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Collector Cars as Investments

By Martin Swig

1937 LaSalle Convertible Coupe Every few weeks we read of a new world record price paid for a collector car. Are these the good investments they’re claimed to be?

I think not. Here’s why.

When I was in high school and college in the late ‘40s, early ‘50s, a car was the centerpiece of a young man’s life. Chevy, Ford and Plymouth – they were all good and created lifelong memories. Then, when you drove your car to Monterey and heard an Jaguar XK120 boom through the old Pebble Beach circuit, you knew where your life was headed.

Much later, MGBs, Mustangs, Camaros, 914s, GTVs and 240Zs were important to us. And now that we have some money, we’re only too happy to write a big check to buy a memory.

Today, kids don’t care about cars. The sound system is more important than the car it’s installed in. So they won’t have significant memories of cars as they get older. And they won’t have any urge to acquire the dream cars of a much older generation.

A few cars, timeless examples of automotive art such as Mercer Raceabouts, Alfa Romeos, Duesenbergs, 300SLs, really good Ferraris, and a few Mercedes and Bentleys, will continue to be desirable as fine art. But a multi-million dollar car that has to be housed and maintained may not look as good as a 7% triple-net lease — that $5 million car could be seen as a loss of $350,000 per year in income!

There’s another function: In the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, new cars were pretty dull. A great ‘50s or ‘60s car often was a more appealing drive, as well as being better looking. So the old cars were sought after, and bid up in value.

But recent years have seen more really desirable new cars. Do you really prefer a Jaguar XK120 or an Austin-Healey 100 to a new Porsche Boxster? Certainly not if driving qualities matter. Sure, the old car is an admission ticket to events like the California Mille, or various vintage race groups, but I don’t see many young faces appearing to replace the ranks of my generation who are disappearing.

I started having these thoughts when I took my Miata on a tour. A friend brought his DB5 Aston Martin. On ANY road, at ANY speed, the Mazda could easily walk away from the Aston! And the MAZDA is like a cat; it takes care of itself. Old cars always have their hand in your pocket.

Am I taking my own advice? Hell no! Come for a ride in my newest, a 1937 La Salle Convertible Coupe!

[Source: Martin Swig]