Behind-the-scenes with Wichita car collector, YouTuber
Tyler Hoover turns onto Central in his 1995 Ferrari and floors it.
The roar of the engine could wake up the country-club set living nearby — perhaps even disturb the nearby Wichita Open golf tournament.
“That never gets old, never,” he says with a smile.
Hoover is a natural behind the camera, effortlessly spouting off witty quips and “goofs,” as he calls them.
A short while later, we’re in Andover, at a 3,000-square-foot barn that houses his 15 other cars.
They’re what he calls his “Hooptie Fleet.”
“This is the main murder scene to my financial security and my sanity right here,” he says, gesturing to all of his cars, cram-packed into this shed.
“As a kid, you have a collection of model cars — I must have had a hundred of them. This is sort of the grown-up version of it. The really, really deranged version of it.”
Hoover, 31, runs a popular YouTube channel called “Hoovie’s Garage,” in which he buys broken-down, beaten-up or otherwise unusual cars from around the country and documents what it’s like to own that car — as well as what it takes to get it up to running condition.
His YouTube channel has just over 331,000 subscribers — fewer than Wichita’s most popular YouTuber, Tanner Braungardt, but still nothing to scoff at.
His most popular video has 4 million views, followed by a string of videos with over a million views each.
The channel has become so popular that he was recently tapped to film a reality TV show about weird cars with an online network called RatedRed.
He buys cars for cheap, makes videos about them and resells them — though he’s reluctant to call what he does “flipping.”
“Flipping would kind of allude to me actually making money when I sell the cars, and that hasn’t happened in a long time,” he said, pointing to a Porsche Cayenne Turbo.
“I bought this for $6,000 and sold it for $7,000 — $1,000 profit, right? Well, I spent another $6,000 keeping it up and customizing and doing my own thing. I lose a lot of money.”
How do you become a YouTube personality?
“Hoovie,” as he’s known on his channel, wasn’t always a YouTuber.
Just a few years ago, he didn’t know how to assemble a video at all.
His passion was cars — not cinematography.
After he graduated from Andover High in 2005, and throughout college, he worked at local car dealerships, eventually starting his own after college. He ran Ad Astra Automotive from 2010 to 2015, when he decided it was time for a change.
“It was like ‘Scarface,’ doing too much of my own drugs,” he said.
That led him to Freddy’s Frozen Custard, where he took a role in coordinating new store openings across the Midwest.
Though he loves working for Freddy’s, he said, he still had the itch to be around cars.
So he started writing part-time for an auto enthusiast blog on AutoTrader.com, an online marketplace for car shoppers and sellers. The site asked him if he could make videos.
“I said yes, I could,” he said. “I lied.”
He “stumbled” through the first few videos on Windows Movie Maker, but eventually he got the knack for editing.
A little more than a year later, he’s the owner of a Tesla Model S, a Porsche 911 and plenty of other cars that frequently make appearances on the channel.
How can he afford this?
The real question: How does he do it?
How can this 31-year-old buy a new car seemingly every month and lose money on nearly every one?
“In 2017 I lost money for sure,” he said. “It really wasn’t supposed to be a money-making thing, so I really didn’t care.”
But as his subscriber base continues to grow, so does the ad revenue he garners from his videos.
He didn’t give specifics, but he alluded that income from his channel is a six-figure sum, supported by YouTube ads and various sponsorships.
He’s quick to point out that he has never actually pocketed money from YouTube — and that he spent $50,000 at the mechanic’s last year.
Five of his cars are currently at that mechanic's shop, he said.
"I'm putting his kids through college, I would imagine at least, if not more," Hoover said with a laugh. "He goes on cruises now. He's doing quite well for himself."
According to the analytics he’s seen, his audience is “97 percent males between the ages of 18 to 45,” which helps advertisers looking to target that specific demographic, he said.
"I'm not going to get the big tween audience or get all those rabid fans," he said, referencing the large population of tweens and teens that become mega-fans of YouTubers.
It’s not all roses for Hoover and his fleet.
On a recent tour of his garage, only one of his cars — besides the Ferrari — actually started.
Last year, he made local news when a rare Mercedes SUV of his was stolen from the mechanic’s.
And he's incurred some big losses on lemon cars.
Last year, he bought the “cheapest Bentley Continental GT in the USA” sight-unseen from a dealer auction for $27,700.
The seller didn’t disclose that it had been seized by the Russian government and had had its odometer turned back twice, among other issues he discovered. It was advertised with about 100,000 miles fewer than it actually had, he said.
“I got smoked on this thing,” he said. “It showed up, and it was a nightmare. I sold that for an almost $20,000 loss.”
The silver lining: The video he made on it is his second most-popular of all time, with 1.7 million views.
“The scary thing is the worse the car is, it seems the better the video does,” Hoover said. “It’s not a very good situation. If I didn’t have people watching the videos, then it would just be financial suicide.”
Being a YouTuber used to be just a hobby for Hoover, but lately it's turned into a full-time gig — filming the reality TV show as well as making YouTube videos weekly. He plans to return to Freddy's once (rather, if) things cool down, he said.
“YouTube led to a random email from a guy asking if I would do a reality show. That led to meetings in Los Angeles, to getting a 24-episode TV show out of this,” Hoover said.
“It doesn’t make any sense to me how this is all possible, but it just happens.”
For more information on Hoover and his YouTube channel, visit www.hooviesgarage.com.