The Need for Speed

Nick Price has built his career around his personal mission statement of leading with, “integrity, purpose, courage, and joy,” and the idea that when you take care of your employees, they take care of your customers. The vice president of Dealership Operations at Price Simms Family Dealerships, an award-winning family-owned automotive dealership, is well known in the classic and exotic car world.

“I began racing vintage cars 10-plus years ago,” Price says, “and since then I’ve competed in over 30 races and rallies. The moment I sit behind the wheel and the engine purrs, I forget about anything else in the world and become one with the car. It truly is sort of a yin-and-yang experience, touching both a meditative and competitive state. The fact is, I just love driving truly special cars in the way they were designed.”

When other little boys were playing with toy cars, Price remembers a childhood filled with their larger-than-life counterparts. At the family’s first dealership, Serramonte Auto Plaza, Nick could be seen running wild in the showroom, imagining himself a famous racecar driver. “My first memories all include cars,” he says. “They were the topic of our family; it was our life.”

Price Simms Chairman, Tom Price, Nick’s dad, whom he calls his best friend and hero, has a long history of success in the Northern California automotive market. Tom got his start working for Ford Motor Company, then moved over to San Francisco Lincoln-Mercury before buying an Oldsmobile dealership in 1976. From that dealership, Tom grew First America Automotive into 30 dealerships that later were acquired by sonic automotive. Nick got a front-row seat to the hard work, foresight, and leadership needed to run an organization.

Today, Price Simms is the Bay Area’s most predominate family-owned automotive dealership group, with nine rooftops and 17 brands ranging from Toyota to McLaren, including the newly acquired Los Gatos Luxury cars. Alongside his dad, his brother Greg (counsel), partner and CEO Adam Simms, and the Simms family, Nick is committed to building an organization that invests in its leaders and helps others meet their full potential. When he’s not driving above 55, Nick taps into another personal passion—basketball, by playing hoops and mentoring inmates as part of the San Quentin Athletic Foundation. Nick credits his basketball career at University of San Diego for many of the leadership qualities that he steers with today.

Both at work and at play, Nick has cars on the brain. Can you blame him? Sitting in a McLaren has been known to change lives. So what better person to weigh in on the upcoming Monterey Car Week (August 9-18), where he’ll be a participant as well as a fan? Read on for his insider’s take.

Tell us about racing cars, at Monterey Car Week and elsewhere.

I started racing around the age of 20 as a way to spend time with my father. The next thing I know it’s something that I have been doing for 12-13 years. It’s vintage racing, meaning it’s old cars from a certain period and class that race on the tracks together. This year we’ll be racing at Laguna Seca, which is a world-famous track. The great things about vintage racing are the feeling of time travel, the great community it brings, and celebrating these beautiful pieces of mechanical art.

Is it all cars all the time during that week?

In between the action, I always try to sneak away to surf out at Carmel Beach and work out in Santa Cruz or Big Sur. Just to get away for a little.

What other cars do you aspire to collect—what’s next?

We’re excited about the McLaren Speed Tail, which is a new car coming out, and I’ve always dreamed of getting a McLaren F1, the car I first fell in love with as a kid. And my fiancée has her eyes on a vintage VW bus to take on camping trips.

What are your can’t-miss events at Monterey Car Week?

Wednesday, August 14: McCall’s Motorworks Revival. Always a scene, great cocktails, fast cars, and beautiful vintage and modern airplanes to drool over.

Friday, August 16: Quail Lodge. My favorite event of the weekend (when I’m not on the track!) Great food, drinks, people watching, and of course beautiful cars!

Best auctions?

RM and Goodings have some of the most beautiful cars in the world! Those auctions can become electric during a bidding war! And Mecums, if you are more into the American classics.

When to hit the races at Laguna Seca?

Go on Saturday (August 17). You’ll see hundreds of the most beautiful vintage cars all racing against each other in class.

What about Sunday?

Head to the Concourse de Elegance (August 18). It is probably the most famous car show in the world, on the 18th hole of Pebble Beach.

Best place to eat?

Eat dinner at the famous Tap Room at the Lodge at Pebble Beach.

Most romantic spot?

The fire pits at the Inn at Spanish Bay, where you can hear the bagpiper play every evening in the old Scottish tradition.

Best auto-laugh?

Concours d’Lemons if you want a laugh and to see some automobile enthusiasts who don’t take themselves too seriously.

Secret watering hole?

Secret Dive Bar for a laugh and rowdy night, or Barmel in downtown Carmel.

Best hangover brunch?

Clint Eastwood’s spot, Mission Ranch Restaurant! A favorite spot to have dinner or Sunday brunch if you aren’t going to the Concours.

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