TDV: Hi Keith, thanks for speaking with us at The Daily Vroom. What inspired you to create Sports Car Market, and how has it influenced the classic car market over the years?
KM: My role model was the Ferrari Market Letter, founded by Gerald Roush. It was well-written, and he required chassis numbers for all the cars listed. I was impressed. I think SCM has influenced the market by being an impartial source of trusted information. We don’t predict (there are no SCM “top 10 cars to buy or sell” lists), we simply observe the market and reflect. Also, our auction reporters look at cars firsthand and report what they actually observe.
TDV: What are the biggest changes or shifts you’ve observed in the mindset of classic car collectors in the last 30 years?
KM: There is simply more widespread awareness of the market. It used to be if you didn’t go to Barrett-Jackson in person, you would have no idea what happened there. Now it’s on TV and the internet instantly.
TDV: How has the rise of online collector car marketplaces like Bring a Trailer and Cars & Bids made classic cars more accessible?
KM: The “notify me” feature for online websites has caused more “unintentional purchases” than we can imagine. When I bought a V12 Jag on BaT in Georgia, I would never had known the car existed until I got the “notify me” alert.
TDV: Has the depth of knowledge among collectors expanded due to the detailed information and transparency offered by online platforms?
KM: Yes, 100%. I know some object to the trolls and their comments online, but I think you just disregard the 20% that are idiots and learn from the rest. On my 1971 Jag, I knew nothing about the model, but I let the trolls pick it to pieces for five days, and was satisfied by how the owner responded to their questions. The trolls did a better job picking the car apart than I would have if I had seen the car in person, or that a shop would have unless it specialized in Jags. Plus I would have had to fly to Georgia!
TDV: How have the economics of classic car sales shifted with the transition from traditional methods to online marketplaces?
KM: Online marketplaces just offer another option to market your car. Remember, there are crappy online sites and good ones. Would you really want to buy a car from OfferUp? And eBay is really a swamp, where you can’t trust anything you read. I bought a 1991 Alfa S4 spider on eBay and the seller had misrepresented the VIN so if I Googled it I wouldn’t see where the car had been listed before.
TDV: Reflecting on your experience, are there any collectible cars you regret not buying when you had the chance?
KM: That’s a great question. Three of the cars I did own that I regret selling are the only Abarth coupe 215, a Ferrari 330 America and a Lancia Flaminia Zagato coupe 2.8L 3C.
TDV: In the collector car market, how do you view the debate between original versus restored vehicles?
KM: Two different flavors. Original cars are only interesting if they are drivable, which means replacing suspension parts etc. There is something magical about original paint and interior, and if you have a car like that, drive it and cherish it both. It’s a time machine. I have no interest in cars restored for show only, they are no longer cars, they are furniture. I respect every individual’s choice as to what they do to their car; it’s up to them.
My Jag had 22,000 original miles and I put 6,000 on it. My ’65 Giulia Spider Veloce I’ve owned for 40 years had a total, complete, bare metal restoration (to save it from dying from rust) so it is totally restored. I love both the cars and drive them as often as I can.
TDV: Are period-correct modified cars gaining more recognition and value in the market?
KM: I call that “optimized.” That makes a car more suitable to modern driving. I often change the rear axle ratio on my cars (like my 1972 Mercedes 250C) so that it is more comfortable to drive on the freeway. With Alfas and Porsches, putting in larger engines is a plus as well. It makes the cars “better” for today’s world.
TDV: What strategies do you believe can preserve interest in classic cars among younger collectors who may not have grown up with these vehicles?
KM: That’s simple. Get your kids or grandkids involved with your daily activities with your cars. Take them on tours. Have them help you wash your cars. Let them eat in your cars. Make your cars fun to be around.
TDV: What were some of the major challenges you faced in the early days of Sports Car Market?
KM: At first our printing costs were killing us so I bought a bankrupt print shop and went into the printing business. Ferrari Market Letter and the Maserati Market Letter both self-printed as well.
We have always been premium priced for a magazine (started at $36; now $88) so our revenue base from our readers has always been strong. Further, advertisers like us because they know all our readers have paid a premium to get the magazine, so are more involved with the contents.
TDV: How has SportsCarMarket.com adapted to the evolving digital landscape in the automotive world?
KM: The best thing we did a decade ago we start our weekly digital Insider’s Newsletter. It goes out to over 25,000 people who have opted in to get it. It allows us to have up-to-the-minute news on auctions and concours, and breaking news, like the recovery of the stolen Alfa 2.9 we recently had an exclusive on. We also cover online sales in SCM, plus we have a digital issue that is included with the print issue.
TDV: Can you share any upcoming innovations or expansions planned for SportsCarMarket.com that enthusiasts should look forward to?
In addition to the magazine, we publish event guides to Arizona, Florida and Monterey, plus an Insider’s Guide to Restoration and a guide to Concours d’Elegance. We’re looking at opportunities for other guides now. Our readers can look forward to continued excellence in our print publications, and honest, and pull-no-punches reporting.
TDV: With the rise of many online auction platforms, do you think the digital automotive space is becoming overcrowded? Additionally, how do you see physical auction houses competing with their higher fees in this evolving landscape? Is there room for both, and who do you think will ultimately come out on top?
KM: Those are really good questions. I think the digital space is getting crowded, as the barrier to entry is so low. Get some auction software and a few cars and you are launched.
However, I think some sites are confusing “eyeballs” with “clients.” Just because someone watches a video of a Dodge Hellcat doing burnouts doesn’t mean they are interested in bidding on a collector car. The biggest challenge for online companies is to create an involved user community. BaT is the role model for that.
As far as fees, if you look at the success of the traditional auctions, even with their higher fees (necessary as they have staggering expenses to put on a tent auction), clearly there is a client base willing to pay those extra fees to be a part of the live-auction social and economic experience. Also, the auction companies are experts at getting the right people for the right car in the tent at the right time, which is critical for getting top dollar for seven- and eight-figure cars.
There is room for both online and tent-based auctions, they each have their own audiences, Also, we have watched the tent-autions scramble to improve their digital presence, with more photos, more info, etc. That’s good for everyone.
TDV: Looking back, what are you most proud of in your journey with Sports Car Market?
KM: I am most proud of the great group of writers and readers we have had for 36 years. We have been on the newsstand in airports for 22 years and just had our best month ever. Subscriptions are up and so is advertising. We have never compromised on our goals of honesty in reporting and calling it as we see it. Our readers know that and stick with it, and we have attracted the best group of classic car writers in the world.
TDV: As a final question, what long-term trends do you predict in the classic car market, and how do you plan to align Sports Car Market with these future developments?”
KM: The classic car market will always be with us. I see more tours and rallies and events than ever before. Twenty years ago there weren’t any Cars and Coffee events, now they are everywhere.
SCM will continue to let the cars it reports on evolve to match the changing tastes of our readers. But the commitment to excellence in reporting and analysis will never change. Thanks Sam for this opportunity.