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The automobile concours season is already upon us even though temperatures in northeast Ohio are below freezing and more snow is predicted. The first major show of the season is the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance held-where else?-in Amelia Island, Florida, just north of Jacksonville. This is always a great grouping of automobiles and it sure doesn't hurt that the location is a warm one near the Atlantic Ocean. (At least it's warmer than Ohio; sometimes the temps in north Florida can be quite cool!) The Amelia Island show is held March 15. The big concours in our area takes place in September in Canton -the Glenmoor Gathering of Significant Automobiles. According to their web site (www.GlenmoorGathering.com) the 2009 dates are September 18-20. This year they are featuring the "Automobiles of Edsel Ford" plus a special group of 1934 Ford hot rods. Ken Gross, a national automotive writer and authority on hot rods, is putting this class together, so we should expect some great cars again. Gross used to be the director of the Peterson Museum in California. Many car collectors don't know how influential Edsel Ford was in the styling of Ford and Lincoln automobiles. He was the man-it sure wasn't his father, Henry. Last year, in spite of crummy weather on Friday and Saturday these guys put on another great show. On Sunday, they held the main event on the front lawn of Glenmoor Country Club. This year, I expect they'll return to the back lawn, which is more spacious. Personally, I think we're really lucky to have a first class event like this right in our own back yard.
Since 1962, the Daytona 24 Hour endurance race has marked the traditional beginning of the sports car racing season. American road racing enthusiasts would make the pilgrimage to Florida by the thousands and the rest of the world would be glued to their televisions for this race with participants from around the planet.
With the current state of the worldwide economy, expectations were fairly low for this year's race. The entry list was shy fifteen teams from last year's event, including perennial champion Audi which announced earlier in the year their withdrawal from the American prototype road racing scene. Sponsorship and ticket sales were also lagging. Daytona 2009 was going to be more of a blip than a blast off.
Tough times in the automotive industry are nothing new. The big wave of automobile factory closings took place in the early 1920's, when the U. S. was hit by a post-World War I recession. A number of well-known automobile companies closed their doors or were assimilated by healthier companies. That recession was followed by a period of prosperity, which ended with the stock market crash in October 1929. Many automobile companies enjoyed record sales in 1929 and 1930 but all too soon it was apparent the good days were over. By the early 1930's companies were again closing their doors, including what was left of the auto industry in Cleveland-Peerless, Jordan and Chandler among them. As the Thirties moved on some of the greatest names in the American automobile industry disappeared-Marmon, Franklin, Stutz and Pierce-Arrow. Cadillac and Lincoln survived thanks to the deep pockets of their parent companies. Packard survived by going down-market. So, what's happening today is really nothing new-unless you include the dominance of the Japanese auto industry, which wasn't a factor in those early days.
I just returned from the annual auctions in Scottsdale, Arizona. My tastes lean toward true antique and classic automobiles so I spent very little time at the Barrett-Jackson auction. That auction, thanks to the Speed Channel, gets a lot of hype-and most of my friends thought that's where I was when they learned I was in Arizona. I prefer the auctions conducted by RM and Gooding & Company. Frankly, I don't go there expecting to buy a car but, instead, I enjoy visiting with my car collector friends throughout the country. For me the B-J offerings were pretty pedestrian. The Russo & Steele sale offered nicer cars, but the truly "wow" stuff was at the RM and Gooding sales. Having said that, I'm still amazed a how many people buy cars at auction. For me, I have to really know a car before I'll lay out the kind of money that's spent of many of these cars. I want to hear that car run, drive it, check out its history, and so on. Seeing so many cars sold at auction to buyers who don't really know the cars is for the ongoing phenomenon of the Arizona auctions.
A friend has recently determined that the perfect vehicle for his needs is a new Kia Sportage. Korean built cars did not have a great name in this country for many years but, recently, their reputation seems to be improving. Since I'm not really knowledgeable about any Kia vehicles, I'm asking for your comments and experiences to help his decision.
Northeast Ohio really is a terrific place to live in many ways but, if you enjoy driving old cars, the weather really stinks about five months a year. I know we can take this time to do annual maintenance or get serious about restoration but the old car hobby is just as much about interacting with like minded people as it is turning wrenches or polishing chrome.
Since cruise-ins and shows are impossible this time of year, enthusiasts have come up with numerous reasons to get together and keep the spirit alive while we're deprived of the tactile enjoyment of driving our mobile gems. Let me know the different get-togethers that you're aware of so that we can post them for fellow enthusiasts to enjoy.
Now that the Arizona collector car auctions are over, have we learned anything about the current state of the collector car market? Is it sharing the rest of our economy's apocalypse or is it a safe haven to protect your assets and have fun at the same time? I would say, "yes and yes".
If you had a chance to watch any of the forty hours (over sixty with reruns) of the Barrett Jackson auction televised on the Speed Network, you could easily believe that the collector car world is sinking. Their bread and butter vehicles; muscle cars, pony cars, 50's domestics and "resto-mods" have taken a significant hit since their peak in 2006-7. '57 Chevy Belair convertibles with fuel injection and every option, formerly the Holy Grail of the typical B-J auction customer, were in abundance and trading consistently around $75,000. This is about 60% of where they were a couple years ago. "Resto -mods", older cars that have been modified with current mechanicals, interiors and flashy paint jobs have taken even bigger hits. We won't talk about the former zillion dollar Hemi-Cudas. Essentially, all cars that were basically high production vehicles with a fortuitous option sheet have settled into where their real value should be, despite the crazy hype.
Speed Channel has already started hyping their Barrett Jackson Auction coverage by incessantly playing reruns of last year's event. This year's auction is scheduled for January 13-18 and will have heavy coverage by Speed. Some of the highlights of this year's Barrett Jackson auction will be the first production Thunderbird, a collection of high performance Yenko Chevrolets and a Ford Tri-Motor airplane. Overall, they will offer nearly 1,000 collector vehicles.
In addition to the Barrett Jackson auction in Scottsdale, several other companies are having auctions in the area that same week. Silver, Kruse and Russo and Steele will each be having multi-day events. R&M and Gooding will each be hosting one-day, high end auctions on Friday, January 16 and Saturday, January 17 respectively. Some of these may be taped to be seen on other cable channels at a later date.
Well, another Christmas and with it the usual presents under the tree-some great and some not-so-great. Specifically, I'm referring to automotive-related presents, since many of my family and friends know I'm a car guy. Every year I get a few car-related gifts and I have to tell you that some of them really miss the mark. I suppose the gifts could fall into several categories. First is clothing. I have never seen so many bad neckties as auto-related neckties. Most are bad, some are horrendous. Next there is automotive "artwork." Most automotive artwork is so-so, with the exception of a few artists, who really know how to capture automobile in paint or in sculpture. Then there are automotive books. Again, there are a lot of bad automobile books. Most seem to have been published just to put something on the bookshelves of book stores. Finally, there are tools. There's nothing more useless than cheap Chinese or Taiwan tools that break the first time they encounter any stress. Hey, buy me something practical-a case of 10w40 oil.
How about you? What auto-related gifts have you received that you could have done without?