I've always dreamed of having an appreciating classic or exotic car collection, but I've never had anything other than a "regular" car. What are some things you'd recommend for a car collecting newbie?
What an awesome question, deserving of an awesome answer. To shed some light on the ins and outs of collecting cars, both classic and exotic, I asked none other than co-owner and operator of Classic Car Club Manhattan, Zac Moseley. He was gracious enough to clear his busy schedule and sat down with me to answer some questions and share some valuable real-world insight along with a few key tips to starting and maintaining a fleet of damn-near irreplaceable cars.
Tavarish: As I'm writing somewhat popular articles about cars your should buy, I always get people who say "Thanks a lot, now the car I want is way more expensive!" Do you think that this kind of internet popularity has a real effect on car values, and is it useful to keep track of these trends?
Zac: I mean, we've seen some stuff happen. We did the NSX video, and we kind of screwed ourselves with that one. It was bound to happen anyway, and it was happening, because before we did that video, I had one that I bought in 2009 for $27,000 with 40,000 miles on it, but it was the bottom of the downturn and everyone freaked out about the value. That particular car, I doubled the mileage on - I put about 45,000 miles on it - and sold it for $1,000 more than I bought it for. And now, I couldn't even buy that car for less than $32,000, when I originally sold it for $28,000. I definitely think there's some impact. I sold that car right before we did that story - and that was $28 grand a year ago, now the car's $32 grand, I think that story had something to do with that $4 grand uptick.
Tavarish: When you buy a classic or exotic, how much do you put aside for maintenance on average?
Zac: I wish it was that straightforward. Every car is different. Whenever we're budgeting stuff, we carry average per-month maintenance assumptions, where some cars will go zero maintenance and other cars will cost us $10 grand in one month. Unfortunately, there's no easy formula. You should expect no matter what car you're buying, if you're buying a car of interest, you're going to spend a few thousand dollars a year on stuff, no matter what.
An air-cooled 911, it's a pretty simple machine, it's really reliable, and if you get an SC or one of the G50 ones, those cars are rock solid and don't need much work. While you expect Porsche parts to be expensive, when you compare them to modern cars, 80s Porsches aren't too bad. For example, a brake rotor is 60 bucks, when a brake rotor for a new Mercedes E-Class is $250. But any car you have, there's probably going to be some stupid thing to buy, especially if you're paying someone else for service. You can't really drop an old car off somewhere without spending less than a thousand dollars on it.
Tavarish: Do you think the appreciating price of older Porsche 911s is a bubble? I ask because we saw some crazy price increases a few years ago on the "Eleanor" Ford Mustang GT500s, going up to auctions at $150k, then crashing to $70k after the bubble burst. Could older Porsches be the same way?
Zac: No, I don't think it's a bubble because it's not stupid like that - I've never paid more than $18,000 for a '60s Mustang - so anyone buying one for $150,000, that's kind of stupid money. But '60s 911s and all the air-cooled stuff - the cheapest I've ever bought one is some ratty, 250,000 mile SC for $14,000, and that car's going to be closer to $20k now - it's not like it's a totally odd end of the spectrum, unless it's legitimately collectible, like an RS. That has an established collector market and that's not going to go anywhere, but seeing your average early 911 go from being $30-40k to being $50-60k, that's not the sort of outrageous bubble that's going to pop. It's pretty solid, and they're not making any more of them, so I don't think there's going to be a big drop. It's palatable increments. Even 964s, you could find a decent runner a year and a half ago in the teens, and now they're all $30k, $35k, but they're not $50k, $60k, $70k.
Tavarish: What about the red-headed stepchild, the 996? Do you think that it'll appreciate?
Zac: The desirable ones have already started to come up a bit, but they did get really cheap, so they probably only have one direction to go from there. They may start to appreciate a little bit, but I don't see it that much. If you take a 911 turbo, there was a long time where you could go pick up 996 turbos for $30 grand all over the place and now you don't see them as much, they're $35k - $40k, so there's been some appreciation.
Tavarish: Why do you think more Japanese cars aren't considered as collectible as some current classics?
Zac: Well, we're in America, and collector value is all based around nostalgia, so whatever cars you're into that aren't the brand new cars, you'll have some nostalgic connection with it. Say, when you're a kid and your neighbor had an M3 when it was new, and you thought "this thing's awesome, I want to own one someday", and when the day comes and they're $15 grand and you go buy one, you're living the dream.
It makes sense that classic American cars are going to blow up because we're in America and everyone had these experiences with these cars when they were new, or their neighbor had one, so that's what builds value, which is why the American collector car bubble happened - all the baby boomers had disposable income and went out and spent their money.
The European stuff has a pedigree that relates to a larger audience, so that makes sense. The Japanese thing isn't there yet, but it will come around. I think it's also that most of the Japanese car makers, while they made some fantastic hero cars, they also made a lot of mundane economy cars, so there isn't that loyalty to the brand that makes them all collectible like a Porsche. But you are seeing it in cars like the NSX, with low-mile Supras on their way up, but honestly, if you have a low-mileage Supra, what's the point? I mean, it's a well-built Japanese car, it's going to take some miles, so who cares?
The RX-7s are on their way up as well, and especially because they are a bit fragile, they have a bit of a cult following. So the trophy cars are out there, and they are on their way to getting some more collector value, just they haven't had 50 years of quality Japanese cars in the US. There are the rare ones, like the '70s GTRs, but how many of them are in the country? Ten?
It's just a matter of timing when the people who remember and care have money to spend on it, and if that price point still stacks up against other options. I can remember the Mitsubishi 3000GT, the first ad they had, where it was sliding across dirt sideways, with a bunch of horses running around and I thought that car was the most epic thing ever, but it didn't age very well. It's kind of dated, but I'm sure you could correct some of that. I'm sure you could take a '90s Porsche - which you could also argue is dated - and put the right wheels on it, change the steering wheel, and really make something special.
Tavarish: What was the most unreliable car you've ever had in the Classic Car Club?
Zac: My old answer would've been a '77 Aston Martin V8 Vantage - the very first car we bought. It had quad Webers and double overhead cams, even though it only had 16 valves. It had so much mechanical complexity for no benefit that it was really hard to keep it running. We had the thing for 2 and a half years,it was on the road for maybe 8 months. But now, I would say the Delorean. It was probably just the one we had, but it was always giving us trouble.
Another one is the Ferrari F355 with the F1 gearbox, that was a disaster. I'll never own a 355 again, they're terrible cars. Every one I've had has either not worked, crashed, or been on fire. The first one I had was a Spider with an F1, and between the top and the gearbox, and other shit, I probably had to cancel 2 out of 3 bookings I had, and everyone wanted to drive it, because it was the top car we had at the time. So it was booked all the time, and I had to call everyone up and say "Sorry, the car's broken", and midway through the summer, I said "Forget it, this thing's never going to work" and we traded against a BMW Z8, which was a great car, but when someone's booked a Ferrari F355, you say "Oh, I got a BMW convertible you can drive instead", they say "My wife drives a BMW convertible". That F355 caused me a lot of grief.
And then I got a 6-speed F355 Spider, crashed and burned to the ground the 3rd time it went out. Then I got a 6-speed F355 Targa, which I though would take away all the bad variables, and it seemed pretty good, but it was still a little too quirky. That crashed, and it was still drivable, but it was totaled because it hit every body panel and tweaked the front tub, so just the parts alone were more than the car was worth.
Tavarish is the founder of APiDA Online and writes about buying and selling cool cars on the internet. He owns the world's cheapest Mercedes S-Class, a graffiti-bombed Lexus, and he's the only Jalopnik author that has never driven a Miata. He also has a real name that he didn't feel was journalist-y enough so he used a pen name and this was the best he could do.