With the driving rhythm of a Cole Porter tune, the names of the summer's events unfold. Collectors are tidying up their bank letters of credit and consignors are performing last minute detailing. RM at Meadow Brook. Mecum at Road America. Silver at Reno. Kruse at Auburn. Spectrum at Palm Springs. Christie's, RM and Brooks at Monterey. These are most of America's premier auction companies, and July, August and September are when they put on their shows.

World records for prices at these auctions are almost expected as the American economy continues to dominate the globe. We're just back from Europe, where we watched the spectacle of Brooks Europe, Barrett-Jackson/Coys and Poulain Le Fur/Sotheby's unfold in one activity-filled weekend (full details next month). The high-ticket items were bought primarily by American collectors.

Those of us who have been through this cycle before watch it all with some trepidation. Recall a decade ago when the Europeans, then the Middle-Easterners and finally the Japanese invaded our shores and our auctions, taking home booty like 4-cams, SJ Duesenbergs, golf courses and shopping centers. We were the dumb, backwater Americans and they were the brightest and the best.

Our current position of prominence in the collector car world is just another, but a passing phase. The economy will swing, as they always do, and the stream of cars from overseas into the US will slow, stop and then reverse. American collectors should enjoy the power of the dollar while remembering that collectible autos are highly speculative and extremely ill-liquid. Like any investment with great risk attached, it only takes a hiccup in the economy for prices to slide backwards even faster than they have risen. So even in today's superheated market, buys should be made with caution, histories carefully researched and experts consulted. That way, even if prices don't hold, at least you are sure you have a prime piece of merchandise and not a rebodied, renumbered piece of junk passing itself off as a piece of history.


Thanks to all of you who have stopped by eCarCentral ) and logged in. We've noted your suggestions and are beavering implementing them. Soon you will have the ability to search results by auction and auction company, and to find those results that are fresh to the site. In addition, we will begin to post summary results of the auctions we cover within 48 hours of the conclusion of the auction. These "instant results" won't contain the same amount of detail as our full-blown SCM reports, but will give a snapshot until your magazine arrives.

We'll also be able to send you, by e-mail, advance notification of cars that are coming up for auction from those auction companies that choose to participate in the eCarCentral registry program. In that way, you'll be able to stay informed about collectible cars (and events) at venues all over the world, and have a better chance of chasing down the car that you want.


In our driveway are two cars that represent the past and the future. A four-door Ford Focus, North American Car of the Year sits next to a hybrid-powered Honda Insight. The Focus is an extraordinary piece of work, with an engine that revs like a 1300cc Alfa Giulietta Veloce, superior handling and terrific interior ergonomics. At an MSRP of $16,000, it provides a new definition of what an economy car is capable of.

But the Honda Insight is re-writing the rules. We expected it to be slow, uncomfortable and difficult to use. Instead, it has proven to be our daily driver of choice. It accelerates smartly, holds its own on the freeway and is managing nearly 60 mph. Driving the Insight makes us feel somehow more environmentally responsible, even while enjoying sliding the smooth-shifting five-speed through the gears and running the one-liter, three-cylinder engine up to 7,000 rpm. No, the Insight doesn't have the practicality of the Focus-it lacks a rear seat and a trunk, for instance. And at an estimated MSRP of $20,000 it's not inexpensive. But in a world of diminishing resources, the Insight is the first of a new generation of gasoline-electric cars that will help immeasurably with controlling pollution and conserving resources, while still being fun to drive.

The Focus is a great car. The Insight is a look at what is to come.


"12 Hours of Rheims," created by noted artist Frank Di Martino, depicts Ferrari 250 GT "Tour de France" S/N 0677GT in the pits, prior to its victorious outing in the 1958 race driven by Olvier Gendebien and Paul Freres. This illustrious fourteen-louver car also came in 3rd overall and 1st in the GT class in the 1957 Mille Miglia, and 1st overall in the 1957 Tour de France.

S/N 0677GT was sold in 1977 to US collector Bob Bodin, and was restored with great care to its 1957 MM configuration. After appearing several times in the Mille Miglia Storica and the Colorado Grand, it was sold in 1992 to Paul Vestey, for what was said by Ferrari trainspotters to be in the $600-700K range. The car has subsequently appeared several times at the Goodwood Festival of Speed and the Tour Auto. Reliable sources tell us that as of 1998, the bidding on the car had passed $2M for this, "the best TdF of all."

Di Martino's work has previously appeared on the cover of SCM, and is known for the evocative relationship it paints between cars and the people around them. He grew up in Sicily where his father, an auto mechanic, raced in the Giro Di Sicilia in 1951. Now a resident of New Jersey, several of Di Martino's paintings were included in a group exhibition in Modena called "L' Arte del Mito," sponsored by Ferrari as a tribute to Enzo Ferrari. His work has also been seen at the Meadow Brook Concours d'Elegance. Other examples of DiMartino's work can be found at www.multimania.com/alvolante/dimartino.html. Prints of "12 Hours of Rheims" are not currently available; please contact the artist for further information at 973/427-7578 (NJ).

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