As the SCM fleet continues to grow, I am beginning to wonder just why we need so many old cars.

We currently have eight collector vehicles, ranging from a 1958 Giulietta Sprint Veloce to a 2000 Viper GTS ACR. That means eight insurance bills, eight parking stalls, eight sets of maintenance records, eight battery chargers and more.

The cars spend most of their time sitting, like a faithful dog looking out the window hoping his master will soon be home to take him for a romp.

In a way, it’s no different than a wardrobe with 100 purses, or a wine cellar with 10,000 bottles. You only use one at a time, and the rest just sit.

Two perfect cars for five budgets

So I’ve started musing over simplification. For our “right-sized” collection, we’ll set the size at two. We’ll have a strict budget. At each price point, we hope to get two cars in very good condition — no projects, please. The chosen cars should each offer a different approach to motoring.

Each car should have a good support base, both in parts, Internet forums and available activities. A car that spends a lot of time sitting while parts or expertise is sourced isn’t a car I will keep long. A car without an active user group provides little opportunity for the social activities that I think are a key to a successful collector car experience.

Here are my choices at five different budgets:

Let’s start at the entry level of $20,000. I would spend $5,000 for a second-generation, 1998–2005 (NB) Miata in decent condition, and $15,000 for a tidy 1970–73 Datsun 240Z. I like the NB Miata because of its slightly upgraded engine, fixed headlights and the glass window in the top. High miles wouldn’t scare me.

The 240Z has styling that will always be clean and striking, and an attractive dashboard and gauge package layout that defines what a ’70s sports car should look like. The 6-cylinder engine is powerful, and the suspension works well.

Both of these cars are robust and easy to service, and provide a low-hassle introduction to the world of sports cars.

With $50k to spend…

Let’s move up to a $50,000 budget. Here, my roadster choice would be a 1962–67 first-generation MGB, with overdrive. I’d allocate $20,000. For that price I would expect a very nice #2 car, properly serviced and on the button. I am ambivalent about wire wheels, and think stock steelies with dog-dish hub caps are fine.

The second car would be a 1967–69 Pontiac Firebird coupe, with a 326-ci (1967) or 350-ci (1968–69) V8 and a 4-speed. Firebirds are less expensive than the equivalent Camaro, offer much the same driving experience — and are more rare.

Both of these cars are simple to maintain, with plenty of spares available, active forums on the Internet and a variety of tours and cruise-ins to attend.

Now, for a buck fifty….

Let’s jump up to $150,000 for the next pair. I’ve always liked first-gen, 1966–68 SWB 911s. I don’t find value for the price premium the “S” model commands, nor do I think the 1964–65 cars are worth double what the 1966–68 cars are in terms of driving pleasure. I’d like to spend $60,000 and get a great coupe. 911s are not simple cars to get right, so it’s worth getting one that is set up properly, by a marque expert.

A 1965 Corvette roadster would make a perfect car to sit next to the 911. I would want a 365-hp, solid-lifter 327 — with a 4-speed, of course — in a good color such as Tuxedo Black, Rally Red, Nassau Blue or Glen Green. It would have to have National NCRS certification and have covered some miles since its restoration. $90,000 should buy the car I’d like to have.

Up to $500k

Every list should have a 12-cylinder Ferrari on it. Even though prices continue to skyrocket, I’d like to think you could buy a nice #2 1960–63 Ferrari 250 GTE for $300,000. Not FCA Platinum, but an older restoration with good paperwork. I’ve owned a 330 America, which has identical coachwork, and I don’t think any Ferrari 2+2 made after these even comes close to the visual appeal of the 250 GTE.

Let’s put an E-type next to the Ferrari. My choice for $200,000 would be a 1962–64 Jaguar Series 1 3.8 convertible. I wouldn’t pay the premium for the earlier, flat-floor, welded-louver, outside-bonnet-latch cars, as they just don’t perform any differently. Don’t fret about the non-synchro first-gear of the Moss gearbox; Norman Dewis figured out how to make the tranny work, and you can too.

The 3.8 engine is a mechanical dream, making fantastic sounds while the high-speed rear end lets the Jag cruise effortlessly at 100 mph.

The ultimate

Here’s the final category, where cost is no object. While filming episodes of “What’s My Car Worth” for Velocity at RM Amelia Island, I had a chance to drive a variety of cars, ranging in value from $25,000 to $2m.

I came away with a clear sense of what my two favorite cars were, and what I would choose if I had an unlimited-budget, two-car collection. In this case, they were both open cars.

My choices are a 1961–62 disc-braked Mercedes 300SL Roadster, and a 1963–65 Shelby Cobra, with a 289 and rack-and-pinion steering. I drove both these cars nearly back-to-back at Amelia, and I recall thinking then that, as a pair, they offered a consummate driving experience.

Worldwide, your cars would be recognized and appreciated. There is a comprehensive support network for both cars, and neither is regarded as fussy or problematic when set up right.

They each have copious performance capability, and are able to achieve triple-digit speeds with ease. They brake and handle well enough, although the SL certainly gets the nod here. And they won’t beat you to death on a 1,000-mile rally.

Before you ask, I’d pick the 300SL Roadster over the more iconic Gullwing, as it is simply a much more advanced, pleasant-to-drive automobile.

I’d pay $2m for a great 300SL, and $1m for a 289 Cobra, and think that for my $3m investment, I’d be the luckiest guy in the world. ♦


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