An Interview with Lou Costabile
Lou has been running his YouTube Channel, My Car Story with Lou Costabile, for almost 8 years and has attracted over 90,000 subscribers. Lou has travelled the country interviewing people about their cars and has posted over 1,800 videos. Lou give us an inside look at his experience as a YouTuber and shares some interesting stories about the people he has met and the fabulous cars he has featured.
Hi everyone, this is Bruce Hitchen from Center Lane and today I'm speaking with Lou Costable and Lou is the creator of the YouTube channel, My Car Story with Lou.
Hi I'm Lou with another episode of My Car Story and today we have a very rare bird treat for you. We have a 1957 Ford Thunderbird.
He has been posting videos on his YouTube channel regularly for about seven or eight years and when I say regularly, we're talking about multiple videos per week. In fact, Lou, I think you've posted close to 1800 videos can you tell me how you got started doing this?
Well I got started eight years ago when my son was eight years old and I was trying to be a responsible father so I looked over his shoulder he was on his iPad. And at the time he was watching something called Minecraft and the person was Stampy the cat, and to me it looked like animated legos and out of the voice was coming Monty Python's Flying Circus so it sounded like, "oh, look here's a dog, oh it's over by the barn and here comes a chicken and a cow", and I thought this is the goofiest thing I've ever seen and as my son minimized the screen I saw that this video had 1.5 million views on it and all of a sudden my business analytics brain kicked in and went, wow! And then he minimized the screen again and I took a look at Stampy's subscribers and he had 1.5 million subscribers so I thought that, he went from the craziest guy I've ever met to the most brilliant guy I've ever met in two clicks. And by chance I happened to be walking back into my office just kind of meditating on what I just saw. Total silliness with unbelievable numbers and I was going to a car show and I had a video camera and I thought, you know what? I'm going to try videoing some cars because what would happen when I go to a car show is...let's just say you told me about your car and three weeks later I'd forget your last name, and three weeks after that I'd forget something you told me that was special on the car. So I thought this would be a log to kind of keep the memory bank and remember some of these pieces rather than just a photograph that sat on my computer and never went anywhere. At least I'd be able to keep a log of these cars and these great stories that I was hearing.
I know that was quite a while ago you were doing this. I looked at some of your early videos and I noticed that some of them were sort of business presentations and you were there in a suit and giving a business presentation to somebody. So I know that you do other things. This certainly, at that time wasn't a full-time thing. Maybe you could tell me about your other sort of business activities and how you've managed to make both of them work for you?
Well sure. Well first of all some of those business suit, you're absolutely right I was on those. I think they have four views on those but I run a CFO Mastermind Group which is chief financial officers who come once a month on zoom and we talk about their business issues and that's cfomastermindgroup.com. And then I also run an information technology business here in the Chicagoland area, a very local business. I also own a, people rarely know that I own a martial arts business because of course I don't look very dangerous, especially on the car videos. So that's something else that I do. So that and then of course the YouTube channel is probably one of my most time consuming things when I'm not doing those other businesses, that I do that.
How long was it until you realized that you had something here and people were watching you and it was something to pursue more as a business than strictly as a pastime?
I was doing it solely self-centeredly meaning just to remember the cars and the people that I met. I did not see it as being anything more than that. And about three months into it I called my eight-year-old son over and I said, what are these stalkers doing? Who are these stalkers? And he goes dad, that's not stalkers, those are subscribers. That means they actually like what you're doing. And I didn't realize that, so as I started to watch those numbers grow, I realized that I might have something here and of course, the one thing with people on YouTube is, they will tell you what they want and what they don't want. There's no, you know when you're behind your computer and can just type any comment that you like, they'll let you have it if you're not giving them what they want. So they were educating me in the process of what they wanted to see and there was a lot of good information on there and I just started to utilize what they were sharing they wanted to see and try to incorporate that.
One of the things, I mean you've really inspired me because I've, as you know, I started my YouTube channel back in August so I've only be doing it for a few months. Certainly watched a lot of other channels a long time prior to me starting my own, and yours was one of the ones that I've watched. And first of all, I'm blown away just by how many videos you've done. Like I said at the onset here was about, I think you're up to close to 1800 so it's quite a body of work. Can you tell me who has inspired you to start your channel and are you trying to emulate somebody or you created this all on your own? Tell me a little bit about that?
Let me start with you. And I've looked at your videos. You have a great editing background. I've watched what you do you have a great voice for this so I'm encouraged to help people get to their destination so that motivates me because whenever you help people get to their destination. It's, number one it's very gratifying number two you just I just like helping people and I like sharing with people. So it's kind of naturally what my personality is. And it fits with who I am so I'm very excited about watching you grow. People who I watch who, I'm inspired by Jay Leno's garage. I think that you know, Jay Leno is the bar. He's the standard so we have differences in some of the things that we do we have differences in the videos that I do and you do. And really there's no competition because each person is an individual. I'm doing something different than Jay Leno. Jay Leno is a celebrity you know, you're doing something a little different than I am so that's the beauty of YouTube is it's, it really is the wild west and we can either perform well and people will like what we do or they'll let us know that they don't like it. So um Petrolicious, I think their editing is is off the chart. You know, I don't try to beat their editing. They have drones and everything else and that's not my style but I enjoy watching what they do. And I watch some of the other car people. You know, I think that usually my two rules I guess you'd say are, number one it has to be fun and if it's not fun you know it's something that all of a sudden it's going to be work. And quite honestly, I've got enough work. So the second thing I would say is, you know my goal is to leave a great legacy of not just the cars, because I love them. But then the stories behind some of these cars are just as crazy and amazing.
Well speaking about fun, I know you've had some fun over the years. I'm wondering if you have any really memorable stories that you can tell me? Something that's happened or an interesting person that you've interviewed. What comes to mind?
Well a couple of things come to mind. You know, I guess I'll use, I don't even have to go that far. I'll use something about six hours ago that we're going up and on ramp and we actually caught rubber in all four gears and I don't think that happens very often. So that's an upcoming episode, stay tuned you'll see it. So I don't have to go back that far to have fun. I mean almost every video I do is fun but another great story that caught me by surprise and I think would catch people by surprise and they can search this out. One of my IT clients of all things called me up and said Lou, I think there's a car that you want a video. And I thought this person had no clue of what my channel was or what I do so I was just kind of being kind to them. I said sure well tell me about the car. It's a 65 Chevrolet Malibu and you know it was completely taken apart. No interior, no under, nothing under the hood and completely rebuilt and repainted. And I thought okay, it's a restored car and you know that sounds nice so I was trying to be polite. I said you know what, send me a picture and and I'd be happy to take a look at it and see if it's something i think that the viewers would be interested in. He says well that's not the story. I said well tell me more. He says well the guy who put it together is blind. And I said, blind like can't see very well or needs a dog and has a cane? He's like, needs a dog and has a cane? And I thought, wow! So if you type into YouTube: my car story with lou blind b-l-i-n-d, you can see that episode. I'd encourage that and it's Mike. The back story to that you won't see on that video is that when I went to his house, I've never felt like adopting children but uh he had three teenagers that I wanted to take with me on the way home. And then his wife came up to me and, looking me at like I'm looking at you. And gave me the double handshake you know. And it's so nice to meet you and so nice to have you here. It was just, I mean, just charming. And you know, I took Mike by the arm and he's got his cane and we walked out to the car. We did the interview. While as we're walking out to the car Mike says to me, I see you met my family and my wife and you know she's blind too. I said what? He says yeah, she was blind too. She was shot for dead and a soldier picked her up and brought her back and we met at church and but uh...you know you can't even make these stories up. I mean the great stories that these people have about their cars and why they're so passionate. I hope we'll leave a legacy, not only for the people who are watching it and their families but actually for young people who you know, YouTube is, I consider it their channel and they get a chance to see guys like me and you sharing our passion and hopefully handing it down.
Well you've done tons of stories over the years and some of them you know, I guess like every YouTube channel, some of them do okay and then some do really fantastic and I know you have a few videos that have over a hundred thousand views. Have you ever been able to figure out what makes, what's going to make a great one and what's not, or is it just the luck of the draw.
First of all it is luck of the draw so that's number one. Number two is almost like an artist who does an album you know, you think hopefully every song on that album is going gonna be taking off and I've heard something, I don't know how factual it is, that of all the YouTubers out there and obviously not all of them are doing videos, but only like one percent have ever created one video that has a hundred thousand views on it. And I'm proud to say that currently my channel has 75 videos with over 100,000 views. So all of that said, there are, there are cars that I think that are going to do well and then there's the actual cars that do well. So there really is no rhyme or reason. For me, I just keep videoing the cars that I think that the audience is gonna like and just like a great album that you know some of them are great songs some of them never get heard. Some of them just take off and to your point, there is no rhyme or reason so I encourage people who are creators to continue to put up videos that you think your audience will like. I'll give you an example; there was just a video that came up Hagerty Heritage video that came up. And it was about a car that I videoed back in 2017. And in the last month it got 30,000 views and it's been obviously sitting out there for all of these years so you never know what's going to happen when or where. And I see that happen quite a bit. Videos that I've had in the past that just continue to all of a sudden catch fire for a month or so and then they cool down.
Well you've had lots of great success and I'm happy for you for that. What's the future of the channel? Where do you want to take it? I mean you've been doing it for eight years now. Is it seven or eight?
It's right in the middle it's about seven and a half yeah. So the future of the channel is just like every probably other YouTuber that's you know considering doing it. Is just continue to improve. You know I mean you mentioned some of the first videos you've watched I call my first weekend's worth of videos, I call those my burnt cookie videos. Thankfully I wrote down people's names and their email addresses and I've been able to, years later, re-video their car which was deserved. And then you know you just continue to learn. First of all, you learn from YouTube. That continues to evolve and then little things you know like putting end screens on and having a second video that people could see and telling people to subscribe and putting that at the end screen. And just continuing to understand YouTube and understand what the audience wants.
Well you tell everybody else's story. You must have, you must be a car lover, you must have cars of your own. Can you tell me a little bit about what a car that you own that you're passionate about? Yeah, well the first car I was passionate about was the 1966 Batmobile. I thought that Batman and Robin were interesting but when they came down the cave I still wasn't all interested then I saw the car and I was like oh my gosh, that is awesome! I knew that there was the James Bond Goldfinger car and I thought that was cool but the Batmobile was to me was the true crime fighter and the fact that they put in every episode just showed you how great the car was. So that that caught my attention. I didn't learn later that I was interested in Cat Woman until you know a couple of years later but cars that I have... I have a Dodge Viper and you see that at the end of my end screen it kind of drives off into the cornfield with the license plates "ILL CYA" and then my wife has a Jaguar XKR convertible and the 'R' is kind of the race version. I didn't know much about Jaguars and she wanted a car and she saw this thing and you know wanted it. And I didn't realize transparently that it's about five horsepower faster than my Viper and when we're on the highway, her ponytail on the convertible top kind of waves bye bye to me and i just like you're not gonna do that and she did so. But there's no doubt when I show up at a car show they see me.
So thanks very much Lou. It's been a real pleasure to talk to you and hear your story and I know that there's a ton of people out there that really enjoy your content and love seeing some of the beautiful cars that you feature on your channel. Best wishes for 2021 and thanks for speaking to me today. For Center Lane, I'm bruce Hitchen and thanks for watching.
Bruce, I just want to tell you, you know I wish you the best as well I even put on a button-up shirt for you and I wish you the best for 2021 as well.