We expect instant gratification from our computers. Type in “How many times have Ferraris won at Le Mans?” “Nine,” Wikipedia answers instantly.
How many Corvettes have been sold since 1953? More than 1.3m, you learn after a few keystrokes. What’s the current wheel-driven land speed record over one mile? You’re an instant expert as your computer spits back, “470.444 mph, set by Don Vesco at Bonneville in October of 2001.”
SCM is now bringing the same kind of wizardry to your car collecting. Go to the new, revamped Platinum part of the SCM website (www.sportscarmarket.com/platinum). You’ll find 12 years of back issues, and more than 20,000 pages, digitized and searchable.
Enter Maserati 300S, and you find links to 20 mentions. Ferrari SWB gives you 26. Pebble Beach finds you 2,238 mentions.
How about longtime friend of SCM and noted car collector Bruce Meyer? Entering his name returns 49 mentions since 2000.
The digital back-issue search works in conjunction with the SCM Platinum database, which now has more than 150,000 results and is growing weekly.
In today’s market, there is no better or necessary tool than the new, upgraded Platinum. Find out when a car you are looking at has crossed the block, how our auction reporter described it, and what it was bid to.
During an introductory period, once you log in you receive 10 free searches of the new Platinum and back issues. Unlimited searches are just $19.95 a month, or annually at $99.95. It’s the best collector car investment you can make
Show it or drive it
Speaking of investments, we’re making one right now in our 1973 Volvo 1800ES, aka “Snow White’s Hearse.” To our dismay, a slight rough-running problem was diagnosed as a camshaft with two flat lobes (thank you very much, zinc-free motor oil) and despite our lighting several candles at the Temple of B18 Engines, the specialist at our local NAPA machine shop, Gary Engdahl, informed us that just replacing the cam and doing a valve job wasn’t an option.
In his opinion, the engine, at 125,000 miles, had never been opened up before, and the crank was in remarkably good shape and didn’t need to be turned. We’ve ordered a complete overhaul kit from Mike Dudek at iRoll Motors, and hope to have the car back on the road in 60 days.
While the engine was out, we decided to take the car to Europa Motors for an engine-bay detail. The owner, Ted McGalliard, offered us the option of having the bay completely resprayed and detailed to a concours level.
We demurred — part of the appeal of the Volvo was how pleasantly original it was, with all its original finishes and stickers under the hood. I’d rather have that area cleaned and freshened, and leave the car original in appearance, than go down a long and costly road to make it ready for the concours field.
If there is any consolation, the rings, bearing and camshaft in this car have lasted 39 years. If the car needs another engine in 39 years, it will be 2051 — and the chances of the car being driven 3,200 miles a year for the next four decades are slim indeed. Certainly this car will not need another powerplant in my lifetime, and perhaps never.
No longer endangered
All this brings me to a related topic. I believe that sports cars are no longer an endangered species. In the 1980s, as these cars of the ’50s and ’60s reached their nadirs of price and condition simultaneously, there was some concern that cars from MGBs to Maserati 3500 GTs would simply rot away, their low values not sustaining any significant restoration or maintenance work.
But that is clearly not the case today. For instance, a good friend, Steve Sargent, has just purchased his first vintage sports car. It’s a 1974 TR6, yellow, with no rust and a strong engine. Price was $6,800. It’s now at Harold’s Auto Services, and he’s spending another $6,000 to $8,000 on it. The interior, in black, will be new, and a whole host of “while you’re in there” services will be performed.
The previous owner didn’t have the financial resources to spend that kind of money on the car, and in fact, the car suffered from deferred or “done-on-the-cheap” maintenance.
When finished, the car will be a very presentable driver, and it will probably be worth $10,000 — notwithstanding the $15,000 Sargent will probably have spent. The chances are the next owner, who has $10,000 to spend on buying a car like this, has got easy access to another $5,000 to upgrade it even further. Future owners won’t be do-it-yourselfers busily installing interiors, changing heater motors or rebuilding brakes. They can afford to have a specialist shop do the work.
I suspect that nearly every collector car getting sold today is moving up the food chain from owners of less means to owners of more resources. As the price of the underlying car increases, so does the willingness of a new owner to spend what it takes to make the car right.
Any old sports car that is not a rusted heap by now will probably never be a rusted heap. As each car is refreshed and brought back into collector car service, it can look forward to a happy life of rallies, tours and car shows — rather than the daily grind of commuting it knew with its first owners.
The cars will have attention lavished on them, better lubricants used and better technology in the parts that are installed. They will never again be beaters.
So I can say that there will always be collector cars around, that their supply is not diminishing and that once they are set right again, they will be kept in better condition than they have ever known. Buying your next old sports car will be a much more expensive — but, in the end, much easier — proposition than it was 20 years ago. Find a good restored car, pay top dollar, spend more, and enjoy yourself. Don’t look back, and above all, never add up the receipts.
Carroll Shelby died on May 10, 2012, at the age of 89. He was a longtime subscriber to SCM, and he was always personable, friendly and interested in how the magazine was doing when our paths crossed. In this issue on p. 40, Craig Jackson writes about his personal relationship with Shelby, and we will look at how his vision and cars changed motorsports in our Monterey supplement, which will arrive with your August issue. ?