I once bought and sold classic American and European cars like baseball cards. I never paid more than $5,000, and I owned Jaguars, Mercedes-Benzes (including a 190SL), Volvos and Alfa-Romeos that would be worth a fortune today.
But now the prices for classic cars are through the roof, and this former player is now a spectator.
If you haven’t already been there, now’s the time to get over to BringATrailer.com. It’s a site about dreams, and what’s better than dreams? If I’m eating at my desk in the brief period between writing assignments, I always click over there to see the great cars that got away. Where else are you going to see a 1939 Steyr 220 convertible (below)? And it's for sale.
BAT, as it’s known, is one of those why-didn’t-I-think-of-that Web properties, dedicated to aggregating classic car classified ads from all over the world. What, you don’t subscribe to the Morris Minor Owner’s Club newsletter? Well, you can still know about the wood-paneled Traveler that’s for sale there, and see the photos.
Most of the cars are way out of my price range. Let’s look at a few recent ads. A really beat-up looking Lotus Elite Series 1 (see above), described as a “running and driving restoration candidate,” is being offered on CarPlanet.com for $49,995. Back in the day, you’d get change back from your $500.
Another old wreck, a 1967 Porsche 911S, went for $77,600. It too needs a total restoration that would easily cost the same amount again, if not much more. Who are these people who can afford cars like this? I once turned down a 911S in much better shape (a bit of rust was its sole flaw) for $3,000. Yes, I know there's something called "inflation," and I'm talking about the 1970s here. But still. The soaring prices are way beyond inflation.
Porsches are generally going for ridiculous money. How about a 1964 356 “SC GT clone” for $169,000 at Vintage Auto Showroom in New Jersey. Do I have it right that it’s a copy of a rare model? A nice job, but I can’t imagine parting with that kind of money, and then having to correct people who say, “Oh it’s an SC GT!”
A right-hand drive 1983 Aston-Martin V-8 Vantage (even, above, with Wilton wool carpets and a rebuilt engine) seems a mite steep (at Autosport Designs in Long Island) for, gulp, $160,000. I remember when aficionados only wanted the 1960s James Bond-affiliated models. These later ones went for little because collectors sneered, but restoration prices were still sky high. That same factor kept V-12-powered 2+2 E-Type Jags at the bottom end of the market for a long time. Now people are willing to buy them, even in desperate shape.
Are their affordable cars on BAT? Sure, some. How about a ’61 Corvair 700 Lakewood wagon, with 119,000 miles and “some cosmetic and floor-rust issues” for $3,800 (above)? OK, that still seems high to me because rusty floors are a big job.
To actually buy a car, I’m heading for Craigslist. But Bring a Trailer remains a fascinating guilty pleasure, in part because of the nutsy prices.
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