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Insights: Indulgences—Driving Passions

Which of today's new cars will one day be collector items?
Matt Kramer
From the Print Edition:
Bo Derek, Jul/Aug 00

Oprah can talk all she wants about how women bond. Men bond too--over cars. Recently, while strolling down a residential street in San Francisco, I passed a private garage. On the wall hung a photo of a Ferrari 275 GTB, a mid-1960s classic that I would willingly perform unnatural acts to own. Two men were in the garage, chatting and working on a car.  

I walked in, pointed to the Ferrari photo, grinned, and said "Great car!" Within seconds, we were friends, talking about all the "study-hall cars" we loved as kids that today are collector classics. (What's a "study-hall car"? It was one of those swoopy models you drew in your notebook while pretending to study.)  

The subject of men and cars has been exhaustively studied and everybody has reached the same conclusion: Men like cars. We dream cars. We buy cars. Almost every guy has had one car he's regretted selling, if only because it is now a classic that sells for big bucks. Who would have thought that a '68 Mustang convertible would someday go for $37,000? That's crazy. It only cost around four grand brand new. "If only I'd kept it" is the common, pained refrain.  

So, what new car can we buy today that will be tomorrow's collector's item? All we have to do is buy "right" and keep our heads--which is to say, keep the car.  

In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that this exercise in car-collecting investment is being presented by someone who has owned two Lotuses. Not only two Lotuses, but two of the same Lotuses.  

In some circles, owning a Lotus confers a certain grudging status. They are connoisseur's cars, but lousy investments. Sure, the little two-seater Lotus Elans became profitable investments when the convertible craze hit in the '90s. However, my two lunatic lunges at Lotus-owning were not, natch, in that lucrative model. Rather, I purchased two 1971 Lotus Elans +2s. I lost a fortune--or so it felt. A fractional-use jet would have been cheaper.  

So, what new models might become tomorrow's valuable collector car? I consult Craig Jackson, president and CEO of Barrett-Jackson Auctions in Scottsdale, Arizona. Jackson knows cars. His company is one of the nation's leading venues for collector car auctions (  

When I ask Jackson for his take on tomorrow's collector car from today's models, he laughingly says, "This falls into the 'Who knows?' category. Actually, there are many possibilities out there. I think all these new retro cars, the BMW Z3, the new Jaguar E-type, the Porsche Boxster, are recalling old styles. I think they have possibilities as future collector's cars because of this.  

"You know what's a good possibility?" he adds, warming to the subject. "That new Mercedes-Benz CLK430 coupe [$49,000] or the convertible Cabriolet version [$56,000]. That's a beautiful car. In fact, I saw some new Mercedes bringing over list price at a dealer auction!" To Jackson, that's as if Nordstrom bought retail at Macy's.  

"Among American cars, I like what Chrysler is doing. Chrysler has the most originality. We recently sold a special-edition Viper for $180,000. And the car was just a year old! I was really impressed by that."  

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