Riding in the Mustang Mach-E Electric Vehicle

The Mustang Mach-E is the new fully electric vehicle (EV) from the Ford Motor Company. Unlike a hybrid which uses both a battery and an internal combustion engine, an EV relies solely on battery power to propel the vehicle.

Controversial, it may be, but Ford clearly uses the well-known Mustang logo on this car

Last week, I received an email from Ford inviting me to attend a preview of the Mustang Mach-E at my local Ford dealer, which is Flemington Ford, about a 15-minute car ride from home. I replied in the affirmative to the invite, scheduled for Monday November 16. My appointment time was 4 p.m., and I was advised to arrive at least 5 minutes early.

The day was sunny, if a bit windy and chilly, but fine if the event was to be out of doors. Walking toward the showroom at about 3:45, I saw two of the vehicles outside, and as I entered the sales area, spotted one on the floor. I checked in with Mike, he from “the Big D” (Dearborn) as he put it, whereupon he told me to take my time examining the car on display inside.

In white
In red
In grey

This car was a dark grey with a black interior, a somewhat dour color combo, but aside from that, I liked what I saw. The first thing to notice are the outside door handles. Each door has a round button above the belt line, about the size of a house doorbell. The doors unlatch electrically (no word on how you open a door if the battery is dead). I sat in the car and examined the two screens: a smaller one directly in front of the driver, and a large, tablet-like one in vertical format in the center. With the vehicle “off” there wasn’t too much to see there, so I got out and did several walkarounds, taking in as much detail as possible. Overall, I was impressed by various design details as well as the fit and finish.

Circular electric door button. Horizontal “pull” just is something to grab to swing door open.

 

Black interior. Textured material around driver’s screen are speaker grilles.

Mike came over to answer any questions I had. Range? About 210 miles with the Standard Range batteries, and about 270 miles with the Extended Range batteries. Interior colors? Black or white, and one upholstery choice only, a “vegan leather” which looked and felt like high quality vinyl. Frunk? He popped open the front lid to show me that storage area. Availability? The cars here are production vehicles, so depending on whether you have an existing order or not, cars are on their way to customers, first come first served.

The frunk

Next up was the test ride. Customers were not allowed to drive, but there were other FoMoCo employees on hand to take you for a ride. I met Joe, another corporate employee (actually a field guy), and we hopped into the white car outside. The very first impression one gets in an EV is the quiet. No engine sounds, no exhaust, no gears. There are no piped-in sounds either. Frankly, I expected there to be more tire noise than there was. Given that we were riding on 19”s, the ride was not only quiet, it was compliant and comfortable.

Joe at the wheel

As he was driving, Joe was more than happy to show me the center screen, which apparently is “Sync 4”, Ford’s 4th generation of its Sync infotainment system. Joe was scrolling up and down, swiping left and right, all while handling the wheel. I said “Wait! Show me how the driver controls the LIGHTS and the WIPERS.” Joe laughed and grabbed the left and right stalks hanging off the steering column. Thankfully Ford kept those controls where most drivers would be used to finding them.

I asked Joe about the infamous one-pedal driving that can be done on many EVs. He said that there is a way to turn that on and off in the center screen menu. He personally is not a fan of it, and he said when he drives he leaves it off.

We made a right turn onto a road with a long straightaway in front of us. Joe stopped, turned to the screen, and selected the most powerful of the three driving modes, cleverly named “unbridled” (get it?). He floored it, and except for the (lack of) noise, I felt like I was in a plane accelerating for takeoff. We got up to 60 and he backed off. Was it the fastest I’ve ever experienced 0-60? Not at all, but that’s not the point. The Mustang Mach-E has plenty of get-up-and-go when you want it, but just like a gas engine, you’re going to consume a lot of juice if you do that at every light change.

Note 3 drive modes, as well as 1-Pedal Drive setting

We got back to the dealer, I took a few more shots outside, and I meandered back into the showroom. There were three or four other groups of people folding themselves into and out of the various Mach-E models on display. I waited for a salesperson to approach me with a closing pitch, and perhaps was just a tad disappointed that none came. (The Flemington group of dealers is known for their low-pressure sales approach.) I thanked Mike and Joe and headed out.

Eight exterior color choices; “Green Party!” not yet a choice

 

White interior

Once I was home, I opened my access to the Ford AXZ plan (employee and retiree pricing), fully expecting that the Mach-E would be an excluded model, but it’s not! The employee pricing was right there on the screen. I’m not in the market for a vehicle right now, but I certainly have been weighing a pure EV as a possible future choice. The Mustang Mach-E just rose a few notches higher on that list.

The masked man and the Mustang Mach-E

 

Mach-E water: should I test its specific gravity?
 

All photographs copyright © 2020 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

You Can’t Predict the Future

In the latest edition (June 2020) of Sports Car Market (SCM) magazine, a reader wrote a letter to the Editor, requesting an explanation of the so-called “frequent flier” phenomenon (referring to the same vehicle appearing at multiple auctions over a short period of time). I will quote part of his letter:

“… often in the auction reviews, you note a car has been at or across the auction block three or five times in four or six years. Is there a story here? ….Is there a certain type of car which attracts this ‘flipping’ activity?’ …. Is there a certain type of buyer/seller involved in this? The easy answer is ‘speculators hoping to make a quick buck’…..”

I think that SCM dodged providing a real answer when they responded: “There is indeed a certain type of seller – we suspect possessing a world-class stubbornness – who trucks a car to several auctions in a short period of time. … (these) cars mostly have an impact on the bank account of the present owner….”

Whether the individual who posed the question intended this or not, the answer presumes that the ‘frequent flier’ vehicle never gets sold, so the same owner incurs transportation costs, auction fees, and the like. From my own observations of the auction market, the reality is different. Many frequent fliers DO get sold, chalking up multiple new owners over the short haul.

The obvious next question is: did the seller make a profit? Here’s the crux of the issue. Why would any owner of a special-interest vehicle consider selling it within the first year or two of ownership? While there could be any number of reasons (needs the money/found something else/didn’t meet expectations), was the car principally purchased as an investment?

The subheading on each month’s cover of SCM is “The Insider’s Guide to Collecting, Investing, Values, and Trends”. I’ve been a subscriber since 1997. I enjoy the magazine. It’s always done a great job of reporting auction results worldwide, in a timely fashion for a print periodical. What SCM cannot do, and no one can, is predict the future. This is not a knock on the magazine. A vehicle, or a class of make and model vehicles, rises in value faster than the overall market for a multitude of reasons. Many of these reasons have no basis in rationality. Several of my car buddies agree with me that the #1 rule is to buy what you like, enjoy it, and don’t worry too much about values. Yet it’s always interesting to speculate what would have happened if I bought X instead of Y.

Late in 2003, I bought a 1968 Mustang ‘California Special’ aka GT/CS. At that time, average selling prices for cars with the small block 289/302 V8 were around $15,000. There was a 20% premium for the ‘S’ code (4 barrel carb) big-block 390. I found a car for sale with the ‘X’ code 2-barrel 390, and paid $16,000, which I thought was a fair price, not a steal, but perhaps slightly under market. I liked that Mustang a lot, drove it to many shows and events, and sold it nine years later. The irony is, I had been considering some vehicles other than the Mustang, including an older 911, but it wasn’t so serious that I actually sought out or test drove one.

Why hadn’t someone told me 911 values were going to go through the roof? Is it because no one knew?

From the Jan. 2004 CPI

 

I subscribe to, and keep old copies of, the price guide known as Cars of Particular Interest (CPI). The book publishes retail values for cars in excellent (#2), good (#3) and fair (#4) value. I decided to have some fun with this by going back to the January 2004 edition and looking up 10 cars of interest to me whose #3 value was very close to my Mustang’s purchase price. (That copy of CPI had my Mustang at $18,600 for a #3 car.) I then compared those numbers to their 2020 CPI values, and calculated the percentage increase (none lost value). The chart is arranged in order of value increase from smallest to largest.

YEAR MAKE MODEL Value 2004 Value 2020 CHANGE
1970 Plymouth Barracuda 340 coupe $15,525 $26,000 167%
1963 Studebaker Avanti R2 $15,600 $28,000 179%
1968 Oldsmobile 4-4-2 convertible $13,750 $27,000 196%
1971 Alfa Romeo Montreal $13,100 $42,000 321%
1969 Jaguar E-Type Ser. II coupe $14,500 $55,000 379%
1968 Mercury Cougar GT-E 427 $13,000 $53,000 408%
1967 Mercedes-Benz 230SL roadster $14,900 $61,000 409%
1963 Porsche 356 S90 coupe $14,750 $62,000 420%
1961 Lincoln Continental 4-dr conv. $11,500 $56,000 487%
1969 Porsche 911 S coupe $11,500 $83,000 722%

 

Again, we’ve kept things apples-to-apples by using CPI and by using #3 condition values. I’ll make the following observations:

  • It surprised me to see that the 3 cars with the smallest value changes are all domestic. None of those cars are performance slouches, and given the general trend that “muscle sells”, I expected higher numbers.
  • The other two domestic cars posted extraordinary results. The big-block Cougar rose over 400%, and the Continental disproves the adage that 4-door cars aren’t collectible.
  • The value of the Montreal seems artificially low to me, and I say that only as an Alfa owner who follows the market. However, the Jag value looks spot-on for a Series II coupe.
  • The two ‘ringers’ are the Porsches. Note that in 2004, the 356 was actually valued higher than the 911S! And in 2004 dollars, the 911 is the lowest-value car here, tied with the Continental.

What does all this mean? Nothing. (Like Seinfeld.) Seriously, it means that no one saw any of this coming. Looking at this with hindsight, do I have a twinge of regret? Ever so slightly, but not really. The Cougar is the same year as my Mustang, but would not have looked as unique as my car. I adore E-Types, and perhaps missed the boat my not snagging one when I could have. But making those statements does not take in the complete picture:

  • When I bought the GT/CS, it was in Maryland, about 3 hours away. I felt lucky finding one within a day’s round trip drive. Who knows where I would have found any of these other cars?
  • The Mustang was comparatively easy to work on, and I did most of my own maintenance and repair work.
  • Wrenching on a Jag or Porsche of any flavor means exponentially higher parts prices, and greater levels of complexity.
  • The Cal Special was very reliable. I drove it to Nashville, and on two complete New England 1000 rallies. Who is to say that any of these others would have been equally reliable?
  • There was something very special about the uniqueness of my GT/CS. To recap, that model was never officially sold east of the Mississippi by Ford, so very few of them are on the East Coast. Many people who saw it, even seasoned car show veterans, didn’t know that such a model existed. It was an exciting conversation piece.
  • I sold my GT/CS in 2012 for $20,000. You think I made a profit? Adding up insurance, routine maintenance, and repairs, it’s closer to the truth to say I broke even. But I had nine years to enjoy the hobby in it, and there’s no telling what kind of experiences any of these other vehicles could have delivered. So no regrets at all.
My GT/CS, the only domestic in sight, at the 2007 New England 1000 rally

 

Can anyone predict which collector cars of today will show value increases of 400% over the next 15 years? It’s fun to talk about, but I won’t be using real money to place any wagers. I’d rather get out there and drive.

All photographs copyright © 2020 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

An Addendum to the Kirk F. White / Auburn Speedster Post

This is an addendum to my own post re: Kirk F. White, which referenced the 12-cylinder Auburn Speedster he sold at auction in 1971 for $20,000. At that time, twenty grand was about five times the going price of a new Volvo sedan.

Part of my frustration in putting that blog post together was the lack of any hard information about Auburn Speedster values, either based on recent sales or on numbers published in price guides. So I was pleasantly surprised when I leafed through my copy of the 2020 edition of Keith Martin’s Sports Car Market Pocket Price Guide, and found figures for Auburn Speedsters!

First, there was an 8-cylinder Speedster made from ’31-’34, which I had neglected to mention. The SCM median price for that model is $245,000. The V12 Speedster from the same vintage is shown with a value of $410,000. The 1935-1936 Speedster (they are all boattails) with the supercharged straight 8 sits at the top of the heap: SCM claims a median price of $756,000.

These numbers baffled me, because I expected the V12 to be more highly valued than the 8, even if the 8 was supercharged. Googling some further images solved that puzzle. The ’31-’34 Speedsters, while attractive cars, carried over a linearity from the 1920’s in their styling. A vertical grille, standalone headlamps, dual sidemounts, and bulky running boards stood in stark contrast to its reclining windshield and new-fangled boat tail.

When I compared this model with the updated ’35-’36, I understood why market values are higher for the newer car. All its features are swept back, making it look like it’s going 90 standing still. The fenders have started to become integrated with the body. The entire exterior appears to be more of a single piece of sculpture. While each car would draw a crowd today (and certainly did in the 1930s), there’s no mistaking the supercharged model as the prettier ride.

By the way, supercharging, like turbocharging, provides a lot more grunt with fewer cubes. The Lycoming V12, with 392 cubic inches, produced 160 horsepower. The I-8 with 280  c.i. pushed out 150 boosted ponies, impressive for 1935.

I also found auction sale examples which fall close in line with the above numbers. Both sales are reported by RM Sotheby’s on their website: In January 2012, they sold a 1932 Auburn V-12 Speedster for $429,000. In January 2018, they sold a 1935 Supercharged Speedster for $769,500. The accompanying photos tell the rest of the story.

Too much scratch? Try one of these. Promise I won’t tell.

Remembering Kirk F. White and His Contributions to the Collector Car Hobby

Kirk F. White died recently. You may not recognize the name, and you’d be forgiven if you have not heard of him. I got to meet him once, a chance meeting at Carlisle sometime in the 2000s, as he sat next to his Ferrari Daytona which had been loaned to Dan Gurney and Brock Yates for what became their record-making coast-to-coast run in the Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash.

When I had learned of his passing, I Googled his name and came across a four-part series of articles written about him on The Classic Cars Journal website. The article’s author credits Kirk White with staging “the first modern car auction” in 1971, an event that the author directly links to the launch of the Barrett-Jackson, Kruse, and RM auction companies. This may or may not be true. I have no evidence to refute the claim, so let’s accept it at face value.

Let’s also quote some interesting sales facts from this article:

  • A writer from Sports Illustrated magazine in attendance claimed that “the standing record price for a car at auction was $45,000 for ‘the legendary ‘Harry Johnson’ Mercer back in 1968”.
  • A Duesenberg Le Baron Phaeton was reportedly bid to $66,000, but did not meet reserve and was declared a ‘no sale’.
  • The highest sale price of the auction was $20,000, for a 12-cylinder Auburn Speedster. It was reported that the new owner planned to drive the Auburn from the auction location in Philadelphia back to his residence in Indiana.

Reading some of these numbers from the perspective of 2020 is dizzying. The $45,000 record sale price would today barely get you into a near-luxury sedan or SUV. Checking my June 1971 Car & Driver, I see that a new 1971 Corvette with a 454 LS6 engine listed for $7,619. A new 1971 Volvo 142E had a list price of $4,032. The back cover ad for the de Tomaso Pantera stated that the car is “around $10,000”. So twenty grand in 1971 dollars for any car, much less an old Auburn, was a lot of coin.

A 12-cylinder Auburn Speedster is, of course, the striking boattail. My reference books indicate that the V-12 Speedsters were made for two model years only, 1932-1933. The 1933 model cost $1,745 new (a 1933 Ford V8 cabriolet was $585). This was during the Great Depression! It’s a coveted model today, so coveted that an entire cottage industry has sprung up building replicas which tend to sell in the $40,000-60,000 range, if Mecum’s recent sales of them are an indicator.

 

This 1936 Auburn Speedster was on the 1998 New England 1000 rally with us.

The 1971 sale car was a real one – the ‘tribute’ market had not been born yet. In 1971, $20,000 could have bought 2 Panteras, or 3 Corvettes, or 5 Volvos, any of which would have served as more reliable daily drivers than an Auburn. So spending twenty large ones on an old car was a real indulgence. Did the owner keep it? If so, for how long? When he sold it, did he earn a profit on the sale? If he or his heirs still own the car today, what is it worth?

There are very few recent documented sales of real Auburn boattail Speedsters. Mecum, at its January 2020 Kissimmee auction, sold a RHD one that needed extensive engine and other mechanical work for $440,000. There is exactly one on Hemmings.com at present, with a supercharged 8 and not a V12, carrying an ask of $795,000. If we split the difference and state that an Auburn Speedster might be worth $600,000 in the real world, that’s a 30-fold increase in value over 49 years.

Wait. We have no idea of this Auburn’s condition in 1971. Sure, it was reported that the new owner planned to drive it back to Indiana, which doesn’t mean that the paint and interior were pristine. Once home, he had to garage it; insure it; perform routine maintenance on it; refresh its cosmetics; acquire a tow vehicle and trailer so as not to sully its refreshed cosmetics; make repairs as items wore out or broke; replace the battery, fluids, tires, brakes, and rubber parts on a regular basis; and so on.

If the car saw any regular use, chances are it would have reached the point where it needed a complete restoration. Even without regular use, cars which sit deteriorate. Depending on how it was stored, maintained, and used, it’s not unreasonable that decades later, it may have needed yet another restoration. Any calculation of ‘final sale price’ as an indicator of profit ignores the decades of maintenance and repair necessary when a valuable old car is under your care.

Old-car enthusiasts who are not active owners seem to presume that all old cars increase in value. I’ve heard it, I’ve read it, and I’ve had it said to me when showing one of my own cars at an event. The conversation goes something like this:

Show-goer: “Hey, nice car! I bet that thing is worth some money!”

Me: “Well, maybe it is, but I’m in the hobby to enjoy the cars and the people”.

Show-goer: “Hey, if you don’t mind my asking, what’s that thing worth?”

Me: “Well, I’m not really sure. Any number I quote is just a figure from a piece of paper anyway”.

Show-goer: “Well, I bet you’re sure that you’re gonna make a killing on that thing when you go to sell it!”

Me: “We’ll see. It’s not for sale, and like I said, I’m in this hobby to enjoy it without focusing on values too much”.

 

Do classic cars increase in value? The answer is almost certainly “yes”. However, the intrinsic value of the car, its condition, and the length of time between two sale points all play significant roles in any potential value increase. A 1933 Ford 4-door sedan is very likely worth more today than it was in 1971. But there is no comparing such a car with a genuine Auburn boattail. Perhaps the biggest argument against the Ford would be its lack of desirability in today’s collector car market.

I still see too many ‘collectors’ who are more focused on future values than they are on the enjoyment that the hobby can bring. Following recent auction trends, it’s not unusual to see the same cars repeatedly dragged across the block, and either failing to meet an unreasonable reserve, or actually selling for less than the car sold for the previous year. It’s a complete oversimplification to look at this 1971 Auburn sales result and exclaim “I told you that there’s money to be made doing this!” Sure. Would you have had that kind of spare cash in 1971 AND have been able to wait 49 years before reselling? I didn’t think so.

If I had known when I met Kirk White that he did indeed kick-start this entire collector car auction mania, I would have personally thanked him. Are all car auctions great? No. Does every vehicle sold at auction hammer for a number higher than its previous sale? Absolutely not. Have auctions brought many more people into the hobby and served as a source of education and entertainment for collector car enthusiasts? We can only answer that with an unqualified ‘yes’.

 

All photographs copyright © 2020 Richard A. Reina. Photos may not be copied or reproduced without express written permission.

 

 

Keeping Your Vehicles Safe from the Coronavirus

During the five years I’ve been hosting this blog, I’ve made it an unwavering tenet to avoid any post which primarily consists of a link to another website. My goal has always been to provide original content, based on my own previous and current automotive adventures.

This post breaks with that tradition for the first time. Sorta.

Below is a link to an article published on Ward’s Auto (www.wardsauto.com).  The article, “Keeping Cars Germ-Free While Preserving Surfaces”, is a somewhat general treatise about doing our part to help prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus as we get into and out of our vehicles (with less and less frequency, it seems). You’ll note the author’s name, as this was created while performing my day gig.

I’ve also taken the liberty of copying the text verbatim below. Stay safe, everyone!


https://www.wardsauto.com/industry-voices/keeping-cars-germ-free-while-preserving-surfaces

As cases of COVID-19 continue to spread throughout the country, many people are looking to disinfect anything and everything they come into contact with on a regular basis. In addition to household items, devices and doorknobs, don’t forget to clean and disinfect your trusty vehicle!

It’s important to ensure that you’re properly sanitizing all aspects of your ride. To stop the spread of germs, it’s crucial to adhere to Centers for Disease Control and EPA standards.

Without a doubt, when cleaning and disinfecting the interior of your car you should exercise more care than you do with many items around your house, such as a light switch or bathroom counter. It’s important to ensure you’re effectively cleaning all your interior surfaces while at the same time not damaging materials such as vinyl, plastic and upholstery.

According to the CDC, cleaning removes germs, dirt and impurities from surfaces, rather than killing them, and reduces the risk of spreading infection by lowering the number of germs on a surface. Disinfecting, on the other hand, kills germs on surfaces and takes the work of cleaning one step further.

You may be thinking, where should I begin? Luckily, properly cleaning and disinfecting your car is not super complicated and with just a few key steps, you can accomplish it in no time!

First, to effectively clean and protect, you should begin with a thorough vacuuming of the entire interior. It’s important to spend time getting into the areas that accumulate the most dirt and dust, which will make cleaning and disinfecting much easier and more effective when you reach that step. If your vacuum has attachments for getting into crevices and tight spots, use them!

Once that’s complete, assess your cleaning products and check the EPA’s list of registered disinfectants that meet the criteria against coronavirus.

Now it’s time to find the proper products, depending on your vehicle’s interior and the materials found there. A very important tip: do not treat all these surfaces as one and the same. While there are combination cleaners that can cover more than one area, it’s important to identify your interior’s material and select the most appropriate and effective cleaning products for the type of material.

  • Vinyl and synthetic interiors. Since this material doesn’t absorb anything, it’s easier to disinfect. To be cautious and prevent damage, avoid using cleaners that contain alcohol or bleach. Be especially wary of plastic compounds, which are used frequently in consoles, dashes and door panels. They are especially vulnerable to alcohol-based cleaners.
  • Leather interiors. If you are using an alcohol or detergent-based cleaner on leather seats and dashboards, don’t forget to apply a leather conditioner afterward to restore moisture.
  • All interiors. As a best practice across the board, it’s worth avoiding all solvents, which include acetone, kerosene and alcohols, when possible.

With that, it’s critical to be especially cognizant of frequently touched items. Make sure to give your steering wheel, seat belt buckle, door handles (inside and out), shift knob and dashboard controls a thorough wipe down with antibacterial products. If you have a touchscreen, do not overly wet it, and use a product specifically for screens.

If you have any doubts about how certain surfaces will respond to harsher cleaners and disinfectants, test the product first on a less-conspicuous spot to ensure it won’t cause damage before performing a more thorough cleaning.

Overall, it’s important to routinely sanitize all surroundings you have access to in order to do your part in reducing the spread of germs and infections. If your vehicle is regularly driven by more than one person, each driver should share in the cleaning responsibility (or appoint one person to be in charge).

Lastly, of course, always defer to the CDC’s guidelines for personal and environmental hygiene to learn more about how you can do your part to keep yourself and those around you safe and healthy!

The Hagerty 2020 Bull Market List: An Analysis

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.

Nevertheless, it’s fun to gander at what someone else thinks will happen, and to Hagerty’s credit, they are not beyond self-deprecation, as they also perform their own pass/fail grading on the previous year’s choices.

If you can’t be bothered reading the article, or even if you have and you want a quick reference, below are their 11 picks for 2020 (10 vehicles plus 1 motorcycle), arranged here in model year order.

1.      1970–76 Porsche 914
2.      1970–95 Land Rover Range Rover
3.      1971–80 International Harvester Scout
4.      1984–2001 Jeep Cherokee
5.      1988–91 Honda CRX Si
6.      1990–95 Volkswagen Corrado
7.      1994–98 Ducati 916
8.      1996–2002 Dodge Viper GTS
9.      1997–2001 Acura Integra Type R
10.  1998–2002 BMW M Roadster
11.  1999–2005 Ferrari 360

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.

A Look Back at the Concluded 2020 Scottsdale Auctions

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.

In that blog post, I provided a brief summary of each vehicle, listed the auction companies’ pre-sale estimates, and gave my own projection of a final hammer price. With the auctions concluded, let’s revisit the cars and see how accurate I was (or wasn’t).

(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

https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/25718/lot/11/?category=list&length=12&page=1

ESTIMATE: $45,000-55,000 (NO RESERVE)
RICHARD’S PREDICTION: $30,000
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

https://www.goodingco.com/vehicle/1969-alfa-romeo-1750-spider-veloce/

Estimate: $80,000-100,000 (NO RESERVE)
RICHARD’S PREDICTION: $50,000
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

https://rmsothebys.com/en/auctions/az20/arizona/lots/r0076-1970-jaguar-e-type-series-2-42-litre-roadster/838010

ESTIMATE: $110,000-140,000 (NO RESERVE)
RICHARD’S PREDICTION: $95,000
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.


FINAL THOUGHTS

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.

A Peek Ahead at the Upcoming 2020 Scottsdale Auctions

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

https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/25718/lot/11/?category=list&length=12&page=1

ESTIMATE: $45,000-55,000 (NO RESERVE)

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.

RICHARD’S PREDICTION: $30,000


Gooding & Co: 1969 Alfa Romeo 1750 Spider Veloce, Lot #010, selling Friday

https://www.goodingco.com/vehicle/1969-alfa-romeo-1750-spider-veloce/

Estimate: $80,000-100,000 (NO RESERVE)

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.

RICHARD’S PREDICTION: $50,000


RM Sotheby’s: 1970 Jaguar E-Type roadster (OTS), Lot #168, selling Thursday

https://rmsothebys.com/en/auctions/az20/arizona/lots/r0076-1970-jaguar-e-type-series-2-42-litre-roadster/838010

ESTIMATE: $110,000-140,000 (NO RESERVE)

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.

 

“Bullitt” Mustang Hammers Sold for $3.4 Million!!

AT 2:26 pm EST on Friday January 10, 2020, the famed 1968 Ford “Bullitt” Mustang, the so-called hero car driven by actor Steve McQueen in the movie Bullitt, was driven (not pushed) onto the auction block at the Mecum Kissimmee (FL) auction. After the briefest of speeches by the owner, who opined that the bidding should open at $3,500 (the 1970’s transaction price), the auctioneer quickly had a floor bid of $500,000.

In a matter of moments, bidding jumped in ONE-HALF MILLION DOLLAR increments to $2.5 million. The next bid was “only” a hundred grand richer, and bidding seemed to stall there at $2.6 million. But with a car like this, Mecum was in no rush to conclude the proceedings. (Most cars at a Mecum auction spend between 1 and 2 minutes on the block.) The crowd was poked and prodded, and poked and prodded some more. Moving in $100,000 increments now, the bidding climbed through $2.8M, past $3M, and again slowed at $3.3 million.

It seemed as though it might be done, but like a sprinter getting his second wind, the auctioneer accepted a bid of $3.35 million, and then $3.4 million. He lingered at $3.4M, asking, begging, pleading for a bid of $3.5 million. It was not to be. AT 2:38 pm, TWELVE MINUTES after the car came to a stop in front of the podium, it was over. The Bullitt Mustang hammered sold for $3,400,000. Wow.

The poll which was run on this blog the other day resulted in a tie, with 42% of you predicting a bid of $1 million tops, and the same percentage predicting $3 million (ironically, Dana Mecum’s prediction). The sale price greatly exceeded my own personal guess of $2.5 million. I guess Mr. McQueen still has significant drawing power, even 40 years after his demise. Let’s hope that contrary to the way this Mustang was hidden for the last 45 years, the new owner sees fit to show and use the car so that we may all partake in its enjoyment.

Congratulations to the new owner.

The 1968 “Bullitt” Mustang will be sold by Mecum Auctions this Friday!

Richard’s Car Blog is expanding! Starting with this week’s post about the Bullitt Mustang, we will semi-regularly feature a midweek story related to an automotive current event. Let me know what you think!

 

Lots of movies feature chase scenes: The French Connection, The Blues Brothers, Ronin, and The Italian Job, not to mention the entire Fast & Furious franchise. Ask people of a certain age, though, to name their favorite celluloid car chase, and one movie consistently comes to the top of the list: Bullitt, starring Steve McQueen, released in 1968.

The car-crazed kid I was, I asked my dad to take me to see it, and what an impression it made. At 14, I was still 3 years away from possessing a driver’s license, and I left that theater wanting a Mustang fastback just like the one Lieutenant Frank Bullitt drove (and I’ll admit that the black Charger wasn’t an unworthy lust object either).

McQueen, the King of Cool, did some (but not all) of his own stunt driving in the movie. Since his passing in 1980, any object with his name attached to it has garnered collector interest. Of course, the Bullitt Mustang would rise to the top of that desirability list, except, for decades, no one seemed to know where it was.

The details are available all over the internet: the so-called hero car (there was a 2nd, and some even say a 3rd, Mustang used for shooting) which is in all the exterior chase shots has been located. The car has been owned by the same family since 1974, and that family has decided to sell it, choosing Mecum Auctions as its selling venue. It will cross the block at Mecum’s Kissimmee auction this Friday, January 10th, sometime midday, and it’s being sold at no reserve. Highest bidder gets it, no matter.

Here’s the question: what will the car sell for? According to an article in the New York Times, Dana Mecum, founder of his namesake business, is estimating “at least $3 million”. McKeel Hagerty, head of his insurance company which also tracks classic car values, is predicting “closer to $4 million”.

What’s your guess? Before I provide mine, it may be worth noting that Mr. McQueen has been gone for 40 years. I earlier said that it’s “people of a certain age” who will remember the movie, and some of that generation have passed on also. I recently spoke with a reporter about the collector car auction scene, and he, an admitted Millennial, said to me “I really don’t know who Steve McQueen was”. On the other hand, unlike a car with simple celebrity ownership, this hero Mustang is immortalized in film which can be rented, streamed, purchased, or just watched on YouTube.

My guess? I do believe the car will break into the 7-figure range, but will not reach as high as Dana is predicting. A Baby Boomer with deep pockets will step up and pay $2.5 million for it. By Friday afternoon, we’ll all know.

Let’s have some fun with this: take the poll and vote for the choice you think will come closest.