We at SCM have long maintained that a well-filled garage is like a well-stocked wine cellar. Just as different times of day, different events, and different meals call for different pourings, so, too, do different motoring adventures require different motoring choices.
And just as each wine has its own trademark taste, bouquet, and color, each car that captivates a collector's interest has its own unique approach to motoring. A car worth collecting has an essence to it: it is a reflection of the time in which it was built, of the skills of the drivetrain engineers and the desire of the stylists to make their statement on the automotive world as they knew it.
Looking at the current market, and at the types of activities in which we at SCM like to engage, here are the top six cars I think are both good buys and also have an essence that can make what is otherwise just a trip to the mall into a sensuous automotive adventure.
1958-62 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Veloce Tipo 101
This car started the entire small-displacement, high-speed touring GT tradition. They have a sleek, greyhound-like apperance, a spacious interior for two plus a week's worth of luggage, and when updated with a later 5-speed (shhh-don't tell the purists) can cruise at 80 mph all day long.
Under the hood is a visual all-alloy feast of twin cams, twin Webers, baffled sump, and robust five-main bearing 1300-cc engine. The supple suspension offers comfort, brilliant braking, and first-rate handling. Hard to find in excellent condition, as so few came to this country, you should budget $30,000 to $40,000 for one you'd be proud to own.
1961-67 JAGUAR E-Type Series I
Everyone should have a Series I E-type Jaguar at one time or another. In terms of visual "rightness," the E-type stands as an example of a car that just works, from every angle, and in every way. The WWII fighter-plane cockpit, full of unlabeled toggle switches, along with black-on-white analog Smiths gauges, could be the example of what the dash of the British car should look like.
Figure on $30,000 to $40,000 for a coupe in the condition you'd
like to own (meaning a handsome driver, not a trophy winner), and $40,000 to $60,000 for a similar convertible.
1967-69 CHEVROLET CAMARO Z/28
The Z/28 represents the era when manufacturers would offer performance options for street cars as a pre-requisite for getting them onto their race cars, so neat stuff like four-wheel disc brakes and Cross Ram manifolds filtered down to the end-user market.
A nice, numbers-matching Z/28 should set you back around $60,000; the equivalent base 327/350 from $25,000 to $35,000.
1963-65 PORSCHE 356
Porsche 356s, especially the 1963-65 S and SC models, are perhaps the most user-friendly classic sports cars of all time. The C is the ultimate iteration of the four-cylinder Porsche, will never let you down, has room for your luggage, and, when properly set up, will cover thousands of miles with little or no attention whatsoever. What more can you ask?
Pay $30,000 for a nice coupe. You'll never be sorry.
1956-59 LANCIA AURELIA
The first time I really noticed a 1956-59 Lancia Aurelia convertible (not spyder), was when I was driving in the rain-filled 1991 Mille Miglia. While I was in a car with NO weather equipment, those in the Lancia had the top raised, and were thoroughly enjoying themselves in their toasty little compartment, while I was hoping that drowning would put me out of my chilly, water-soaked misery.
Find a convertible for $125,000, ship it to Europe, and spend a summer participating in touring events that allow the car to showcase both its visual appeal and mechanical prowess.
1960-62 FERRARI 250 GT SWB
And finally, is there anyone who disagrees that the 1960-62 250 GT SWB is the most perfect car ever built? The SWB is all about performance, with a stark interior and an engine that makes sounds so erotic owners risk arrest for being purveyors of auto-pornography.
When I win the lottery, this will be the car I buy. Today, it will cost at least $1,500,000 for a no-stories car (more than double that of three years ago) and even at that, it is a bargain.