In the years that SCM has been reporting on Monterey, we’ve watched the auction sales totals go from $10.8m in 1996 to this year’s $374.4m.
From just 209 cars being offered in 1996 at Monterey (Rick Cole and Christie’s), there were 1,389 cars looking for new buyers this year at six auctions.
The 2018 results mark this as “only the third-best Monterey,” with $396.7m in 2015 and $463.7m in 2014 holding the top positions for exuberant spending.
This issue of SCM is devoted from stem to stern (or is that from radiator cap to exhaust tip?) to an analysis of Monterey Car Week 2018, ranging from the minutiae of the door fit on a $44,000 1971 Fiat Dino 2.4 coupe to whether $48 million was a fair price, a bargain or just too much for GTO s/n 3413 that RM Sotheby’s sold.
Racing doesn’t matter
At The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering, there seemed to be more modern exotics than classics on display. While the Ferrari 250 TR that Phil Hill drove to victory at Le Mans in 1958 had its admirers, it was overshadowed by the Paganis in all of their flashy exuberance.
Dark glasses were required to protect your eyesight from the near-blinding reflections from the rows of jelly-bean-colored Lamborghinis on display.
The next generation of supercar owners and enthusiasts isn’t concerned about whether their Aventadors or LaFerraris will compete at Sebring or Daytona.
Their well-to-do Millennial owners quickly recite the stats for their cars, starting with horsepower (anything less than 1,000 doesn’t get you an entry key to hypercar land), 0–60 mph times of under three seconds and top speeds in excess of 200 mph.
Miles Collier describes the performance of modern supercars as “notional.” Unlike the Corvette 427s and Porsche 911s of an earlier era — where a good driver could extract 90% of the performance of the car — there is simply nowhere outside of a closed track where the potential of modern supercars can be explored.
A supercar’s performance envelope is so high that it takes an extremely skilled driver to explore it to the limit. There’s a reason we so often read about new Ferraris or Lamborghinis being heavily crashed in their first few days of ownership.
Time moves on
The world of the performance automobile has changed radically during the past 50 years, and collectors have changed as well.
Most older collectors don’t fantasize about being in a string of Huayras running up Highway 1 to Monterey, bumping the rev limiters in first and second gear the entire way.
Rather than pursue the ultimate in contemporary performance, we try to enjoy the challenging limitations of our vintage cars with their skinny tires, marginal brakes and archaic suspensions.
It’s as if the new generation of collectors is flocking to the latest trendy Asian fusion restaurant with its cucumber wasabi martinis. We instead head for the familiar comfort of the Tavern on the Green in Central Park and our old-fashioned Old Fashioned drinks.
The great divide
Exotics on Cannery Row — a Saturday night gathering during Monterey Car Week — is a symbol of the future of collecting. Well over 10,000 people viewed hundreds of modern supercars. There was no admission charge. There was no organized judging or awarding of trophies.
There was simply adulation of today’s high-end sports cars that offer the most bling and buzz.
That world of splash and splendor exists comfortably with the quiet reserve of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. But there is little crossover.
There were few blue blazers at Exotics on Cannery Row, just as there were few “Ask Me About My Pagani” T-shirts on Pebble’s 18th Fairway.
Admirers today, collectors tomorrow
The world of SCM is focused on the transactions and trends of the collector-car market. At our seminar, we mused about the “Ferrari 6-Speed Mania” and whether the air-cooled 911 market was losing steam.
Few at Cannery Row or The Quail shared those concerns. In fact, the greatest change in Monterey Car Week over the past decade has been the explosion of events featuring supercars. The auctions and the historic races occupy a smaller part of the automotive consciousness than they have in the past.
The week is becoming the playground of a new generation of automotive enthusiasts who celebrate the present and future of sports and supercars. This change in focus is reflected in the offerings of the auction companies, where a greater number of Porsches and Ferraris that are less than a decade old continue to appear.
This growth and change in the market is good. It means that there is a new generation of enthusiasts who are as immersed in high-performance sports cars as we once were.
Their Porsche 918s and GT3 RSs represent the outrageous performance that exists at the cutting edge of technology. However, unlike our hallowed Maserati A6GCSs or Mercedes 300 SLRs, they are not expected to be competition cars.
There will be further bifurcations in Monterey Car Week between those who grew up with and feel at home with the sports cars of the 1950s and the 1960s — and those who live for each new Pagani.
This is good for collecting. We enthusiasts of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s went from having posters of Countaches on the walls of our rooms to buying them at auctions 30 years later. Enthusiasts are simply collectors in training.
The supercar fanatics of The Quail and Exotics on Cannery Row will become the bidders of the future. ♦