Vintage vroom

Marketplace Staff Jan 5, 2007

KAI RYSSDAL: The North American International Auto Show opens in Detroit later this month. Ford and General Motors will be there unveiling new cars, hoping to bring American consumers back to their show rooms. It won’t be all new models, though, you might recognize some older ones restyled and spruced up. But older cars can still make you some money. Some prefer to call them vintage. And that’s saying that cars lose their value as soon as you drive off the lot doesn’t really apply to 1957 Chevy Bell Aires now does it. Rob Sass is with “Sports Car Market” magazine. Welcome to the program Rob.

ROB SASS: Thank you. It’s good to be here.

RYSSDAL: You know I’ve always had a thing for cars. Sadly now I drive minivans and all that. But if I had my druthers, I’d spend some money buying some nice cars. If I were going to get into that market, what should be the first couple of things I were going to do.

SASS: The first thing you should probably do is a lot of research. The internet has opened up just all sorts of avenues in that regard. The best thing to do is go to the internet, get some idea in general of what type of car you’re interested in, whether it’s an American muscle car or British sports car, an Italian sports car and really do your homework. Think about things like can I afford to maintain this car. Can I fit in the car? Not very good if you’re 6’3″ and you buy a little Jaguar XKE and you’re forehead is sticking out over the windshield. So my recommendation would be do a lot of research and talk to people in the clubs, talk to people in the know before you decide on one or two different types of cars.

RYSSDAL: Are these typically buy and hold kinds of investments?

SASS: They can be. I’ll give you an example. If you had bought a particular type of Ferrari called a Ferrari Daytona about a year and a half ago, the price then, for a nice example, is about $125,000. If you bought that car and held it for say a year and a half, you’d be sitting on a profit of about $125,000 right now assuming that you had to do nothing in the way of maintenance or anything else. So, yes, you know if you buy smart and you’re a little bit lucky, they can be excellent investment vehicles.

RYSSDAL: Let’s just say for the sake argument that I can afford $125,000 Ferrari. I’m going to be really, really reluctant to take it out of the garage.

SASS: Strangely leaving it in the garage is probably one of the worst things that you can do. There are all sorts of collector car insurance programs out there that protect you very well, agreed value collector car policies or policies that basically if anything happens to the car, if it’s a total loss, they pay you what you’ve agreed the car’s worth. So from that standpoint it shouldn’t be a worry. And old cars actually tend to deteriorate faster sitting and doing nothing. Tires get flat spots, brakes stick, clutches stick and things like that. So it actually, not only are you enjoying the car but you’re doing it a favor if you take it out occasionally and enjoy it.

RYSSDAL: Let me get back to the how tos on this. So let’s say you’ve searched the web, you’ve found the car you want to buy. Sadly, you’re here in southern California and the car is in Texas. What do you do? It’s not like you can jump in and go have a look.

SASS: Well, you know, strangely a lot of people do actually buy cars like that sight unseen. I do through, you know, a photo that they’ve gotten via e-mail or something else. It’s not the preferred way to go. There are a lot of things that you can do as far as having the car checked out and you should take advantage of those things. There are appraisers and inspectors that are on the internet that you can find.

Another great thing to do is, if you’re looking at a vintage Porsche or a vintage Mercedes and it’s in Texas and you’re in southern California, get a hold of the local club. The local chapter of the Mercedes Benz or the Porsche club or whatever it is. Chances are they will have somebody who would be happy to take a look at the car for you for a nominal fee or recommend a shop that can look at it as well. A seller who’s on the up and up will have absolutely no qualms about taking the car to a shop that’s close by. Ask for what’s called a pre-purchase inspection. Depending on the car and how involved you get they can range anywhere from $150 to $500 to do a pre-purchase inspection. It can literally save you thousands. If you make a mistake and buy the wrong car, sight unseen, it can be some serious grief.

RYSSDAL: Well what do you drive?

SASS: Well actually today I drove a 1967 Jaguar XKE convertible.

RYSSDAL: Oh you’re killing me. You’re serious? You are kidding me.

SASS: I’m serious. It was a nice day.

RYSSDAL: You are killing me. That, see that is my dream car. That is my dream car.

SASS: Really?


SASS: Well you know, that’s what’s fueling the market right now are baby boomers who are with some disposable income who are buying the car of their dreams.

RYSSDAL: Yeah, it’s, you know, money for that car buys a whole lot of diapers, so, you know.

SASS: Yeah. I’m a little bit past that, fortunately.

RYSSDAL: Rob Sass is with “Sports Car Market” magazine. Rob, thanks a lot for your time.

SASS: Thanks very much.

RYSSDAL: This is Marketplace Money from American Public Media.

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