Book Review: Max Hoffman
Title: Max Hoffman, Million Dollar MIddleman
Author: Myles Kornblatt
Publisher: Veloce Publishing
Price: $50 retail, $30 online (except Amazon has it for $50)
Published: 10/18/22 (except Amazon says 2/1/23)
BMW enthusiasts of long standing will know who Max Hoffman was. He was the importer of BMWs into the U.S. market from 1955 to 1959, and then again from 1962 to 1975 when BMW of North America took over, after a long and protracted legal fight.
Hoffman was an Austrian who came to the U.S. to escape the Nazis. He ended up bringing in a huge array of European cars to the U.S. market, including Alfa Romeo, Jaguar, Volkswagen, Mercedes, Fiat, Lancia, Facel-Vega, Porsche, Maserati, and several other even smaller marques.
This is the first biography about this character who played an important role in establishing BMW as a global car company.
The organization of the book is unusual in that it has a couple of chapters about Hoffman’s early life and career, including his move to New York. Most of the book is organized by the manufacturers he represented. Thus, a chapter on Jaguar, a chapter on Mercedes-Benz, and so forth. It is not chronological, because he often represented multiple marques concurrently.
At the end of the book, there is a chapter on some of the unusual cars he represented, another chapter on some of the buildings he commissioned, especially those designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, a chapter called “Additional Tales,” and a final chapter on Hoffman’s legacy.
One of the things Hoffman was best known for was influencing the manufacturers to develop cars that would appeal to Americans. His influence with the BMW 507 is featured here, and with more detail than I’ve seen elsewhere. He also convinced Mercedes to make the 300SL Gullwing. Hoffman also took credit for the BMW 2002, although that has now been discounted as not true.
Jackie Jouret has exposed some of the dirty dealings between Hoffman and the head of BMW Sales, Paul Hahnemann, which were rooted out by Bob Lutz during his short tenure at BMW. And I have read about or heard about Hoffman’s temper and general lack of ethics, so none of that comes as a surprise.
If anything, I think the author, Myles Kornblat, goes a bit too easy on Hoffman. Yeah, the guy was a real visionary car guy and introduced a lot of cool cars to America. But there’s no getting around the fact that he was a crook too. He made more money from BMW buying him out of his contract than he ever did selling BMW cars. That was true with most of the marques he represented.
For some reason, Amazon thinks this book is going to be published February 1, 2023, and is taking pre-orders for $50.00. But the book is already available from many sources, with a publication date of October 18, 2022. You should be able to find it for about $30.00 to $35.00.
This is a short book and an easy read. The writing is pretty good, the layout is pretty good, and the facts are fairly comprehensive. It’s 160 pages and lots of photos, so a quick read. I’d give it three stars out of five. You can probably read it in just a few hours. It is worth having, but it isn’t a great book.