Blue Collar Hobby, White Collar Prices

Barrett Jackson just finished its first auction event of the year a few days ago in Scottsdale, Arizona. I always enjoy watching the live coverage of all those high dollar motors rolling across the auction block to be bid on by a sea of AARP members. Although I own a few cars myself, any Gearhead will tell you that there will always be that, “one more”, car that we just gotta have in our garage. I have a list of, “must own”, cars in my head and it seems to get longer every few months. The problem is that young Gearheads today are in a race against time when it comes to being able to purchase their vintage dream cars and I believe that the TV and greed are to blame.

There has seem to be a big demand for automotive based television in recent years. Gearheads now have their own channel, Velocity, which only shows programs about restoring cars, selling cars, finding cars, or all of the above. I remember when the only car shows on the air were Over Haulin, American Hotrod, Gears, and whatever NASCAR coverage ESPN was giving, now I can’t keep track how many other copycat shows are flooding the networks. I always find it funny how the shows tend to give cliffhangers to keep the viewer interested enough to wait through the commercials by dramatizing something like: the car being late for paint, parts not coming in on time, or the new engine not firing up on the first try. Yet when the show comes back after the commercials, everything has worked itself out and the car is finished under the most unrealistic time frames. Any body shop owner will tell you that finishing a ground up project that involves body work, paint, and assembly in one week, two weeks is technically possible…if the their employees don’t mind working overtime for free. I am surprised none of these programs have shown a car that has been put together without any brakes by accident because the mechanics have been working nonstop all week and have made mistakes due to exhaustion.

The problem with these shows is that Gearheads are not the only ones watching it, and now any John Doe with a 4-door Nova thinks he can get top dollar for his junker. It makes it a little more difficult to negotiate a price for someone who doesn’t have a trust fund or a millionaire best friend. I was at a used car lot that had a few classic cars, one of which was a 1986 Buick Grand National. The car looked great but I was told it needed work since it had been in storage for years, but only had around 35k miles. I was interested until I heard the price, $27,000! That is outrageous for a Grand National, let alone one that needs work. It was the same story with a 1965 Mustang parked next to it, looked mint but had hidden rust spots and the engine needed tuning, $28,000. I think we can all agree that there are few things more frustrating than a person who doesn’t know much about classic cars trying to get Barrett Jackson prices for a car that is simply not worth it.

The classic car market itself is starting to get too inflated in my opinion. When Ferraris start costing more than the economies of small countries then you know things are getting out of hand. I am sorry but no car is worth over 30 million dollars, I do not care of Enzo Ferrari’s ashes are hidden in the glove box along with the location of Jimmy Hoffa. Once a car’s worth starts reaching seven or eight figures at auctions it is no longer a car, it is now an investment like buying shares at a stock market. Buying the car, waiting a few years and then selling it again for a profit. I say investment because anyone that throws down 10, 20, 30 million on one car isn’t exactly going to take it for a drive down to a local car meet. No, that car will be in an air conditioned warehouse and only see daylight when it is carried on to a trailer to be transported to the next auction house.

If prices keep climbing at this rate, I will not be able to afford anything by the time my own children start asking me to buy them a project car to restore or even buy for my own collection. I understand that cars are worth so much because their rare or desired, but there needs to be a realistic price to back it up. Classic muscle cars, for example, used to be about high performance at blue collar price. A 17 year old kid working part time could go into a dealership, and with a little help on the down payment from mom and dad, could roll out in a base 1968 Plymouth Road Runner with a hot 383 V8 bolted to a torque flite 727 automatic. Classic cars live from passion and a desire to keep the history alive, it should not be turned into a business and ruined like the art or music industry. I am honestly worried about how outrageous the classic car market will be when I am an AARP member. All I can hope for is that the classic car market follows the housing market and crashes, so Joe Six Pack can afford to buy a 440 Six Pack.

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