MMR Blog

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.


MMR Community Newsletter

Posted on October 30, 2013 Comments (0)

Our opening image is from Michael Furman’s book Curves of Steel. Classic & Sports Car is making it possible for MMR subscribers to receive this book in an offer detailed here.

Curves of Steel by Michael Furman

Penske Wins Race and Loses Championship

Will Power, aptly named Penske driver, won the finale of the 2013 Izod IndyCar Series at Auto Club Speedway in California on Sunday. Fellow New Zealander Scott Dixon finished fifth and one place ahead of Helio Castroneves, the driver who led the series for most of the season. Dixon and his Ganassi team are the deserved champions. A race management mistake by Roger Penske, who called Castroneves in while the pits were closed, didn’t help but this was a very odd race at a very odd place. It was a race with 28 lead changes and 11 different leaders and, as with so many other IndyCar races this year, the poor quality of the track was a factor. The 2-mile D-Shaped Oval was so dirty that radiators were plugging and face shields were being sandblasted all day. It is a dull track and will make a dull housing development. Hopefully soon.

TK’s Take on Final Petit Le Mans

Our hero, the brilliant and perceptive Tommy Kendall, and his Viper SRT Team, at one point led the GT class of the Petit Le Mans at a real race track, Road Atlanta, and finished fifth in Class. Tommy writes:

While it was a good finish, after the strength we showed all week and clearly having the fastest two cars there, to leave with a 5th and a 7th was definitely a disappointment. But, as I am fond of saying, if it was easy everyone would do it! That said, to be disappointed with a fifth shows how far this team has come so quickly. The progress by all involved in SRT Motorsports is truly remarkable.

He adds:

I appreciate the MMR Community’s support, as you are an esteemed, knowledgeable, and passionate group clearly possessing extraordinary taste! :-)

We did mention his perceptiveness?

F1 Then and Now: 1955 Belgian Grand Prix – Spa Video

Nigel Roebuck’s Reflections in the November issue of Motor Sport magazine mentions this video and it is on our home page for you. If only to give you an appreciation of how far F1 has come, view this video and compare it with what you will see in this weekend’s F1 Indian GP. It is also a study in bravery and talent.

Peter Bourassa


He’s Fast, He’s Funny & He’s Almost Fifty!

Posted on May 23, 2013 Comments (4)
SRT Car

#93 in the program, #1 in our hearts.

On May 8th we wrote the following to Tommy (TK) Kendall, the 46 year old American driver who will be part of the SRT Viper Team at Le Mans:

Hi Tommy, 

MMRsite.com is a Goods and Services Directory and a weekly MMR Newsletter which has 4000 subscribers. We are mostly men and women of a certain age and we follow current sports car, F1, and Moto GP racing. 

Your participation at Le Mans this year, with your permission, will provide us with someone for whom to cheer. We chose you because you are accomplished, articulate, funny and just slightly closer in age to us than many of the other serious drivers both on your team and in the race. We want to root for you! 

While we don’t view this, or much else, with reverence; we are respectful… generally.

I hope you will take this in the fun spirit in which it is intended.

Peter
MMR

TK replied!

Hi Peter!

I meant to respond quickly with a quick, "#*@& off" in keeping with the spirit of your introduction, but with my tardy reply the chances of that being taken wrong have multiplied!!!

Thanks for bestowing the honor of your support upon me! I am most grateful!!

Enjoying the newsletter too!

Now, leave me alone!!

Best,
TK

Great! So now we have someone to root for at Le Mans. Someone who is fast, funny and #*@&ing cranky! Maybe Milk of Magnesia would help. He can’t be out there racing against those Froggies for hours with an upset tummy and an attitude. What do you think? How can we help our pal and the SRT team?

From Beth Paretta – SRT Director of Marketing and Operations:

Please keep the disruptions to our thoroughbred to a minimum. We have someone brushing his mane as we speak.

:-)
Beth

TK:

Gotta run brushing session is complete, but I have a Grey Poupon facial followed by a Perrier bath to get acclimated.

MMR:

We used to brush… hair and teeth… Don’t forget to bring your own American Depends. You can’t get the same sizes in France.

TK:

Duly noted! :-)
TK

 Tommy Kendall

Tommy "TK" Kendall


24 Hours of Le Mans: June 22-23, 2013

Posted on May 9, 2013 Comments (0)

Test Day: June 9, 2013
Qualifying: June 13 & 14, 2013

The second round of the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) took place on the extremely fast Spa-Francorchamp circuit in Belgium on May 4th. This six hour race was a warm-up for Le Mans and although Audi won Prototype and Ferrari won GT Pro, the races were hotly contested by the Toyota Prototype and the Aston Martins in GT. Aston Martin had actually beaten Ferrari in the first race of the season at Silverstone. At Spa, Ferrari won in both the Pro and the Am (see below) race groupings.

Le Mans is arguably the single most important race in the world. Indy 500 may have a bigger gate and possibly even a larger viewing audience but winning or losing Le Mans impacts the sales of more car, tire, oil, and all the other accessory manufacturers than any other race. Ford knew how important it was in the sixties and it hasn’t changed. For the teams, Le Mans pays twice as many points as any other race in their WEC series. Winning is huge.

This year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans promises to be fascinatingly competitive in all classes. Half the field will be made up of LMP (Le Mans Prototype) cars in two classes. In LMP1, Audi and Toyota will contest for overall. One Swiss developed Green GT using a hydrogen fuel cell to run electric motors in Prototype body styles is the designated “experimental” car. Audi have won six of the last seven races but Toyota are touted to make them earn it this year. In LMP2, the battle will be equally fierce with the Oreca-Nissans currently leading the Oak Racing Morgan-Nissans.

The cars that capture our interest are contesting the Le Mans GTE Pro class. There the factory teams of Corvette Racing, Aston Martin Racing and SRT (Viper) Motorsports will compete against semi-factory teams from Porsche and Ferrari. All with drivers rated as professionals. An equally large group classified as “Amateurs” will compete in similar cars.

Within the Pro group of GT Cars, based on past performance and the amount of time they have had to develop their teams and their cars, the Ferraris and Corvettes are battling the returned and refreshed Aston Martin Vantage GTEs. And the AMs appear to have the measure of the Ferraris. But Le Mans is always different. This year the Chrysler SRT Vipers are contesting the American Le Mans Series and they have been invited to play with the big boys at the Sarthe.

Because of their development time, they are unquestionably the underdogs but the Viper name is not new to the Le Mans podium and many people will be watching to see how they do.

Tommy Kendall

One of the major reasons we want to see them do well is because they have invited Tommy Kendall to drive for them. Long one of my favorite motorsports personalities and drivers I was pleased when they asked him to test and was somehow not that surprised that he was the quickest of his group.

Tommy Kendall is 46 years old. That alone should make him our hero.

You can follow SRT online.

Join SRT® at the 24 Hours of Le Mans; two exclusive packages available.