PaddlUp visits The Shmuseum - Pt 1
Tim Burton – otherwise known as Shmee150 – was kind enough to invite the PaddlUp media team to The Shmuseum on a sunny mid-May afternoon. The facility itself serves as a homage to Burton's career as a leading automotive influencer as well as housing his ever-growing collection of Shmeemobiles.
With over 2.3 million YouTube subscribers at the time of writing, Burton has built an enviable online presence, stemming from a simple supercar spotting channel during the platform's embryonic phases.
Whilst there, the team indulged in some local Shmee-endorsed ice cream before receiving a tour of his extensive collection of high-performance cars, albeit with some absentees, most notably the distinctive McLaren Senna which was undergoing remedial work.
Following the tour, Tim answered our long list of questions about his career so far, the investment side of cars, funny experiences when selling cars and much more...
What is your favourite driving game?
"I've bought my favourite driving game and it's here in The Shmuseum, it's Sega Rally. I spent many hours playing that game when I was younger so I just had to buy the arcade machine."
What is your favourite driving film?
"As someone who spends a lot of time out on the road and at rallies, it has to be The Cannonball Run. A story of adventure and the reason for a lot of what started my collection. I've done the Gumball rally before, I've driven coast to coast on two occasions and done many other miles on other trips. I think I've been to over 30 states now and I'm going for all 50 at some point."
What is the rarest or most unique vehicle in your collection?
"The rarest is probably a bit of a surprise, it's my Focus RS which is the Heritage Edition so it's one of only 50 but I wouldn't necessarily say it's the most unique. The most unique is probably the Ford GT, especially here in the UK, there are not a lot of them. There are roughly 20-25 in the country which is an absolutely tiny number when you consider there are around 80 McLaren Sennas."
What was the car that was on the poster on your childhood bedroom wall? Do you own one now and should you meet your heroes?
"Amusingly the car that I first remember having a poster of is a car that I remember being nervous about driving for the first time because of the 'should you meet your heroes' thing. I very promptly decided it absolutely was my hero and had no regrets in the slightest – apart from the fact that I don't already own one because prices have sky-rocketed – and that is a Ferrari F50. I think that was the first time I was aware of the car world as a child and everything about it is perfection; V12, removable roof, gated manual gearbox, Ferrari racing setup, perfection."
What is the most driver-focused car in your collection? What car offers the purest driving experience?
"I'm lucky to have quite a few cars in the collection which are very track-focused. I have a bias towards driving road cars on the race track so lots of big wings, uncomfortable, impractical things. Far and away the purest vehicle is the McLaren Senna which is ultimately for the race track, forget driving it anywhere else. It's noisy, uncomfortable, it grabs and pulls you everywhere, it is for driving hard but when you do it's amazing.
"I drove one of McLaren's Sennas around Estoril, I've driven mine at Spa-Francorchamps a few times and at the Nürburgring so it's safe to say I've had some good outings in Sennas, and I'd love to do more but I'm always conscious that it's quite a special car and I don't want to get it wrong."
Did you envisage this level of success when you first started out?
"It's genuinely crazy for me because if you rewind back, I started car spotting effectively before mobile phones had cameras, before Instagram or Snapchat existed, before YouTube had any concept of monetisation so at that stage it was purely passion led, meeting other people who liked the same and almost socialising looking for nice cars.
"I was lucky to live in west London and work in the city so my commute cycling through London effectively took me through Mayfair and areas that you would see a lot of very nice cars, that led me to take photos and share those before I eventually trialled a video. I uploaded a video and a few people watched it, by a few I mean... 10.
"At that stage, it was just fun, I just enjoyed the idea of it. I've always been into cameras and computers and cars of course so it combined all of that together. There was no concept of where it could go, even five years ago I had no idea where I'd be now. In terms of the collection, I realised recently that just over six years ago from now, I'd sold the one car I owned so technically I didn't own a car six years ago!
"Everything has exploded in a way that I never would've predicted. We use the tagline 'Living the Supercar Dream' for Shmee150 and it does feel like a dream every day. It's amazing to have been able to do this and to now be able to bring other people along as well, the people who are part of my team as the whole business continues to grow. It keeps us busy but we have a lot of fun along the way."
Is there a next step after The Shmuseum? What's the next stage of the plan?
"One of the most fun things about social media is how you can learn as you go. You can try things and if they work keep going, if they don't just leave it. One of the really fun things for me over the years has been that I've visited a lot of private car collections and seen lots of different garages and setups, how different people do it as well as the stories behind their cars, their collections, their display items and it's trying to mimic that here with my own.
"I'm not going to lie, I slightly underestimated the cost of doing so, construction makes cars look cheap in comparison but it's also fun to share that journey with the audience, it's going to take a few years before I have this place looking exactly how I'd like it but when it's done, it's going to be even more rewarding at the end. I've got grand visions of what we do next with the garage, some things are in the works to be revealed very soon which is exciting and introducing new styles of content and new ideas in the videos so that's all on the horizon."
Do you consider the investment aspect of buying and selling supercars when you're adding to the collection?
"I would love to say as a driver that the value of a car is completely irrelevant but of course, that is not the case. For me, there is always an element of considering what position am I in with that car and a perfect example is a car I would've loved to buy is the Ferrari 812 GTS, I had an opportunity to order a new one but I was terrified that Ferrari V12s traditionally depreciate very heavily. I didn't go for it and was completely wrong, if I'd known they were going to hold their value, 100 per cent I would've bought one but such is life.
"I think with any car, I'm not a believer in garage queens. Every car needs to be driven. So from a purely investment point of view, I know that if I'd left my Ford GT on zero miles it would be worth a few hundred thousand more than it is now but on the other hand, I've driven it to many different countries, lots of different events and some great race tracks so those experiences are for more valuable to me. When I'm buying cars it's certainly on my mind, I was really desperate to buy an SLS Black Series before they appreciated because I knew they would. I was lucky I bought it a few years ago because they have indeed sky-rocketed since."
How do you feel about owning shares in a car and owning it with several other people?
"It's been a very interesting period as more and more people realise that cars are in many ways an asset class. There's also obviously the personal enjoyment but for some, it is an investment opportunity. If you look at the market, cars have outperformed many traditional investment routes multiple times over. My dad has the more traditional sharing of a car so he shares it with a friend, they use it for track days and tours so it makes sense to split it between them.
"Obviously we see this world now where, especially in the last 12 months, many cars have shot up in value and for some that's an opportunity to part invest and be one of multiple owners of a vehicle. Perhaps not to use it in any form, maybe as a bit of fun to own it on paper, whatever it might be, a part of an F40 for example but in reality to potentially generate significantly greater returns than more traditional asset classes. It's never guaranteed but it's an interesting opportunity."
What other pieces do you collect or invest in?
"In addition to cars, I'm definitely a bit of a hoarder. Hence why I like to have my own garage space to keep everything. I like unusual things so aside from having a couple of watches and let's say the traditional things you'd expect like different shares and stocks etc, I also have a collection of Lego, Swatch watches, of fun things that a much younger version of myself would've dreamt about but all things interestingly that are investments in some way. I own a number of Swatches and Lego sets that are worth significantly more than I bought them for and I just enjoy that. There's nothing greater than the satisfaction that comes from making a purchase like that and knowing it's worth a little bit more down the line."
How do you currently (and how did you before your success) go about buying and selling cars?
"For me, when buying and selling cars I've probably experienced just about every different type of avenue, either for myself or just being closely acquainted with other people selling through different platforms. If we rewind, I suppose traditionally if I was picking up a pre-owned car I'd be browsing your regular classified advert sites. Selling cars, because of my position has always been a complete mix as well, sometimes I've part exchanged, sometimes I've popped an advert up and dealt with a lot of time wasters – we all know that situation – sometimes somebody has reached out to me directly because of my platforms which is obviously quite a unique scenario that's not easily replicated.
"We're in a new world really, with a more direct owner to customer auction format and the ability for people to decide themselves what a car is worth instead of 'what's your best price mate?' telephone circumstances, which gives a fairer position in the market and lets people know what each person is willing to pay. Obviously, it varies from car to car whether that's the right avenue for it."
What is the worst experience you've had when buying or selling a car?
"I had a funny experience once selling a car that was worth approximately £20,000, I had it advertised and it didn't sell for weeks and weeks because I made the price quite low in the hopes that someone would pick it up quickly. It was going nowhere and I popped the price up by £2,000 and someone bought it the same day for the asking price. Since then I learnt that you don't want to underprice a car because underpricing puts people off as much as overpricing does. It was a Mini Countryman."