With Monterey just around the corner, collectors’ thoughts have shifted from the restore-and-refurbish activities of winter to the buying and selling of summer. While car transactions happen year round, there’s no doubt they attract more attention in the warm months—and the most attention of all in August.

For me, there was a time, more than 30 years ago, when Monterey in August meant getting together with a group of Oregon-based Alfa fanatics, and caravanning the 700 miles to the Monterey Peninsula. Our cars failed to perform with predictable regularity; the spectacle of an Alfa (or Alfas) alongside the road, hood up, with tools and parts strewn about was commonplace.

Hotel rooms were always the cheapest possible, and King’s Buffet was our breakfast, lunch and dinner establishment of choice. We’d park in the Alfa corral at Laguna Seca and marvel at the bright red Ferraris parked in neat rows—Daytonas, Dinos and 365 GT 2+2s were commonplace and used as daily drivers.

There was only one auction, Rick Cole’s Monterey Sports Car Auction, and we watched through the chain link fence as impossibly rich people bought impossibly expensive cars. It didn’t occur to any of us to go to Pebble, as it was expensive, and besides, who wanted to look at cars from the ’20s and ’30s?

So, on Sunday morning, we generally piled back into our cars and headed north for a very long, one-day haul to Portland. It was especially long if your 1300-cc motor had a distributor with a frozen advance—or the old spark plugs you had already re-gapped ten times were starting to go out of spec again. And we won’t even discuss the tranny that had to be held in 5th because of a substandard home-boy rebuild by yours truly. I recall running a bungee cord from under the dash of my Giulia Spider and hooking it around the shift lever so the car would stay in gear.

Jet Forward

We’ve all changed with the times. Someone else rebuilds my transmissions now, and I have new spark plugs installed before a road trip. But Monterey is no longer just a gearhead’s fantasy weekend for me. It’s a key part of SCM’s schedule, a chance to meet subscribers and learn what they are thinking about the market, and an opportunity to experience the eddies and currents of the collector car world first-hand.

With five collector-car auction companies strutting their stuff in one week, if you’re looking for something new to put in your garage, chances are you will find it on the peninsula.

Will you pay too much for it?

Of course.

But it’s all relative. What Monterey (and every significant auction) does is save you hundreds—if not thousands—of hours by bringing the merchandise to you. Auction catalogs are lavishly produced and provide a good starting point for your personal investigation of a car. Marque experts abound. Are you trying to learn more about a specific Isotta that is being offered? Don’t be surprised if the fellow you need to talk to is staying in the same hotel.

Into Your Garage

I was speaking with Martin Swig during the recent California Mille, and he mused that when he was a dealer, buying and selling cars was always about grinding the seller to get the absolute best price, and puffing the buyer to get them to part with as much money as possible.

“I’m not buying cars to make money now—I’m buying what I want, for myself,” Swig said. “So what if I pay a little too much for a car I really want? In the end it’s just not going to make any difference, and I’ve got the car.”
I agree.

If the SCM Price Guide says that $110k is the top price for a very nice 1970 Maserati Ghibli SS coupe, but if there is a very nice one crossing the block, in the burgundy with tan color combination that is perfect for you, will it really matter five years from now if you pay $130k for it?

Do you really want to own one, or just tell stories about being one bid short. Having the Ghibli, or XK 120, or SWB 911S that you have always wanted in your garage—a week after the Monterey auctions—sounds good doesn’t it?
As a bonus, when you buy a car that you have been dreaming about, all of the events, rallies and tours that are connected to the marque open up to you. You will meet an entirely new group of people who share your fascination with the same kind of car.

The various things you need to do to prepare for Monterey have been written about many times, including in the supplement enclosed with this issue. What they boil down to is deciding how much you can comfortably afford to spend, doing your homework, and then making the decision to pull the trigger.

I’ve bought and sold a lot of cars over the years, and some deals have been brilliant and some pathetic. But the memories of all the deals—and all the people and cars associated with them—enrich my life. Just as they do yours, I’m sure.

Most important, find something new and special to put into your garage this August in Monterey—the car you’ve always wanted. Isn’t it about time?

SCM will have booths everywhere in Monterey, and we encourage you to stop by. Swap stories with the SCM staff while you renew and collect your snazzy SCM cap and your high-tech metallic red SCM water bottle. I’ll be the emcee of Concorso Italiano for the 13th year, so come by the stage and say hello. On to Monterey! ?

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