Monterey is a bellwether weekend, as RM, Christie's and Bonhams & Brooks duke it out. Each is offering a delectable array of first-tier collectible automobiles, and the automotive investment world watches and holds its breath as four-hundred special cars cross the block.
Will collectible autos get caught up in the widespread financial misery reflected by the sinking stock market? Or, as in 1989, will they follow the art market and strike their own path upwards in value?
We predict the latter, with increasingly stronger prices for high-end cars this year.
Take note: A mystery bidder, at the June 26th Sotheby's London sale, paid more than $14m for a masterpiece by the French impressionist, Claude Monet, far exceeding the pre-sale high estimate of $9.8m. The painting, Haystacks: Last Rays of the Sun, which had never before left France and was last seen in public in 1895, was sold after a frantic three-way bidding war. The sale total for the single night was over $47m.
To paraphrase the comments of The International Herald Tribune, "The art market has enormous resiliency when consumerism is wavering elsewhere. Each work of art is unique and, to those who want it, irreplaceable. With the new awareness that the sum total of art from the past is finite and that the end of the age when masterpieces are available for sale is likely to come soon-probably within 20 years-the urge to buy remains irresistible."
The 100 or so collectors of means who play in the highest echelon, flipping Maserati Tipo 60 Birdcages, Ferrari 375 MM Spyders and supercharged Duesenbergs like mere mortals trade '65 Mustangs, have vast fortunes that are relatively immune to the stock market. If a one-of-a-kind Mercedes SSK suddenly emerges from the bowels of Hungary with a multi-digit asking price, there will be no shortage of buyers to compete for it.
There is a larger issue, however, that is addressed by the Tribune. Afoot among car collectors is a move to create private museums, funded in perpetuity by trust funds. This is very unlike past shifts in the market, when cars would go to Japan, or to Europe, or back to the US as economies waxed and waned. Now, each Ferrari GTO that goes into a funded collection is permanently off the market, making each one that survives that much more valuable if it comes up for private sale.
How long will it be before every Jaguar D-type is locked away in a museum? Already, all four Ferrari TR-59s are believed to be owned by a single collector who may choose never to put any of them up for sale. As fewer significant cars are available for purchase, the value of those remaining will continue to escalate.
As the automobile market matures, even with less-expensive serial production cars, buyers and sellers are exhibiting continued shrewdness, and an awareness of where each car fits in relation to others. An Alfa Giulia Spider Normale will never have the ultimate value of a Giulietta Spider Veloce. A great Maserati Mistral, its svelte styling hampered by an archaic long-stroke straight six, will always go for less than a similar-condition Ghibli with its free-winding V8.
If you're a seasoned member of the SCM family, you already know the mantra. Buy the best car you can afford, avoid projects unless you're a do-it-yourself hobbyist, and don't buy anything that doesn't hit your hot button.
If you're new to SCM, perhaps picking up this copy at the Monterey Historic Weekend (and we thank Concorso Italiano, Christie's, Bonhams & Brooks, RM, the Historic Races, the Inn at Spanish Bay and the Lodge at Pebble Beach for making SCM available to their patrons), you can look forward to the world's largest selection of exotic cars being offered for sale August 17th through the 19th. We're here to help in any way that we can.
As our own Mr. Kerb (Michael Duffey) says, if you buy a car without knowing anything about it, you are "wandering in the dark, using your checkbook as a flashlight." We all collect with our hearts. But a little forethought in terms of checking with experts, talking with auction companies and sellers, and setting your own spending limits can go a long way toward avoiding a battle with your head the morning after.
Our 39,000-mile 240Z is gone, sold through a no-reserve auction on eBay Motors (Item # 592192033). Fittingly, it went to an SCM subscriber.
The auction attracted more than 10,000 page views in a ten-day period. There were 37 bids, with the winner at $11,301. We received a cashier's check, by FedEx, within 48 hours after the close of the auction, and had the car loaded on an open hauler 48 hours later. The new owner is thoroughly pleased to have "the best 240Z in all of Lorton, Virginia."
For an inexpensive car with some unique characteristics, such as the originality of the Z-car, eBay Motors is a strong alternative to local newspapers. The broad exposure of eBay Motors, coupled with the print advertising in SCM, provided the right environment to bring motivated bidders, whose vying with one another resulted in a respectable price, and a happy auction winner.
On another matter, the Price Guide that is customarily in this issue will appear in our September magazine as we squeeze in as many auction reports as possible this month.
ON THE COVER
"A Classic Stable" by English artist Barry Rowe illuminates our cover. This barn is filled with dual-camshaft, multi-carbureted jungle cats rather than equine beauties. Most likely, exquisitely-restored examples of all the cars portrayed-a D-type, XK 120 and XK 150S-can be yours by the mere raising of a bidder's paddle at one of the three auctions during the Monterey weekend.
Rowe won the prestigious Sotheby's Art Award in 1994 for his portrait of race driver Juan Manuel Fangio. His recent clients have included Louis Vuitton of Paris, The Royal Mail, Royal Doulton and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. In 1996, Rowe was elected a member of The Automotive Fine Art Society (AFAS) and created the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance event poster for 1998 and 1999. His art has been collected in a book, The Art of Barry Rowe.
Prints of this painting, each measuring 27½ x 20½ inches, have been issued in an edition of 500. They are available for $150 each from Steve Austin's Automobilia, phone 800/452-8434, fax 503/266-4097 (OR).