An Interview with Ed Bolian: From Lamborghini to VINWiki and Beyond
Everything you wanted to know about Ed and more!
If you've been around the YouTube car community for some time, you've likely heard of the channel VINWiki and its founder Ed Bolian. You might also recognize him from the newest YouTube car show CarTrek, whose third iteration was covered by our very own Kyle Ferlita.
I am very happy to say that I was recently able to interview Ed and learn more about his journey with cars and what it took to get to where he is now. Enjoy!
Q: How did the idea to create VINWiki come about?
The VINwiki app was based on the premise that representing a car and documenting what is known about a vehicle is a lot more useful than what traditional vehicle history reporting platforms might offer a prospective buyer. Particularly in the extremes, meaning really nice or really terrible cars, Carfax and AutoCheck are rather useless. We built a crowd-sourcing app that allows anyone to input information about any car by its VIN or by its license plate. We now have 360,000 users making millions of posts to cars and revealing tons of information that would not be discoverable elsewhere.
A year after we launched the app, we launched a storytelling YouTube channel designed to promote the app by blowing up information and experiences that would be ideal posts within the app into recorded videos from owners and stakeholders. With over 400 million views, it has grown to an audience of 1.3 million subscribers.
Q: Many people know you for your love and ownership of Lamborghinis. How did that love start?
I loved thumbing through duPont Registry and seeing Diablos for sale as a kid but my love for the brand really cemented when I saw Road and Track review the 2002 Murcielago and document its world speed records at Nardo. Seeing a new car set the fastest 100 km, 100 miles, and furthest distance driven in an hour was unreal and the dream was born.
I always loved Ferraris as well and growing up I probably would have said that was my brand of choice. When I owned a 360 and a Gallardo for the rental company I started in college, my preference was for the 360 but when I transitioned from that business to selling cars I had offers with Ferrari and Lamborghini. I chose to work at Lamborghini Atlanta because selling their cars was a much bigger challenge rather than simply order taking at Ferrari.
I grew to appreciate the cars a lot more in the dealership setting but as much as the newer and more technological cars were useful and impressive, it just cemented my love of the manual LP640 even more.
Q: What is it about terrible examples of fantastic cars that you like so much?
When you meet exotic car owners, 90% of the time you will hear a reason they avoid driving their cars fairly early in the conversation. It may be their concern for miles, maintenance, depreciation, damage, or what others may think. It may be the packaging, ground clearance, visibility, and other usability concerns. I noticed this early and on and wanted to solve it for my own use.
The best way to avoid those worries was to buy cars that were already blemished, used, and enjoyed. Not only were they cheaper to buy, but in most cases it was impossible to make them less valuable. Even though I would act the same way if I were able to buy a brand new, perfect supercar, I also know how easy it is to enjoy carefree miles in a terrible example of one of your favorite cars.
Q: What do you miss most from working at Lamborghini Atlanta?
I miss the negotiating. Being in car sales is fun because you are always making deals. I enjoyed it a lot more when the cars were harder to sell. The dealership life has its pathologies and ultimately I am glad to be in a different season of life but I could see myself going back at some point if life permitted me the leverage to set my own schedule. That being said, when marginal work always equals marginal reward, it is nearly impossible for driven people to retain any work-life balance in sales positions.
Q: Let’s say you couldn’t get a European car for some reason. Is there an American car brand you would be okay with owning?
I have always wanted a Viper. I really don’t fit in them, being 6’5”, but I love everything about the cars. With a custom seat, I think I could make one work and that is certainly on the bucket list.
Q: What is your favorite car you’ve ever owned and how did you get it?
My current manual LP640 painted Verde Draco. The condensed version is this:
-I recognized that manual Murcielago LP640s were 90% rarer than people thought.
-I got a loan to buy the nicest one in the country.
-I published the VINs of each car on my personal website.
-That got spread around, referenced by auction houses, and values doubled.
-I sold the nicest one at a huge profit that allowed me to buy the worst one with the profit.
-I ended up owning my dream car outright with no loan. It had been crashed by a drunk 15-year-old who was being forced to drive the car out of the showroom of the dealership he worked. That dealership was owned by the father of the girl he had just gotten pregnant. He was a Canadian car dealer, so he could fill the frame rails with drugs and ship them into the US. He was in Canada because Iran kicked him out for terrorist activities. The car was repaired poorly and shipped to Lebanon before coming back into the US with a bonded title.
-Someone offered me $100k more than I owned it for and I took it so I could buy a slightly nicer US car with no accident history. That is the car I own now.
Q: Speaking of favorite cars, is there a “unicorn” car that you can’t see yourself ever owning?
A: The McLaren F1 Chassis 39 which was owned by the biggest drug trafficker who also worked for El Chapo at the time. He was killed in 1997 and didn’t tell anyone where the keys were. The car has been missing with some crazy theories as to its whereabouts for the last 16 years.
Image courtesy of Ed Bolian
Q: How did you feel when you broke the Cannonball Run record back in 2013?
A: When I heard about Cannonball and saw what it might take to set the modern record, I noticed the traits required for success: multivariable problem solving, risk mitigation, driving, organizing a team, and documenting the attempt. These were all skills I wanted to cultivate in myself and it was really the super bowl of being me.
When we reached the Portofino in record time, it was as perfectly cathartic as I ever imagined it could be. I had pushed myself for a decade to get to that finish line and ignored all the reasons it was impossible. I didn’t do it for fame or notoriety, I did it to see if I was up to the task and all the reward was in that exact moment, looking out over the ocean.
Q: You started an exotic car rental company out of your dorm room, something I’m sure many people look up to. Any words of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs reading this?
A: The best time to go broke is when all your peers are broke! The younger you are, the more risks you can take and that was a business full of risks. I learned a ton but it could have ended very badly and usually, it was pretty close to that. As entrepreneurs, it is always easy to see the reasons not to do something, but you need to start. The perfect opportunity or circumstance will rarely come.
Take a risk, take a chance, and have multiple avenues to varying versions of “success.” It might be money, it might be lessons learned, it might be a stepping stone, or it might be a lot of fun!
Q: This last one is from our North American staff members here at DRIVETRIBE. How do you feel about the Ford Flex?
A: With such iconic styling, what’s not to love? It’s pretty much the Walmart version of a G Wagon!
Big thank you to Ed for taking time out of his day to do this interview and I hope you all enjoyed learning a bit about him! If you like Lamborghinis, make sure you stay tuned later this month for a close-up with an especially special one that's local to me ;).