Keith’s Blog: Collectible or Drivable?

I read a recent article in Bloomberg about the rise in collectability of first generation Ford Broncos.

Some are now selling for over six figures.

I’ve owned first-gen Broncos (and even a Bronco II, but I don’t like to admit to it), and they are decent enough bare-bones utility vehicles. But no one has ever called them a joy to drive.

Broncos don’t handle, don’t stop, and the 302 V8 overpowers the suspension. Their off-road capabilities are about what you would expect from a rig of that era, which is to say limited in stock configuration.

I found myself wondering just what I would do with a six-figure Bronco? Would I take it on the Rubicon Trail? On local off-road events where it would surely get scratched and dented?

I doubt it. These “ultra-Broncos” are destined to live in collections where they will be admired and not driven.

I contrasted that with my own off-road machine, my 1984 Land Rover Defender 90 Turbo Diesel. Before I got the D90, I had a Discovery and a Range Rover Classic, They were both great off-road, but I found they were in such nice condition that I was terrified whenever a tree branch rubbed against them.

By contrast, the D90 was used in off-road competition in England before I imported it. Every panel is dented and scraped. It’s been fully kitted out with an air-locker and a lift kit, plus a variety of skid plates.

There’s no place that I’m afraid to take it. When I slid into a tree last year and mangled the front left fender, the shop just pulled it out and made it “straight enough.”

It’s the same with my other cars. I only own them because of the joy they bring me in use. In fact, the car I drive the very least is our 2000 Dodge Viper GTS ACR. It’s a magnificent machine — a Corvette for real men. But it is so powerful that by the time I’m starting to enjoy its capabilities I’m going uncomfortably fast on a public road. And with no traction control to save me, if I drive stupid I’m going to pay the price.

As I look at the ten cars in my modest collection, each one brings me joy in use. When I take out an Alfa or the Lotus, I’m reminded of just how much I love to drive small-displacement vintage cars. Their capabilities are so meager compared to modern cars that it takes a thoughtful driver to make them perform. And the better I pilot them, the more eager they are to perform for me.

For me, banging the D90 over rocks and through streams reminds me of why I drive old cars and trucks in the first place. I respect those who pay top dollar for a car and then keep it as a display item. But it’s simply not the way I enjoy my cars.

 

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.

Posted in Blogs, Keith Martin

2 comments

  1. Completely agree. I’m not a display collector. From the Levi’s Gremlin to the flat-floor E-Type to the McLaren 12C, my cars are drivers. I understand the “1-of-8” Hemi ‘Cuda collection mentality, but the joy is in make my them do what they were designed to do, as apprehension-free as possible.

  2. Both. In 1989 I took my 1965 MGB apart (shouldn’t have in retrospect) and didn’t get it back together again until 2005. I chased Concours ribbons and fussed over all the things to be original and correct (even 2 Lucas batteries that nobody could even see). For my efforts I got an Honorable Mention at the Greystone in Beverly Hills. Since then however, I have had the pleasure of driving a new 1965 MGB Tourer w/Hardtop to anywhere I choose. Corvalis, Oregon, Reno, Nevada (saw you guys up there, too) and Santa Fe, New Mexico all from Los Angeles. So while I’m sure while nobody is thinking MGB and collectible (or concours, for that matter) I did get the best of both worlds.

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