Sifting the Auctions for Hidden Gems

The old saying of “Can’t see the forest for the trees” also applies to good deals at the Monterey Car Week auctions.

Despite auction houses working to get high-end cars for record-setting sales prices, there are inevitably a few consignments that don’t fare as well as hoped.

Throw in car consignments that are staged to fill in less-desirable time slots — or to lead or follow heavily hyped vehicles — and a screaming deal will appear once in a while.

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A Cheap, Fast, Fun Alfa Romeo

Picture a sunny summer afternoon on the Pacific Coast Highway north of Santa Cruz, CA. It’s the late 1980s, and two new sport sedans are cruising to the spot where a passing lane opens up.

The challenge is to be ahead of the other car by the end of that passing lane. The contestants are a Saab 900 Turbo driven by your humble narrator and a 2.5-liter Alfa Romeo Milano driven by a friend who shall go nameless, even though Read More

Not Quite “Magnum, P.I.” Grade

You look in the mirror one morning and instead of your own bleary eyes and grim, pre-work mug, you see Tom Selleck. It’s not the grizzled old Tom — it’s the dashing young Tom of “Magnum, P.I.,” as he casually vaults into that Ferrari.

Owning one of those would change everything, you think. You think you could afford one of those.

“One of those” is a 1984 308 GTS Quattrovalvole, and a few clicks in the SCM Platinum Auction Database Read More

A Great Beater Sports Car

This First World question is posed to me frequently: Which Mercedes-Benz convertible should I purchase as my daily driver?

It’s a tough question.

High-quality examples of the Mercedes-Benz R107 are seemingly doubling in value overnight.

The R129 Series is doing what it was designed to do, which is spray hydraulic fluid from the top actuators everywhere — and cost you an arm and a leg for parts and repairs.

So, it makes financial sense — for those who want a Read More

Shedding Its Former Life

Necessity being the mother of invention, and Brits being a nation of inveterate tinkerers, gave us “Men in Sheds” — a breed whose inventor/engineer mentality has won fame for fashioning functional devices out of parts that have no business near each other.

Thus, it was natural that redundant cars would become recycled or repurposed during and after World War II.

In the same way that Britain “dug for victory” in wartime, turning over domestic gardens to vegetable plots to provide Read More

Better — and Uglier — Than the Original

Pity the second-generation Mazda RX-7. The FC, as it’s known to rotary cognoscenti, has always trailed its older brothers in desirability — if not in performance. And while that’s not strictly fair, it has kept prices attractively low on a car that has a lot of enjoyment potential.

Mazda brought out the first RX-7 in 1978, and it was a dramatic departure from their admirable line of rotary-engine coupes and sedans of the 1970s. But the RX-7 was also a Read More

Britain’s Not-So-Affordable Range Rover

This is supposed to be the “Affordable Classic” strand, but Range Rovers aren’t very affordable — in their home country, at least.

They’ve always been expensive to buy and run, but interest in the early cars, especially those with Suffix A (pre-1972) chassis numbers, has been rising steadily over the past decade, perhaps stoked by its sister-under-the-skin Defender’s mortality.

That has pushed prices in Europe to £50k ($60k) plus, even £75k ($95k) Read More

One Fun Econo-Box

When Honda brought the first Civic subcompact to America in the middle of 1972, the car was not very well received.

Honda’s previous cars had been far too small and idiosyncratic for the American buyer, and early Civics had a tendency to rust so badly that the U.S. government forced Honda to recall and repair them with new fenders.

For a short time it looked as though the Civic might not catch on, even though Datsun and Toyota were making Read More

Spend a Little More — Get a Lot More

If you want to put an all-wheel-drive sports car into your collection, but you don’t want to pay the ticket price for an exotic and you don’t want the boy-racer styling of a sport compact, there aren’t a lot of options. Fortunately, the obvious choice is also a good one. The Audi TT is a car you can drive every day, and it is likely to age well in your collection.

The TT badge recalls the Tourist Trophy races, where Read More

Durable, Good-Looking and Cheap

If you have a hankering for an older Multi-Purpose Vehicle (old enough to predate the whole soccer-mom SUV thing), but feel that you missed the boat on first-generation Ford Broncos or 1969–72 Chevy Blazers, I have good news for you.

There’s one out there made in large enough quantities that availability is good, parts support is excellent, and it is still priced at chump change: the 1980–96 full-size Ford Bronco.

The genesis of the Bronco line, the first generation built Read More

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