If I were running an auction company, I'd be paying more than a little attention to the proliferation of cars being sold through the Internet. While much of the hype about the Internet is admittedly overblown, nonetheless there are trends emerging that bear watching.
Amongst the proliferating on-line auction sites, the only one that has reached critical mass is eBay (eBay.com). With seemingly never-ending list of items for sale, and thousands of bidders cruising the site at any one time, nearly any lot that is properly priced will find a buyer. While looking for automotive art, and ultimately finding, bidding on and buying some first-rate original drawings of English sports cars, I came across a 1971 Alfa Romeo Spider racecar being auctioned. I followed the bidding for the next couple of days, until the car sold at $9,100.
This being a fairly healthy price for a square-tail racecar, I emailed the owner and found she was an SCM subscriber. "I tried all the normal ways to sell the car," she wrote, "with ads in Hemmings, SCM, local newspapers and the Alfa Club. It wasn't until I put the car on eBay that I got any action."
STILL BUYER BEWARE
I've asked her to keep me posted, and to confirm that the money really does arrive. For at the same time that there are legitimate buyers and sellers on the web, the same bottom-feeding, evil types who bid at auctions and then never produce, or who offer cars for sale that don't exist have also made their electronic appearance. For instance, a 1975 Corvette listed at eBay and described as "first rate with no problems" turned out, when its representative was queried by email, to "have a V8 engine, that's what they all came with, and it's probably the one original to the car." When asked about the car's history, the reply elicited was, "I'm actually selling the car for a friend who is too busy to deal with this, but I'm sure it has a great history and once you buy it he'll come up with all the paperwork." Very confidence inspiring.
But the Net is here to stay, and there is no question that during the next few years we will see more and more automobiles offered for sale, along with cars being auctioned, electronically. An on-line auction offers the ultimate in buyer convenience; you can log on at any time, make your bid, and follow the bidding process at your leisure. We predict that by 2005, there will be major on-line automotive auctions hosted by the today's major auction houses, and those auction organizations that don't have an electronic presence will be relegated to the second tier of the industry.
Which brings us to the continuing development of the SCM web site. Beginning with this issue, all SCM classified advertisements and Showcase Gallery color photo ads will be posted on the Net, the classifieds when the magazine is sent to the press, and the Showcase Gallery ads as soon as we receive them. To ensure the broadest possible audience for your advertisements, the part of the site with cars for sale will be open to everyone.
WHERE'S THAT MINI-PROFILE
In the near future, as part of an SCM-Plus Internet subscription, our archives of Mini-Profiles and more will be on line, indexed and searchable. At the same time, we plan on having a subscriber-only chat room, where questions about various cars can be posted, along with comments about different vendors that you have used.
As the collector car market continues to mature, access to information is becoming a driving force. Unlike the race horse or antique painting market, where hordes of specialists pore over each foreleg or brushstroke, the car market has existed primarily on rumor and innuendo. "Yes, I'm told that Enzo Ferrari quaffed Chianti in the back seat of that 400 Superamerica, which of course doubles its market value."
The more information a buyer has about a particular car, the more comfortable they will be making a bid, and the more likely they are to be satisfied with an ownership decision. SCM will continue to be in the forefront of the information-providing business, both in print and on-line, believing that an informed buyer is a good buyer, and likely to become a repeat buyer. It's the wave of the future, and we'll be riding it with you.
A painting of David Sydorick's 1956 Alfa Romeo 1900 Super Sport Zagato sits in repose on this month's cover. The artist, Harold James Cleworth, designed album covers for the Who and the Rolling Stones while working at Decca Records in the '60s. A native of England, Cleworth began illustrating automobiles in 1972 when he moved to San Francisco. He now lives and works in Venice, California. This is the first Alfa Romeo that he has painted, and he remarked that he "found both the front and back ends of the car to be visually extraordinary. But there was no way to get them both in the painting at the same time!"
Sydorick has owned S/N 10279 for four years, and restored it after purchasing it from the Hayashi collection in Japan. Sydorick, who has a passion for Zagato-bodied cars, also owns two Zagato-bodied Maserati A6G2000s and a Zagato-bodied Alfa 1750. Of the approximately thirty 1900 Zagatos built, "only two or three have the distinctive double bubble roof," said Sydorick. His car, a low-nose model with a column-mounted five-speed gearshift, was shown at Pebble Beach and Bagatelle in 1998, and, demonstrating that it is not just a concours trailer queen, participated in the chateau to chateau Duncan Hamilton rally in France last year as well.
Approximately 100 signed and numbered prints of this painting will be available, 24" x 30" in size, and printed on rag paper, for $250 each. (310/577-9951, CA).