Good day, readers of Jalopnik, and welcome to Letters to Doug, your favorite weekly column wherein Doug rises from bed after sleeping 14 hours straight in order to string together a bunch of letters.
If you want to participate, you can! Just send me a letter at Letters2Doug@gmail.com, or hand it to me when you see me on the street. Note that if you do the second thing, I will probably call the police, you creepy bastard.
ANYWAY! Today’s letter comes to us from a reader I’ve named Marvin, who lives in Washington, D.C., which is America’s best city. Marvin writes:
I finally joined the ranks of car enthusiasts, car FB groups, and online chat forums now that I own an enthusiast car myself. When my fellow enthusiasts total their cars, they eventually post the salvaged and smashed up vehicles auction posts and make jokes like they’ll re-buy it, etc. So my question is, who does buy these cars? Do they all get sold? Or do they just go die in junkyards and no one gets any money for it or anything.
-Marvin from Washington DC
You know, Marvin, it’s interesting that you’ve asked this question, because I recently discovered the answer. And I’ll tell you how I discovered the answer: I went back and Carfaxed all the exotic cars I used to “spot” back in 2006 when I wore high socks and ran around Atlanta’s wealthy Buckhead neighborhood taking pictures of Lamborghinis.
As you can imagine, many of these exotic cars were destroyed over the last decade, and so their stories are very interesting. From what I can gather, they all suffer one of two fates.
FATE NUMBER ONE: They are shipped off to some foreign land with lower standards than America. I see this happen a lot. There are many cars that get in accidents where Carfax reports relatively minor damage, and then they’re immediately sent off to Russia, or Southeast Asia, or West Africa, or South America, or the Middle East. It is amazing to me — truly amazing — how many early- to mid-2000s Rolls-Royce Phantoms that were originally sold in America are now Hong Kong or the United Arab Emirates.
Here’s why: in places like South America, they didn’t get very many Phantoms or SLRs or Ferrari F430s back when those cars were new. Hell, that’s even true of Dubai, which was entirely constructed during four warm December nights in 2006. So what they do is, they buy them off Americans when we’re done with them.
More importantly, in places like South America and Dubai, they don’t have Carfax. So a damaged 430 that was then repaired relatively well is, to those folks, just as good as a regular used one. It’s not like there’s going to be a Caracas Concours d’Elegance where you’ll park your 430 next to nine others and judges will try to assess if the panel fitment was done correctly.
Here’s the other reason why this happens: because a LOT of high-end sports cars came to America, and so we can be picky about which ones we want. So while a Venezuelan may be all over a heavily discounted accident-repaired Ferrari F430, Americans will pass in favor of one of the dozens of other 430s currently for sale on Autotrader or eBay.
FATE NUMBER TWO: If there’s serious damage, these things are parted out. It’s hard for some car enthusiasts to hear, or to believe, but a lot of high-end enthusiast cars really do get dismantled and cut up for parts if their accidents are severe enough. This is especially true if a mid-engine car faces severe front-end damage, or a front-engine car gets severe rear-end damage. At that point, the smashed up hulk’s value is almost entirely tied up in its engine and transmission.
I discovered this a few sad months ago, when I was reminiscing about my old cars. Bored on Thanksgiving weekend with my family, I entered the VIN of my old Cadillac CTS-V Wagon into Google. I knew that this car had been in a serious accident only a few weeks after I sold it, but what I was shocked to find was the engine—just the engine, with no car in sight—listed on eBay in South Carolina. Even an enterprising Venezuelan will never be able to make that car whole again.