Times at the Fremont Hotel,” by Erik Lacitas. Rolling Stone Magazine Feb 21st. 1970, Page 12).
In 1976, Frank and his future wife and business partner Janet, founded the Maserati Club International on the kitchen table, after his newly purchased Maserati 3500 GTI “broke” on the second day of ownership. The Club grew to become the world’s largest Maserati club with over 3500 members from 39 countries. The Club newsletter eventually grew into the full color premier Maserati Magazine, Viale Ciro Menotti (VCM). Frank and Janet authored of over 250 articles on a wide range of Maserati subjects, from highly technical fuel injection tuning tips to research on various rare and highly valuable Maserati “works of art.” Along the way, Frank, by now a professional photographer, amassed one of the world’s largest archives of Maserati photographs. Many images are of cover quality in medium format color positive form. Thousands of photographs in the archive are carefully indexed and cross referenced and much of his photography is featured in VCM.
Companies Founded by the Mandaranos
1978 – 1989 MIE Corp. The Mandaranos’ established the MIE Corp. as an exclusive Maserati service and restoration company. MIE employed 4 mechanics, 3 trimmers, 1 sheet metal man, 1 body man and a part time painter, in addition to 4 parts guys.
Over the next 11 years, MIE restored, and/or performed major service on, over 500 Maserati GT Cars sent from all over North America and overseas. MIE’s parts inventory grew to over 8 million dollars in new/used Maserati parts. In 1994, MIE purchased the complete inventory, fixtures and equiptment of Maserati Automobiles Inc. (the USA Factory distributor) for one million dollars.
1978 MIE Bindery. The Mandaranos’ founded MIE Bindery, a full service printing and bindery company equipped with Heidelberg offset and windmill letter presses, as well as a Ditti web press. Running two shifts, the company was eventually sold to their largest customer.
1986 Concorso Italiano. The Mandaranos’ founded the highly acclaimed Concorso Italiano which began with 50 Maseratis and, with their vision, grew to over 800 Italian cars, 10,000 attendees, high-profile global corporate sponsors, legendary Italian automotive personalities and an award winning event program. The Concorso Italiano became one of the official three big events of the Monterey/Pebble Beach weekend.
1998 Car Guy Tour. The Mandaranos’ established the Car Guy Tour, a hobby business that introduces Americans to the Italian culture, Italian automotive design, restoration, and manufacturing industry. After years of annual pilgrimages, Frank had the thought that while he was in Modena every year – surrounded by the best of the Italian automotive world and enjoying every moment of it – why not invite others and share with them this incredible opportunity to experience “up close and personal” the making of (design and manufacturer) Italian high-performance automotive machinery. There is nothing else like it in the world! Hence, the Car Guy Tour was born.
After 2002, Frank and Janet sold their interest in the Maserati business and in 2004 sold the Concorso Italiano but held onto their real-estate holdings , which now included warehousing, Medical Building and upscale rental homes.
In 2005, the Mandaranos’ rented a fabulous apartment well positioned on the Arno in the center of Firenze, for 5 months in order to fulfill one of their life long dreams of actually living in Italy. Their then 15 year old son, Antonio, attended a semester at the International School of Florence.
The Car Guy Tour continues to be a fun and rewarding way of introducing fellow enthusiasts to Italy and, hopefully, provides them the opportunity to experience the magic that Frank experienced on his first visit to Modena back in 1971.
After selling MIE in 2002 Frank focused on Concorso Italiano, which by then had become a world-class event with thousands of spectators, hundreds of Italian cars, major sponsors and over 125 vendors.
One day they received an offer that they couldn’t refuse and decided hey, why not? So Frank and Janet sold CI. The deal closed on Feb 24th 2004.
Then in September of 2005, Janet and Frank along with their then 14-year-old son Tony moved to Florence, Italy for 6 months, something they had always dreamed of doing. They rented a beautiful apartment on the Arno river, 15 minutes walking to the center. Tony enrolled in the International School of Florence and Janet and I got to know the city. They must have gone to the Pitti Palace 5 times. They took mini trips to Rome, Napoli, Pompei, Capri and many other places we had not gone before.
It was during this time in Italy on a trip to Modena they discovered some of the greatest balsamic glaze in the world. After returning to Mercer Island, Janet had a label designed and began importing and selling the Glaze under the Mandarano brand. Six years later they are in 26 locations and are very happy with the internet sales. Check it out at: www.balsamicsauce.com
June 2007 Boeing
After returning from Italy, Frank concluded an agreement to represent Italdesign, Pininfarina and Zagato here in the USA on the industrial design side of the business and subsequently completed an agreement with Boeing, designing and producing a few hundred seats. An RFP (request for proposal) was sent out and Pininfarina Extra won the bid. They did such a great job Boeing put us on their preferred vendor list and placed a second order. The Pininfarina seat program actually won an aviation industry award equivalent to something like the Oscars in the entertainment industry.
In Jan 2008 Frank ventured off to Buenos Aires to check it out. He rented an apartment on Quintana Ave in Recoleta for 4 weeks and went about meeting all the car guys he could find – and there are a lot of them. He enjoyed it so much that in November of 2009, he returned with Janet for 5 weeks and did a Car Guy Tour to Argentina (Buenos Aires.)
Those were really fun days for them. They took the same apartment on Quintana Ave and enjoyed the local scene. They took tango lessons twice a week, attended the world Polo playoffs and took in some horse racing. Buenos Aires is a great city with no lack of things to do and see. Did you know it is 51% Italian heritage? There are also a lot of car guys down there.
2009 Winter in the Sun
After Tony went off to college (University of San Diego) Frank and Janet decided to winter in Palm Desert, California and get away from the rainy overcast winters in Seattle. They bought a home a couple blocks from the trendy El Paseo shopping street and have enjoyed it more each time they return. 2009 was also the year that Frank returned to Concorso Italiano as a consultant. It has been very gratifying for him to see the Concorso Italiano return to its former glory after the disastrous Marina Airport fiasco under the previous owner.
Moving on, well, for sure retirement is not part of who he is. Frank has kept engaged in several new ventures and is always open for new ones. His primary job is that of a property manager and landlord. He has been buying, owning and managing real-estate since he bought the Freemont Hotel when he was 24 years old.
Classic Maseratis are still very much a part of his life. His daily driver a Mercedes S500 sedan. He also enjoys his 300cc Vespa both in the desert and on Mercer Island. Motorcycles have always been a part of Franks life and he currently rides a Kawasaki W650 which is an exact knock off of a 1967 Triumph Bonneville.
In Oct 2010 he bought a lovely early roll up window 3500GT #708 and fell in love all over again.
Then again on Dec 16th 2011 he bought his second 3500GT #686 and on April 2nd 2012 bought his 3rd. 3500GT #916 for a total of three of them. “I enjoy working on these cars and bringing them back to the way they were when they left the factory” says Frank.
In May of 2013 he bought his 4th 3500GT number 2818 a very late car and another California barn find.
In August 2013 Frank and Janet bought a medical building in Mill Creek. The deal closed in Sept.
The 2013 Car Guy Tour was fully sold out and Tony again joined his dad. Tony was a big help and they were very lucky to be able to spend such quality time together.
After the Tour Frank drove up to Germany to the ZF factory to deliver two Maserati transmissions for repair. He then headed over to the Burgundy region of France to visit his friends at the Olivier LaFlaive Vineyard and stay at the LaFlaive Hotel. It was a great experience which was repeated in Sept 2014, this time which his wife Janet.
They stayed there for 4 nights and had fun day tripping around the region enjoying the great vineyards and little villages.
In the fall of 2013 Frank and Janet again headed south to their home in Palm Desert and they began remodeling the back yard and pool area. Frank designed a 16 X 35’ cantilevered canopy that hovers over the back yard patio. A massive steel structure, fully engineered, which contains 3 skylights 2 fans and 12 night lights on dimmers.
The complete patio area and pool copping was poured with beautiful flat work which included new lawn and Astroturf. Tropical plants were planted everywhere for that Hawaiian feeling. With the pool heated to 86 degrees there is no better place to hang out than in that back yard.
Frank then began work on the 3500GT #916. The engine was removed and the car was disassembled and painted a beautiful Carbon Grey, the interior was trimmed in black leather with rust color carpets and a new headliner. The engine was serviced, the front and rear seals replaced and the Webber’s rebuilt with new shafts. The car is now finished and running really great. The second 3500GT # 686 “The Latina” is now finished as well and was the subject of a superb 6 min video done by Petrolicious.com.
In 2013 Frank helped the Concorso Italiano establish a new show (The Desert Concorso) in Palm Desert at the Shadow Mountain Resort. The show was held on March 30th 2013 and was a very big hit with those attending. There were 180 really nice cars in attendance.
The Sept 2014 Car Guy Tour sold out in the middle of April.
As it starts to get very hot here in the desert they are already looking forward to returning to Mercer Island.
Moving forward it is hard to say what we will be doing but what ever it is, it will be fun, something we enjoy, and above all, on our terms and our time schedule.
The lovely “Latina” 3500GT #686 found a new home in Cologne Germany and in Oct of that year a beautiful 3500GT Vignale Spyder #1121 joined the Mandarano collection.
To be continued…