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While the stock market does a tango, collector cars good as gold

Posted in Collector Cars by Terry Parkhurst | October 20th, 2008 | 2 Responses |

This Buick woody wagon is probably a better investment than a Phoenix, Arizona condo. Shown here selling for $65,000 in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Terry Parkhurst)
This Buick woody wagon is probably a better investment than a Phoenix, Arizona condo. Shown here selling for $65,000 in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Terry Parkhurst)

It strains credulity but just when you might think that collector cars would tank about as badly as refinanced housing, they seem to have become a commodity right there with gold as something you can look at for security. That may be hyperbole. Time will tell.

But consider this. The weekend when the U.S. House of Representatives went into overtime to discuss how much money the country might need to avoid the engine of the economy seizing up, an auction held in Portland, Oregon saw people bidding as if it was business as usual.

A 1970 Dodge Challenger, equipped with a R-coded, 425 horsepower, 426 cubic-inch Hemi-head V8 sold for $125,000 (plus 8 percent buyer’s fee). Now this wasn’t just a cobbled together “clone” or “tribute car” or “replica.” It was, in fact, a matching numbers piece of automobile from the days when Chrysler Corporation was still a fully functioning member of what was called “the Big Three.” For those who doubted the car’s authenticity, there was the fact that Chrysler muscle car expert Galen Govier reportedly looked this car over and verified the fender tag decoding as accurate. Documentation of that, and other items, went with the car. Add in a N96 “shaker” hood, a 727 automatic transmission and a Dana 60 Posi-trac rear-end and you have a car that is just the kind of rolling museum piece, collectors want.

How about this one? A 1950 Buick Roadmaster Estate station wagon, with wooden side inserts, commonly called “a woody wagon,” sold for $65,000 (again, plus an 8 percent buyer’s fee).

The seller of the Buick was beside himself, having made about $25,000 on the transaction. The buyer, whom the seller claimed was “buying up all the cars here,” was not available for comment; so his motivation remains unknown. But with multiple auctions coming up in January, down in Arizona, possibly he was going to take the car there, hoping to sell to someone whose Euros meant that they could keep bidding active until the sale hit $100,000 or more. Assuming the mess the country is in continues into the following year, he could hold onto it longer, with the goal of cashing it in, when the time is right.

But the action wasn’t all involving cars just to be used as investment vehicles. For reasons we all know – troublesome electrical systems, prone to rust – the vintage British cars proved that some of the best buys in a ratty economy aren’t all on Wall Street.

Just $4,000 purchased this 1979 Austin Mini panel wagon in Portland, Oregon. That's about $25,000 less than a new Clubman and with probably as much investment potential - maybe more. (Photo by Terry Parkhurst)
Just $4,000 purchased this 1979 Austin Mini panel wagon in Portland, Oregon. That’s about $25,000 less than a new Clubman and with probably as much investment potential – maybe more. (Photo by Terry Parkhurst)

A 1979 Austin Mini panel truck sold for a bid of just $4,000. As the seller admitted, and one could readily see under the klieg lights of the auction docket, there was some rust along the lower rocker panels. But if you went back to Britain, where such cars are now found on used car lots, the price in U.S. dollars is the same; and then, you’d have to pay to ship the car back to the states – about doubling the price. So it makes that rust look less important. Besides, that’s what a TIEG welder is for.

Then there was the very pretty 1966 Jaguar S-Type sedan, powered by a 3.4 liter, double-overhead camshaft 6 cylinder engine. Painted a stunning Silver Blue with a dark blue and wood interior, it had formerly belonged to the Chief of Police for Sherwood, Oregon. He’d had someone strip the body down to bare metal and repaint the car.

The engine of this Jaguar has also had its upper end redone; and fitted with new cylinder head, valves, timing chain and water pump. With all that work and its dependable former owner, it brought just $9,100. Of course, it was bought by a collector car dealer so someone will have another shot at this car, with several thousand dollars tacked on to it.

Then there was the 1977 MGB, with 17,000 miles on the odometer. Those miles were believed to be original, meaning not 117,000 with a rollover but just 17,000.

The looks of the car made that appear to be the case. The owner, an optimistic guy, had a reserve set at $9,500; however after bidding stalled at $6,000, auctioneer Mitch Silver persuaded him to drop his reserve and accept whatever last bid was hammered down. The little MG ended up selling for $6,100.

Total gross sales hit over $600,000 and about 120 vehicles were offered. That included one 2006 Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic that didn’t sell (best bid was$21,000) and two trailers, one of which that did – a very cool 1950 Apache tent trailer for $2,000). So while far from a scientific demonstration, it does seem to indicate that the panic on Wall Street is not occurring at the collector car auctions across America – not yet, in any event.

As description reader Ed Bishop said at this auction, in the midst of working with Mitch Silver to sell a 1957 Corvette, equipped with a 283 cubic-inch V8 backed up a four speed manual transmission, “While everything else is going down in value, the cars are not going down in value. The cars are going up in value.”

Then, in fulfillment of his words, moments later the Corvette sold for $41,500.

For more information on Silver Auctions, look at www.silverauctions.com Their auctions are broadcast live through their web site.

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2 Responses

  1. […] heard from Jalopnik, Barrett-Jackson and cardadvice.com.au. Now, Terry Parkhurst over at the RideLust blog tried to divine where the values are headed by attending one auction – Silver’s in […]

  2. My attempt to “divine where the values” for collector cars, trucks and motorcycles, is the result of attending many more than just one auction. It will, unfortunately, date me with more circles than a California Redwood, to the readers of this blog, but suffice to say that I have been covering collector car auctions since May of 1982.

    No one can be entirely accurate when trying to plot where a market is headed; extrapolating something as the market for collectibles of any sort can be a tricky business. That’s why people are paid the proverbial big bucks, as commodities brokers; but even they guess wrong.

    As we’ve seen with the housing market, even those thought of as the best in that regard, sometimes have cloudy crystal balls. No one – and that includes any name you can think of who appears as color commentators on the SPEED Channel during the Barret-Jackson orgy of automotive hedonism – can see exactly what’s coming in the next year or two for collectible vehicles. We all just take our best guess, based on what we’ve seen in our lifetimes.

    Ultimately, it comes down to what Oscar Wilde once defined a cynic as, that being “a man who knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing.”

    Auto enthusiasts are always going to see value in machines that the average person might ask, “What’s the big deal?”

    So if I’m guilty of anything, it is just being too much of an auto enthusiast. If that’s the worst someone can tag with me, I’m good to go with St. Peter.