As Steve Saffier tells it, his interest in cars dates to his youth, when his dad owned Bernie’s Auto Parts on PA 611 in Warrington from 1975-78.
Steady customers included the noted Holbert family of racers from Warrington. Race car driver Bob Holbert, who ran a nearby Porsche-Volkswagen dealership, often stopped by.
However, back then, when the traffic passing through central Bucks County was just a fraction of what it is today, his dad’s store did not make it and the family moved to Las Vegas, where an uncle was involved in radio and TV.
“We put together amateur video on doing an oil change on a 1977 Buick,” said Saffier, who saved his Bar Mitzvah money to buy a 1979 Trans Am his senior year in high school. “It was hilarious, but it showed there was a gene for car media in our family.”
He graduated from Southern Utah State University and embarked on a career in ornithology and conservation in California, but a radio or TV show pertaining to cars was always on his mind. Saffier and his family returned to the Philadelphia area in 2001.
That car-media combination became a reality last November with the debut of CarSmarts Radio, which airs from 11 a.m. to noon Saturdays on WTEL (AM 610). All shows are podcast at 610espn.com/shows/carsmarts-radio/.
“I talked to some people, and had been at a lot of shows, and several of the car clubs were encouraging,” said Saffier, a Northeast Philadelphia native and resident of Gwynedd Valley. “So I formed a production company, Artwood Entertainment, after the street I grew up on in the Northeast, and bought an hour of time on AM 610.”
To pay for that time, Saffier said he has secured four sponsors and is on the verge of closing two more.
“It’s been different, given my background in nonprofits, conservation and nature,” Saffier said. “But I’m a car guy and nature guy. For now, this is a new career with a lot of potential.”
Essentially running the whole show, with the exception of in-studio production, Saffier has learned how to use social media to promote CarSmarts because WTEL isn’t an Arbitron-rated station; that means there is no information about ratings or audience composition. Thus, reaction on various social media channels gives him his best feedback.
“Tom Oates, who is the performance manager at Patriot Chevrolet, really helped me with my elevator pitch and how to use social media,” Saffier said. “He was glad to refine my pitch to sponsors.”
So far, on-air guests have tilted mostly to the area car clubs that encouraged him to take a stab at the show. One, Jeff Walton, who is the president of Riesentöter Region: Porsche Club of America in Philadelphia, thinks the show has a bright future.
“I was Steve’s second guest,” Walton said. “We talked for 45 minutes about our club’s charity event for juvenile diabetes. I made sure all our 2,600 members got word of the show.”
Saffier’s CarSmarts Radio is for the entire automobile world.
“We’ve started mostly with clubs, but we plan on having experts in racing, car repair, engines, collectors, you name it. We’ll get to all areas. Right now, the audience is 90 percent male. We hope to change that,” he said. “Also, we plan to start taking calls from our listeners. I’m not a mechanic, but I’d be glad to have someone that is answer questions from listeners.”
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