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Scottsdale and the Collector Car Economy

By Steven S. Brooks Published: January 19, 2009

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.

On the other hand, the really great American and European Classics and historic sports cars were doing very well at the RM and Gooding auctions. Duesenbergs were getting the same $800,000-1,500,000 we've been seeing for the last couple years. V-16 Cadillacs continue to fly high as well as coach-built, twelve cylinder Packards and Lincolns. European Classics such as Bugatti and Talbot-Lago continued to pull legitimate bids in excess of $4,000,000. Obviously, there's no economic crunch here.

So, what does this all mean? Very simply put, the great collector cars remain very strong and there's no shortage of people willing to pay top dollar for them. The "flavor of the day" collectables, whose values were run up by solely by auction company hype, have settled into their true market valuations. Having said that, even these cars have faired much better than the average investment fund has over the past twelve months. Add the fun of ownership, whether it's driving, showing, racing or working on any of these cars and it's obvious that just about any collector car has been a wise investment.

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