Online auctions have transformed the collector car world. In a matter of minutes — in your own office — you go from contemplating a quiet lunch to posting a $35,000 bid.
I was editing the next issue of American Car Collector last Friday when a text message popped up on my phone.
“BaT Auction Alert: 1970 Alfa Romeo Junior Zagato 1300 is ending in 1 hour. http://bringatrailer.com/listing/1970-alfa-romeo-junior-z/
Bidding was under $30,000 at that point, and I peg these as $45,000 to $55,000 cars.
I’d forgotten that I had tagged this auction, but I shoved the profile of a big pink 1959 Cadillac Coupe deVille to the back of my mind. I was at a car auction!
I had decided a few months ago that I was not going to add a Junior Zagato to my Alfa collection. The reasons ranged from the styling not being compelling to the car not really offering anything substantially different than the aggregated personalities of the three coupes I already own — the 1958 Giulietta Sprint Veloce, the 1961 Giulietta Sprint Speciale and 1967 Giulia Sprint GT Veloce.
Besides, the SS still isn’t finished, and I haven’t recovered from the massive costs of fully restoring of the 1965 Giulia Spider Veloce.
But at $30,000, suddenly the Junior Z jumped to the top of my “Must Have” list.
That’s the danger of auction — an attractive price can seduce you into something that’s not a good fit. Once you’re hooked into the bidding process, it can be hard to give up. After all, each bid is only another $250. How often have you heard a ringman say, “You’ve come this far, sir. Don’t lose the car for another $250.”
Of course, the actual bid can be $32,250, up from $32,000, but let’s not worry about details.
The text alert came at 11:09 pm, and the auction was ending in less than an hour. I began pacing and pondering pluses and minuses.
Minus: The car was in Italy. I had not had anyone inspect it. Transportation and duties could add $5,000 to the final price, depending on a variety of circumstances.
Plus: It was cheap at the current bid of $33,000.
Minus: It was the less-desirable 1300 — instead of the more-coveted, much-more-rare 1600.
Plus: It was still cheap at the current bid of $34,000. That was now MY bid, by the way. I had jumped in with both feet and was paddling towards ownership.
Minus: I wasn’t sure exactly how I would pay for the car — and I wasn’t even sure I really wanted it.
Plus: At my new bid of $35,500, it was still cheap.
Another bid came in at $36,000 and I decided to drop out. With the 5% buyer’s fee and transportation, my costs were edging towards $45,000. What would have been fun at a total cost of $35,000 just wasn’t fun anymore.
I couldn’t decide if I felt smarter for walking away from the keyboard, or silly because the car was still cheap.
In the end, it didn’t sell. The final bid of $37,500 didn’t meet the seller’s reserve.
I turned back to editing the profile of the Cadillac. I gave mental thanks to Bring A Trailer for adding a few minutes of excitement to my day.
And, at least this time, it didn’t cost anything.