Who Owns This Cunningham Corvette?


Howard Coombs

At this writing, a U.S. Bankruptcy Court trustee is set to auction off the ownership rights — whatever they might be — of Dan Mathis Jr. in regards to 1960 Corvette VIN 00867S103535.

This car is one of the legendary Cunningham Corvettes — one of the three that competed at the 1960 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The current bid of $25,000 was made by Mathis’s partners. Whether the auction will actually take place is yet to be determined, as Mathis still has time to appeal the Bankruptcy Court ruling that ordered the sale.

If the sale is completed, the winning bidder won’t know if he or she has acquired any part of the ownership of this Corvette — but the winner will be buying into a very expensive lawsuit.

A checkered past

Chevrolet was unable to compete at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1960 because of its participation in the American manufacturers’ racing ban. So Chevrolet gave “informal” assistance to privateer Briggs Cunningham, who entered three Corvettes in the Sarthe classic.

The Corvettes were numbered 1, 2 and 3. Car 1, raced by Cunningham and William Kimberley, and Car 2 both failed to finish. Car 3, driven by John Fitch and Bob Grossman, finished 8th overall and first in class.

This was a very impressive showing, but period racers were not terribly nostalgic about these cars. Upon return to the U.S., Cunningham decommissioned all three Corvettes, sold them as street machines, and they disappeared.

Thieves Know the Way to Monterey

Monterey Car Week is the closest we get to automotive nirvana. We have grown accustomed to the week’s three major problems: finding acceptable accommodations, finding enough time to do everything we want to do, and getting decent dinner reservations. This year, for the first time, another problem manifested itself — car thieves have discovered Monterey.

Four collector cars were stolen during the weekend: two from Mecum, one from Russo and Steele, and one from a bed-and-breakfast parking lot in Read More

Leasing to Play

Auto leasing hit historic highs in the past couple of years and now finances about 27% of new-car sales.

Leasing is particularly popular with the luxury brands — 75% to 80% of new Mercedes-Benzes and about 50% of new BMWs are leased.

And specialty collector-car leasing companies such as Putnam Leasing and Premier Financial Services have become major players in financing collector-car transactions. J.J. Best Banc & Co., prominent in the field as well, offers traditional financing.

But leases in the collector-car market are quite different from those in the new-car market.

Different ends

Traditional, new-car leases are called “closed end” leases. You lease the car for a fixed period of time, say three or five years. There may be some up-front consideration, such as a down payment. At the end of the lease term, your lease obligation ends. You can just give the car back and walk away. Or, you can buy it for the pre-determined residual value, which was set at the beginning of the lease term.

Tax Liens and “Good” Deals

A Ferrari owner was in deep financial trouble. Business difficulties had left him pretty well broke. Worst of all, he owed the IRS more than $3 million, and an IRS agent was hot on his heels to collect.

In need of cash, the owner approached his bank for a loan. Since the IRS had filed liens for the unpaid taxes, the bank required collateral to secure a line of credit. All that was available was the 2005 Ferrari, so Read More

A Hit, a Run and Six Errors

On April 28, Publisher Martin hosted the Round Fendered Volvo Club at his home for a viewing of the movie “Swedish Auto.” A few days later, a club member who drove his Volvo 122 wagon to the affair wrote this interesting account of the demise of his Volvo. “Legal Files” has added comments — with the club member’s permission.

I was driving on a one-plus mile stretch of residential road in Portland, OR. I was at the 25 mph Read More

Good Insurance Is Your Car’s Best Friend

 

Last month’s “Legal Files” illustrated how loaning your car to another can wreak havoc at the highest levels. This month, we’ll explore some more mundane situations that can be equally unsatisfying.

Let’s start with a pretty common situation — you and your friend enter a rally in your 1957 Porsche Speedster. On the second day, you trade places and your friend drives. While you’re trying to figure out where you took the wrong turn and how to get back on course, your friend gets distracted, misses a turn and crashes into a tree.

Fortunately, you both escape injury, but your Speedster doesn’t. Your friend apologizes profusely, accepts responsibility and promises to have his insurance carrier take care of the damage. How’s that going to work for you?

The $175k Missed Shift

Sports car racing driver David Piper (a former F1 driver who lost a leg below the knee in an accident driving a Porsche 917 during the filming of Steve McQueen’s 1971 film “Le Mans”) recently won an important case in The Royal Courts of Justice in London.

The high court awarded damages and legal costs likely to be around $175,000 against automotive journalist and racer Mark Hales, who was stunned and angered with the judgment.

In his written response Read More

Seven Easy Ways to Avoid Trouble

Okay, it’s March, but we all know that spring is the real start of the car collecting year. And every new year marks the time for self-improvement resolutions. Here are the top seven for the car collector.

I won’t buy a car online without seeing it myself

Hands down, the most common complaint I get from clients and readers is that they bought a car long distance and, when it arrived, it didn’t turn out to be anything like Read More

Who Owns This Ferrari Testa Rossa?

“Jim” thought he had a smoking deal — $3,650,000 for a 1956 Ferrari 500 Testa Rossa. He thought he could easily flip the TR for a quick profit. All he needed was $3,650,000.

So, Jim called his stepbrother-in-law, “Bob,” for financial help. Bob thought the TR deal sounded like a good idea, so he contacted his bank, which agreed to loan the $3,650,000 against the Ferrari.

According to Bob, Jim advised him to run the transaction through a shell company. The shell company borrowed the $3,650,000 from the bank, and the bank secured the loan with a security interest in the TR, which it perfected by filing with the Oklahoma UCC filing office.

Is It Time to Give Your Cars to Your Kids?

In the realm of estate planning, 2012 is either a once-in-a-lifetime tax-saving opportunity or the new normal.

We won’t know which until after the November 2012 election — and maybe not until next year, after the new Congress has had time to act. Savvy investors aren’t waiting to find out, and they are acting now to take full advantage of today’s opportunities.

The main point of interest is the estate and gift tax exemption. It has been rising steadily Read More