An early Mark 1. One owner, 31k miles from new, and dusty. Over the phone it was too good to be true. In person, walking into the climate-controlled warehouse corner where the car had resided for the last five decades, it was oh-so true. The car was immediately recognizable as special, and the fact that it had been completely hidden from the public eye, or sunlight even, for so long only amplified that. We had an idea of the kind of scene we would be walking into when we arrived, as Marvin, the owner, had told us over the phone that he’s been buying cars new since the late 50s, driving them for a handful of years, and parking them indefinitely in a warehouse. But what we stumbled into was even more impressive than we were prepared for…
While the 1275S was the real apple of our eye, the whole lot was pretty excellent. The 911 next to it? Marvin bought it new in 1984, drove it 9,000 miles in six years, then parked it. Top down, windows down; “It must’ve been sunny the last time I drove it.” The totally rad, doesn’t-get-any-more-80s-than-this Shelby Omni GLHS? Also like-new with just 9,000 miles from new. The motorcycles—tasteful, low-mile imports. Rows of them. Pre-war BSAs, 70s Japanese two-strokes, and the full catalog of Motoguzzis. As hard as it is to believe, at a whopping 31k-miles from new, the Mini was the highest-mileage vehicle in the room by a healthy margin.
We spoke with Marvin at length about the 1275S, the car that has long claimed the top spot on a seemingly never-ending list of cars he’s owned over the course of the last sixty years. He told us of how the car was actually a replacement for his 1071S, which he totaled in dramatic fashion when he rolled six times while chasing a friend in another Mini. He tells us about contacting Walker Imports on Cicero Ave just days after the wreck and placing an order for the new, incoming 1275cc Cooper S. Three months later, in September 1964, the first 1275Ss arrive stateside and Marvin takes delivery of his car. He was actually told that his car was one of the first three 1275Ss to ship to North America, with the other two cars having been destined for the east coast. Though we cannot verify the validity of that claim, the car is an extremely early example, the 680th produced (build date August 28th, 1964), so it’s certainly possible. This car was actually so early in production that it predated the 1275’s signature Hydrolastic suspension, which ups its rarity even further. The more desirable “dry” suspension, the new-for-’64 1275cc engine, optional dual fuel tanks and wider wheels, and in the fantastic Old English White over red colorway, this Mini truly does tick all the boxes.
Marvin drove the car actively throughout the 60s and 70s before last parking it in 1990. According to him, the Mini could really do it all. He recalls the car muscling its way through two feet of snow in the famous Chicago blizzard of 1967, and once reliably transporting he and his girlfriend at the time all the way from Chicago to California, down the coastline, and back to Chicago.
With cars like this, while the spec will definitely carry some weight, much of the value is tied up in originality. So, how original is this car? Extremely, just how we like it. The car saw one bare metal respray in 1980 in the same colors, and coincidentally, the gentleman who painted the car back then happens to have been an acquaintance of ours for years. Aside from the one respray, the car really is bone stock. This car has never seen rust repair or damage; Marvin learned his lesson after destroying his first Cooper S, these are cars that deserve to be taken care of. Marvin even had the foresight to hold onto all of the car’s original parts, so we actually have the original tires and carpet saved in a box.
We purchased this car in the spring of 2018, and the timing really couldn’t have been better. Over the course of the last year, these cars have begun to experience a serious uptick in value. The beauty in this isn’t necessarily just that the car is an appreciating asset, we’re planning on enjoying the car for a while longer anyway, but the recent value tick has drawn more Mark 1 Cooper Ss into the market, which gives us an opportunity to learn more about what we have. By looking at what else is out there, we’re able to really see how our car stacks up in terms of originality, condition, and provenance. Looking at the market then back at our car just confirms that initial gut feeling we had last spring; this car is something special.
Written by: Jake DePierro
It may not look like much, but this dusty Jag is a car we’re glad to have caught wind of. While we receive a fair amount of phone calls from folks with rusted-out classics looking for someone to take the project off their hands, it’s somewhat rare that these cars are close-by or desirable enough to warrant us getting the truck and trailer prepped for action. That’s what initially made this MK2 Jag so appealing; located in Clinton, Iowa, just under three hours away, this would be a single day round-trip. Though the gentleman who we spoke with wasn’t able to tell us much of any history about the car itself, he did tell us about how it had come into his possession. He had purchased a run-down old farm at auction with the intention of cleaning it up and flipping it, and upon visiting the property he was pleasantly surprised to find this car in one of the three dilapidated barns on the property. It was trapped in there, undisturbed since the early 80s thanks to a wall of cinderblocks sealing off the barn’s door. He sent us a couple not-very-revealing photos of the car and it looked half decent, so we agreed to buy it and got our ducks in a row for a quick trip to Iowa.
So, what drew us to this car? Aside from being dusty and close to home, of course. Well, the MKII Jag is an interesting car, having been ahead of it’s time in a number of ways when it first came to market in 1959. As this example is from the first year of production, it’s particularly special. While high-performance sedans are a dime a dozen today, in 1959, this was not the case. This car was extremely well-optioned from the factory; this car is equipped with the top-of-the-range 220hp 3.8L Inline-6 (later modified to see use in the world-renowned XKE), a limited slip differential, four wheel disc brakes, power steering, and an automatic transmission. Not to mention, it’s also left-hand-drive! To put that in perspective, even the Mercedes 300SL, a performance benchmark, didn’t have disc brakes in 1960!
We’ve come to the conclusion that steel wheels with polished hubcaps look good on anything, and this was another item that drew us to the car. Wire wheels are generally seen as more desirable, but we’re suckers for body-colored steelies and seeing the peeling red paint on the car’s steelies really gets us dreaming of how magnificent this car must have looked back in 1960, bombing down the interstate at 120mph, original red paint over red leather and red steelies. Luckily for us, the original polished hubcaps were stored in the trunk and survived in like-new condition.
The license plate sticker tells us that the last time the car was road registered was 1983, and from the looks of it, it hasn’t moved an inch since. After 35+ years of sitting stationary, the car had begun to grow roots. With the tires having run flat, the car actually began to sink into the earth beneath it. This wouldn’t just a be a hook-up-the-winch-and-have-at-it kind of retrieval mission, we were going to have to work for it. We began by moving the wall of cinderblocks, one by one, to free up the barn door. Of course we chose to do this the day after a snowstorm. After freeing up the barn door, the next step was getting the winch connected. Since the car had sunk into the dirt, we actually had to dig out the rear end of the car and jam planks of wood under there in order to be able to smoothly winch the car out into the daylight.
Hello World! The orientation of the car in the barn had masked the condition of the passenger rocker, which was a bit unfortunate. But overall, this car has a lot going for it. There are too many positives for us to get caught up with the condition of the rockers. I mean, just look at that interior! We put a battery in it, and immediately all (really, all) of the interior lights turned on, the Smiths Radiomobile powered on, and even the wiper sprayers are still good! After nearly four decades; just amazing. So much for Lucas electronics being unreliable!
Talk about a head-turner. We went into town for lunch after the retrieval mission, and in about thirty seconds we had a group of local guys gathered around the car, all eager to share their barn-find stories. That’s what classic cars do, regardless of if they’re dusty and rusty or spotless museum pieces. Classic cars bring people together, and it’s just one of the many reasons why we love ‘em.
Written by: Jake DePierro
Much like the world of retail, the automotive resale industry is in the midst of a tremendous shift. More and more sales each year are conducted online, sight-unseen, in large part due to the cascading of tech into a long-since grassroots, face-to-face, handshake-driven industry. No longer are consumers at the mercy of the integrity of their salesman; consumers, through reliance on various forms of media, are able to get a complete look at the product they’re interested in without ever even leaving their home. This fundamental industry shift has played out in a couple of ways; for the consumer, it’s a beautiful thing. An online-heavy purchasing experience means improved visibility for the consumer by way of simplified price comparisons, a broader selection of inventory through increased geographical reach, the opportunity to execute a review-based credibility check of the seller, and of course, the convenience of bypassing the majority of the human interaction typically required in completing a sale. But while this shift undoubtedly supports the consumer, for the old school brick-and-mortar outfits, this change of direction can, has, and will very easily spell demise. More shoppers relying on the internet translates to decreased foot traffic through dealers’ doors, less opportunity for sales staff, and in the end, a blow to the business’ bottom line. For a traditional sales staff that thrives on in-person opportunity, a bumpy transition to the media-heavy age can prove fatal. However, for those that are willing and able to step up to the plate and change with the times, this industry shift presents a phenomenal opportunity to innovate, become more efficient and effective, and above all, succeed.
If we reflect upon the evolution of the automobile through recent decades, it’s hard to grasp just how far we’ve come. We’ve seen automotive drivetrains evolve from carbureted to fuel injected to hybrid to fully electric, transmissions go from non-synchronized to synchronized manual to automatic to dual-clutch to direct drive, and safety features graduate from lap belts to shoulder belts to airbags, all the way to today’s automated accident avoidance features. Every part of the automobile has advanced tremendously. So it does seem odd then that the buying process hasn’t undergone all that much of a change, right? A handful of years ago we saw Tesla take a run at disrupting the industry by making a push to sell directly to consumers, rather than through an established network of staffed dealerships. This had never before been attempted by a major manufacturer; an innovative burst into a fairly stagnant industry, no doubt. But we’re talking about a major manufacturer here, a company valued at over $50B at the time of my writing this. So what does this mean for the rest of us, the little guys? The small, family-owned, buy/drive/tinker/sell businesses? Well, as I mentioned earlier, a fundamental change in the gearing of the industry to emphasize digital media creates an opportunity for guys like us to break out of the shadow created by the long held used-car-sales stereotypes and transition into an upmarket, online-centric boutique specifically catered to enthusiasts of fine automobiles, as opposed to being pigeonholed as the traditional used car lot on the corner.
So, bringing it home. How have we, those within the industry, positioned ourselves for success in the midst of all this change? Well, we aren’t just sellers of classic and collectible vehicles, we buy every bit as much as we sell. Having been on both sides of the deal, we know exactly what can make or break a sale. While in certain circumstances it can help, a to-the-point, quick-to-close salesperson is no longer the sole driver of sales; sales come as a result of absolute transparency and attention to detail. Transparency and well-articulated knowledge of a product inspires confidence in a would-be buyer, and a salesperson’s ability to inspire that confidence is what carries a sale to the finish and ensures a positive experience for everyone involved. A couple of years ago, in an effort to instill that confidence in our audience of would-be clientele, we made a push to put an emphasis on product videos. We began putting together brief yet thorough videos of each car we listed for sale, all structured in the same format. First, a high-resolution, slow-paced walkaround of the car, with an information-heavy narrative dubbed over the footage. Second, another walkaround, this time showing every blemish close-up and under direct sunlight. Following the walkarounds, clips of the interior, engine bay, underbody, etc. Our initial thinking was to film these videos in our showroom so that folks could see our most desirable inventory in the background, establishing some credibility as collectors and enthusiasts, but we quickly found that the relatively dim lighting of the showroom could skew colors and make certain blemishes tough to capture on video. So outdoor videos it was, regardless of Chicago’s often brutal winter temperatures. All in the pursuit of, to use the term again, transparency and overall decency.
So what has the last couple years looked like? Has anything changed? Have our efforts to pivot within the industry been substantiated by a legitimate measurable difference in business? Absolutely. A transition to a video-heavy sales methodology that encourages sight-unseen purchases has flipped the salesperson role. No longer am I, our salesperson, spending the majority of my time going back-and-forth with interested parties; rather, by concentrating efforts on the front end, the actual preparation of our listings, time is saved on the back end. There are seldom questions left unanswered, leaving the only question to be asked, “Will you take $X for it?”. Thorough, honest listings not only save us time on the back-and-forth, we’re also able to expand our reach to new markets, as buyers across the globe feel comfortable doing business with us, confident in the fact that what they’re bidding on from thousands of miles away is truly what it’s presented as. The influx of these sight-unseen, no-questions-asked deals from all around the world is changing our business for the better; less back-end input on the sales side allows for more time to focus on maintaining a quality inventory, which then fuels the sales machine. We are constantly learning through experience and seeking out ways to streamline this cycle, and as the industry evolves we will continue to seek out ways to innovate, manage our time, turn a profit, and enjoy ourselves in the process.
Written by: Jake DePierro
There’s no other way to put it, we’re total suckers for cars with interesting backstories. We hear a lot of them; “How’d you manage to own the car for 40 years and only put 1,000 miles on it?”, “Well, I drove it home from the dealer, used it for a few weeks, decided it was a piece of crap, and parked it.” Or, “This is a really valuable car. Is there any particular reason you left it stored for all these years with the top down?”, “I don’t know, must’ve been sunny out the last time I drove it.” These are just a couple of the backstory comments that made us laugh over the course of the past year, but the deal we just closed on a couple of ultra-low-mile Cadillacs may take the cake for our favorite vehicle backstory of 2018.
We were contacted by a guy just outside Detroit who told us he was looking to sell two ‘78 Eldorado Biarritz Custom Classics. Due to poor health in the family, the cars had fallen into his lap and he didn’t want them nor know what to do with the 40ft-worth of vintage American luxo-barge now in his possession. His father-in-law had bought the two Eldorados new in ‘78 and they remained in the family ever since. He’d actually put them away in storage as soon as he bought them, as Cadillac had announced the ‘78 Biarritz Custom Classic as the swansong of the big, beloved Eldorado and he speculated that they would one day become tremendously collectible. These cars were put away with less than 500 total miles from new between the two of them, protective plastic still on the seats, and the window sticker still stuck to the glass. Based on just a couple grainy, dimly-lit, flip-phone photos of the cars sopping wet, we decided the cars were worth the gamble and blindly wired the guy a respectable sum of money.
Would you buy two cars based on just that photo? Yeahhh…it was nerve-racking, no doubt about that. But the flip-phone-wielding, non-tech-savvy seller is a situation we routinely encounter, and [knock on wood] we’ve been pleasantly surprised upon delivery more often than not. Anyway, we knew that the cars were special and the unbelievably low mileage was certainly enticing, but we were told that the two cars had spent the overwhelming majority of their lives locked in a sealed storage container, and that was a little unsettling. While it sounds like a good thing, we’ve seen cars that have been stored long-term in cargo containers, and they haven’t always aged well. These containers can develop leaks, and over the years things can get ugly. While the deal had already been made and the cars were already paid for, we decided we’d drive all the way up to Detroit and pick the cars up ourselves, rather than hire a transporter. We had to see the cars, storage container, and owner in person; we wanted the full backstory from the man himself.
While it doesn’t quite look nice and cozy, the storage container was dry, leak-free, and the cars survived in miraculously excellent condition. So, as I mentioned, the seller’s father-in-law bought the cars new and proceeded to put them in storage straightaway. But here’s where the story gets really good. The owner was Greek and had a big family, including two daughters. Both his daughters happened to get engaged right around the same time, and the family decided to have one big, combined wedding. Over 500 people in attendance, your classic “big, fat, Greek wedding”. But get this – the father gifted each couple a Cadillac. Matching, 200-mile, collector-level Caddys in as-new condition. How about that for a wedding gift?! Neither couple was particularly interested in cars, and both couples opted to let the cars remain in storage after their wedding. There they sat, all the way until late 2018, when the time to sell finally came. The next generation, the original owner’s granddaughter now, was soon to be married and the family opted to sell the Cadillacs and fund that celebration. No 20ft long, 5000lb wedding gifts this time around. When it came time to sell, the son-in-law that we dealt with had just gone on Google, searched “sell my classic car”, and called the first number he saw, which happened to be us. This was one opportunity we weren’t going to let slip through our fingers!
Since bringing the cars home and giving them a thorough looking-over, we’ve elected to leave them just as they are. They’re only original once! So what if the plastic filler panels cracked a bit over the years, that’ll happen to 40 year old plastic. If anything, the filler panels just verify the original, honest, and unmolested charm of the cars. We’ve driven the cars about a mile a piece, the farthest they’ve been driven since 1978! How cool though, to open the door of a 40 year old car, slide in over the plastic seat cover, grip the protective-wrapped steering wheel, and roll down the road with the original window sticker obstructing your periphery.
The real question though, if these cars were yours, drive or preserve? My gut says preserve, but a few thousand more summertime highway miles couldn’t hurt, right? A 55mph, fully reclined, right-lane cruise across the US of A has never sounded more appetizing.
Written by: Jake DePierro
Here at Chicago Car Club we’re privileged to have the opportunity to experience ownership of an eclectic mix of classic and collectible vehicles. While we see a little bit of everything, every once in a while we’ll come across a car that’s undeniably special. A car that really makes you go, “Wowww”. Looking back at a great year in 2018, there is one car, and one home-run deal, in particular that stands above the rest. This is the story of our barn-find 1963 Split Window Corvette.
In early 2018 we got a call from a gentleman just outside Chicago who was looking to sell his car. He was moving out of state on short notice, and needed his late-80s Mercedes 560SL gone in a hurry. He described the car as having been a fairly clean driver-level car when put away in indoor storage a few years earlier, but off the road since. We had recently had a clean, low-mile 560SL and that car sold very well, so when we heard of a motivated seller with a 560SL we jumped at the opportunity. He was in a small, rural town just over an hour outside the city, so we hopped in our truck and went to take a look. When we arrived to the property, we immediately knew we were in for a treat. Behind the house were two huge pole barns, and that’s where he pointed us over to. We follow him into the first barn and there are dozens of cars lined up. The majority of them were hidden underneath covers, but it was pretty apparent that there wasn’t anything particularly special in there. No iconic silhouettes, certainly nothing that grabbed the eye. We took a quick look at the 560SL but it was clear that it was a far cry from road-worthy, and it wouldn’t make sense to bring it home with us. Bummer, but the seller did mention that the other pole barn on the property had even more cars in it, and everything in there was up for grabs as the property owner, a friend of his, was retiring and clearing house.
Again, dozens of cars lined up under covers. We were told to feel free to poke around and pull back covers, so we began browsing. The first few cars we took a closer look at were all rough, too rough. But after pulling back five or six covers and being let down, we spotted the iconic silhouette we had been hoping for. In a row of long-hood cars immediately recognizable as Corvettes, we could make out the unmistakable shape of a 60s C2, arguably the most desirable of all of the many iterations of Corvettes. Of course we kid, “what if it’s a Split…”, the Split-Window being the 1963-only body style, a gorgeous, rare, six-figure-dollars car. Resting a hand on the rear glass, over the car cover, and feeling the split rear window was a rush of excitement that will not soon be bested.
In later conversations with the owner, we came to find that the car hadn’t moved in thirty years! He had driven it into the barn for storage through the winter of ‘87, but time got away from him and the car stayed put. The car wasn’t particularly valuable until relatively recently, so the owner never really thought much of the fact that it sat laid up in a barn as the years rolled on. When we first spoke to the owner, which was over the phone, he wasn’t too keen on selling the car. “Maybe one day I’ll restore it, or maybe my daughter will want it.” In our minds, nothing is getting between us and rescuing this car. We told him, “Look, we’re ready to make a competitive offer, just hear us out.” When we told him what we wanted to pay for the car, which was far, far off from six figures, it sounded like the guy nearly fell out of his chair. He was absolutely floored by how valuable his car had become, especially after thirty years of neglect. “$$$$$, you mean, for the two of them?!” Uhhh…righttt, yes. Little did we know, there was a 15k-mile C3 Corvette that would be coming home with us too. Long story short, we were able to piece together a deal.
But the Split, what a spec. Red on red, 4-speed. Air conditioning, a rare option on such an early car. The level of preservation was pretty amazing, especially considering the sorry state of many of its barn-mates. Luckily the C2 Corvette’s body is made of fiberglass, so we didn’t have to worry about body rust. But of course from many years of sitting, the tires were totally flat and the brakes were locked up. We’d have to get creative in order to get this one home with us.
Once the deal was finalized and pickup time came, we came armed with both a flatbed and a truck and trailer. We winched the Split out of its resting place, dragging it across the barn floor. We got the car on the flatbed and into the daylight it went, for the first time in over thirty years.
Then the trailer transfer for the ride home, and look – a wheel freed up!
The car needed quite a bit of mechanical tending-to after its extended hibernation, not to mention a serious detailing. So we sent the car to an old friend, somewhat of a Corvette guru, and about a week later we had ourselves a fantastic, running and driving 63 Split.
A few days later, we get a call from a former client down in Florida. He’s about ready to sell his Ferrari 550 Maranello, and is curious if we’d be interested. He says, “Yeah, ever since deciding to sell, all my friends have been making trade offers. But there’s really only one car I’d ever trade for, and that’s a 4-speed Split Window Corvette.” We could hardly believe it. He could barely finish his sentence before I blurt out, “WE JUST GOT ONE, AND ITS BEEN IN A BARN FOR 30 YEARS!” Turns out, he’s a Corvette society judge, and travels the country going to shows. So to get a Split-Window that nobody within the Corvette community had seen was an enticing opportunity for him. And even better, he says red is hands-down his favorite color. This conversation took place on a Friday evening, and we agreed that we should both take the weekend to think about the terms of a trade, then regroup on Monday and iron out the details. The second I walk into the office on Monday morning, my phone rings. “I can’t stop thinking about that car. You handle shipping, and let’s make this happen.”
A few months later, and we still haven’t tired of the 6-speed, V12 550 Maranello. Not one bit. And to think, all this because of one rusty 80s Mercedes….
Written by: Jake DePierro
At Chicago Car Club we’re lucky enough that, for the most part, inventory comes to us. We’re constantly getting emails, phone calls, and text messages from folks looking to sell their classics, and it makes our job all that much easier, more efficient, and enjoyable. This means no scouring through Craigslist, eBay, or nearby neighborhoods on the hunt for cars to buy; instead, we are able to run through our inbox and see what’s out there. Since owners are coming to us, more often than not we’re looking at cars that have not been listed for sale elsewhere, have likely been in the same family for many years, and are now in the hands of a motivated seller. While we have more potential-buy cars coming at us than we could ever accommodate, we do still like to keep tabs on local estate sales. Not necessarily with an eye for cars though; we’re enthusiastic about all things classic and collectible, and sometimes interesting watch collections, vintage motorsports gear, or antique signage comes up for sale in our area, so we’re fairly in-tune with a handful of estate-liquidation companies. In Spring of 2018 we were made aware of an estate being liquidated just a few blocks from our shop, so of course we decide to take a look. We start browsing the photos of what will soon be auctioned…..scrolling down the page, scrolling, scrolling, and hoooooly sh*t, that’s a dusty Ferrari! Get the phone number, grab a towel, flashlight, battery pack, and lets go!
When we arrived at the house, no more than half a mile from the shop, we were pretty blown away by what we found. The houses and alleyways on this block were somewhat dilapidated and tired-looking, definitely not the place you would expect to come across a bright red Ferrari. Turns out that the homeowner had recently passed away, and his cars were his pride and joy. While the house was nothing to write home about, the two-car garage was a different story. This guy had a Porsche 996 Turbo in addition to his 308 GTSi; unfortunately the Porsche was already spoken for by the time we got there but regardless, this guy had his priorities in line. His cars came first.
We agreed to buy the Ferrari. Right then and there, a week prior to it coming up for auction. But with the owner having passed away, we had absolutely no history on the car. There were no family members that could tell us about the owner, and there was no paperwork to be found in the car. Tough break, as a Ferrari with no known ownership history and no service records or manuals is a seriously tough sell. But we weren’t going down without a fight; we spent the next hour or so going through every nook and cranny of that 3-floor home. Every desk, drawer, and file cabinet was opened. Eventually, as we were about to tuck our tails between our legs and accept the fact that we just bought a documentation-less Ferrari, the car’s manuals appeared. There they were, sitting on a shelf in the very last room we searched. Yes! While the manuals didn’t tell us much, it was something. And in the case of vintage Ferraris, something is far, far better than nothing.
We found something else too; in the car there was a bright red Ferrari Formula One jacket, and it fit! If you’re gonna go Ferrari, may as well make the full commitment. Red car, red leather, red jacket, red hat. Yes. We had the car for months, and I don’t believe I ever drove it without the red/red/red getup. Pull up to a coffee shop, park the car right out front, and strut in there with a red Ferrari jacket. Yep, that’s right coffee shop folks, that’s all me. Sometimes it’s fun to be that guy.
Not long after the Ferrari we picked up a ’47 Chevy Snub Nose hauler, in red. Very red. So when we hosted a car show a few weeks later, I think you can guess what the centerpiece was….
That’s the fun of something like a red Ferrari, it’s an eye-grabber. It’s always an event in and of itself just to go somewhere. Constant photos at stop lights, punk teenagers trying to race….the sense of occasion (SOA) is off the charts!
Written by: Jake DePierro
Meet the star of our beloved Tiny Car Corner, this beauuuutiful green on green Isetta. While it looks damn near perfect now, this ’56 Bubble-Window Isetta wasn’t always in the limelight [lime…green…pun…ha-ha]. We purchased the “car” from a gentleman in Iowa who runs a vintage moped restoration business; he had come across the car back in 2014 while looking at a couple mopeds for sale at an older guy’s property in Tennessee. When he got to it, the car was rough. Not rusty, but in pieces and in need of total restoration. The owner had disassembled the Isetta in 2001 and carried the pieces down into his basement, always meaning to chip away at the restoration, but never actually getting around to it. Moped guy trailered it back to Iowa and got going on stripping the Isetta down to bare metal. When restoration began, the car was a largely complete, rust-free, and original starting point that had been off the road since 1973, when it had last been road registered in Ohio. The original glass even still sports a 1961 Ohio Buckeyes sticker!
Over the course of the last four or so years, the car has been gone through in it’s entirety. The body was lifted from the chassis and both were brought down to bare metal and refinished. The body was sprayed Reseda Green, an original Isetta color. All the chrome was sent out and redone, the drivetrain gone-through (rebuilt head, valve job, rebuilt steel crank with steel connecting rod, new oversized piston), and the 4spd gearbox was replaced. As it sits now, this is a truly A+ level Bubble-Window Isetta. The previous owner did a brilliant job restoring it, and we struggle to take issue with anything. Perfect is a word we seldom put out there, but this is surely as close to perfect as we’ve seen.
When the car first arrived here at our shop, none of us had ever been in, let alone driven, an Isetta. What a way to get started, jumping into a freshly-restored Bubble-Window, the most desirable of the Isetta iterations. All smiles, all around.
Day one of Isetta ownership, the mid-day coffee-run car choice was a no brainer. 770lbs of car, well over 400lbs of passenger between the two of us, and just a little single-cylinder engine dragging us along. Hilarious. 13 horsepower. 13. Gotta love it.
Talk about a show-stopper. Two bearded, full-grown men parading around town at 5mph in a bright green egg; there wasn’t a single passerby that didn’t wave, laugh, or snap a quick photo. It’s hard to get mad at somebody for slowing down side-street traffic when their car looks like it should be hauling around the Jetsons rather than a couple of guys with coffees in their hands. I should also note, while great to drive to the coffee shop, the way home is a bit tougher. The Isetta is wildly difficult to drive with a coffee in hand. Left hand drive, shifter on the left, no power steering….not the best for one-handed driving.
If there was ever a car to make MK1 Minis look bloated, this is it. It really is the perfect showroom car; it only takes up a few feet of space, is easy to push around, and provides a great photo-opp when we have get-togethers here at the shop. It’s always the crowd favorite.
Yes we’re a dealer. Yes the car is for sale. Yes you can find it on chicagocarclub.com under the Cars For Sale tab. But shhhhh, don’t tell anybody….this is one that we sure wouldn’t mind holding onto!
Written by: Jake DePierro
Over the last few years I’ve met a number of folks who, while maybe not phenomenally wealthy, have a habit of buying cars, classics specifically, with no intention of driving or road registering them. These are people who purchase cars solely because they want to experience ownership, not necessarily the sensation of actually driving the cars. This whole concept has long since dumbfounded me; I mean, why spend all that hard-earned money if you aren’t going to ever really properly experience what the car has to offer? To a whole lot of people within the automotive hobby, it doesn’t make much of any sense. I, for one, know that I drive the wheels off my cars and have a ton of fun doing it. However, while I certainly fall more on the “driver” side of the hobby than the “collector” side, I will say that I’m starting to warm up to the idea of buying to hold.
In certain circumstances, buying to hold can make a lot of sense. When trading cars on a high level, the would-be buyer is looking at the purchase through the lens of return on investment. With the rates at which certain collector cars are appreciating in value these days, it’s fairly easy to see why someone with the means may buy a car and proceed to put it away in an air-tight storage container for a number of years. A handful of very special cars, the default example being early GT racing cars, may be worth a million one year, and ten million a few years later. That return is pretty tough to argue with. I will say though, the willpower behind owning such a magnificent piece of machinery and never getting the full sensory-overload experience that it could so easily provide absolutely baffles me. Regardless, yes, from a high-level investment standpoint, there are situations where the buy-to-hold approach is completely logical, and even wise. But when we’re talking about cars that aren’t particularly valuable, the buy-to-hold approach comes down to much more than just dollars; it comes down to emotions – nostalgia and lifetimes of want.
With classic cars in particular, there’s a certain pride of ownership. But wouldn’t that translate to a desire to show off the car and share the enthusiasm with those other like-minded individuals around you? Not necessarily. There are a lot of situations where that pride is internalized; there is a sense of accomplishment in owning something after a lifetime of admiration, and that’s purely an individual’s own thing. The car doesn’t need to be seen or heard by anyone other than the owner in order for them to feel accomplished in just owning the car. We have one customer, a local guy, who has a collection of fifteen or so cars. Thing is, these aren’t what we’d consider very collectible cars. Primarily big, boxy American sedans of the 1960s. He didn’t buy any of these cars with the intention of attending car shows or reselling for a profit years down the road, they were simply cars he always told himself he one day wanted to own. So when he retired, years ago now, he began buying the cars of his youth. Just checking them off the list, really. When he came back for the fifth or so time to buy a car from us, it came up that he doesn’t actually drive any of the cars, ever. Hasn’t even road registered a single one of them. When he first dropped that fun-fact on us, I thought he was nuts. Didn’t understand it. But now, having met a few more guys like him and seen some larger collections, I’m starting to come around. I wouldn’t say I’m quite there yet, but I’m beginning to grasp the how and why.
Look at it like this: Aside from the emotional ties and bucket-list aspects involved in purchasing decisions, when it comes down to it, some cars beg to be driven while others do not. For example, I’d love to own an early soft-window 911 Targa; I’d take the top off and drive until I’m sunburnt and delirious. However, I’d also love to own an early Dodge Power Wagon. Miserable to drive, but so, so cool. Given the means, I think it’s pretty likely that I’d find a spot on my property to permanently park a Power Wagon. I can picture it now, and yup…confirmed, it definitely does feel good owning it just to own it.
Written by: Jake DePierro
Being the defacto “car guy” within my little network of friends and acquaintances, I’m routinely asked all sorts of “What car should I buy?”-type questions. The resulting overarching conclusion is this: most car-shoppers these days want a car that can do anything and everything, and do it all well. Today’s buyers want something reliable and fuel efficient, but also roomy, good in the snow, stylish, relatively quick, and fun to drive. I’ve thought and thought and thought and really, there’s no such thing as a perfect, do-it-all, one car solution.
Most cars are developed with a couple specific purposes in mind, and they will excel in those areas while falling short in others. A car that’s fun to drive, stylish, and quick probably isn’t very spacious or good in the snow, and vice versa. The way I see it, you’ll need a minimum of two cars in order to really effectively cover all your bases. Maybe that’s just the car enthusiast [hoarder, errr “collector”] in me, but I think it really does ring true. Sure, there are cars out there that the argument could be made for as a do-it-all hero, think BMW X-drive wagon, but does that really do everything well? It’s all relative. Maybe that X-drive wagon is fun to drive when you’re used to a Suburban, but hop in a Healey Sprite or MGA and that BMW will feel utterly watered-down and uneventful. Yeah it looks sharp sitting in traffic, flanked by beige Camrys on either side, but bring it to a Cars & Coffee on Sunday morning and you’ll quickly feel like the odd man out. It’s definitely fuel-efficient, but only until you realize those Camrys get twice the mileage at only a small fraction of the cost of entry. Not so much of a do-it-all hero anymore.
My recommendation is always, always, always the same – first, establish your priorities. Have a think, make a list. Is this the car you’ll be counting on to get you through city traffic to the office every morning, year-round? Or is the car more of a summer luxury? Buy the car that best suits your immediate needs rather than wants; don’t try to do too much, because if you do, you will end up with a car that’s very mehhh, just so-so across the board. This ties back to my two car, at least, solution. Need a reliable, cost-effective, street-parkable daily driver but also want to have some fun with it? Budget of $20k? Great, go get yourself a newish Corolla for $13k, or whatever they cost these days. That’ll cover your practical, logical, feel-fine-about-beating-up-on-it daily driver. But to address the want, or need in the case of a real enthusiast, for something that’s more enjoyable to drive, that remaining $7k can go a long, long way. Think 944, MGB, e30 and the like. It’s not a car that you’ll regularly drive to the office in, or cross the country in, so go have some fun with it. Find something that you really want, not necessarily need. This is where a classic car makes a ton of sense; it’ll have more sense of occasion than just about anything on the road today, will serve as a social catalyst of sorts, will provide some pride of ownership (unlike the Corolla), and if you buy it right, will be nice and easy on the wallet.
But what do I know? I prioritized fun-to-drive in my two-car solution and ended up with two classic German sports cars. Only one of which is running at the moment, and not even very well, I’ll admit. Hardly a “solution”, but no regrets. Car shoppers, there’s an endless army of Corollas available for chauffeuring from point A to point B at the touch of a button, thanks to the Uber app. Two classic sports cars and an Uber lifeline….now that’s what I call a solution! 10 of 10, would recommend.
Written by: Jake DePierro