Shifting Gears (190)

There are many stock phrases in the vocabularies of car collectors. They range from “that’s one of one” to “wonderful patina” to “I never should have sold it.” The one that seems to get me in the most trouble is, “Well, I’m not really looking, but…” You know the drill. You have a vague interest in a certain car. In my case, it was a Volvo P1800, the sports coupe Roger Moore drove in the television show “The Saint.” Not yet admitting that I was sliding down the slippery slope towards ownership, I started asking a few gurus what the…

Priced Fresh Daily

Written by November 2014
At the highest level of the U.S.-based catalog-sale collector car auctions, Gooding & Company and RM Auctions are the major players, with Bonhams now a hard-charging, fast-rising contender. All three of these companies are now going toe-to-toe in Monterey, Scottsdale and Amelia Island. There will be no shortage of high-dollar fireworks as billionaires compete for delectable multi-million dollar collectibles. That’s not to say that there aren’t other important, high-end players including Barrett-Jackson, Auctions America, Mecum, Russo and Steele, and Worldwide — and the first-time-effort of Rick Cole in Monterey deserves a nod. But during Monterey Classic Car Week, all eyes…
  Is it fair to say that we love our cars? Over time, we develop relationships with them based on the things we have done with them — from changing spark plugs to repairing upholstery to going on tours and rallies. In a way, a favorite car is like a faithful Labrador retriever. It sits and waits for us, and when we turn the key, it jumps to its wheels and wags its exhaust pipes. Our favorite cars exist to be our companions in adventure. But a relationship with a pet comes to a natural end. Dogs and cats age…
It was late on a Wednesday afternoon, and I was hoisting the Coleman tent and sleeping bags onto the roof rack of our Defender 90 in preparation for the weekend’s vintage Land Rover tour. Then the phone rang. It was Jamie Knight, Group Director of the Bonhams Motoring department. “Hello Keith,” he said. “It’s Bonhams’ 25th anniversary, and we’re having a little dinner to celebrate it at our London headquarters. I hoped you and your daughter would be able to attend.” “Terrific,” I replied. “When?” “Monday.” I thought about it for a second. I was leaving for the Rover trip…

The Perfect Pairing

Written by August 2014
As the SCM fleet continues to grow, I am beginning to wonder just why we need so many old cars. We currently have eight collector vehicles, ranging from a 1958 Giulietta Sprint Veloce to a 2000 Viper GTS ACR. That means eight insurance bills, eight parking stalls, eight sets of maintenance records, eight battery chargers and more. The cars spend most of their time sitting, like a faithful dog looking out the window hoping his master will soon be home to take him for a romp. In a way, it’s no different than a wardrobe with 100 purses, or a…
I recently came across a photo taken just after the 1992 California Mille. It showed me in a Ferrari PF cabriolet S2, along with my grandmother, Dorel McDowell. I recall exactly how she came to be in that car. When I finished the tour, in my 1958 Giulietta Spider Veloce, one of the participants asked if I’d like to take his PF cab for a drive. I said yes, went to the family home on 20th Avenue in San Francisco, got Grandma Dorel into the car and took her for a spin. It was a typical San Francisco day, clear…
The collector car market is steamrolling along with the largest price increases we’ve ever seen. From 2009 to 2013, combined sales of all the auctions in Monterey jumped from $120m to $308m. That $188m increase in four years represents a 157% change, and a return of 26.6% per year. For Scottsdale, from 2010 to 2014, combined sales went from $126m to $253m. That’s a 101% increase, and an annualized return of 19%. The Dow Jones Index, which has reached record heights this year, began 2009 at 8,776 and ended 2013 at 16,576. That’s a 90% increase, and a yearly increase…
  Many years ago, I was considering buying a Mercedes 230SL and called Mercedes guru, SCM contributor and collector Alex Dearborn to ask for his advice. I told him the car was straight enough, a little scruffy in and out, would need a torn swing-axle boot replaced, had a 4-speed and both tops. At that time, the price of $18,000 was about right. Alex was direct in his response. “How much imperfection can you stand?” he said. “You’ll need to fix anything mechanical that creates safety problems, but after that it’s all up to you.” I decided that if the…
  I love the way the collector-car year launches. Arizona in January is like Mardi Gras, with cars to be auctioned replacing floats. The procession of delectable automobiles is non-stop, with the six big auctions pulling out all the stops. For me, the action started earlier this year than usual. It included a quick trip to London for a dinner at Bonhams’ new headquarters at 101 New Bond Street — a most tony address, in a most tony part of a tony city. I was fortunate enough to stay at the Royal Automobile Club. For a blue-jeans-bred, West Coast boy,…
At times, the SCM offices resemble an automotive confessional. Emails, texts, Facebook postings, faxes and sometimes even old-school, hand-written letters flood in — each missive asking for collector-car absolution or permission. “Dear SCM, please forgive me as I have sinned and bought a car over the Internet without seeing it in person… again.” “Keith, I am offered a great deal on a Ferrari. It’s a 308 GT4, friends tell me they are the last undervalued Ferrari, and they’re sure to jump in price soon. This one has been color changed from yellow to red. I’m told the engine was recently…
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