This issue offers the most complete and incisive coverage of the Monterey weekend, with 75 pages of comments and analyses. More than 220 collector cars are discussed in detail. Million-dollar cars sold like there was no tomorrow, with no fewer than 31 going to new homes. In short, Monterey 2011 was a particularly good time to be rich.

For a car enthusiast of means, the vagaries of nearly all other forms of investment mean that front-rank, blue-chip collectible cars look particularly good right now. Someone buying a $10m or $15m car has already survived the Great Recession in good shape, isn’t particularly bothered by the roller-coaster ride of the stock market, and is thoughtfully adding to his or her garage.

It’s not such a good time for sellers of under-$250,000 cars, as buyers of that type of merchandise are typically working from a much smaller asset base, and they have economic situations that are more prone to being influenced by factors beyond their control (read that as, “laid off due to downsizing or manufacturing moving offshore”). Inexpensive collector cars, and those darlings of yesteryear, muscle cars, continued to be hard to sell. If you’ve always wanted a good Boss 302, or even a well-done ’55 Chevy Black Widow resto-mod, $40,000 might well get you in the hunt in either case — a 33% to 50% discount from a few years back.

SCM as Carnac the Magnificent

The overall results weren’t unexpected. In the introduction to our 2011 Monterey Insider’s Guide, we predicted that verifiable auction-block sales from Monterey would be up 15% from last year’s $172m. This year’s final total, at $198m, was almost exactly a 15% increase. To celebrate the accuracy of our forecast, the entire SCM team celebrated by having a pizza baked in the shape of a Mercedes 540K. We know how to party.

The Monterey Carousel

My time in Monterey was typically frenetic and predictable. On Friday morning, I went to the Legends of the Autobahn Concours, where German cars were arrayed (neatly, of course) in an attractive setting. Since the demise of our Ponton, I’ve been on the lookout for a Teutonic replacement. For a brief moment, I had a hot flash when I spotted a nicely restored M6 shark (1976-89 E24-series) BMW sporting a “For Sale” sign, but luckily the feeling passed before I could do anything dangerous.

Friday afternoon, I was emcee of my favorite car event in the world — Concorso Italiano — for the 13th year. The fairways of the Laguna Seca Golf Ranch were swathed in a sea of brilliant Italian colors.

My daughter, Alex, once again asked her CI-specific question, “Since everyone else at Concorso has a Gallardo, why don’t we?” And looking out over the sea of Donckerwolke-designed, four-wheeled origamis, how could I argue? On a practical note, now that Lamborghini is a division of the VW Auto Group, buying a used one might not be the terrifying experience it once was. We all know that Germans have little patience with things that don’t work properly or that have demonic service requirements, such as multi-thousand-dollar belt changes at timed intervals

If you were in the market today for a pre-owned $80,000 supercar, would your choice be a Gallardo or a Modena 360? Please send your thoughts and experiences to me at keith.martin@sportscarmarket.com.

With Fiat back in the American game, the Italian big guns of Lamborghini and Maserati returned to Concorso; key executives were present and discussed their latest models, including the Fiat 500 and 500c, the Maserati GranTurismo Convertible, the GranTurismo Coupe and the edgy Lamborghini Aventador.

Saturday marked our 10th Annual Insider’s Seminar at the Gooding tent at Pebble Beach, where the SCM panel of experts, including John Apen, Carl Bomstead, Donald Osborne and Stephen Serio, shared their collective wit and wisdom with more than 200 SCMers. Following that was a personal tradition — a relaxed lunch at the Stillwater Bar and Grill at the Lodge at Pebble Beach. Our group consisted of me, Wendie, her son Tyler, Alex and CM contributor Michael Pierce.

We were able to secure first-rate seats on the terrace. During lunch, we reflected about our lives and old cars, and how different things would be if 25 years ago we had created a magazine about waste management instead of one about Ferraris, Mercedes, Bentleys and their friends. I’m sure the view of the showfield wouldn’t be nearly so swell.

The rest of the afternoon was spent tire-kicking and lollygagging about with SCMers at the Bonhams, RM, Russo and Mecum auctions.

Sunday started early, as I was the morning commentator at Pebble Beach, and I always enjoy the thoughtful “concours conversations” I have with participants that are broadcast on the big screen. I interviewed SCMers Bruce McCaw, who was with his recently acquired 1916 Stutz Series B Bearcat, and Chip Connor with his longtime friend, GTO S/N 4293GT — that he had raced the day before at Laguna Seca.

I wondered about how many detailers — an army? — Connor kept on hand to transform his GTO from a bug-speckled, rock-chipped racer on Saturday to a brilliant, concours-ready car on Sunday.

We always wrap up the trip by watching a few cars sell at the Gooding auction, with our odyssey then drawing to a graceful close.

Price Guide Update

All of the Monterey results are filtering into our data analysis systems, and your updated Price Guide will be arriving in early December.

As you might expect when the market is frothy, new price guides are popping up. What sets the SCM Price Guide apart is that we maintain an arms-length distance from what we are reporting on. SCM doesn’t ship cars, insure cars or buy and sell cars for profit, so whether prices go up or down is irrelevant to our core business. Our mission is to simply record and report verified sales — for your benefit, not ours.

Our databases contain nearly one million recorded, actual sales of cars that we have collected over the past 25 years. More than 720,000 sales are from eBay, and are available to you at www.collectorcarpricetracker.com .

Another 130,000, with serial numbers, photos and descriptions, are in the SCM Platinum database. You’ll find everything from $250 parts cars to $16m Ferraris; the entire market in all its breadth and complexity is represented.
It is from this vast compilation of actual sales, rather than unverifiable private transactions, that SCM draws its data and reports market prices and trends.

If you’re in the hunt, you should arm yourself with as many price guides from trusted, impartial sources as possible — few collectors have just one. Remember that all price guides are just that, guides, and in a volatile market, any price guide should just be a starting point. ?

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