Eight-hundred and forty-six. That’s the number of comments I have made on Bring a Trailer auctions.
My auction handle is “330America.” I chose this name to commemorate the Ferrari 330 America I pulled out of a barn in Montana 30 years ago, used starter fluid to get running, and drove home 550 miles to Portland. I don’t recall using more than six quarts of oil.
I joined Bring a Trailer in September of 2014, soon after it became an auction site. I was introduced by California Mille founder Martin Swig to Randy Nonnenberg, head of BaT, in front of the Fairmount Hotel at the start of the Mille.
When BaT consisted of reposting of interesting advertisements, I bought a Saab Sonett from Randy, and sold a Mercedes 219 Ponton through him.
While I keep an eye on cars that interest me, I rarely comment unless I can add something positive to a discussion. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have opinions.
Alfa Romeos from 1956-74 are my primary area of expertise. As I have been owning and driving them for over 60 years, I am able to quickly look at a few pictures and read a description to get a “feel” for a car.
The depth of my ignorance when it comes to other cars was brought home when I was poking around a 1968 Porsche 911L Targa Sportomatic. The knowledgeable, informed and affable seller, “1600Veloce,” offered to give me a Facetime tour of the car and show me paint meter readings of all the columns.
I told him that wouldn’t be very useful to me, as I don’t know enough about 1968 911Ls (even though I owned one and took it on a 1,000-mile tour decades ago) to know what right and wrong was.
If “the devil is in the details” when buying a classic car, you have to know what is right or wrong with them before you can start evaluating. Some things, like the presence of rust, accident damage or panel fit, are universal. Notes in the description such as, “the headliner is sagging” or “leaks are noted from the rear of the oil pan” can raise flags.
As I have previously written, I rely on the comments of the BaT trolls to help me understand the good and the bad of a specific car.
With the 911L, a troll noted it no longer had the sports seats it was delivered with. Without that comment I would never have been aware of that. The incorrect seats would not have kept me from bidding, nor did it seem to inhibit other devotees willing to bid much higher than I was. Final price, including delivery to me in Portland and commission would have been near $120,000, more than twice my budget.
When I bought our 1971 V12 Jag, I relied completely on the trolls. This was a model I knew absolutely nothing about. All surfaces, in and out, were described as original. While the seller did not claim the 22k miles shown were original, I found data in SCM Platinum that supported that mileage.
Further, all the troll inquiries about the milage were promptly and satisfactorily answered. When the car arrived, I took it to local gurus Tom Black and Guy Recordon and after examining it, they said it appeared to have original paint and interior as well – with the exception of the headliner, which the seller had replaced.
I found myself in a similar situation with the SCM 1971 Citroen DS21 Pallas. I knew the seller and trusted him. I relied on this knowledge, the posted information and the relentless drilling down by the trolls to allow me to have confidence in my bid.
I wanted a semi-automatic but wasn’t picky beyond that. I feared that I was bidding too much, but I was reassured by the fact I was going after a correct car with no apparent immediate needs. (All of the fanatics who want me to change the correct U.S.-spec open headlights to the swiveling, covered European models can please stifle themselves. It’s not going to happen.)
In the past few weeks, I have watched an Alfa sell where there seemed to be a disconnect between the condition and the final price. It was a 1969 Duetto that presented well, but with a 2-liter carbureted engine replacing the original 1750-cc injected one. More troubling was the replacement of the seats by incorrect aftermarket ones.
The restoration appeared to be of a high standard, but the price seemed over-the-top for a car with those inaccuracies. We can only wait for the next Duetto to sell to see if the market doesn’t care about the engine or seats, or if this was a non-repeatable outlier.
My 1967 Duetto still has its original engine and original seats and vinyl, along with a restored Pininfarina hardtop and documentation from new. Is the market telling me it would be more valuable with a bigger engine and the wrong seats? Or would the originality push it towards being the first $100,000 Duetto. I am curious, of course. Wouldn’t you be in my position?
One of the advantages of being an observer rather than a participant in these sales is that I can simply watch and comment. It’s more fun than bingeing on Netflix and I learn something with every sale.