Change is a constant in the collector-car world. From what car people are buying and selling through how much those cars and trucks achieve when they sell, the market is always in flux.
This is ACC’s 50th issue. The magazine has come a long way since our first issue back in the late summer of 2011, but measuring change in the market has always been our core mission. What’s interesting, however, is where that change pops up — and where it doesn’t.
Scottsdale’s numbers are in. This year’s overall total out of the desert was $249.7m, compared to last year’s $247.5m. Add in Mecum Kissimmee to that total — another $94.7m in cars sold in January — and you get $344.2m in cars sold in the American market in the first month of the new year.
That’s a big number, but last year’s total, including Mecum and the Arizona sales, was $341.2m. The difference? A lot more cars sold, and one Steve McQueen “Bullitt” Mustang.
At first glance, the market in January 2020 seemed like a repeat of January 2019 all over again. Business as usual, right?
Buy, sell, hold
ACC’s annual Scottsdale seminar at Barrett-Jackson was on Wednesday of auction week. This year, ACC panelists Elana Scherr, Carl Bomstead, B. Mitchell Carlson and Ken Lingenfelter joined me for a conversation on what to buy, sell and hold in 2020. We talked about muscle cars, trucks, hot rods and more — you can see the entire seminar on our Facebook page. The most interesting part of the seminar for me was one of Ken’s “sell” picks for 2020.
Ken runs one of the country’s top GM performance companies — Lingenfelter Performance Engineering — and he has one of the world’s coolest car collections as well. It’s filled with everything from exotics to rare top-level Corvettes. As he’s always buying and selling, he has a lot to say about it.
His pick to sell for 2020? C2 Corvettes — those iconic market-topping mid-year missiles. Cue the record scratch.
“There’s a dynamic in place, a changing demographic” said Ken, “that’s placing downward pressure on values here. Numbers-matching, perfect cars aren’t doing as well as they used to, and the C2s that are still doing well are resto-mods. I think it might be time to think about selling.”
Is he right? You can argue it either way, but there’s no arguing that it’s a well-founded opinion from a self-described Corvette guy. And as an opinion, it’s indicative of a major change we’ve been seeing in what comes to auction, as well as what is just over the horizon for the market, the media and car culture in general.
Younger cars and trucks are taking the spotlight at auction, car content is increasingly moving away from print media to serve a digital future, and the C8 has more in common with a Ferrari than it does a C3.
Sales numbers aside, it’s clearly not just business as usual in the car world anymore.
That might seem like a troubling prospect, especially when some of the traditions we hold most dear in our hobby appear to be changing so drastically. But in all honesty, it’s not a bad sign, and the proof is in the metrics.
Yes, newer cars and trucks are still flowing into the market, and yes, they’re growing in value at the same rate that some of our old favorites are slowing. And yet, here we have some of the largest sales of the year by both car count and dollar volume turning in very similar sales numbers year-over-year.
That means that while the market may be adjusting to changing interests, it’s thriving in the process, and great cars — even those C2s — are still bringing good money. The proof is in the printed pages that follow — and in every issue of ACC.
If the notion of change is too much for you, do something about it. Let a kid drive that C2 Corvette in your garage — even a small-block ’64 is enough to turn someone into a true believer for life.
Markets live on enthusiasm, and enthusiasm is about the experience. A car like that can make you a force of change in the market, and that can very directly have an impact on the market later, when that kid enters the market and waves a hand in the air for a Corvette of his or her own.
When that happens, ACC will be there to report on it.