As with most car guys, the passion developed early within Randy Nonnenberg. He and his father bonded over automobilia, whether hitting the races at Monterey when it was cheap and dusty or helping in the garage with mild restorations. Nonnenberg was initially into trucks like Toyota FJs and as a teenager his friends all drove Jeep CJs, Ford Broncos, or International Scouts. But his tastes kept expanding and ranged from the aforementioned trucks to pony cars to German sports cars.
And while he didn’t have any inclination to become a writer or business-owner, Nonnenberg always wanted to work in the automotive industry. So he studied German and engineering in college so that he might end up working for a German car company. A goal he achieved, working on the Audi TT’s release as an intern then moving to BMW for many years, first in engineering, then supporting model rollouts.
Randy Nonnenberg founded Bring A Trailer in January 2007 as a sort of “what if?” with his college friend, Gentry Underwood, who used to ask him for help finding cars. He’s read classifieds since he can remember, just like countless other car guys, to see what interesting automotive options were available. Their first featured car was an Austin-Healey 100-6 located in SF that Nonnenberg actually went to see.
Initially people found BringATrailer.com via Google search, but then BaT launched a daily email that users began forwarding to friends and the site’s popularity exploded. But before Nonnenberg and Underwood could quit their day jobs however, they had to figure out a way to make money via the site. An obvious solution existed however; as they were always receiving emails from people asking BaT to list their car.
Which was how BaT exclusives was born. It wasn’t without problems, though, as the moment a BaT Exclusive came to market, the seller would receive a flood of emails that resulted in one happy buyer, one happy seller, and a large contingent of irate users who missed out. Seeking to level the playing field, Bring A Trailer introduced the auction format, and in effect asked would-be buyers how badly they wanted a car.
Receiving attention and coverage from celebrities like Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld hasn’t hurt either. And Leno isn’t only a fan, but a user too—he bought a Ford Falcon Sprint that was listed on BaT.
There are plans for expansion in the future but Nonnenberg doesn’t want BaT to become an Ebay-esque marketplace; he says that Bring A Trailer will remain a place to find interesting cars, curated by, and for, those who know. All we know is that we’ll keep waiting for the daily email and spending countless hours looking for our perfect car. Or cars.
As an aside—writing a brief article about a half-hour podcast is usually a straightforward task. But this was, without question, the most difficult podcast article I’ve yet written due to BringATrailer.com’s constant pull. I had to listen to this particular podcast multiple times and devote far more time than I’ve ever had to, simply because I kept returning to the site and going further back, checking out cars that sold months ago, just to see what had been featured. I apologize for any errors.