The Insider's Seminar is the one time each year that SCMers can come
together to discuss the state of the market and the trends to come

More than 20 years have passed since my first vintage-car-themed Monterey visit. The tale below is now an oft-heard one, repeated by nearly Monterey veteran. Back then the vintage races were by far the most important part of the weekend, with the concours at Pebble Beach a distant second, and a young man named Rick Cole put on a collector car auction in a downtown Monterey hotel (after he was denied permission to hold it at Laguna Seca).

Now, events have grown to the point where SCM puts out an entirely separate guide to the weekend, which is included with this issue for subscribers and available online at Car shows and auctions have proliferated; we wonder when events will begin to spill over into the preceding week, as the vintage racing has already done.

Readers of SCM will be looking to Monterey for indicators about the state of the market. Never before have we had the confluence of a skyrocketing collector car market and a viciously plummeting U.S. economy. Yes, there have been slowdowns in the past, but the successive shocks of a collapsed housing and lending market, the extraordinary rise of energy costs, and the pitiful value of the U.S. dollar against competing currencies provides a contemporary economic perfect storm.

Against that backdrop, exceptional cars are still selling exceptionally well. Someone buying a $6 million Cal Spyder doesn't need a loan to do it, and probably has his money stashed in euros anyway. With rare, important cars, the biggest question is not what you'll have to pay, but whether you can get someone to cut loose with one. That's not likely to change this August.

What will change is the sub-$250,000 market, where we believe there will be a chilling effect on prices, especially for cars that are less than perfect. Cars in this price range are often bought with home equity money (now non-existent in many cases) and represent major investments for their owners. There is simply less money available-chasing more cars as restorations are completed-and we expect to see a leveling of prices.

Our Monterey seminar this year will address the market head on; "Car Collecting: The Next Five Years," held in conjunction with Gooding & Company, is the seventh annual SCM Insider's Seminar. It's the one time each year that SCMers can gather for a no-holds-barred discussion of the market, its current state and the trends to come.

The stellar faculty includes John Apen (Ferraris), Carl Bomstead (prewar American and European Classics), Colin Comer (American Muscle) and Donald Osborne (postwar non-Ferrari Italian, French, and others). Following the keynote address, each expert will lead a group to examine cars that will be crossing the block that weekend.

It's a terrific opportunity to see old friends and make new ones, and to spend time with other thoughtful, intelligent collectors. Space is limited; for more details see the information on p. 41.

Soft adventures

We wrote several months ago that we were determined to get some serious seat time this summer, and so far our intentions have been realized.

On May 31, Lamborghini opened its 31st U.S. dealership in our own backyard at Gran Prix Imports ( Located in Wilsonville, Oregon, just south of Portland, GPI, under the thoughtful ownership of enthusiast Mike Warn and the capable sales management of Erik Clover, spent more than two years convincing Lamborghini to put a dealership in place.

As a part of the opening, Lamborghini COO Pietro Frigerio spoke with the assembled guests about the future of Lamborghini and its relationship with Audi. He reassured the group that Lamborghini wasn't going to lose its Italian flavor through its Teutonic interactions, but that the unique high-performance Italian characteristics would be supported by a highly efficient German technological infrastructure.

GPI made a 2008 Gallardo Spyder available to us for a few days, and for the first time, we found ourselves driving the hyper-performance, $225,000 Italian car in Portland, a city known more for its bicycle paths than its autostrade.

As we have written before, the car itself is a spectacular amalgamation of Italian style and German purposefulness; our main complaint in the past-the balky paddle-shifted e-gear mechanism-was much improved. We spent one afternoon on backroads in the lightly-populated Rock Creek area. While we were careful to slow down as we passed the earnestly peddling bikers in their skin-tight garb, we were equally as careful to pay no attention whatsoever to suggested speeds in curves, or even to posted speed limits. The reasons to belong to a private track club have never been more apparent.

The Porsche Mille

Our other adventure was longer, and slightly more sedate. Eleven years ago, SCM Legal Analyst John Draneas created a weekend-long Porsche tour, now called the Porsche Mille Miglia (not the most imaginative name, we admit). This year, 37 cars entered, mostly late-model Porsches, and over the course of four days we covered 1,000 miles. Stops included Walla Walla, Spokane, and Leavenworth, Washington. The roads were empty and challenging, and the cult wines that magically appeared each evening were an event enhancer.

We drove my wife Wendie's 2000 Boxster S, a car that is both just a commodity with so many built, and at the same time a paean to how much advanced technology manufacturers can stuff into a package. Affordable as well (our car had an MSRP of over $55,000 when new, and we bought it for $18,000 earlier this year), it turned the 1,000 miles into a stress-free romp.

Our Porsche expert, Jim Schrager, asked why I found the Boxster so appealing, and if I had abandoned vintage cars. Of course not-but after so many grueling old car events, including the Mille Miglia (twice), the Tour Auto, the Colorado Grand, the California Mille and so on, it was a nice change to be able to have a top that actually kept rain out, a heater that heated, wipers that wiped, and a sense that there was a better-than-even chance we would actually make it through to the end of the day. Which left us to enjoy the handling, acceleration, and braking of the car on the scenic backroads.

We'll have our 1965 Alfa Giulia Spider Veloce ready for the Monte Shelton Northwest Classic this August, so we haven't gone completely soft. But in the future, I believe our event calendar will consist of equal parts driving cranky old cars that endear themselves by what they force us to endure, and capable newer ones, which engender fondness by how little they ask and how much they deliver.

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