Chances are good that you are preparing for the Scottsdale five-ring circus while you’re reading this. You’ve pored over the SCM Arizona supplement and used the digital edition to instantly link to the auction company web sites.
You’ve probably hooked up with a transport company, insurance company and even a finance company so that you’ll have your ducks in a row when you get there. Your bank letter of credit has been issued, and you’ve made arrangements to have your bidding credentials approved.

Perhaps you’ve even decided on a couple of specific cars you are interested in, looked up their collectibility ratings, appreciation predictions, production numbers and current buy-sell range in the SCM Pocket Price Guide. In short, you’re as prepared as a Navy SEAL getting ready for a black-ops HALO drop into the Arizona arena. Your mission instructions are simple: Don’t Come Back With the Wrong Car.

Perplexing Passion

Last month, we discussed three fundamental rules of collecting: Buy what you like, don’t buy for a cheap price alone and buy the best example you can afford. This month, let’s move from the philosophical to the practical. The following is the anatomy of what we hope has been a thoughtful buy.

It’s no secret that SCM goes through cars like some women change shoes. We have cars for every season, occasion and event. Range Rovers for winter; the Alfa spider for summer; the Elise for modern, high-speed tours; the Boxster S for comfy performance; the Isetta for comic relief; the Nova wagon as a practical classic; and the GTV as a sports car with a back seat.

Just this year we bought, refurbished and sold three chrome-bumper MGBs (cars to take your friends touring in), parted with our Volvo 544 (a car to elicit high-fives from everyone), and both of our Mercedes pontons (cars to drive to opening night at the opera).

Long-Term What?

The best part of owning the 544 was becoming a part of the Portland-based Round-Fendered Volvo Club. They’re a laid-back group of enthusiasts, and a few times a year they go on casual tours. The combination of these slightly goofy vintage Swedish cars and the committed guys who loved them was addictive.

When I decided, for no particular reason, that the next car in the SCM fleet would be a Volvo 1800, I set out using the Volvo guys as minesweepers to examine every 1800 that popped up. I became acquainted with guru Ernie Shack through the web, and locally, the Gang of Three — Dean Koehler, Peter Eulau and Cameron Lovre — began feeding me likely suspects and evaluating the cars I was finding.

Lesson: Become engaged with fanatics and experts as you zero in on the type of car you want. Nearly every collector car make and model has a forum, and your first step as you head toward acquisition should be to join one and talk with some of the members before the event. You’ll be surprised how many of the forum authorities will be in Scottsdale. They will generally be pleased to help you.


My search became an opportunity to meet SCM subscribers — we located a white ES in Nashville, TN, and I contacted the only SCMer, Cal Turner, who had the same ZIP code as the selling dealer. A subscriber since 1998, he was gracious enough to test-drive the car for us. It was handsome, but just too expensive after the tow bill to Portland was factored in.

Volvo after Volvo after Volvo crossed my desk. As I shuffled the links off to my attendant advisers, they weighed in with their opinions on each. I don’t have a Volvo 1800 eye, so they were able to spot things that I would never have noticed.

Lesson: Bring an expert along when you look at a car in Scottsdale. For example, someone who lives and breathes Chevelles will instantly see what is right and wrong about a car, such as underhood decals, routing of wiring and hoses, upholstery patterns and suspension modifications.

Chances are you would be oblivious to these details, especially if the car presented well. It wouldn’t be until the first show-and-shine that you found out just how wrong your car was, as club members would delight in piling on with detailed descriptions of just what a mentally deranged buy you had made. It has happened to me more than once; it’s a good thing I don’t carry a Glock to the events.

Mine, Mine, Mine

After all the evaluations and test drives, we zeroed in on an 1800ES just 180 miles from Portland. It met several criteria, such as having the same long-term owner (since 1979), always garaged (no rust), complete and correct, close (no tow bill) and reasonably priced ($10,000). Koehler went with me, inspected the car, drove it and pronounced it sound and desirable.

Lesson: If you give the auction company a little advance notice, they will surely start a car for you, and often provide you with an opportunity to take a short drive in it. If you don’t take advantage of that opportunity, you are leaning into a left hook from Sonny Liston in his wrecking-ball prime.

We bought the Volvo and with some minor cosmetic refurbishment it will be available as a regular driver. It fits several categories: as a winter driver, a sports car with a back seat and most important, continued membership in the Round-Fendered Volvo Club.

Lesson: When you’re getting ready to raise your hand in Scottsdale, ask yourself if you have thoughtfully examined the car, if it is the best car you can buy within your budget, and if you have a reason to own it besides the fact it is shiny and makes nice noises. Do you know other people with the same type of car? Are there events the car will get you into? Will having this car in your garage make perfect sense, or will you ask yourself, “What was I thinking?”
There will be more than 2,000 cars to choose from in Scottsdale, and the perfect car for you is waiting for you to claim it. But cars are not picky; they always go home with the highest bidder, no matter how good or poor the buying decision is.

Take note: I, along with a dozen SCM staffers and reporters, will be at every Scottsdale auction. If you have questions, concerns or just want to shoot the collector car breeze, come find us. There’s nothing we’d rather do than help you shape your next decision about your next car. ?

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