While rummaging through a box of my parents’ stuff the other day, I rediscovered a trove of postcards that my father had collected. “Collected” might be too formal of a word; I never witnessed my father actually purchase a postcard. In the mid-20th century, many places gladly gave them away for the free publicity they’d garner. To my dad, a depression-era baby, if it was free, it was for him.
Two cards in particular caught my attention: both postcards featured the General Motors exhibit at the New York World’s Fair, with one from 1939-1940, and the other from 1964-1965. My dad went to both. (He was born in Germany, immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 6, and lived in NYC from 1925 to 1981.)
As little as he talked about anything from the past, he enjoyed sharing the story of how, at the age of 21, he won a brand new 1940 Chevrolet at the World’s Fair. I believe he kept that car right up until the time he married my mom in 1950 and bought a Willys station wagon. I’m 100% certain about the ’64-’65 Fair, because he took the entire family six times! We have photos and video from those trips. I was 10, and it was my first time riding the NY Subway. We took the 7 line, and I have strong memory of numerous exhibits, especially the Ford Motor Company rides, the Sinclair dinosaurs, and the NY State Pavilion. I also saw a real baseball stadium for the first time when I got a glimpse of the new Shea Stadium from a vantage point within the Fair.
Back to 1939: the GM exhibit was huge. Named “Futurama”, it was GM’s attempt to predict a vision of life in the U.S. by 1960. This Futurama correctly predicted the interstate highway system, including multiple traffic lanes and higher roads speeds than existed in the late ‘30s.
As this Wikipedia entry details, the theme of the 1939-1940 World’s Fair was “The World of Tomorrow”, and the GM exhibit meshed nicely with that theme. Note the image on the postcard: this was a full-scale exhibit. The people walking along the elevated sidewalks and crosswalks were looking down at full-size vehicles positioned on the roadways below. Also note the rooftop parks, signifying a recognition that if the ground space is consumed by roadways, the greenery and outdoor entertainment needs to go somewhere else.
The obverse of the postcard doesn’t miss an opportunity for GM to pitch its “General Motors Installment Plan”, which “makes it easy to own a new car. Besides it saves him money and provides valuable insurance protection which he needs…” So the ladies of the house weren’t making the vehicular purchase decisions yet? Perhaps they were driving down to the Post Office to buy the one-cent stamps needed to mail a postcard.
The 1964 postcard displays what passed for futuristic architecture at that time. Whether coincidence or not, the GM pavilion was right along the highway (Grand Central Parkway? The exit sign in the photo reads “495 – Midtown Tun(nel) – Long Island”. Route 495 is the Long Island Expressway). The obverse of the card reads in part: “General Motors ‘Futurama’ presents the world of tomorrow. The popular Futurama Ride, with stereo sound, predicts the conversion of wastelands to benefit mankind;….” Note the thematic repetition from 25 years earlier. This website details the exhibits within the GM building, and some of the themes are tragically predictive: autonomous cars (highway only!), atomic-powered submarines, large-scale deforestation, and “plazas of urban living (rising) over freeways”.
Part of my daytime gig involves writing and editing articles which attempt to predict the future (autonomous driving has been a very popular topic of late). I’ve made the wry observation that it’s quite difficult to predict the future, and no one is really very good at it. Where are the flying cars? And who predicted the iPhone?
It’s fun to look at these General Motors postcards, printed 25 years apart. Their World of Tomorrow was all sunshine and flowers. Of course it would be: why try to predict World War II, the imported car invasion, 50,000 traffic deaths a year, the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, two Arab oil embargoes, the Japanese auto revolution, bankruptcies, and bailouts? And to this child of the ‘60s, add the sad news, impossible to imagine as a boy, of the loss of Plymouth, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, and Mercury. Yet we go on, enjoying our cars and trucks, embracing our present while still looking forward to a better tomorrow. It’s the way it should be.
All images are from my personal collection of postcards.
I’ve often referred to the two years I spent as a professional automotive technician as my “post-college” graduate work. It was a different kind of education, and included the benefit of earning a salary. One of the earliest lessons, and one I still carry today, is that there is no substitute for having the right tool for the job at hand. The correct tool ensures that the repair is done correctly, safely, and within a reasonable amount of time. It is not an exaggeration to state that there were times when sweat dripped from my brow, and curses sprang from my lips, when the lack of the appropriate tool made a repair attempt a real struggle.
A corollary lesson states that sometimes, one needs to practice some creativity and “invent” a tool, perhaps by assembling one from hardware parts, or by modifying an existing tool. This point was put into practice during the Isetta restoration, as tools for that car aren’t exactly found in your local NAPA store.
The challenge rose up again during the recent brake work on my Alfa. I found myself struggling with the reassembly of the parking brake shoes, which reside inside the rear brake rotor ‘hat’. The shoes and their assorted springs and clips came apart easily enough. But now my efforts to put it all back together were just taking too long.
Let me be more specific: the brake shoe assembly mounts to a backing plate, like on most cars. Unlike most cars, though, the wheel hub is mounted on a bearing that is press-fitted into place through the backing plate. The parking brake reassembly would be easier if the hub were not in the way, but to remove it, I would need to remove the entire axle and press the hub and backing plate apart. That was more work than I wanted to bother with. I was convinced that there was a way to put the parts back on with the hub in place.
And Alfa Romeo actually made that accommodation. The hub surface has two additional holes, lined up in such a way to allow a tool to pass through them to access the brake shoe hold-down pins. The pins require a 5mm Allen tool, and I have one as a 3/8” drive socket. Since there is so much spring pressure to overcome, putting the Allen socket on an extension, with a 3/8” drive ratchet wrench, provides way more leverage than one could ever get from a tiny hex key.
Herewith was the problem: I could not push the pin in far enough to engage its lock, because the socket was too wide to pass completely through the hole in the hub. I briefly considered grinding down the socket, but a close examination revealed that would likely weaken it to the point of failure once an extension or a wrench was snapped into place. I briefly (like, for 10 seconds) considered enlarging the hole in the hub before rejecting that crazy idea. (Repair lesson #39.b.2: when making permanent modifications, always do so to inexpensive, replaceable objects, NOT to complex, difficult-to-replace components of the vehicle itself.)
Staring at things for several minutes brought forth the revelation that if the 5mm hex shaft were longer, I’d have what I needed. After considering a Home Depot run, which I internally wagered would yield a 25% chance of success, I challenged myself to modify the tool I owned. Could I do this in less than an hour? I thought it entirely reasonable.
With a 3/32” drift, I hammered out the roll pin and pulled out the existing 5mm bit from the socket. I found a standard 5mm hex key in my Allen key collection, and tested it at the car. It was long enough for my purposes. Next, I secured the longer hex key in the bench vise and hacksawed off the short end. (I really should have pulled out the Dremel tool for this step, as the hardened steel took longer than I thought it would to hack off.) I filed the end smooth, and it fit right into the socket. My attempts to drill a hole in it to reinstall the roll pin resulted in two broken drill bits – like I said, that tool steel is hard! But the new bit was a tight fit in the socket, and since I’d be pushing against it, not pulling on it, I let it be, feeling certain that there was nothing to worry about.
Total time to modify the 5mm Allen socket: approximately 30 minutes. I attached my ‘new’ socket onto an extension, snapped on a ratchet wrench, and was easily able to engage the brake shoe pins in their locks. Mission accomplished!
I’m keeping my new, longer 5mm Allen socket as is. Who knows when someone might need my help with their Alfa Romeo parking brake shoes? “Hey, I got just the tool for that!”
The weather today in downtown Neshanic Station NJ reached a balmy (for February) 55 degrees F. While I desperately do NOT want it to be 90 in April, I didn’t mind today’s spring preview; after all, the calendar claims we’re only four weeks away.
That high temp was accompanied by blue skies and lots of sunshine, all of which inspired me to get back to the garage. The Alfa’s brakes have been ignored since last autumn, and even I can’t believe how long it’s been since I’ve put up a blog post about my progress, of which there has been scant little. I have been ordering parts, reading service manuals, and perusing online forums, but there’s been no actual wrench-turning since before Halloween, which feels like a very long time ago.
While today’s progress was not substantial, it was significant. The corner has been turned; everything that’s to be removed has been removed. I am now embarking on reassembly, using new parts as required. Starting at the left rear, a new parking brake cable was installed, and a new upper e-brake shoe was also put into place.
Projects never proceed at an orderly pace. There may be a flurry of activity, then a slowdown. Other, smaller projects may jump the line. Sometimes, it’s a parts delay that forces the pullback. However, there’s something to be said for picking up the tools again after a long layoff: it reinvigorates the soul, and reawakens the motivation.
I’m also motivated by an email I received from the NJ Chapter of the Alfa Romeo Owner’s Club, announcing a one-day spring tour for Sunday April 26. That’s nine weeks from today. I plan to drive this car on that tour. Sounds like I have lots of time, but we know how quickly that time will fly. The last time I drove my Alfa was July of last year. I have not gone this long without driving it since my purchase in 2013. So I’m motivated! Let’s hope the trend for an early spring continues.
Back in December of 2019, Hagerty Insurance, that well-known collector-car insurance company, published their self-named “Bull Market List” for 2020. In it, they predict the 10 collector cars most likely to rise in value over the next 12 months.
This was the third year in a row that Hagerty published their picks, based on market trends. But it’s a fool’s game to try to predict which cars will increase in value. The so-called experts have been swinging away at this for decades, and for all the years I’ve been following their prognostications, no one correctly predicted the rise in Porsche 911 values, to name a recent trend that was missed.
Trucks make a strong showing, with the Jeep Cherokee, the Range Rover, and the International Scout on the list. Twenty-five years ago, almost no one thought of trucks as collectible. But go past these models, and you’ll see that many of the remaining vehicles are pure two-seaters like the Ferrari, the Dodge Viper, the Porsche 914, and the BMW M roadster. The new car market has been trying to tell us that cars are no longer desirable, but the collector side of things thinks otherwise.
Whether you prefer cars or trucks, performance vehicles are always collectible. The Ferrari and the Viper may epitomize traditional performance, but the 4-cylinder Integra Type R and the Civic Si were strong performers in their classes, and deserve to be mentioned in the same breath.
Next, let’s note the percentage of newer vehicles on this list. When the full model year range is included, nine of eleven vehicles are from the 1990s and newer. I’m a Baby Boomer, and I can recall when every vehicle on the Bull Market List was new. For me, it can be a stretch to think of any vehicles from the 21st century as belonging on this list. But as Gen Xers and Millennials enter the collector market, they are seeking out the vehicles of their youth. These so-called Youngtimer’s cars are the ones they covet, which will push their value upward as demand outpaces supply.
Note the tremendous diversity in this list: 3 domestic vehicles, 6 Europeans, and 2 Asians. Hatchbacks, two-seaters, convertibles, trucks, and a bike. Front-wheel-drive, rear-wheel-drive, all-wheel-drive, and front- and mid-engine placements. There is no one “type” of collector car. (Speaking of being unable to predict the future, I clearly recall well-versed writers stating “trucks will never become collectible”; and “Japanese cars will never become collectible”.)
As the hobby matures and as the collectors themselves grow old and pull their progeny along, almost anything becomes collectible. Given the explosive revolution and segmentation in the new car market over the last 50 years, this diversity does not surprise at all.
In spite of some recent downward trends witnessed at the high-end auctions (most likely temporary), the overall collector car hobby remains strong, in my opinion. A glance at activities outside of 7-figure auction results attests to that. Once spring hits, you will have a difficult time counting up the number of cruise nights, cars & coffees, rallies, club tours, and old-fashioned parking-lot car shows within a half-day drive of your domicile on any given weekend.
The predicted autonomy ain’t here yet. Cooler heads have now correctly surmised that we are one or two decades away, at best, from self-driving vehicles representing the majority of highway vehicles. In the meantime, even as more semi-autonomous features are brought to market, we still drive our cars. Most people own at least one car, and most families have more than one. Cars bring out peoples’ passions, and folks like to collect what they are passionate about. Cars remind people of their youth, so the passion and the desire to collect go hand-in-hand.
My friends and I have truly lived by this rule: if you’re going to be in the collector-car hobby, buy what you like. Don’t worry about future values. Buy the car because you plan to enjoy it, whether that’s driving it, working on it, or showing it. When it comes time to sell, if you make some money, great, if you break even, you had your fun at no cost, and if you lose some money, well, show me a hobby that doesn’t cost money! Have you priced a good set of golf clubs lately?
Take the Hagerty 2020 Bull Market List for what it is: an attempted dispassionate look at car values. I could never recommend using it as a primary deciding factor; but if it helps you choose one old car over another, do me a favor, and let me know how that works out for you.
G. Potter King (GPK) held its 2020 Atlantic City collector car event over the weekend of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, February 7, 8, and 9. According to their website, this mid-winter automotive extravaganza has been a February feature for forty years. I can recall attending this show in the 1980s and 1990s when it was held in the original Atlantic City Convention Center. A new building at a new location went up sometime in the early 21st century, and along with that came improved parking, lighting, and other amenities. Because February weather is unpredictable, I didn’t commit to attending until several days prior; luckily, two good friends came along and agreed to share the long drive down. We made a day trip of it on Saturday.
Perhaps because there is a recognition that the hobby is changing (i.e., the old guard is dying off), GPK expanded the scope of this year’s show beyond the traditional auction, car corral, and flea market. Inside the Convention Center were two static displays: a non-judged array of late-model exotica, both stock and modified; and a judged show including five different classes of cars. The latter show in particular took up significant floor space, a possible sign that there weren’t quite enough auction and corral vehicles to fill the available real estate.
But wait, there’s more! As part of our $25 admission fee, we were granted tickets to the Showboat casino where there were even more show cars! I declined the jaunt over there, because my primary interest resided with the auction. The little time I did spend looking over the display n cars in the Convention Center only proved once again that most modern exotics look too much alike. I guess I’m not the target audience.
Conspicuous by absence was Kerbeck Chevrolet, the Atlantic City new car dealer who claims to be the world’s largest retailer of Corvettes. There has never been a year that I haven’t seen Kerbeck bring in dozens upon dozens of new and slightly used ‘vettes. I can no longer say that because it didn’t happen in 2020! A sign of the times, but I’m not sure yet of its significance.
On to the auction: the announced 11am start time was 11:30 in reality, and, it began with “automobilia”, that made-up hobby word which encompasses everything from oil cans and gas pumps to neon signs and artwork. Today’s feature was just that, “framed art work”, and we decided that it was a good time for an early lunch, but not before hearing the following (and this is close to verbatim):
“Up next is this ‘Raging Bull’ picture, and, it’s signed by Robert DeNiro! Now, the owner HAD the certificate of authenticity for the signature. But, he lost it. But trust us, it’s authentic! I was there when he bought the picture!”
Would the auctioneer lie to you? I didn’t think so. The picture sold, and I didn’t record the amount. It was around $100. However, the DeNiro autograph claim only reinforced that infamous phrase “caveat emptor”, Latin for “buyer beware”. Many of the “all original” or “low mileage” claims made during the day begged for verification.
From my casual observation, the sell-through rate was poor, below 50%. While there is general agreement that it’s a soft market at present, that does not mean that quality cars aren’t fetching fair prices. Unrecorded but observed by me were several late ‘60s/early ‘70s American muscle cars that hammered sold in the $50,000 range, plus or minus a few bucks. They seemed to represent good value, and such sales require a combination of sellers willing to let the car go for the “right number” and buyers willing to spend same. It’s the job of the auction company to bring like-minded buyers and sellers together at the same venue. It’s easier said than done, and it seemed to be somewhat lacking during my observations this past Saturday.
On the one hand, the longevity of the GPK auction scene is to be commended: the time of year is not favorable in the Northeast, the location is not a short haul for many in the metro NY/NJ area, and unless you’re a gambler, the local environment offers little incentive to hang out. On the other hand, there still is a “mom & pop” feel to the auction experience here, borne out by lack of attention to detail. Screens displaying current bid prices did not keep pace with real-time bidding, and “still for sale” cards on dashboards didn’t include high bids.
Competition in the Northeast has ratcheted up: Barrett-Jackson in CT and Mecum in Harrisburg PA are new as of a few years ago, and Carlisle Auctions in PA has made significant improvements to their spring and fall events. Lastly, unless the Convention Center has a jam-packed calendar, we continue to fail to understand why this event isn’t moved to late February, which incrementally improves the chances of better weather (or has global warming removed that concern?).
The cars covered below are the ones that struck my fancy. Since only a few of my picks met reserve, I am also including some cars that didn’t sell, along with my pithy comments about why or why not. As is always the case in my auction reports, vehicles are arranged in SALE PRICE (and bid price) order.
Lot #1725, 1972 Triumph TR6, red, black top and interior
Crossed the block and declared “no sale” at $8,000; GPK website shows car SOLD for $9,000
A quick look showed no obvious defects; this is potentially a good buy for this 6-cylnder sports car.
Lot # 1720, 1993 Jaguar XJS convertible, green with tan interior (top was down & not inspected)
SOLD for $9,250
Paint looked substandard, headlight lenses opaque. Better cars have sold for slightly less.
Lot #1724, 1987 Olds 442, dark blue, blue cloth interior
SOLD for $10,750
A late ‘80s RWD intermediate from GM. Condition seemed to agree with low mileage claim. A bit above book, but fine if you want an affordable 442.
Lot #1770, 1967 Plymouth Sport Fury coupe, green, rare manual transmission
SOLD for $16,000
I always thought that Chrysler did a stunning styling job with these full-size ’67 Plymouths. This car was in nice shape, and not something that comes up for sale often. Well-bought for a MoPar fan.
Lot #1725, 1960 MGA, black, red interior
SOLD for $23,500
A very attractive car, could be a local show winner or fair weather driver. Sold slightly under market; a few thousand more would not have been unreasonable.
Lot #1743, 1968 Chrysler 300, green on green
SOLD for $28,500
Similar body shell as Lot #1770, the ’67 Fury. The 300 was even cleaner. Only issue were wide whites, but that’s an easy fix. A big beautiful Chrysler, and a car I’d be proud to own.
Lot #1815, 2001 Ferrari 360 spider, red, black top, tan interior, F1 transmission
SOLD for $62,000
At first glance, seems cheap for a ‘late model’ Ferrari. F1 tranny not to everyone’s taste; holding out for a 3-pedal car will cost more money. Just budget for maintenance; oh, you forgot about that part?
Lot # 1802, 1966 Mercedes Benz 230SL, white, dark blue interior
NO SALE at $37,500
Hardtop on car; manual gearbox (many were auto); white steering wheel a ‘50s throwback. It was announced on the block that it would take $60,000 to sell. Car seemed honest and solid, but $60k might be a bit rich for the 230 model.
1793 1956 Continental Mark II, black, white & grey interior
NO SALE at $45,000
Appeared to be a slightly older restoration, and it was holding up well. Paint was excellent; leather upholstery showed slight wear. Engine compartment very good. Even hard-core car guys seem to know little about these Mark IIs, so potential audience may be limited. Bid was probably light by $10,000 or so.
Lot # 1800, 1970 Mercedes Benz 280SL green, tan interior
NO SALE at $45,000
Hardtop on car; stick shift; possibly same consignor as lot #1802. The 280SL is the most desirable of the 3 Pagoda SLs (230, 250, 280) as it has the largest engine. Block announced that this car will need to reach $60,000 to sell (same as white 230SL). I would have declared this bid as light, but, this car spewed blue smoke from burning oil as it was driven away. Budget $10,000 for engine work before the first rally.
Lot # 1792, 1935 Packard 4-door sedan, burgundy, tan cloth interior
NO SALE at $50,000
I loved this car, from the grille to its straight-8 engine to its enormous back seat to its rounded backlight. I watched it drive up to the block and you could not hear it running. I have little notion of the values of pre-war Packards, but I’d like to think that we were close with this bid.
Lot #1797, 1974 DeTomaso Pantera, yellow, black interior
NO SALE at $56,000
You forget how small these are until you see one next to almost anything else. It was one of the lowest vehicles at the entire auction. Price seemed light to me; I’ve seen these sell on Bring a Trailer for closer to $70-75,000.
Lot # 1738, 1974 Jaguar E Type Series III OTS, silver, black top, red interior, stick shift
NO SALE at $60,000
First, this car was cosmetically stunning; it was a strong #2 condition car, and the color combo was one of my all-time favorites. As a Series III car, it has the V12, loved by some, loathed by others, and it rides on the longer 2+2 wheelbase, which changes the original gorgeous proportions. The block announced that it will take $75,000 to sell; in this market, something in between high bid and declared need should get the job done.
Lot # 1759, 1969 Jaguar E Type Series II OTS, dark red, beige interior
NO SALE at $70,000
Another stunning E-Type, this one a Series II. Bid was a bit light by $10-20,000, but these cars are off their highs of a few years ago. Only Series I convertibles are breaking into six figures.
Last week, I chose three collector cars that I found interesting, which were scheduled to cross the auction block during what’s known as Scottsdale Auction Week. All three were European sports cars, and all were offered at no reserve.
(Note that all three auction companies charge a 12% buyer’s premium, and that inflated number, with premium, is what’s shown on their websites. This makes the sales results appear higher than they really were. I backed out that 12% to show the actual hammer prices.)
Bonhams: 1978 Porsche 928, Lot #11, sold on Thursday
HAMMER PRICE: $67,000 (plus 12% premium for final price of $75,040)
Ahem…. Not only did I miss the hammer price by a country mile; this car blew right past the high end of its pre-sale estimate. Undoubtedly, its original condition and low mileage contributed to giving the seller a grand slam, funky ‘70s colors be damned. And to those who continue to maintain that 928s are not collectible, I now have this piece of evidence in my arsenal.
Gooding & Co: 1969 Alfa Romeo 1750 Spider Veloce, Lot #010, sold on Friday
HAMMER PRICE: $64,000 (plus 12% premium for final price of $71,680)
I was a little closer with this one, but my guess was still under the hammer by $14,000. Auction fever can infect bidders in many ways, and someone caught the fever and stepped up for this cute little roadster. While this Alfa sold for 50% more than what similar cars have brought recently, note that its hammer price was still well under the auction company’s unreasonably optimistic estimate.
RM Sotheby’s: 1970 Jaguar E-Type roadster (OTS), Lot #168, sold on Thursday
HAMMER PRICE: $75,000 (plus 12% premium for final price of $84,000)
Last week’s post stated in part: “… the Series II cars have become the affordable E-Type….”. Given that the hammer price was $20,000 under my seemingly reasonable guesstimate, and $35,000 under the auction company’s low-end estimate, it’s not going out on a limb to call this one a good buy. The new owner got a beautiful E-Type OTS (Open Two-Seater) with 80% of the charm of a Series I car at a 50% discount.
These cars represent such a small fraction of the hundreds and hundreds of collector cars sold in Scottsdale. Can we draw any conclusions from just three sales? I maintain that we can:
No Reserve cars are, by definition, guaranteed to sell. A theory I’ve heard about no-reserve sales, disproven here, is that they always favor the buyer. Sometimes, when the audience knows the high bidder gets the car, a bidding war erupts. Both the Porsche and the Alfa sold over their high estimate, so the consignors in both cases should be delighted with these results.
Another theory we can try to debunk based on this minuscule sample is that the hobby is in poor health. The Alfa and the Jaguar are blue-chip collectibles; the 928 less so, but it’s still a Porsche. Each of these cars appeared to be in very nice shape. I’d venture that all three buyers, if a modicum of care is taken with their new prizes, will not lose money in the long-term when it’s time to sell. Were these cars affordable? It’s a relative term. For a large segment of the Scottsdale audience, vehicles under six figures are affordable, and return on investment was not a primary purchase factor. The hobby is far from dead.
Are auctions a good place to buy cars? There is no simple answer to that. It would be misleading to look at these results and think it’s not. Instead, I would postulate that these examples highlight the need for bidders to educate themselves before raising the paddle. You cannot make good judgments from pretty online photos while sitting 2,500 miles away. Learn all you can about the model you’re interested in, make direct contact with the auction company, seek out the seller if available, and bid with your head, not your heart.
In the collector car world, there are two major auction “happenings” in the U.S., both named after their locales: the Monterey (CA) auctions every August, and the Scottsdale (AZ) ones in January. All the major auction companies attend, and spend most of the week in an attempt to outdo each other with number of lots, featured consignments, and dollar totals.
Both are watched carefully by hobbyists, media, and pundits, and each has been known to act as a bellwether for the health of the classic car hobby. (We myopic Americans also quickly forget that similar events in the rest of the world perform a similar function, but because they’re “over there” their significance is easily ignored.)
With the more upscale auction houses due to begin dropping the hammer in a few days, I thought it might be educational and entertaining to select one car from each of the “Big 3”, and predict its end result. As it turns out, I have chosen one British, one German, and one Italian car. They are all personal favorites of mine, and I’ve made a habit of following their recent sales trends.
All three are listed as “no reserve” sales, meaning they will sell to the highest bidder. Pre-sale estimates are provided, and auction houses tend to be notoriously optimistic with them, presuming it will encourage bidding. From my observations, many no-reserve cars sell below estimate.
In alphabetical order by auction company:
Bonhams: 1978 Porsche 928, Lot #11, selling Thursday
The car has 21,000 original miles, it’s a stick shift, in beautiful condition, but would you look at those colors! Porsche 928s have long been derided among marque enthusiasts who disdain anything that isn’t air-cooled. Part of the contempt for the model may stem from Porsche’s initial claim that the 928 would “replace” the 911, which the company intended to drop. It didn’t work out that way.
After years of sales languishing in the $5,000-8,000 range for a driver-condition one, enthusiasts have rediscovered the car. That doesn’t make it valuable, though. This one is a first-year edition with the (in)famous Pasha interior, and if you’re not familiar, check out the photos! The only 928s selling for numbers close to this estimate are the final versions from the early 1990s. Still, this car will have its fans.
This body style had its debut in 1966 as the Duetto. Its styling was initially considered controversial, coming after the achingly beautiful Giulietta spiders. But The Graduate movie helped put the car into the minds of mainstream America, at least as much as was possible for a semi-affordable Italian two-seater.
Because of its struggles in meeting U.S. emission standards, Alfa Romeo offered no 1968 models for sale here (ditto for 1970). This 1969 spider dropped the Duetto name in favor of “1750 Spider Veloce”. Displacement was up, fuel injection was added to keep the EPA bureaucrats happy, but the basic body shape would live on for a short while longer until the ram bumpers were bolted on.
Really fine Duettos have soared recently to $40,000. Most Alfisti prefer the carbureted Duettos over the Spica-injected later models. This car is gorgeous but the pre-sale estimate is out of whack, and is more appropriate to a perfect late ‘50s-early ‘60s Giulietta.
The Jaguar E-Type (also known as the XKE in the USA) is often singled out as one of a small handful of collector cars considered a blue-chip investment. Stunningly beautiful and universally admired when new, E-Types were not just a pretty face, with power and speed to back up its feline curves.
The so-called Series I cars were sold from 1961-1968; the year 1969 brought the first significant styling changes to what became known as the Series II cars, mainly to the bumpers and exterior lights. The Series III cars, made from 1971 through 1974, were all built on an extended wheelbase; many had auto trannies. Under the hood was Jaguar’s V12 which added lots of torque and lots of complexity.
Time has firmly decided in favor of the Series I cars as the most pure and most valuable; the Series III cars have their fans for those who like power; and the Series II cars have become “the affordable E-Type”, with affordable a relative word in this context.
This RM car is a beautiful restoration, and an award winner, but it’s a Series II car. Those who want an XKE and have no price ceiling will seek a Series I. I personally am a fan of the pale primrose color here, but I’ve read that many are not. The pre-sale estimate is slightly optimistic.
RICHARD’S PREDICTION: $95,000
What do you think? Are the estimates accurate? How off-base am I? Send in a comment with your own sale price predictions.