With this February issue, we are now well into the 22nd year of Sports Car Market.
Twenty-two is my lucky number. My birthday falls on the 22nd, and my race cars have always been numbered 22. When we first started SCM in our basement, as the four-page mimeographed Alfa Romeo Market Letter, we never imagined that over two decades later we'd still be pumping out auction reports and market commentary about cranky old cars.
While our page count has increased, and we're now on newsstands in chains like Borders and Barnes & Noble, some things haven't changed at all.
First, our primary responsibility to you, our readers, is to call the market exactly as we see it. When record sales are occurring, like the ex-McQueen Lusso that made $2.3m, it's frothy and fun. When some segments of the market are struggling, like the Chevelle LS6 that dropped over $1m in four years, we're aware that each lower-price sale we cover can bring frustration and disillusionment.
But the market is what the market is. Writing about strong sales doesn't make the market go up, just as writing about weak ones doesn't make it go down. The collector car market is comprised of hundreds of thousands of individuals, each of whom is making specific decisions about specific cars. SCM doesn't drive the market, but it does try to tell you what is really going on, whether the information is painful or pleasurable.
Unlike the stock market, where institutions like pension funds can dramatically shift share values by buying or selling large blocks of shares, no one in the collector car market is going to suddenly buy six of the 39 Ferrari GTOs in one day simply by placing an order with his broker.
It's all in the details
SCM's belief is that when an important car comes up for sale, or is reported sold, we have an obligation to our readers to try to explain the price, based on the condition and provenance of the car.
The information in SCM, when combined with your own research and that of the marque experts you may choose to engage, should enable you to form an educated opinion as to the history, condition, and current market value of a particular collector car.
In the end, all the issues pertaining to any collector car, both positive and negative, will eventually surface, and the sooner the better. If a car doesn't have the history that is claimed, marque experts will point that out. If an engine looks to have been re-stamped, the trainspotters will be out in force. The more satisfied a potential buyer is with the information he has about a car, the more likely he is to be a satisfied, and therefore repeat, buyer.
During the next 22 years, we can't promise that collector cars will appreciate (although long-term prospects are good, as there will be more collectors chasing fewer cars), nor can we say that prices won't go down like the Titanic, however unlikely that might be. What we can say is that we are here to act as your eyes and ears within the collector car community. We won't always have good news, and we won't always have bad news, but we'll always have news.
Good luck, and happy hunting.
The new California
As a lover of cars, both old and new, the past couple of months have been full of good things. It started when we got a call from good friend Art Smith, the general manager of Ron Tonkin Gran Turismo, the local (and oldest in the nation) Ferrari dealer. He asked if I'd like to drive a new California for the day; I could go anywhere I wanted so long as I was at Pasquale Perrina's Ferrari and Maserati of Seattle by 6 pm.
At nine o'clock the next morning, I hit the dealership, along with Corvette Market Contributor and Callaway Twin-Turbo owner Michael Pierce. We were met by Matteo Sardi, Director of Public Relations for FNA, and after a short demonstration of the retractable hard top (!) and the nav system (!!), we were on our way.
The California introduction has not been without controversy. Ferrarista who wish that all cars were 166 Barchettas decry the styling (not aggressive enough), the creature comforts (real men use folding tops), and the electronics (I can get anywhere with a Rand McNally Atlas and a compass, thanks).
Well, the world has changed in the past 40 (or even ten) years, and today's Ferrari buyer is looking for an ultra-high-performance vehicle that doesn't beat you to death as you go down the road.
With a powerful front-mounted V8 (a Ferrari first), the car's handling was extremely predictable. Pierce and I traveled 200 miles on backroads to Oregon's Timberline Lodge and back, and even with the traction control engaged I was able to bring the rear end around with the throttle, just enough to be entertaining, without invoking the terror of a $200,000 mishap. Although it pains me to admit it, the 7-speed dual-clutch automatic shifted faster and more assuredly than I could have manually.
After dropping Pierce off, I picked up my wife, Wendie, for the straight shot up I-5 to Seattle. We did manage to make a slight detour through Auburn, Washington, where her two sons, Tyler and Drew, were practicing with their high school varsity football team. I confess to having my own Ferris Bueller moment as we drove off, the Ferrari making impossibly loud and expensive noises, which brought the entire practice to a halt. Tyler reported later that his friends asked, "What's Keith do for a living, anyway?" Good question.
The California has been dissected endlessly online in chat rooms and on blogs, as well as in publications devoted to new cars. All we can add is that the California is a real Ferrari in every way, and it's nice to have another front-engined open car added to the fold.
The Healey and Patagonia
On the more traditional SCM side of the ledger, in November of last year, Wendie and I participated in the 21st annual 1000 Millas Sport in Patagonia, Argentina. We were invited by longtime SCMers Martin and Adrian Sucari. (Martin's Ferrari SWB, s/n 3143, won the FIVA award for most significant automobile in the rally.) Our 1955 Austin-Healey 100-4 was graciously provided by Adrian's wife, Caroline.
The event is a highly competitive TSD, with serious competitors carrying enough high-tech equipment to equip a space shuttle. But the focus is on driving, and the seemingly endless, picturesque, lightly trafficked two-lane roads led us across the Andes into Chile and back, then through Patagonia. The tender ribeye beef every night, accompanied by the local Malbec, was even better than I had anticipated.
We finished 99th out of 132 cars and struck up a friendship with an SCMer from Hong Kong, Justin Kennedy, who was driving a 1953 Aston Martin DB2/4 DHC. A first-time vintage rallyist, his story appears on p. 28.