SALT LAKE CITY — When Nick "The Burlacher" hired James "The Stradman" to join his team at a local accounting firm, neither one of them could have predicted where their passion for cars would take them.
"I would have never dreamed I would be driving million-dollar cars like Pagani's, but that's now a reality," Nick told me in a recent interview for KSL Cars.
YouTube is a fascinating world. More than 500 hours of video are uploaded every minute, with more than 720,000 hours uploaded each day. In such a densely packed content environment, it's understandable why so many aspiring YouTubers fizzle out, sinking into anonymity.
Such is not the case for The Burlacher and The Stradman, two of the world's most famous automotive YouTubers. Utah residents and great friends, the two have experienced immense growth and popularity in their channels over the last several years.
With almost 300,000 subscribers on YouTube at the time of this writing, Nick's journey as a popular automotive YouTuber is fortuitous and unexpected. And, like many car enthusiasts, his passion for cars began at an early age.
The Burlacher's love for cars
Long before he became a popular YouTube personality, Nick's car passion stemmed from admiring the Ford Mustangs of his youth.
"It began with my dad. He was a car guy growing up and it rubbed off on me," Nick said. "I was in about seventh grade when he bought a Mach 1. I remember being at school, not knowing he had bought it, and getting picked up in it. I thought it was so cool. Most kids didn't care, but to me, I thought it was awesome."
That moment stuck with Nick. "I recognize that most people don't care about cars, but that Mach 1 experience was special."
Growing up, Nick's dream was to have as many Mustangs as he could buy, but he admits the drive for more cars was at times counter to the financial axioms he's tried to live by. "I'm conservative by nature, so I wasn't sure how I was going to justify having a collection, especially with other priorities and things to invest in," he said.
Then he met James "The Stradman."
Getting into YouTube
As is the case for many car enthusiasts, the question of how to balance life's priorities (and finances) with an insatiable appetite for cars is a struggle.
"You have to pick and choose what you're going to spend your time on as you get older," Nick said. "When James got me into YouTube, I was able to spend time on things that were fun to me and start to justify expanding my car passion."
Getting into YouTube was a foreign experience for Nick. "I knew what YouTube was, but I didn't know anyone who did YouTube. While he was working for me, James showed me some of his videos that went viral and I just couldn't believe it was possible."
Layoffs were made at the accounting firm on April 1, 2016, and The Stradman was amongst them. Little did they know how that day would change the trajectory of their lives forever. Instead of seeking another nine-to-five job, James told him he'd be going all-in on YouTube. Nick offered him a place to stay at his house while he got his feet on the ground. At the time James had 80,000 subscribers. Today, he has over 3 million.
As James's channel grew, he encouraged Nick to join in the YouTube fun. "Yeah right," said Nick. "I'm an introverted accountant in his mid-30s who doesn't like attention. I'm good," he told him.
Another year went by, and at the persuasions of Nick's wife and James, Nick relented and took the plunge. He spent the first year figuring out what kind of videos he wanted to make.
"Cars were James' thing, so I wanted to make sure I was doing my own. I tried my hand at accounting videos and travel videos, but nothing was clicking. I made a car video and it was fun! I thought, "why not do car videos? It's what I like, I'm interested in them, why not do them as well?"
Nearly 300,000 subscribers later, that natural interest has worked out, and he hasn't looked back.
Changing life for the better
With the fame of a popular channel, changes to one's life should be expected—even if the changes aren't what you expect. For Nick, the differences have been largely positive, shaping his modus operandi.
Aside from buying cars he never thought he would, meeting people he'd never think he would meet, and traveling to places he never thought he would go, Nick has learned some valuable lessons from his time in the YouTube spotlight.
"The biggest change in my day-to-day life has been realizing that I'm impacting people's days. Whenever someone recognizes me and says "Hi, I'm a fan", it reminds me about the influence of what I'm doing and the effect it has on people," he said.
If you watch Nick's channel, you'll notice that his content is good, clean, positive and family-friendly. "There's enough negativity in this world, everything I do I want to be an influence for good," he said.
"I don't do what I do for me, but when what I do makes someone smile, that's cool. That's why I do it. It's those moments that you realize you made someone happy that matter. I'm not out here trying to change the world, but if you can make an impact, make someone's day a little better, that's what it's all about."
Making a difference
While Nick admits that there is "stupid money to be made on YouTube," you have to be motivated by something more than money to make a lasting impact in the world. Motivated to add positivity to the world, Nick has found a lot of joy in producing content that brings happiness and funds his car projects.
"I wouldn't do it if there wasn't money to be made, but money's not what brings happiness. It's those impacts that you have that make the difference."
Two years ago, when his channel was much smaller, Nick had an experience on his channel that would shape his life forever.
He recalls, "I had just bought the Shelby GT350 and I made a joke in one of my videos that if anyone wanted to learn how to drive stick in the Shelby, let me know in the comments. A local kid commented, we connected, and he turned out to be a great guy. So I taught him how to drive a stick! Seeing his reaction to meeting me and driving my car was something I'll never forget. It was so natural, so raw. I thought, 'How is he this excited to meet me?' That story represents the impact that I can have."
Trying things and working toward your goals
As with anything worth doing in life, there are elements of vulnerability, sacrifice and grit involved — including starting your own YouTube channel.
"The process of YouTube isn't something you can't understand until you try it. If you want to do it, just try it," said Nick. "You need to find something in life you are willing to work for and if this is it, great. There is no easy path in life. YouTube might appear to be, but it's not. Try it out, plow through, and maybe you catch a break. It's just like anything — you have to get it."
While YouTube and life demands keep Nick plenty busy, Nick stresses it's all about finding joy in the day-to-day that makes it all worthwhile. "Whatever your passion is, you need to make it a part of your life. Set your goals and work to achieve them. You never know where life will take you," he said.
The Burlacher's current car collection and what's next
You don't become a famous automotive YouTuber without a few awesome cars, and Nick's collection is just that. He currently has a 2014 purple plaid Ford Raptor, a 2018 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350, a 1968 Ford Mustang he bought with his dad, a 2001 Dodge Viper, and a recently acquired Smart Car which he subsequently straight piped.
The Shelby GT350 and Viper hold special significance for Nick. "The 2018 GT350 is my dream car. I always thought I would be 60 when I bought that car. Instead, I bought it two years ago. It's crazy how life takes you in directions you never expected," he said. "The 2001 Viper, it's such a rare car. It's crazy to me that I have one. If I had to sell all my cars but one, It would be hard to pick between the Viper and the GT350."
What car is next for Nick? It's hard to say, especially when personal interests must be balanced with prudent business decisions.
"Maybe a Ram TRX, another Raptor, an Audi R8, a Hummer … I don't know, yet. The views justify the purchase and sustain the brand, so we'll see … like any business or brand you need to make yourself different, even if it's the same car others have had."
Given that YouTube is Nick's side job, the natural extension of his brand would be jumping into YouTube full time, not unlike The Stradman when he made the jump in 2016.
When asked if he would consider YouTube full time, he responded, "Life is long. I don't know where I'll be in two years, who does? I'm going to keep going, see where it takes me. I've been around long enough to know things happen, things change. When I was 20 I would say, 'I don't know what I'm going to do with my life.' You could say the same at 35, 45 and so on. I'm just going to keep going and see what happens. I work with great people. It's a joy to work, and right now I wouldn't change a thing. My co-workers do like to tease me, but it's all in good fun."
The Utah car community
With the explosion of social media, the Utah car community has also grown rapidly. Organizations like Envision, 118 Racing, and Need 2 Drive Utah have been instrumental in fueling Utah's burgeoning car scene.
"It's always been there, but social media has given exposure and expansion to the community. Utahns love cars, and the people are super friendly. Everyone needs something in life that they're passionate about and makes you happy, and the car community is out there more than ever, and people are enjoying it," Nick said.
Watching The Burlacher's channel
If you haven't watched Nick's videos, you're missing out on some fun content. In today's hectic and combative world, it's nice to escape and watch good people have fun with their cars. As Nick described, "It's mostly nonsense, but I want my channel to be fun, positive, entertaining, family-friendly videos about cars. It's a smaller niche in the YouTube universe, but I hope to bring positive, light, entertainment to as many people as I can."
About the author: Having owned everything from a DeLorean to an E46 M3 to a Toyota Land Cruiser, Jason Bell is a lifelong car enthusiast who loves sharing his passions as a teacher, writer, speaker and social media manager. Contact him at email@example.com.