Category archives: Commentary

Amelia Island calls for my first Florida concours weekend

European classics at last year’s Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance | Neil Rashba photos
European classics at last year’s Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance | Neil Rashba

The Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance is often called the Pebble Beach of the East, which pays homage to the Monterey granddaddy-of-all U.S. concours and puts Amelia Island into perspective for its huge level of success, both in popularity and prestige.

Coming in second is an honor in this case, especially considering that in 20 years Amelia has pulled ahead of any number of top-drawer concours that are older and perhaps better located.

The broad-shouldered concours on the Atlantic coast of northern Florida has claimed its own space in the classic car firmament for a sprawling and good-natured show of elegance unlike any other. Under the guidance of founder Bill Warner, it has gained a reputation for attracting some of the world’s most spectacular vintage automobiles as well as mounting such unique featured classes as Cars of the Cowboys and Orphan Concept Cars that we’ll see this weekend.

Glamour on the grass
Glamour on the grass during Amelia Island Concours | Neil Rashba

The 20th anniversary Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, to be held Sunday on two fairways of The Golf Club of Amelia Island at the Ritz-Carlton resort, should be quite a grand event. And it will be extra special because I get to be there for the first time.

Sure, I’ve seen the photos and read the articles about the rise of the Amelia Island Concours, but there’s nothing like taking in the grandeur in person.

I will be filing reports and photos for ClassicCars.com during my tour of the three days of events that lead up to Sunday’s concours, including four major collector-car auctions – RM Sotheby’s, Gooding, Bonhams and Hollywood Wheels – driving tours, car shows, art shows, parties, seminars, book signings, celebrity appearances and other such diversions.

The auctions, including Bonhams debut at Amelia, should witness more skyrocketing values for collector cars, especially rare and historic race cars, and anything Ferrari.

The restored Jaguar is back together again  | RM Sotheby’s
The 1955 Jaguar D-type coming to auction | RM Sotheby’s

Some of the top auction cars include a terrific 1960 Ferrari 400 Superamerica cabriolet selling for charity and a cool 1955 Jaguar D-type race car valued at $3.75 million to $4.25 million at RM Sotheby’s (the merged company’s first auction under its new name); a 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4, estimated at $3.4 million to $3.8 million, and a historic 1956 Maserati 200 SI with a legendary racing history (value “estimate upon request,” so you know it’s a lot) at Gooding; and a rare 1930 Cord L-29 town car in spectacular preserved condition at Bonham’s.

Meanwhile, Hollywood Wheels dedicates the first day of its two-day sale to Porsches, which also have been ripping in values. I’ll be sure to check out that sale since I’m kind of a Porsche geek.

Sunday, I’ll be strolling among the 300 or so exceptional vehicles scattered around the grassy fairways for the Amelia Island Concours. From what I’ve been told by friends and colleagues, Amelia is quite a different experience from Pebble Beach, which I’ve experienced several times. Should be great, and the weatherman is all thumbs up. But it’s Florida, so who knows?

The 2014 concours-winning Horch and Scarab | Neil Rashba
The 2014 concours-winning Horch and Scarab | Neil Rashba

I will report which cars win the two best of show prizes for Concours d’Elegance and Concours de Sport (which I think is the way to go, giving an equal shot to the grand classics and the sports/racing/GT cars at taking home a top trophy). Last year’s winners were a 1937 Horch 853 cabriolet and a 1958 Scarab race car, respectively.

Joining me for the fun at Amelia Island will be ClassicCars.com East Coast editor and veteran collector-car expert Andy Reid, who will be filing his reports during the festivities. Thursday morning, starting at 10 a.m., he also will lead a preview tour of the cars of the RM Sotheby’s auction.

Watch in the days following the concours for what should be a splendid Eye Candy photo gallery of Sunday’s concours by photographer Tom Strongman.

Also, stay tuned for random tweets and Facebook postings from Andy and me during the four days of Amelia Island.

Read all our Amelia coverage so far right here.

 

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5 things to do with your classic car when the snow’s too deep to drive it

Winter can seem like the worst time of the year for those of us in the classic car hobby, especially those of us who live in a place where that white stuff falls from the sky on a regular basis. So instead of driving our cars, we spend most of our time shoveling snow and wondering when the deluge will ever end.

However, there are a number of things you can — and often need to — do when the weather will not permit you to actually drive your classic car.

Here are a few that we recommend:

Get up close and personal with your car | Autoglym photos
Get up close and personal with your car | Autoglym photos

1. Give your car a really good detail.
Winter is the perfect time to give your car that truly awesome detail that it deserves. If you have never detailed your car before, there are a number of how to books on how to do so.

Beyond the obvious benefit of having a clean car you will be amazed at how much better you will know the condition of your car after detailing it yourself. You are likely to notice things you had never seen before, including needs your car might have or even a wonderful stylistic detail that you had never noticed before.

Take time to clean the nooks and crannies
Take time to clean the nooks and crannies

Basically, you become more of an expert on the condition and the little details of that car you love.

2. Bring your car to the next level
After detailing you car you are likely to find a number of things that could be improved. Maybe your chassis could use a good repaint or your interior could use a good re-dye of its seats. Winter is the perfect time to deal with these things.

The benefit is that come spring, if it ever does arrive this year, you will have a car in better condition than you did when you put it away for winter. Maybe you might even win the trophy at that car show or concours that has eluded you in the past.

3. Buy a new car for your collection.
There s no better time to get a good deal on a classic car than during the winter. Lots of people are as daunted by the weather as you are and there are a fewer people willing to go out there in the weather and crawl around a cold garage to see a car that they can’t drive for another three months. This means that many people selling a car have a lot less interest in their car and are willing to deal.

Also, that winter is just before tax time makes shopping in the winter months for that deal even better because often people may be selling even a prized classic to pay an upcoming tax bill. We call this a target rich environment.

Try a search on ClassicCars.com and search the winter states for that next car you have always wanted. You just might find it.

4. Join a car club and attend the monthly meetings.
If you not yet joined a car club for your marque or time period, then winter is the perfect time to do so. Many clubs have tech sessions and such during the non-driving months and you might actually learn something that can help you with some of the issues your own car has and save you some money. You also have the opportunity to meet a bunch of like-minded car crazy people just like you and are bound to make many new friends.

5. Buy and read a car book or three:
There are some great automotive books out there and winter is the perfect time to buy and read some. You will end up learning more about your own car or a car you have been considering buying. All you need to do is to search Amazon or many of the car centric book dealers to find just the book you were looking for.

We have to warn you that this car book deal can be just as addictive as the cars themselves and you are likely to end up with quite a large collection of car books. The benefit of this is that some of these books are as collectible as the cars themselves and often can appreciate in value at the same rate as the cars themselves.

We promise that this eternally long winter will eventually end, even if you live in Minnesota, and hope that some of these ideas will make these grim winter months a bit more fun for your hobby.signature

 

Solved on Sunday: Your classic car questions answered

(Editor’s note: In conjunction with Road Ready Inspections, we offer this space each week so you can ask questions about your classic car or about the hobby in general. Submit your questions in the comments below and we’ll do our best to answer them! )

Question,  from Ken McNeil

I have a question about matching numbers. I hear the term a lot and some people care and some don’t. What is the big deal with matching numbers and how does that affect what a car is worth?

Answer

Well, Ken, matching numbers are sort of like that dating site I was a member of once. While I was hoping to be matched with a few sweet numbers, it didn’t exactly work out like I had hoped. There were really a whole lot fewer matching numbers running around, but interestingly I discovered the ones without matching numbers may have even been more fun. Classic cars are much the same.

For such a simple concept, matching numbers can get very complex. Simply put, for the majority of classic cars, matching numbers means that the engine, transmission and rear differential share the same sequential serial number as the VIN number of the car, and as such identify that those components are the original components that were installed on the car when originally manufactured. Essentially, an original car, right?

To verify if those components are matching numbers components, simply check the hand-stamped numbers on the engine block, transmission case and rear differential housing.  Each manufacturer’s stamping is located in a different place so check the manufacturer’s data sources to find the correct location. If the car is matching numbers, the sequential numbers hand stamped into these components will be the same as the last sequential build numbers of the VIN of the car, which can be found bolted onto the car.

The hand-stamped numbers on the components are not to be confused with a different set of numbers on the components called casting numbers. These numbers are cast, or molded, directly into the molding of the component. These are build-lot and build-date numbers. These numbers verify when and where the block or housing itself was cast and molded. These numbers can be used as part of “date coding”the components and other pieces such as original carburetors, distributors, water pumps, exhaust manifolds, cylinder heads and more.

What makes matching numbers important and why should we care? Classic cars are only original once, which makes them quite rare and getting more rare every year. Rarity equals desirability and desirability equals money.

A classic car with an original matching-numbers drivetrain is simply more desirable and more valuable to serious hard-core collectors. They will pay much more for an original matching numbers car than the same car with non-original or aftermarket everything.

Now that you are signed up to go through all this fun, how about a 1957 Nomad we can throw in a 700-horsepower big block with a supercharger and a 9-inch rear and let’s go rip the asphalt off the road. Now those are some fun numbers!

600x200 v2Question from Debbie S.

I have a classic car that I don’t know whether to sell or to hold on to. How can I find out if my vehicle will increase in value?

Answer

Well, let’s see. If I had not sold my Garnet Red 1969 Rally Sport Z28 in 1982 it would be worth roughly $120,000 today, per Hagerty’s market valuation. Being that I sold it for $3,500 in 1982 and I bought it new for $2,700 but drove it for 13 years and made $1,100 on it, that’s not a bad deal, I thought. But now I realize I should have never sold that car. I will say it for you, I am an idiot! But who knew?

Classic cars as a whole appreciate over time and mimic the fluctuations of a normal consumer economy. Classic cars are disposable and discretionary income. The better the economy, the higher the prices and demand climbs.

The reality is that some cars are, or become, highly desirable cars years down the road. Highly desirable, as in 2-door hardtops, convertibles and muscle cars. The value climbs year over year. Other cars just continue to be, well, other cars. They appreciate very slowly if at all.

Typical affordable classics such 4-door cars, pickups and less desirable vehicles in the $10,000- $25,000 range will appreciate about 2 to 4 percent annually, essentially very little.

Highly desirable American muscle cars can see appreciation in 10 to 15 percent   range over many years.

Vintage exotics such as Ferrari, Porsche, Aston Martin, Mercedes, Jaguar and the like seem to scream skyward faster and I can’t learn new math to count that high.

The bottom line is that if you have a desirable or potentially desirable model,  no matter when you decide to sell, it’s likely that it will have continued to increase in value over the years that you held it.

So the question really is: At what point do I want to sell?  The right car will surely be worth more next year?

If you don’t have a highly desirable car, now would be a good time to sell.  But don’t be an idiot like that other guy we know, invest your proceeds wisely and buy  another classic that’s even more desirable.

And watch that rocket to the moon.  If not, your local bank would love to give 0.0002 percent interest on your money. Now you can finally afford that Hot Wheels General Lee Dodge Charger you have always dreamed about!

Barry Sig

Upgrade envy or retrograde envy, which is your motivation for buying yet another car?

Automotive News, the newspaper that covers the global new-car industry, republished a story last week from Bloomberg under the title of “Upgrade envy has drivers trading in cars as often as iPhones.”

2015 Lincoln Navigator offers latest technology | Larry Edsall photos
2015 Lincoln Navigator offers the latest  technology | Larry Edsall photos

Not being familiar with the term “upgrade envy,” I read far enough into the text to learn that people are trading in their cars for brand new ones sooner than has been traditional and simply because they want the technology features they see in newer cars owned by their friends and relatives.

“Upgrade envy has helped Apple Inc. sell millions of pricy iPhones,” the story reports. “Now, it’s the auto industry’s turn, thanks to a raft of new technologies that make cars safer and easier to drive. Must-have features like parking assist and wireless Web access have helped automakers recover from the 2009 bust and charge record prices for their vehicles.”

The story continues, “Many drivers are trading in their cars more often to get the latest gear.”

I had an uncle who traded in his car every two years (in retrospect, he really should have kept that late-‘50s Ford Skyliner with the retractable hardtop), and I remember my parents talking about the wealthy folks in town who bought a new Cadillac every fall just because they could.

I will admit that I’m really out of step with the times. I still have the first — and only — iPhone I’ve ever owned, and while I do have a 2013-model vehicle, it replaced a 13-year-old, 180,000-miler.

Classic '60s Camaro convertible
Classic ’60s Camaro convertible

Perhaps because I am, I don’t think old means expired. Nor do I see a lot of “upgrade envy” in the classic car community. In fact, I see almost the opposite. As people are in the hobby longer and their tastes mature, I see them seeking not new but old technology.

Here’s the classic car collector pattern I’ve seen: Someone gets to a point in life where he or she has enough disposable income or comes into an inheritance and finally can afford to buy the car that he or she wanted but could not afford while in high school or perhaps in college or maybe as he or she was starting a career in the trades or steno pool, or was coming out of the service.

They buy that car and shine and show it, and at those shows they see other cars, most likely rather exotic post-war sports cars, and they want one of those as well. Before long, they’re buying a new house with a larger garage to house what has become a growing car collection.

1907 Stevens-Duryea Model U engine
1907 Stevens-Duryea Model U engine

At some point they realize that pre-war cars are pretty cool, too, and they pursue one, and then another. Eventually, they have such an appreciation of automotive history that they’re willing to tackle the complicated plumbing of a brass-era vehicle.

Instead of “upgrade envy,” classic car collectors have a sort of “retrograde envy” as they seek cars with less instead of more modern technology.

My dictionary says retrograde is a retreat to an inferior state. I don’t think classic car collectors would necessarily agree with that definition.

larry-sig

Rising Sun, indeed: Japanese cars being sought by collectors, concours and museums

1190 Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbo joins Simeone museum collection | Simeone museum photo
1990 Nissan 300ZX joins Simeone museum collection | Simeone museum photo

Recently, the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum announced the first Japanese sports car to join its permanent collection. No the car is not a BRE 240Z or a Bob Sharp Racing 280ZX raced by Paul Newman. Instead, it is a 1990 Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbo.

The car was a gift to the museum from John J. Casey from Pearl River, New York. With only 34,900 miles on the odometer, it is an all-original example in near showroom condition. Examples of the 300ZX in this condition are few and far between and it is a significant car but an interesting choice.

According to the museum, “The car feels right at home in our Sporty Cars exhibit, taking its rightful place among the world’s greatest sports cars. It is a worthy representation of the 1990s decade, as well as the rise of the Japanese as producers of world-class high performance sports cars capable of competing against the Europeans and Americans.”

While the Nissan 300ZX would not be the first car we would think of as a classic Japanese sports car, or even the first classic Nissan that comes to mind for such an exhibit, we commend the Simeon for taking this big step in the classic sports car hobby and think this will work to further add legitimacy to Japanese cars as true classics.

There has been quite a bit of interest in classic Japanese cars in the last few years. Last year, the AACA had a exhibit of classic Japanese cars and big time concours events including the Quail Motorsports Gathering have accepted Japanese cars on their show fields.

Rotary-powered Mazda won at Le Mans in 1991
Rotary-powered Mazda won at Le Mans in 1991

If you think this is just a passing fad and not a long-term trend in the hobby then the news that the Goodwood Festival Of Speed is celebrating Mazda this year should have you changing your thoughts.

Mazda at Goodwood? If you think this is crazy then you don’t know your racing history. Mazda was the first Japanese marque to win Le Mans. If that were not enough then consider that the RX7 finished first and second in its class at the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona in the model’s first race. The RX7 then went on to become the most winning car in IMSA history.

“Goodwood is a celebration of what makes Mazda Mazda and this is what separates us from all our other Japanese competitors” said Jeremy Barnes, director of public relations & brand experience at Mazda North American Operations.

In the classic car market, Japanese cars have been rising in value for the last two or three years, with the fabled Toyota 2000GT changing hands on a regular basis for around a million dollars. These same cars four years ago could be bought for between $200,000 and $300,000.

The lower end of the market has not been exempt from this trend. The iconic Datsun 240Z has been on the rise with the best examples selling for as much as $45,000. This is no surprise to us. The 240Z is the sports car that singlehandedly changed everything in the affordable sports car market in 1970 and has been due to get the recondition it has long deserved.

Could this Z bring $200,000 at Amelia auction? | RM Sotheby's photo
Could this Z bring $200,000 at Amelia auction? | RM Sotheby’s photo

The recent passing of the Z’s father, Yutaka Katayama, fondly known as Mr. K, could have a further effect on this market as well. When Enzo Ferrari left us in 1988 the Ferrari market went crazy and we saw the first rapid rise in Ferrari values with cars doubling and tripling in price almost overnight. While we don’t anticipate this happening to this degree in the Z market, we do expect to see a rise in classic 240Z values.

What’s next in this interest in Japanese car market? Well RM Sotheby’s has a classic Nissan at its Amelia Island auction. The car is the true original Z car, the Nissan Fairlady Z432, the most rare production Z car model in the world. Their pre-action estimate for the car is between $150,000 and $200,000. The final sale result of the 432 may be a bit of an indicator of what is yet to come in the Japanese classic car market.

So if you already have that Z car in your garage, consider yourself ahead of the curve and if you do not yet have a classic Japanese car in your collection, you might want to check out some of the cars we have for sale on the site. Here are a few that may pique your interest (one piqued Bob Golfen to the point that he’s selected it as his Pick of the Week):

A 1980 Mazda RX-7

A 1973 Toyota FJ40

A 1972 Datsun 240Z

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‘Unsafe at Any Speed’ hits 50 years; targeted Corvair dangers, sparked consumerism and cost me a ride

The 1960 Chevy Corvair was innovative but unsafe, according to Ralph Nader | ClassicCars.com photos
The 1960 Chevy Corvair was innovative but unsafe, according to Ralph Nader | ClassicCars.com photos

As the book Unsafe at Any Speed, Ralph Nader’s seminal assault on the Chevrolet Corvair and a complacent U.S. auto industry, marks its 50th anniversary this year, I can’t help but recall how it not only had a profound effect on the future of automobiles but also on my own automotive aspirations.

Like most teenage boys, my favorite part of the newspaper was the used-car classified ads (that was before they pretty much all went online), which I would scan intently every afternoon, looking for great, cheap heaps that I possibly could afford.

I soon discovered that just a few years after Nader’s attack, used Corvairs had hit bottom in values. I thought they were cool so I began saving up for one.

But no. When mom got wind of my plan, she had a fit and absolutely forbade me from having anything to do with those rear-engine death traps. She was a voracious reader and quite familiar with Unsafe at Any Speed. Arguing was futile, so I moved on to other heaps.

The redesigned second-gen Corvair addressed handling concerns
The redesigned second-gen Corvair addressed handling concerns

Nader’s book was a revelation for most people when it hit the shelves with a bang in 1965. Although the activist lawyer targeted Corvair for its safety failings – mainly regarding its swing-axle rear suspension that created deadly handling deficiencies – Unsafe at Any Speed took the entire industry to task for what Nader considered a total disregard for passenger safety.

Automotive styling and performance were the big draws for new cars while safety ranked low among consumer concerns. A steady annual death rate of 10s of thousands of people did not seem to have much of an impact.

This was when interiors had chromed steel handles and protruding buttons that would gouge and tear in a crash, hard-surface dashboards that would bash heads, and stiff steering columns aimed directly at the driver’s sternum. Modest drum brakes would fade when hot and slip when wet, roofs would collapse in a rollover, and there was a blasé attitude toward such basic safety features as seat belts. Crumple zones? Ha.

Corvair convertibles are popular collector cars
Corvair convertibles are popular collector cars

Many people felt the innovative Corvair was unfairly targeted by Nader, that they were no more dangerous than plenty of other cars on the road. And after all, Volkswagen Beetles had swing axles (eventually changed to add universal joints). As did the Porsche 356 sports cars, which experienced so much success on the race track. So, too, did another racing stalwart, the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing.

But Corvair was different because of the heavy six-cylinder engine nestled behind its rear axle. Designed to emulate the VWs and Porsches, Corvair sought to boost performance by upping the size of its air-cooled powerplant. But the extreme rear weight bias combined with the swing axles proved to be a bad combination; the outside rear wheel could tuck under during hard cornering, resulting in possible loss of control.

There were other complaints that targeted Corvair’s general handling because of the heavy rear and lightly loaded front wheels. There was talk about the car’s heat exchangers that provided warm air to the interior; they could rust and perforate, allowing engine exhaust to enter the passenger compartment.

The Corvair pickup was built on the same chassis as the passemger car
The Corvair pickup was built on the same chassis as the passemger car

Chevrolet redesigned Corvair for 1965 with fully independent rear suspension that was a vast improvement over the swing axles, as well as making other fixes. That came perhaps in reaction to the Nader complaints or just as part of product development. But despite the new car’s advancement and lauds from the press and public, sales never recovered and Corvair was axed after the 1969 model year.

Nader’s book had a huge effect, launching a major safety push for automobiles that continues today with all kinds of advanced testing of every production vehicle to mitigate the dangers of traveling in them. Multiple airbags, three-point seatbelts, hardened passenger compartments and electronic controls have helped raise the survivability rate in even the worst crashes.

Unsafe at Any Speed also sparked a movement we know as consumerism, exemplified by such publications as Consumer Reports, and a pervasive awareness of safety and reliability in all sorts of products, from washing machines to baby food.

Corvairs these days are recognized as collector cars, maybe not terribly valuable but they do have a strong following. Performance models such as the Monza and turbocharged Corsa, as well as the funky station wagon and the van and pickup versions, are gaining interest among collectors who appreciate their inherent value as uniquely styled and fun-driving cars, even if they’re not the safest cars on the road.

 

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What RM Sotheby’s deal means to the classic car hobby

2013 auction in New York City was a preview of what's to come | RM Sotheby's photos
2013 auction in New York City was a preview of what’s to come | RM Sotheby’s photos

Sotheby’s acquisition of a 25 percent stake in RM Auctions is big news for high-end car collectors, but what does it mean to the hobby in general?

First of all, this is a deal that has been long in the making. RM and Sotheby’s have partnered in a limited capacity for a number of years. The high point of this evolving partnership until Wednesday was their combined sale in New York City in 2013.

I had the pleasure of attending the New York Art of the Automobile sale and was simply blown away by the presentation. The cars were treated as the art objects that they were, and that translated into almost $63 million in sales within two hours. This was an astounding result and something we in the hobby had never seen before.

Sotheby's Bill Ruprecht and RM's Rob Myers
Sotheby’s Bill Ruprecht and RM’s Rob Myers

This formal partnership of the two companies, now known as RM Sotheby’s, also is something that we in the hobby have not seen previously. It combines one of the greatest collector-car auction companies with one of the oldest and most well-respected traditional auction companies. That creates a tour de force in the collectibles marketplace.

“The partnership with Sotheby’s takes what we do and expands it to its full potential, adding Sotheby’s more than 300 years of experience in the auction business to ours,” Alain Squindo, vice president of RM Auctions, told me. “It offers cross-promotional opportunities that effectively let the company become a consolidated collecting conduit for the high-dollar collector market in general.”

Now that the partnership between these two companies is official, what can we expect to see for the broader car hobby?

Well, first and foremost, I think that this partnership is likely to mean that the slowdown or correction in the classic car hobby is not likely to happen any time soon. This partnership adds an additional level of legitimacy to the idea of cars as art. and that is a market that tends not to correct. In fact, I think we are getting closer to seeing our first 100-million-dollar car sell at auction than we were a few years ago, and we definitely will see more world-record prices and big sales totals next month at Amelia Island and in August at Monterey.

Of course, I am talking largely about top-tier collector cars – think Ferrari 250 Testarossas, Bugattis, L88 Corvettes and Jaguar D-types. But this will not exclude the lower end of the market.

Cars as art at historic RM, Sotheby's 2013 sale
Cars as art at historic RM, Sotheby’s 2013 sale

In the fine-art world, some artwork fetches as much as hundreds of millions of dollars, but there also is artwork that sells in the thousand-dollar range, and even such less-rare pieces that are considered significant continue to increase in value along with the top tier of the market.

Historically, this correlation has not always worked in the car hobby, but I think this is about to change. We already have seen hints of it happening in the past few years. I think that now we will see a broader effect on collector cars that are a bit more ordinary as well, with cars such as the Triumph TR4, classic Ford Mustang and even the MGB affected in a positive way as far as values are concerned.

Second, this partnership has the potential to expand and broaden the entire collector-car market to a much larger audience then ever before.

Finally, this partnership sets up RM as the world leader of collector-car auction companies. While many people, including me, have said that RM was the leader for years, this new partnership solidifies the idea. With the worldwide reach and exposure that the partnership offers, the new RM Sotheby’s company will be hard to beat.

Is this good for the collector-car hobby or will it be “ruined” for the average collector?

I think that in the longer term, it will prove to be beneficial for the hobby. While the cars we love will become increasing more valuable and more difficult for some to purchase, we also will see many desirable cars with needs being saved and brought up to the next level simply because doing so is much less of a losing proposition than it had been in the past.

This will mean that there will be more really good examples available of the cars we love, making finding and purchasing a really good MGTD, 1957 Chevy Bel Air or other more-affordable classic an easier thing to do.

The more negative voices in the hobby will bemoan this trend with such comments as, “I used to be in the car hobby but have been priced out of it.” While there is some truth in that, the reality is that this always has been the case with anything that is rare or collectible.

The solution for collectors of modest means is to target cars that are significant while still being affordable. So if you cannot buy a Jaguar E-type Series 1, then maybe you could consider a Datsun 240Z. These cars are still quite affordable, and there are many other similar opportunities out there if you look around.

This translates into dollars as the perception solidifies. People looking to sell the best cars will go to RM Sotheby’s first, and buyers looking for the best cars available also will look there first.

So what should you do if you are a part of the greater and more-affordable segments of the hobby? Well, you should continue to buy the cars you love and enjoy them as much as possible while they continue to increase in value.

1960 Ferrari 400 Superamerica SWB cabriolet
1960 Ferrari 400 Superamerica SWB cabriolet

We will see the beginnings of what’s next for our hobby at the first sale from the new partnered company at the RM Sotheby’s Amelia Island auction March 14. The star lot is a 1960 Ferrari 400 Superamerica SWB Cabriolet by Pinin Farina. The pre-auction estimate is from $6 million to $7 million dollars. We would not be surprised at all if the car surpasses the estimate.

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Do classic cars get a parking place in the sale of collectibles at auction?

1962 Ferrari 250 GTO sells for auction-record $28.5 million at Bonhams' Quail sale |f Bob Golfen photo
1962 Ferrari 250 GTO sells for auction-record $38.1 million at Bonhams’ Quail sale | Bob Golfen photo

‘It’s no secret that the… market is as strong as it’s ever been with dozens of new records… achieved in 2014.”

I put that sentence within quotes because I didn’t write it. I read it, and now I’m sharing it. I stumbled across it on artnet.com, where Eileen Kinsella was writing not about the classic car market but about the overall market for collectible objects.

Her opening paragraph continued, “But the hunger for the best of the best by the world’s so-called trophy hunters extends to a wide range of categories including wine, watches, photography, and older historic works such as antiquities and Old Master paintings. Here are the top-selling objects — and the often intriguing stories that accompany them — in each of these categories.”

Manet painting sold for $65 million | Christie's photo
Manet painting sold for $65.1 million | image courtesy of Christie’s

She proceeded to devote a paragraph each to the works of art, Chinese porcelain, jewelry, wine and photography that brought the most money at auction in 2014.

Which got me to wondering: Where might classic cars fit into the auction-price hierarchy?

So inserting the most paid at auction last year for an automobile — which occurred at Bonhams’ The Quail sale in August— to Kinsella’s list, here are what turns out to be the highest auction prices paid in the various categories in 2014:

  1. Modern art: Alberto Giacometti Chariot (sculpture), $100.965 million
  2. Postwar and Contemporary art: Andy Warhol, Triple Elvis, $81.9 million
  3. Impressionist art: Edouard Manet Le Preintemps, $65.1 million
  4. * Bonus: J.M.W. Turner Rome, from Mount Aventine, $47.4 million
  5. American art: Georgia O’Keeffe, Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1, $44.4 million
  6. Automobile: 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO, $38.115 million
  7. Chinese Porcelain: The Meiyintang Chicken Cup, $36 million
  8. Jewels: Bunny Mellon’s Blue Diamond (9.75 carat), $32.6 million (hammer price)
  9. Watches: Patek Philippe, Henry Graves Supercomplication, $24 million
  10. Old Masters: Francesco Guardi, Venice, The Bacino di San Marco with the Piazzetta and the Doge’s Palace, $16.9 million
  11. Wine: (114-bottle) Superlot of Romance-Conti, $1.6 million ($14,121 per bottle)
  12. Photography: Alvin Langdon Coburn Shadows and Reflections, $965,000

* Listed as bonus because Turner is not officially considered an Old Master, but the price was the most paid at auction for any pre-20th century British artist’s work.

Make of the list what you will, but I thought it was interesting and notable that the most expensive car slots into the middle of the world of collectibles.larry-sig

Driving sports or classic car provides different perspective on road safety

Alfa Romeo 4C hugs the road | Larry Edsall photo
Alfa Romeo 4C hugs the road | Larry Edsall photo

Spending a weekend in an exotic sports car provides a very different, exciting and in too many cases a terrifying perspective on driving and road safety. And I mean that literally and figuratively.

Literally because when you’re sitting just inches above the pavement, that compact crossover in your rearview mirror looks as large as a full-size pickup truck, and a full-size SUV suddenly seems big as a semi tractor.

Figuratively because, well, you are indeed looking up at everything else on the road — and hoping all those other drivers are paying attention to you and your small car rolling along way down there.

I recently spent three days behind the wheel of a 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C, a small, stylish, swift and svelte sports car that is a lot of fun to drive. But because the 4C is a small, stylish, swift and svelte sports car, I was being particularly careful, trying to keep it from drawing the attention of any law enforcement officials who would delight in writing a speeding citation for such a vehicle, while also trying to make sure all that other traffic didn’t simply run us over.

The former turned out to be much easier than the latter because all I had to do to avoid speeding tickets was — obviously — not to exceed the posted speed limit. Which for the most part, I did, but with a great deal of discipline because the 4C is, frankly, so eager and willing for a third digit to pop up on its digital speedometer.

But while I was driving at or just a below the legal limit, no one else on the road seemed to be — and that was both frightening and enlightening.

From down where I was driving — low to the ground and at or slightly below the posted limit — it was terrifying to see just how fast and how poorly people drive.

Hey, you on my tail in your full-size SUV, do you have any idea, should I need to apply the Alfa’s amazing brakes, how long it would take you (a) to notice the tail lights glowing, (b) react to that sight and (c) for the laws of physics and the power of your vehicle’s overworked brake pads to bring that thing to a stop?

Well, I do. So back off!

And you, speeding along in the left lane, instead of reading the texts on your phone, how about noticing that your exit is coming up and (a) signaling that you are going to be moving to the right and (b) doing so before the last possible moment so your under-inflated if not balding tires might be able to negotiate that maneuver without putting everyone within a quarter-mile in jeopardy?

Or better yet, why not drive in the right or center lane to begin with rather than backing up traffic behind you in what is supposed to be the passing lane?

Oh, and while you’re at it, when you pull onto the freeway in the first place, try merging with traffic instead of immediately making everyone else panic while you cut across the lanes to take your rightful place because “Hey, I’m an American and I have every right to read texts in any lane I so choose, plus when I’m in the left lane I only have to worry about people to my right.”

I know I’m preaching to the choir because if you’ve clicked onto this website, you most likely are a classic or collector car enthusiast and no doubt have experienced the same things I’m writing about when you venture out on the road in your finned ‘50s coupe, your ‘60s pony car or ‘70s muscle car, your pre-war classic or your own exotic sports car.

Which means you also know the joy of finding an empty stretch of country pavement or a winding mountain road void of traffic where you can drive your car as it was meant to be driven, if only for a matter of minutes, while worrying not about other traffic but those laws of grip — and grin.larry-sig

5 reasons not to buy a classic car

Gorgeous classic and exotic cars can complicate your life | Larry Edsall photos
Gorgeous classic and exotic cars can complicate your life | Larry Edsall photos

There are a great many reasons for buying a classic car: love for the history of a specific brand, the fun of tinkering with your classic, the experience of driving an old car, and the possible investment potential that many classic cars can offer, to name a few.

The classic car market is hotter than ever and, as a result, many people are looking at classic cars as a great way to invest their money. While that might seem like a great idea, there are also many potential pitfalls of classic car ownership, and just as many reasons for not buying a classic car.

We went through our list and broke it down into five reasons not to buy a classic car:

1. A friend of mine said I should buy a classic car.

Say you have a modern Porsche 911 or Dodge Challenger and your friends think you should buy an old one to go with it. You envision yourself as part of the hardcore, cool-guy crew. This is a dangerous mindset, especially if you’ve come to expect such things as satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity and a good, working A/C, which are niceties generally not available on classic cars. And remember, a classic car will be less reliable and require more maintenance than its modern equivalent.

You should only buy a classic car because you want a classic car, not to be part of the cool crowd. We really aren’t as cool as we think we are.

2. I have been thinking of buying a classic car but I do not like working on mechanical things.

Not having experience with working on old cars is not a prerequisite, but you should be willing to learn about making some mechanical repairs. No matter how many mechanics you hire, at some point you are going to have to fix something yourself. Classic car people tend to forget that they spend a considerable amount of time fixing things, often more time that they spend actually driving their classics.

They forget this because they enjoy the process of working on and sorting out the issues that come up with their old cars.

Even the best of classics break from time to time
Even the best of classics break from time to time

Ideally, you should consider this tinkering to be part of the fun of the classic car experience. If not, think twice about making a classic car purchase.

3. I can afford a classic car but it needs to be perfect because I have just enough money to buy the car.

No classic car is perfect. We are not aware of a single person who has bought any classic car that did not require some amount of money to be spent on it immediately. It is best to budget somewhere between $1,500-$5,000 for maintenance in addition to the price you’re paying for any new classic car purchase, the added cost dependent on the price level of the classic. However, if you’re buying a classic Ferrari, most experts say to budget as much as $20,000 more.

If you cannot afford to pay for the inevitable initial repairs, then you are going to have trouble with classic car ownership from the start.

4. Classic cars make a great investment and I like a sure thing.

There are no sure investments, with the possibly exception of the big-time fine-art world. The classic car market has its ups and downs just like every other market.

Buying a car only as an investment is a big mistake. Old cars take care and attention, making them very different from other appreciating assets.

Buy a classic car only if you really love and want that car, and only buy a make and model that you love and not purely because you foresee upside potential.

Then, no matter what happens with classic car market values, you will still have that car you always wanted.

5. I want to buy a car on TV at an auction, like the big shots.

This has got to be the worst reason to buy a classic car, and every year more people buy cars because they want to be seen on television winning a bidding war. This behavior always astounds us, but we have heard so many people boast about having the opportunity to pay too much for a car on TV.

If you want to be on TV that badly, figure out another way, possibly by starting a cooking show or applying for a spot on Survivor or Shark Tank.

If you still decide to a buy a classic car, take a look at these guidelines and make sure none of them apply to you, in which case you probably should decide not to buy.

Always buy a classic car that you love because you want to own it and to drive it, and you should have a terrific experience.

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