Keith’s Blog: Publisher Martin Tries to Buy a “Third Nipple” Collector Car


I was at the Silver Auction here in Portland this weekend. I enjoy Silver Auctions — they are low-key, they always have a few interesting cars, and most of the bidding is at a level where I can be a player — unlike in Monterey, where anything under $1m is really just collector car fodder.

I told Wendie I would only be gone for an hour. (She told me later that when I say things like that, she watches my lips move but doesn’t pay any attention to the sounds coming out.)

There were three cars that caught my eye: a 1969 Alfa 1750 Spider with just 35,000 original miles, sold new by Griswold (the noted Italian dealership in Berkeley, CA); an SCMer-owned 1967 BMW 2000 CS in nice driver condition; and, the subject of our discussion, a 1970 Rover 2000 TC, also owned by an SCMer.

While I am seriously in the hunt for a 1967 Duetto (upgraded to hot-rod status with a properly installed 2-liter engine and Rugh-style suspension, please), this 1969 had a lot going for it. It no longer wore its original paint, but it was an honest car with a lot of eyeball. The seller said his reserve was just $11,500, and at that number plus commission I was an owner.

But I wasn’t the only Alfa fanatic in the room. Also bidding were Butch Bockmier from Park Place LTD, Evan McMullen from Cosmopolitan Motors and my collector car mentor in Portland, Monte Shelton.

Before the car crossed the block, following auction etiquette among friends, each of them asked me if I were “in” and to what number. I replied, “I’m good to $12k,” and they each said, “then you won’t own the car.” Hammer came down to Monte at $16k ($17.6k with commision). A fair deal, but after the repaint, new top and fettling, he’ll be in the car close to $25k, which is stretching towards retail.

The 1967 2000 CS was an interesting car, and I don’t know that I’ve ever seen one before. Usually it’s the 3.0 that shows up at events. For a variety of reasons, the car didn’t sell, but the SCMer who owns it said he will stay in touch with me. He is looking for a price in the $13k range. It’s a nice driver with no rust. Let me know below if you think it should join the SCM collection.

And now our subject car. I’ve always liked the Rover sedans, and I prefer the more nimble two-liter 2000s to the V8 3500s. The one at Silver was nicely presented and enthusiast owned. It had a reserve of just $3,000. I queried my Facebook buddies about the car and started my own firestorm of commentary. Our own Steve Serio called it a “web-toed, third-nipple” collector car.

In the end, the car went to a dealer in Coeur d’Alene for $4,200, all in. Read the Facebook comments below, and let me know if you think I dodged a Rover bullet or missed the deal of a lifetime.

Philip Kantor: Run as fast as you can Keith! Wrong spec, wrong color, wrong car if you like to enjoy driving.

Robert C. Lichty: The most appropriately name car brand ever. Arf, arf. Always wanted one, too, but couldn’t afford the net option to catch the falling parts.

Dan Mullin: RUN AWAY!

Santo D. Spadaro: Tre cool… thinking man’s saloon.

Peter Brackenbury: Keith the 1970 Rovers were British Leyland run by accountants not engineers. It was about then that our Swiss uncle who always bought Rover changed to Volvo, as it spent more time at the dealer instead of his garage.

Dan Mullin: Well said!

Stephen Serio: That’s a new level of awful.

Don Lawrence: Keith, seek out the worst possible condition XKE and put the same amount of money in it, and in the end at least you will have a car of desirable kit to appeal to a larger audience. I LIKE ’em both, but know of the pitfalls of adversity that lie in the shadows.

Keith Martin: Steve I might buy it just so you can write it up for SCM and tell the world what a stupid buy I made. Interested in the assignment?

Stephen Serio: I will start with saying that you were better off hammering a rusty railroad spike through the top of your foot… and in the words of the immortal Frank Sinatra “and I cleaned that up.”

Mitch Silver: On the other hand, if you’re goal is to at least temporarily own one of every foreign car ever built, then this Rover fits the bill precisely. Bid, then write the story.

Keith Martin: Tell me what you really think Steve. Don’t hold back!

Keith Martin: Mitch, I thought you were selling cars today, not playing around on FB!

Stephen Serio: All this venting keeps my blood pressure 120/80. See, your lunacy has health benefits for others.

Donald Osborne: I’ve always LOVED these cars. Buy this one too, KM. Then you can “upgrade” to a 3500.

William Suhosky: Beautiful!!

Steven Terrien: Run the other way.

Mitch Silver: Sold it for $4,200, including buy fee.

Keith Martin: Great buy, but I’m not the winner here.

Stephen Serio: Au contraire, you are the big winner!

Donald Osborne: Have a care, Serio — folks might think you mean what you write…

Stephen Serio: You guys should insist I stay by your sides when you go car hunting. Think of all heartache and pain I could save you from. I may call your passions the “Increasing Liability Club ” or “Depreciating Assets R Us”… And I would never comment on DB5s or any other truly fabulous cars as potential growth opportunities. I leave that expertise to the HAGI folks and the auction companies.

Keith Martin: Steve, if you acted as our “car guardian” think of all the great times Donald and I would miss out on.

Donald Osborne: Yes Steve, if Keith and I want another “belly button” car, we’ll be sure to call you. (Belly Button = everyone has one.)

Stephen Serio: So your cars are..? Oh I know, the third-nipple cars? The webbed-toe machines? Or the hermaphrodite rides? Rare does not always = desirable… but it’s nice to have a proper conversation piece around.

Donald Osborne: Don’t knock a third nipple until you’ve had one. Rare is of course not the ultimate determinant of economic “desirability” — There are a ton of cars that “conventional wisdom” has dismissed which are a hell of a lot of fun to drive and enjoy. I’ve found it useful to make my decisions behind the wheel rather than on a barstool…

Stephen Serio: You’re not sticking me in with conventional wisdom crowd are you, sir? I challenge you to a duel! How dare thee?!! You’re poking a Hudson/Alfa/Jolly/Riviera owner here… Conventional is a four-letter word that I shall not tolerate, young man! I will drive my Fairthorpe Electron right into your Lancia! And then tow it away with my old Morris Minor Pickup truck, which I shall borrow back from Jamie Kitman! Why I…

Stephen Serio: PS: not to mention the Lancia Forgoncino…

Keith Martin

Keith Martin has been involved with the collector car hobby for more than 30 years. As a writer, publisher, television commentator and enthusiast, he is constantly on the go, meeting collectors and getting involved in their activities throughout the world. He is the founder and publisher of the monthly Sports Car Market and bi-monthly American Car Collector magazines, has written for the New York Times, Automobile, AutoWeek, Road & Track and other publications, is an emcee for numerous concours, and has his own show, “What’s My Car Worth,” shown on Velocity.

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