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Posted on September 26, 2014 Comments (0)

Ferrari 250 SWB

We are busy winding down September. We attended The Boston Cup last weekend, a maturing event, and this weekend we will be at Santa Fe for their Concorso. 

Ferrari GTO Boston Cup

Several weeks ago we shared an image of our model car collection. We thought it quite typical of what most people have and your responses confirmed that. But several also expressed an interest in knowing what else is available. This week’s lead image kicks off a new series of stories all about model cars entitled Build a Small Collection. Our expert guide for this adventure into the world of building and buying miniatures is constructor Marshall Buck.

Michael Furman image of the hood and mascot of a 1932 Bugatti Royale Type-41

This Michael Furman image is the hood and mascot of a 1932 Bugatti Royale Type-41.

This video of a cluster of Jaguar D-Types racing at the most recent Goodwood Revival graces our homepage. What a sight!

The Weekly Leek European Correspondent, Oofy Prosser, reports on changes to the 2015 schedule. As a result of the recent German High Court decision to turn two blind eyes to B. Ecclestone’s “bribery” and “breach of trust” indictments in exchange for $100M US, a cash flow issue exists at Castle Ecclestone. F1 has announced a new sponsor for the United States GP in 2015.

Singapore GP

The F1 Save the Tires/Save the Fuel GP at Singapore’s $4.5B Marina Bay street and parking garage complex proved two things: First, that Mercedes can be counted on to build the fastest car but fails to consistently field two; Second, nighttime is meant for sleeping. This, the only nighttime event on the F1 schedule, makes sleeping an attractive option. Despite what F1 announcers sitting in an air conditioned studio in Connecticut may say about really wanting to be there, sitting trackside in 100+ degree heat and high humidity is singularly unappealing. The mere existence of this race is galling when one considers the challenging racetracks in Europe and America that could present real tests to F1 drivers and teams before knowledgeable enthusiasts.

No matter what one thinks of the individuals involved or the media hype surrounding their battle for the Championship, Hamilton/Rosberg is the only battle for the title and race after race it is consistently engaging. When one is missing, particularly in this grey-black catacomb of a track, so is the race.

Tudor United Sportscar Championship logo

Tudor United Sports Car Series: Circuit of the Americas (COTA) is arguably the best, and unquestionably the most modern road course in America.

Yet, again, from the only viewpoint that we represent—the spectators—the races at Virginia International Raceway two weeks ago were far more entertaining. The fast and wide Texas track simply didn’t deliver the door handle to door handle competition we saw at the narrower, twisty VIR. As with F1, it matters not a whit to us whether a particular track is the favorite of every driver. Our goal, which may or may not be shared by drivers, is to enjoy close competition. Period. We will have more details next week on this event and the upcoming finale at Road Atlanta.

Tudor racing Porsche

If you are anywhere near Santa Fe this weekend, make the effort to attend their Concorso and say hello.

Remember, if you enjoyed this, please share with a friend.

Peter Bourassa


Collecting Models

Posted on September 25, 2014 Comments (2)

About 30 years ago, I was living in Toronto, Canada. My then 2-year-old daughter and I had a Saturday morning ritual that centered on us driving my white 1967 Pontiac GTO to the Toronto Zoo. The 700+ acre zoo is located on the outskirts of the City, a twenty minute drive from our then home. Over time we developed a pattern that would see us visit all her favorite animal “buddies” and allowed me to stretch the legs of the GTO. Which I still kid myself she appeared to enjoy.

The parking lot at the zoo was huge and, like all other obsessive car enthusiasts, I would always park the GTO some distance from other cars. Without fail, upon our return, the GTO was always surrounded by other parked vehicles when I came to retrieve it.

Peter's models

Fast forward to 60 days or so ago when I was arranging my model cars for the image we used in a recent MMR Newsletter. This got me to thinking about exactly what drew me to these particular pieces and more importantly, their real counterparts.

I confess to this being totally subjective, but the look of a vehicle is, by a wide margin, the most important factor in determining whether I like a car. I have never bought an ugly car, but I have owned some horrible pretty cars. Next, the sound of a car is important to me and for some reason I have never been satisfied with an original exhaust note. Judging by the number of aftermarket exhaust system manufacturers, my bet is that this is equally important to others. If touch means, the experience of driving, that is next. The smell of leather and wool is really a bonus, as is provenance. That covers the four applicable senses.

Upon reflection, it is clear that while nothing quite grabs the senses by the throat like an original sitting before you, a lovely model comes pretty damned close.

Because the look is so important, the next most important criteria is that the model be correct. We have probably all demurred from buying a model of a car we admired because it just didn’t look right. Maybe it was the color or the fit of the panels or maybe it just wasn’t correct, but for some reason it was simply unappealing. More on this later…

Amon McLaren LeMans Ford GT40 MKII by GMP

As I have mentioned too many times, I do not purport to be a collector. However, I have always had models, usually 1:18 scale. I am not at all attracted to the most popular 1:43 scale format; the first time I saw a 1:12 scale, it was an Amon-McLaren Le Mans Ford GT40 MKII by GMP and I simply had to have it. The look of that car had an impact on me then and it still does today, umpteen years later.

Marshall Buck, writing a column for Sports Car Market made me look at my little assemblage with a fresh and more critical eye. His insightful comments unquestionably introduced many of us to vagaries of model manufacturing and what to look for, to avoid, and to value. While assembling a directory of valued goods and services for the recent MMR compendium that was shipped with the October issue of Sports Car Market, Marshall and I worked together to create the story we did of his model, the original of which subsequently won at Pebble Beach in August.

Original Scaglietti Rosselini Ferrari.jpg

Ferrari model on the workbench

We were walking the famous 18th fairway together and discussing the wonderful model material surrounding us when the idea for a series of stories, explaining the process involved in making a scratch-built model came up. You are now reading the first installment.

In this introduction, I will share with you what Marshall has patiently imparted to me about models and the market. In subsequent chapters, he will explain the building process and share his trials and triumphs in so doing.

The Market:

Mass production units obviously dominate the market and like everything else, vary in detail, overall quality, and pricing. This market is no different from any other in that it generally dictates the price. As investments, mass produced items have generally not appreciated. Considering the initial purpose for purchase which we have established is an attraction which has hopefully not diminished, this cannot be disheartening. You don’t make money on old socks either.

Ferrari 312

But not all models are created equal and there is a market stratification that, if what one counts the basic hobby store purchases to be the bottom, would have fully functioning, yes, with running engines and drive trains, at the top. A fully functioning Ferrari 312PB which took 15 years to build did not sell at auction for $90K. It later sold privately at an undisclosed price. Watch the story of that model:

So, having looked at the bottom and at the top, let’s look at the middle. This is probably where the greatest number of collectors live. The level below the fully functional unit is the “scratch built” model, like the 250SWB pictured above, which Marshall is building for us. This unit is currently in the final stages of a three-year build. Depending on the level of detail required, these begin at approximately $25K and take as much as two to three years to build. These are unique works of art and considering the man-hours involved worth every penny.

250 SWB model in progress

The product to which many new collectors are turning is the personalized, custom made car built from an existing kit. The pricing on these units is wholly dependent on the level of detail required and the quality of the donor kit. In cases where the donor models are not kits, the model maker may be obliged to completely disassemble the car. Although he may not make all the parts, he may need to change some to better represent the original and then make them all fit as they never did before. He then paints the car to the owner’s specs.

Another interesting aspect of model making is the demand for “weathered” models. Three years ago we made a video at Amelia with model maker Dennis Koleber. These models are intended to capture a moment-in-time in the life of the original. 

That brings us back to the lead image for this series, the Ferrari 250SWB serial #1905GT. In the following weeks we will follow the development of the model as Marshall Buck builds it. Enjoy!


My Word: Serial Collecting

Posted on August 21, 2014 Comments (1)

by Denise McCluggage

It seemed to Joe Marchetti it was about time to get the Breadvan back. Joe, who died way too early at 68 in 2002, ran the Como Inn—a huge Chicago eatery—as well as more intimate restaurants. He also set up some terrific car events at Elkhart Lake because he probably liked cars as much as food and he knew how to celebrate both.

Como Inn Restaurant

As for the Breadvan, it was a Kamm-backed special Ferrari based on a 250 SWB Ferrari and was a GTO beater in some circumstances. Joe ha­­d maybe owned it a couple of times by then because that’s the way people collected cars in those days; they’d have a handful of interesting cars at any one time and sell them to each other for a few years while they experienced other fare. They’d buy them and drive them until someone else expressed an interest in them or they had a yearning for one they’d owned back when and want another go at it and let the word out.

Ferrari Breadvan

It was a sensible way to experience an assortment of entertaining vehicles and I was fascinated to hear Joe tell about the time when such serial collecting was the way to go. Amassing more permanent collections required more space to keep the cars, more commitment for long-term care and certainly tied up more money. Serial collection done in the pass-it-on mode also offered more flexibility and variety in rolling stock. A good thing for people who liked to experience what they owned, not just list it to impress others.

But the change in collector style inevitably came. When Joe went looking for the Breadvan he’d discovered what seemed like downright treachery. The latest owner instead of enquiring around to see who might want it next had quietly sold it for a goodly sum to a Japanese collector who in turn had swept it off to his home country. The unlikelihood of it ever returning to the US darkened the sky.

The Japanese, heady with a booming economy, were buying everything then—ski areas, Rockefeller Plaza. But those more fixed-in-place purchases didn’t bother car people as much as the portable collectibles did. Cars just disappeared into ship holds without a beep. Prices soared. And that ended the friendly turns-taking approach to collecting. The temptation to literally sell out was hard to resist. Money doesn’t talk; it sidles up to whisper sweet everythings in your ear.

Actually, many of the cars swallowed by Japan at that time found their way back to the US as fortunes changed and the Japanese economy weakened. But I don’t think Joe ever had another crack at the Breadvan before his untimely death.

Not that I had started out in these ramblings to write about the Breadvan and Joe Marchetti’s serial ownership of some appealing Italian machinery. What I had intended to do was write about how you could tell the year that bidders at car auctions had been in high school by the cars they bid on. But did anything up to now even hint I was heading there? No.

But starting now I’ll write about Muscle Cars and how popular they suddenly were on the auction circuit, lighting up the eyes of ball-cap wearers in easy-seat jeans and marking up record prices. And how I never liked the damned things. As a driver I had grown fond of brakes with stopping power. And I admired cars that took to cornering with a pleasing kinesthetic feedback. I found Muscle Cars awkward. Even brutish. You might say their power was a guy thing but I thought it simply loutish.

Yes, going fast in a straight line has its appeal but that quickly fades when you get used to the speed and fast doesn’t feel fast anymore. Phil Hill called that becoming “velocitized” in stories he told me about the Mexican Road Race and how he relied on his tach when going through villages so he knew his actual speed and not how fast he felt he was going. That kept him out of village plazas at the end of long black skid marks. He did go off the road rather dramatically once but everyone was exiting there because on-lookers had taken to removing signs from the highway, especially those warning of sudden road changes. He soon learned to use the size of a collected crowd (and its visible anticipation) at any given spot along the road as an indication of the risk involved. As good a marker as sign posts with sharply bent arrows or exclamation marks.

I think I’m meandering again so let me say that I’ve always preferred “quick” to “fast.” Quick is an esthetic without numbers. You’re not fooled by it, just pleased. Fast can suck you into trouble and wrap you around trees. Quick works with you if you let it. And it has that collected canter feel. Quick is rarely a characteristic of anything called “Muscle”.

When muscle cars at auction started pulling such large numbers some participants in Keith Martin’s client sessions at the auctions started asking questions. Will this surge in prices for these cars hold up? Keith is my favorite expert on values of collector cars. He’s been putting out “Sport’s Car Market” magazine since it was a typed newsletter. He knows the field and I admire his integrity. Living up to that he told his group a simple “no”. He said that the blossoming of muscle car values was the product of guys who cherished the cars when they first appeared and the guys were in high school. They craved them but couldn’t buy them. Now they’re older and richer and can pay anything to realize their high school dreams. And do.

As powerful as such whims can be (especially when you can now afford to be the coolest guy ever if you were still in high school) such whims are not makers of sustainable value. And that’s what Keith in effect told his students. The boom won’t last. But that’s not at all what the auction guys—rubbing palms together—wanted known. Hey, moneeee is involved here. The auction guys, making a lot are ready to make more.

Someone overheard Keith’s questioning the endurance of the muscle car’s popularity and told the auction guys. The auction guys then ordered Keith to leave the building. (Yep. Leave.) And in effect “shut up”. And that after all the good he had done for what is known as “the collector-car hobby”. Thank you from the auction houses. Greed is a powerful whatever.

But all that was several years ago. Both Keith and the auction guys may be okay again. I don’t know. But Keith was right about muscle cars and their bubble of extreme popularity. Didn’t last. Golly, what power high school wields, even in memory.

But what got me thinking about muscle cars in the first place is their return – not as vintage cars but new ones. Will the return bring on a new boom in auction prices when today’s high school kids get rich and nostalgic down the line? No. Because cars don’t seem to matter as much to today’s high school kids. Or the kids today have the ability to get what they want at the time they want it and thus forget the forgettable. It’s only our unresolved yearning that power memories.

Anyway, the new muscle cars are certainly better cars than the old ones. But then all cars are better in that they stop better, take corners more neatly and still go as fast in a straight line as the current culture allows. Old or new muscle cars, I still don’t like them much. Most are still more crude than I like a car to be. Except for one instance which I’ll be getting to after circling the barn another time. A well-mannered but manifestly muscular Muscle Car.

Shoot, I might as well jump right in: 2015 Chrysler Challenger SRT Hellcat.

Hellcat

I’ll let you Google it and note all that appeals to you. Basics: It’s fired by a Hemi 6.2 liter V8 and Chrysler says it is the most powerful production car ever. Doubt them if you like but it does have this: 707 (707!) HP and 650 pound-feet of torque. You can have a six-speed manual or an 8-speed automatic. And a lot of clever engineering.

I find all that quite amusing because what I said to the Chrysler people was “What a sweet car!” And I meant it. Never thought ‘til later they might be insulted that their hairy new beast, their halo car, should be called “sweet”.

I like the 707 HP. It says “flight” right off the bat and it does move instantly and rapidly. I’m more an admirer of torque than horsepower (and why don’t they simply list power-to-weight ratio?). This Challenger has the ability to wreathe the departure zone in billows of smoke and shorten your tire life if you wish, but there are controls that allow you to simply reduce the world as seen in your rear-view mirror at an impressive pace without a lot of showing off.

I put that in the sweet column.

It also is simply a handsome vehicle. Inside and out. Simple. Larger than I like but it is a Challenger and needs some presence for those with memories. Actually it drives small. Neat turning circle which matters to me. (I’m a fan of four-wheel steering, you know.) This is not a show-off hey-watch-me car. It simply performs. Results without visible effort. Now, by damn that is Sweet!

The Challenger comes it two lesser levels of performance but for highway dot to dotting quite adequate. For similar duties the Hellcat can be a slit-eyed pussy too at a sun-bathed purr. That’s another sweet attribute. You rumble when you want. Blast when you wish. The capability is there but you summon it quietly as desired or needed. That’s a trait I found “sweet” in two other vehicles—the GT-R (hoping the Infiniti Eau Rouge follows) and the 1001 HP version of the Bugatti Veyron. Ultra capable non show-off cars.

So that’s my view of muscle cars. Come to think of it there was one I rather liked in that original go-round of the breed—a Barracuda. I can claim a little consistency here. But I’m not sure what all this has to do with Joe Marchetti and his Breadvan.