COLLECTORS CASHING IN
In the past two months collectors have forked out $600 million for classic cars during America’s annual Auto Auctionageddon in Arizona and Florida.
Jerry Seinfeld unloaded his old Porsches and a Beetle for $30m, Dave Gooding sold a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB for $23m and Dana Mecum sold a 1970 Plymouth Hemi ’Cuda for $3.5m, but the highlight was Bonhams selling a 1994 Porsche 928 GTS for $173,000.
The 928 GTS has been the world’s most forgotten supercar. The 406 models Porsche shipped to the US were among the most expensive cars for sale at the time. In Australia you probably paid $250,000 for the V8 tourer. Then Porsche went back to back-engined sixes and the 928 went into oblivion.
Enter Michael Willhort from Springfield, Illinois. Mick sells low-mileage Porsches in concours condition for concours money. Single-handly he created awareness and a very profitable market for the front-engine Porker. Mick has been getting up to $143,000 for the GTS, way above its price when new.
The car Bonhams sold had two very desirable features. It was a five-speed manual (most were autos) and it didn’t have a sunroof (adds weight and not good for tall people, or people with a big head). Remember, this is the car Ferdy and the boys at the Porker HQ built to take over from the 911. Sales of the 911 were falling, the environment was becoming an issue and rear engines were not popular after Ralph Nader published Unsafe at Any Speed.
Ralph pointed out some of the endearing features of the Ford Corvair, such as the tendency of the steering column to impale the driver, a heater that filled the cabin with deadly fumes and the fact that while the front liked going around corners the back didn’t. Time magazine named the Corvair as one of the 50 worst cars of all time, in a list that included the 1958 250cc Zundapp Janus. As Time said: “Its unique feature was the rear-facing bench seat, which meant passengers could watch in horror as traffic threatened to rear-end this rolling roadblock of a car.”
Until this column appears, good 928s are cheap buying in Australia, with prices well below $100,000. You can buy a category-one Corvair for $6500.
Talking of great investments, RM Sothebys sold a 1962 Ferrari 400 Superamerica LWB Coupe Aerodinamico for a world record $5.7m, nearly a million over the high estimate. Last month in Paris RM sold another 400 Superamerica for $4.2m. While these were both condition-one cars, the reality is every one of these models has doubled in price over the past three years. In 2012, Dave Gooding sold for $3m at auction a car that was owned by Erwin Goldschmidt and had been in his family for more than 40 years. Erwin was the son of Jacob Goldschmidt, the Nazis’ most hated German banker. Forced out of Germany to the US, Erwin was already a petrolhead with seriously good taste in fast rides.
Talking of other forms of art, Gooding had a field day at Amelia Island, selling Jerry Seinfeld’s 1960 pebble-grey Beetle for $157,850. Now, if you go on Gumtree you can buy a similar car for $1000. Even the best of the best shouldn’t cost you more than $38,000.
Having said that, Dave sold a rare, split-window 1951 German market Beetle for $80,000. Before you rush out to the wreckers, this dark blue VW has been restored to better than new. For those of us who remember, it has turn indicators that spring from the B pillars and an engine that wouldn’t pull the lid off a coffee. Full declaration: I rolled one of these in my youth and have never trusted them since.
So the bottom line for the past two months of auction action is that really good cars are selling really well. Not-so-great cars, even with Ferrari or Seinfeld’s name attached, aren’t making estimate or selling at all.
This 1994 Porsche 928 GTS sold for $173,000