All posts by Bob Golfen

Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle.He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs.A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.

Experts offer advice about buying classics at auction, and about enjoying them once you get them home


Photos by Brenda Priddy & Company

As Arizona’s famous classic-car auction week gets into full swing, the experts caution that too much of a good thing can lead to a nasty hangover. That’s when the red-mist of the auction action fades and you confront the reality of what’s now sitting in your garage.

Do plenty of research before you buy a classic car at auction — and make sure it is something that you will love and enjoy — was the advice from a panel of classic-car veterans who spoke at the Phoenix Automotive Press Association’s fifth annual Arizona Auction Week Preview.

The members of the panel – Keith Martin, the well-known publisher of Sports Car Market and American Car Collector magazines; Corky Coker, the owner of Coker Tire, which specializes in providing rubber for vintage cars; and John Carlson, famed concours d’elegance judge and most recently chief judge at the inaugural Arizona Concours d’Elegance – spoke before a crowd of old-car enthusiasts at the Phoenix Art Museum. The panelists were peppered with questions about where the classic-car hobby stands today and where it’s heading in the future.

Each of the panelists is a lifelong car collector in his own right. Each is in Arizona this week to enjoy the spate of six classic-car auctions happening in the Scottsdale/Phoenix area: Barrett-Jackson, RM, Gooding, Bonhams, Russo & Steele and Silver.  Last year, more than $300 million worth of vintage iron crossed the block and into new ownership, a number that is expected to be eclipsed by this year’s sales totals.

corky1“It’s turned into a little bit more than a hobby now,” Coker (right) told the group. “It’s an industry.”

But all that auction excitement and beautiful cars becoming the target of desire can get out of control if you don’t approach it with a clear head.

“It’s what I call car horny,” Martin said.  “You walk around and see something you like and get all excited.”

Martin related how a screaming auction deal on a 1964 Chevy Nova wagon turned into a wildly expensive restoration that wound up costing him something in the neighborhood of $45,000.  It’s now an incredible car, he added, but maybe not worth what he has in it.  He’ll find out when it crosses the block this week at Barrett-Jackson, where the car is selling with no reserve.

But that’s part of the risk and the fun of engaging in the hobby, he said, adding that he has gained much enjoyment from his cars over the years, particularly the Italian ones from Alfa Romeo:  “When you buy a car, it changes your life.”

Choosing the right classic car involves much more than its looks or performance, Carlson said.  What matters most is how you will enjoy it, and with whom.carlson2

“I tell folks, ‘What group do you want to associate with?’ ” he said.  “The key for me is that you have fun with your car.”

Despite his longtime participation in concours competitions and judging, Carlson (right) said that for most people winning an award at a show should never be the chief goal of owning a classic car.

“The only person who cares that you won a trophy is you,” he said.  “I tell people that if you really want a trophy, buy one and save yourself $100,000 and a lot of headaches.”

The question of preservation vs. restoration gained traction during the discussion, with all three panel members espousing a cautious approach in attempting to bring a car back to original or even better condition while possibly ruining its originality and authenticity.

Coker is about to debut a new reality television show, Backroad Gold, on the Travel Channel. The show will focus on discovering original barn-find cars. Coker said he is a major proponent of preserving original cars despite their flaws.

“I just like the look of an original car,” Coker said.  “I like the look, the smell and the stories.”

martin3Of course, that only works if the car is in reasonably good condition, Martin (left) noted.  “There’s a difference between a preserved car and a nasty old thing.”

Carlson said that under concours definitions, a preserved car is one that has never been cosmetically restored, with no new paint, upholstery or chrome work.  They can be mechanically repaired as needed to make them run, as well as getting such perishable items as tires and windshield wipers replaced. But the patina of faded paint and interiors can add much to the allure of an automotive survivor.

“We’re really going toward keeping cars in original condition,” he said, noting that the previous trend was toward total restorations.  “We want to keep as many great unrestored cars as we can. They are wonderful and we don’t want to restore these cars.”

In his typical way, Coker got plenty of laughs during the seminar with his dry wit and homespun observations.  At one point, he turned the discussion about driving and enjoying classic cars into an unexpected sales pitch.

“If it’s presentable and makes people smile, then get in it and drive it,” he said. “Why? Because it wears out tires.”

The topic of the classic-car hobby’s future focused on getting younger people interested in cars that were created before most of them were born.  The panelists agreed that getting technology-obsessed millennials interested in old cars could be problematic.

The only way to get young people to love old cars is to make sure that they are exposed to them, Martin said, including getting them behind the wheel.  “They have to be brought in and taught to like these cars because they didn’t grow up with them.”

Coker said he sees many young people coming into the hobby, inspired by their parents to appreciate the classic machines.  Beyond keeping the hobby going, he added, it’s important that people understand the old cars to thwart misguided anti-pollution efforts to get them off the road.  “There are a lot of green people who have no idea what we do.”

The overarching advice from the expert panel to potential buyers is to be savvy, clear-headed and well-informed.  The main way to avoid the pitfalls of classic-car collecting is to do your homework on the make and model before you start bidding, Carlson said.

“The No. 1 tool to have in your tool box is to do your research,” he said.

 

Arizona Concours d’Elegance starts auction week

This 1937 Maserati 6CM grand prix race car is among the featured Maseratis at the Arizona Concours d'Elegance.  (Photo: Michael Tobian)
This 1937 6CM grand prix racer is among the featured Maseratis at the concours. (Photo: Michael Tobian)

Arizona’s famed Auction Week gets rolling this year in a brand new way, with a full-blown, high-end concours d’elegance on the lawns of the historic Arizona Biltmore Resort in Phoenix.

The inaugural Arizona Concours d’Elegance happens Sunday, January 12, to launch the collector-car madness that includes no fewer than six major auctions in the Scottsdale/Phoenix area. The Arizona Concours will display 77 exceptional cars ranging from vintage and full classic to sports and exotic on the winter grass at the Biltmore.

A special feature at the Arizona Concours is the weather. While much of the nation freezes, temperatures in Phoenix are expected to be in the upper 60s to low 70s.

A 1937 Lincoln is followed by a 1947 Cadillac at the Arizona Biltmore during recent 'dry run' site testing.  (Photo: Michael Tobian )
A 1937 Lincoln and 1947 Cadillac during the recent site test. (Photo: Michael Tobian )

If you can’t make it to the concours, you can watch it live Sunday via a web cast on arizonaconcours.com starting at 11 a.m. (Mountain time). However, you will miss the balmy weather.

Modeled after such leading concours as those at Pebble Beach, Calif., and Amelia Island, Fla., the Arizona Concours is a showcase of fabulous automobiles in 20 classes that will be critiqued by some of the nation’s most-experienced concours judges. The respected John Carlson serves as chief judge.

The trophies were designed by Ed Mell, an acclaimed Arizona painter and sculptor, who, in keeping with the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired Biltmore Resort, created them from a 1930s-vintage art deco toy car. A number of special trophies and awards also are planned.

Keith Martin, the publisher of Sports Car Market and American Car Collector magazines, will host the concours as emcee.

The 1937 Cord 812 that film star Tom Mix crashed fatally in 1940. (Photo: Bob White)
The Tom Mix Cord. (Photo: Bob White)

“Auctions and concours go together because they’re all about great cars,” Martin said. “Anywhere you go in the world, there tend to be great concours along with the very best auctions. It makes sense to have this concours here.”

The honored marques for the inaugural concours are Maserati, the Italian sports and racing brand that celebrates its 100th anniversary during 2014, and Packard, one of the most revered names in classic American luxury cars.

The Arizona Concours begins at 8:30 am Sunday,  with the awards ceremonies starting at 2 pm. The event is open to the public with tickets available at www.arizonaconcours.com or at the Biltmore on Sunday. Proceeds benefit Make-A-Wish Arizona, the founding chapter of the national organization that grants wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses.

For more information about the inaugural event, see www.arizonaconcours.com.

Among the featured cars that will appear at the Arizona Concours are:

1907 Renault AI 35-45
This 1907 Renault AI 35-45 is one of five cars ordered from Renault of France by William K. Vanderbilt for himself and his friends. Renault had just won the 1906 French Grand Prix and Vanderbilt was so impressed that he ordered these slightly smaller versions of the winning car. Vanderbilt was an early supporter of automobile racing and the namesake of the Vanderbilt cup, the first international racing event in the United States.

1924 Hispano-Suiza H6
This unique Hispano-Suiza was originally built as a formal limousine, and then re-bodied in 1934 by Swiss coachbuilder Hermann Graber with this sporty LeBaron convertible design. Hispano-Suiza built some of the most elegant automobiles of the time, competing with Roll-Royce and other top luxury brands.

1937 Maserati 6CM
A grand prix race car, this is one of just 27 built by the Maserati factory for its “works” racing program to compete against the state-supported German teams that were dominating Grand Prix racing at the time. The 6CM was one of the most advanced racers of the era, and examples were used by private racing teams as well with much success.

1937 Cord 812 
The Cord convertible owned and driven by silent-screen Western film star Tom Mix is the very car in which he crashed fatally Oct. 12, 1940, near Florence, Ariz. The Cord has been completely repaired and restored, and is festooned with flags, badges and other Western regalia as Mix had decorated the car when he owned it. This is a unique and important piece of early Hollywood and Arizona history.

1958 Lister-Jaguar
The factory team car driven by Walt Hansgen, shown in a period picture during the 1958 British Grand Prix at Silverstone. For 1957, Lister Cars of Cambridge, England, designed the car around a Jaguar D-type inline-six using an aerodynamic aluminum body. It was tested out at the time by racing journalist John Bolster, who performed a 0–100 mph sprint in 11.2 seconds. Driver Archie Scott Brown won the 1957 British Empire Trophy in a Lister-Jaguar. The Lister-Jaguar was refined again for 1958, and was entered by the team in international competition with impressive results.

LeMay-America’s Car Museum celebrates VW

 

The simplicity of the Volkswagen beetle, such as this 1968 sedan, has wide appeal. (Photo: Volkswagen)
The simplicity of the Volkswagen beetle, such as this 1968 sedan, has wide appeal. (Photo: Volkswagen)

 

‘Vee Dub: Bohemian Beauties” is the unlikely name for a new exhibit at LeMay-America’s Car Museum that focuses on the little car that could: the classic Volkswagen in all its glory.

Opening Saturday, Jan. 11 with a public unveiling at the Tacoma, Wash., museum, the show features examples from private collectors and the museum’s own collection of Ferdinand Porsche’s simple “people’s car” that took the world by storm.

Volkswagen of America, which is partnering with LeMay in producing the exhibit, has lent three rare and significant VWs:

KdF-Wagen — Only a handful of KdF-Wagens were produced between 1941 and 1945 for use by the German army. The fully restored vehicle contains more than 95 percent of the original KdF parts.

Panel Delivery Type 2 — The panel-delivery variation of the rear-engine sedan was ideal for loading and transporting cargo with its large double cargo doors and low floor. Today, it is an enduring collector’s item.

Wedding Car Beetle — Volkswagen de Mexico built two of these wrought-iron-bodied beetles in recognition of the uniquely artistic effort by a private customizer in Mexico during the 1960s.

“We are excited to collaborate with Volkswagen to celebrate a car brand that has defined a culture of customization and entrepreneurship,” said David Madeira, president and CEO of the museum.

The opening Saturday includes a movie marathon showing three The Love Bug films featuring Herbie, the sentient VW race car.

The Vee Dub show also has a social media element: tell your own unique Volkswagen stories under the hashtag #VWACM. The best stories will be on digital display at the exhibit.

For more information, see Vee Dub: Bohemian Beauties.

Antique Automobile Club museum readies exhibit showcasing hot rods and custom cars

The '57 Chevy custom named SwishAir, a Ridler Award contender, will be part of the AACA exhibit. (Photo: Antique Automobile Club of America)
’57 Chevy custom called SwishAir, a Ridler Award contender, is part of the exhibit. | AACA photo

 

The Antique Automobile Club of America Museum in Hershey, Pa., usually focuses on the preservation and restoration of veteran vehicles to original condition. Which is why the special exhibit opening this month is so unexpected.

“The Art of the Build: Rods & Kustoms”  goes on display Jan. 24 through April 27, and takes a hot rod run through the world of individualized custom cars, including a number of top award winners as well as some of the true oddities of the hobby. Usually, the AACA mourns the loss of original cars to build customs, but this time around, it celebrates the customs and the customizers.

Among the unique beauties  on display are some of the top contenders for the prestigious Ridler Award, given annually at the Detroit Autorama. The AACA show also focuses on some of the legends whose custom cars made everybody sit up and take notice, folks such as Boyd Coddington, Ed “Big Daddy” Roth and George Barris, the “King of Kustomizers.”

“The ‘Art of the Build’ exhibit focuses on these individuals, and the rolling art they have created,” an AACA Museum news release says. “By treating each custom vehicle as a piece of sculpture, the Museum has planned this display as an art installation, celebrating each item for what it has become, not lamenting what it once was.”

For more information,  visit aacamuseum.org. 

Cavallino Classic celebrates Ferrari — and more

A Ferrari 250MM on the lawn at the Breakers Resort for last year’s Concorso d’Eleganza.  (Photo: Alessandro Gerelli/Sports Car Digest)
Ferrari 250MM  at 2013 Concorso d’Eleganza. | Photo by Alessandro Gerelli/Sports Car Digest

Many spectacular sports cars are expected to converge on Palm Beach, Fla., for the 23rd annual Cavallino Classic, a Ferrari festival that Jan, 22-26 at the Breakers Resort Hotel. More than 400 of the Italian classics and exotics are expected to show up for a series of events celebrating Ferrari, with a few other Neapolitan treats thrown in.

Cavallino Classic events include:

  • The third annual Cavallino Classic Competition, a two-day track meet featuring Ferrari, Bugatti, Alfa Romeo and Maserati at Palm Beach International Raceway (Jan. 23-24);
  • The featured Concorso d’Eleganza for Ferrari automobiles at the Breakers Resort (Jan. 25);
  • Classic Sports Sunday on the lawn of the historic Mar-a-Lago mansion in Palm Beach, a show of 120 sporting pre- and post-war automobiles from Europe and the United States, with Bentley as the honored marque (Jan. 26).

Visit cavallino.com for more information.

Concours of America selects chairman for 2014

This 1931 Duesenberg Model J Tourster Derham won Best of Show - Domestic at the 2013 Concours d'Elegance of America. (Photo: Concours d'Elegance of America)
1931 Duesenberg Model J Tourster Derham was best in show (domestic) at 2013 Concours of America.

The Concours d’Elegance of America at St. John’s has named longtime concours leader Larry Moss as chairman of the board and event chairman for 2014.

Moss served as event chairman  of the Meadow Brook Concours in 1999 and 2000, as chairman of the car selection committee  from 2007 to 2010 and as board member from 2008 to 2010. After the event was moved to The Inn at St. John’s in 2011, Moss remained active on the judge’s committee and car selection committee. Moss replaces Peter Heydon, who recently resigned after serving as chairman of the board since 2009.

The 36th annual Concours d’Elegance of America takes place  Sunday, July 27, 2014, at The Inn of St. John’s in Plymouth, Michigan. For more information, see www.concoursusa.org.

Simeone Museum hosts Ford GT40 celebration

This 1966 Ford GT40 was on display at the Simeone Museum’s recent People’s Choice Demo Day. (Photo: Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum)
1966 Ford GT40 on display at the museum’s recent People’s Choice Demo Day. Photo courtesy Simeone Museum

The Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum presents a celebration of the Ford GT40, the groundbreaking race car that famously beat Ferrari at Le Mans, in a special Racing Legends event at noon on January 11, 2014,  at the Philadelphia-based museum.

Well-known GT40 expert Greg Kolasa will lead a discussion on the development and history of the GT40. Kolasa, who wrote The Definitive Shelby Mustang Guide 1965-1970, is Shelby American Automobile Club historian and registrar.

The GT40, so named because of its roof height in inches, holds a special place in the history of American auto racing. After Enzo Ferrari had imperiously snubbed Ford’s efforts to acquire his automobile business, Ford set out to beat Ferrari at its most-hallowed racing venue, the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Led by Carroll Shelby, who had already trounced Ferrari with the Cobra Daytona coupe for a GT class win in 1965, the GT40 team completely dominated the 1966 running of Le Mans with an outright win that saw them cross the finish line in first, second and third places. The GT40s were back the following year, and again won Le Mans for 1967.

GT40s were raced by privateers for years after, and today the GT40 remains one of the most hotly sought-after collector cars for vintage racing.

Both of the Simeone Museum’s GT40s, a Mk. II and a Mk. IV, will be displayed during the January 11 program and, weather permitting, they will be taken out for demonstration runs after the presentation.

For more information about the museum and the GT40 event, see www.simeonemuseum.org. 

Vintage cars on the grass at the Biltmore in Arizona Concours test

An exotic DeTomaso Pantera follows a 1963 Buick Riviera, a 1947 Cadillac and a 1937 Lincoln across the lawn at the Arizona Biltmore Resort in Phoenix.  (Photo: Larry Edsall)
A DeTomaso Pantera follows a 1963 Buick Riviera, ’47 Cadillac and ’37 Lincoln across the lawn at the Arizona Biltmore | Photos by Larry Edsall

Guests at the Arizona Biltmore Resort in Phoenix were treated to an unusual happening Monday morning when a small parade of vintage automobiles motored across the lushly landscaped winter lawns of the historic luxury hotel.

This was the “dry run” for the inaugural Arizona Concours d’Elegance. Organizers of the event brought a selection of cars to test out the confines of the Biltmore’s inner lawns to see if the big classics could maneuver through the tight spaces, and whether exotic sports cars could get through without bottoming out.

The Arizona Concours is set for January 12, 2014, to open the famed collector-car auction week in the Scottsdale/Phoenix area. A collection of 78 exceptional automobiles will be displayed, competing in classes that range from vintage and classic to sports, racing and exotics. Judges will pore over each entry to pick the class winners as well as the coveted Best of Show.

The 1947 Cadillac eases across one of the ramps leading to the Squaw Peak Lawn at the Arizona Biltmore. (Photo: Larry Edsall)
The 1947 Cadillac eases across a ramp leading to the Squaw Peak Lawn at the Arizona Biltmore.

The cars that rolled across the dark-green rye grass Monday were a 1937 Lincoln Model K, a V12-powered sedan; a 1947 Cadillac Series 62 two-door sedan with a sweeping fastback roofline; a 1963 Buick Riviera; a 1974 DeTomaso Pantera; and a new Chevrolet Corvette coupe, which was being used to test ground clearance.

Overall, the testing was deemed a success, with just a few tweaks required for the carefully orchestrated procedure of bringing the cars onto the Biltmore site and into their respective places, handling the crowds and vendors, and conducting the awards ceremony.

“This is a first-year event, so there are some growing pains,” Mike Mullan, a member of the steering committee said as he watched closely as the cars crossed over a set of specially made ramps.  “But everything seems to be going smoothly so far. We’ll see how it all comes together.”

For tickets and information for the inaugural Arizona Concours d’Elegance, see www.arizonaconcours.com.

First BMW ‘Batmobile’ competition Art Car coming to Amelia Island Concours

Photo courtesy of BMW

The first BMW Art Car ever created, a 3.0 CSL GT racer painted by the acclaimed artist Alexander Calder to run in the 1975 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, will headline a special BMW “Batmobile” class at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance on March 9, 2014.

The Calder project, which melded motorsports with fine art, was inspired by French race driver and art auctioneer Herve Poulain. BMW race cars used as painting canvases by the world’s most-renowned artists – including Frank Stella, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol – became an annual tradition for the German automaker.

Continue reading

New events in Arizona and the California desert launch 2014 concours d’elegance calendar

Photo courtesy Arizona Concours
Photo courtesy Arizona Concours

Another year of top-drawer concours d’elegance events across the nation is coming around again, including two brand-new ones added to the 2014 docket.

The inaugural Arizona Concours d’Elegance starts off the January collector-car auction week in the Scottsdale/Phoenix area on Jan. 12, 2014, at the historic Arizona Biltmore Resort in Phoenix.  Long envisioned as a focal point for the famous Scottsdale/Phoenix auctions, the concours will feature 78 exceptional automobiles on landscaped lawns within the art deco splendor of the Biltmore.

For more information about this inaugural event, see arizonaconcours.com.

Meanwhile, Concorso Italiano has spawned another new concours that takes place in Palm Desert, Calif.  The new Desert Concorso on March 30 is a celebration of Italian cars, but other European sports and GT cars are invited to join in the festivities that include Italian food, fashion and culture.

For more information about the concorso, see desertconcorso.com.

The original Concorso Italiano on the Monterey peninsula moves back to its old location at Bayonet Black Horse Golf Course in Seaside, Calif., while changing the day it takes place from its longtime Friday slot to Saturday, Aug. 16

For more information, see concorso.com.

Here’s a listing of major concours d’elegance events taking place during 2014 in the United States:

2014 Concours d'Elegance Calendar

Major concours d’elegance events taking place during 2014 in the United States
EventDate(s)Location
Arizona Concours d'EleganceJan 12Phoenix, AZ
Cavallino ClassicJan 22-26Palm Beach, FL
Boca Raton Concours d’EleganceFeb 23Boca Raton, FL
Amelia IslandMar 9Amelia Island, FL
Desert ConcorsoMar 30Palm Desert, CA
La Jolla Concours d’EleganceApr 13La Jolla, CA
Keels and WheelsMay 3-4Lakewood, FL
Pinehurst Concours d’EleganceMay 4Pinehurst, NC
Greenwich Concours d’EleganceMay 31-Jun 1Greenwich, CT
The Elegance at HersheyJun 16Hershey, PA
Concours d’Elegance of ChicagoJun 19Barrington, IL
Keeneland Concours d’EleganceJul 20Lexington, KY
Hillsborough Concours d’EleganceJul 21Hillsborough, CA
Concours of America at St. John'sJul 27Plymouth, MI
Concorso ItalianoAug 16Seaside, CA
Pebble Beach Concours d’EleganceAug 17Pebble Beach, CA
Radnor Hunt Concours d’EleganceSep 14Radnor, PA
The Boston CupSep 22Boston, MA
Hilton HeadNov 3Hilton Head Island, SC

If your concours is not listed but should be, please use the feedback link so we can update this calendar.