Crossing the Car Collector’s Finish Line Near the End of a Golden Era

Garage Window at Night
1948 MG-TC
My 1948 MG-TC at Cranbrook (2004)

It’s been five years since my MG-TC went to New Zealand so it is time for an update about the rest of my hobby. The jaunty pre-war style, right-hand drive MG started my collection in 1975 but the era for enjoying vintage motoring around here has become more dangerous than fun. The collector car market has certainly matured since then. I have too. My enthusiast wife’s concern and my sense for the future made me take a fresh look at my car projects — more like a business than a folly. We decided it was time to pick which of the other cars are still fun to use and which have matured into more of a financial responsibility than a hobby.

Timing is Everything

The same week that my 1966 Jaguar E-Type roadster won a Lion at the Concours d’Elegance of America, Mark Hyman bought my 95-percent-finished 3500 Maserati Vignale Spyder off the hoist in my garage. I wanted him to buy my Jaguar! Instead, I sold my Jaguar roadster at a Bonhams auction the following winter. I’m glad that a collector with a real D-type Jaguar won the bidding for my second collector car. He was the right new owner and it was time. Just selling those two netted more than I had ever imagined likely a few years before. It felt good to shift my responsibilities and bank them.

1966 Jaguar E-Type Roadster
Receiving a Lion Award at the Concours of America (2017)
Maserati Vignale Spyder
Hyman’s glamour shot of my Maserati Vignale Spyder (2018)

I bought my Jaguar coupe when I started to restore the roadster which I had enjoyed for twenty years and 30 thousand miles. The coupe is more practical and its sculpture is more resolved. The Series I E-type will always be an automotive icon. It’s the post war version of Talbot Lago’s 150S Teardrop Coupé. But I won’t miss my roadster — too perfect and original to use for fun. And the Vignale Spyder was like a trophy wife. Instead I finally have my restored 1958 Giulietta Spider — the most coveted SWB Veloce to titillate me — less elegant but more fun and just as beautiful. Plus later this year I’ll finish my carefully enhanced Giulietta Sprint which will be for adventurous driving in any weather. It’s sad how life’s priorities and surprises kept me from enjoying them for two decades.

The Classic Car Culture Has Changed

Me at my first classic car show in 1971
My first classic car show in 1971

An impromptu return to the Monterey Peninsula last August was spectacular but not refreshing. My time there felt like too many weddings in one week. I have been there a half dozen times before including four times in the 1980s. That’s perspective. For sure I’m done with car shows now. But a touring event up north and a vintage race at Watkins Glen are already on my calendar.

My tolerance for a long day on a boring highway for a brief reward is also over. Too many trucks, no lane discipline or turn signals, construction backups, and distracted driving eliminate the fun and increases the risks of driving a Classic.

Jaguar Coupe
My 1965 Jaguar Coupe is great for road trips

Shipping my Sprint to Europe for a year has been a long-held dream. The roads and drivers there are much better and they don’t have the Great Plains. My mother, an hour from the Nürburgring, has passed on and my other relatives are not very accommodating. Maybe I’ll find someone else there who has room for a car as an “exchange student” for a year. What a concept! I’ve also fancied a leisurely drive to the Atlantic — following the waters from our Great Lakes. At least one charming aspect of using a nice old car on secondary roads has not changed — people like to engage with you when your Classic is not opulent because you’re a novelty and on an adventure.

No Regrets

So now with two sporty 1958 Giuliettas, one 1965 E-Type Coupé, and a 1966 Corvair Corsa, I still feel like a winner. My timing for crossing the collector’s finish line near the end of the golden era of internal combustion at my age is close to perfect.

Corvair Corsa
A B-25 Mitchell bomber threatening Bill Mitchell’s favorite at Willow Run Airport (Photo by Ben Coleman)
Alfas on Main Street
Giulietta with her friends on Main Street

Soon a lot more people will realize we’ve lived in an era I’ve started calling the sweet spot in time, short but chaotic, on this planet some call Goldilocks. I’m fortunate to actually have attended a few Grand Prix races before Bernie Ecclestone squeezed the sport to commercialize and monitize F1 racing. So now we have Formula E. Internal combustion was fun but it made Mother Earth gag. Along the way I’ve also noticed that a lot of money in one place changes everything and probably creates economic black holes.

Advice for Millennials

And finally, if I were a millennial living near sea level today, my car collection would be, from oldest to youngest: An Amphicar, a Delorian DMC 12, and a S1 Honda Insight plus some kind of Airstream on a modified pontoon boat — vintage icons for our new realities.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *