We recently had a really cool, affordable classic come through the doors that got us thinking — a single-family-owned, relatively low-mile, no-stories ‘82 Mercedes 300D Turbo. What car, at $7500 or less, could provide that same level of utility yet still be tasteful and enthusiasm-worthy? A couple come to mind, but for the young driver first-car shopping alongside his parents that found his way into our W123 300D, we were happy. A great car, well-bought and for the right reasons. His father had said that a growing appreciation for classic cars was the first sign of a genuine hobby he’d seen out of his son, and he wanted to encourage and drive that in the right direction. A surefire way to do so, get him into a first car that will surely be the most recognizable in his high school parking lot. With a first car, reliability, safety, and cost-effectiveness are key, and the W123 300D ticks those boxes as well as anything even close to the same realm of price. A largely-original survivor from an era of Mercedes renown for tremendous build quality and longevity, this 300D is hardly broken-in after nearly 40 years and 140k miles. Oddball of the high school parking lot is a sentiment I myself can relate to, having been there before, piloting a rotating fleet of sub, sub, subbb $7500, very much enthusiasm-worthy classics. Having toyed around with many a budget-fun-car, there are a couple stand-out wins that every young, budding car enthusiast should have on their radar.
A no brainer, really. What this car does well, it does so well that the not-particularly-strong standing in the safety category is justifiably overlooked. Despite a recent uptick in desirability, a well-maintained base 944 can still be had towards the upper end of that $7500 threshold, and considering the relatively low cost of entry, this package is unrivaled with respect to the sports car category. The naturally-aspirated 2.5L inline four won’t blow anybody away off the line, but it also won’t completely drain your wallet, whether that’s at the shop or at the pump. The 944 is a beautifully balanced, predictable, lively little car that, when responsibly owned and well kept, delivers a sublime, Porsche-perfect driving experience. The handsome silhouette and purposeful-looking box flares sweeten the package, ensuring a satisfying over the shoulder look-back from the driver every time the car is parked. Like most other old sports cars, the 944 is at home on smooth, windy roads, but that doesn’t negate the 944’s extraordinary practicality as a turn-key daily driver. The car does have a fold-down rear seat, albeit tight for full-grown adults, and the cargo carrying capacity with the rear seats laid flat has to be seen to be believed. From canyon carving to grocery-getting, the 944 is a capable, truly special car.
While maybe not quite as sporty and engaging of a driving experience as the former, the $7500 cut-off and first-car demands of being reliable while still cool and interesting align perfectly with the calling card of the Volvo 240. Much like the aforementioned Mercedes Turbodiesel, the Volvo 240 has garnered a reputation through the years of bulletproof reliability and unparalleled longevity, with multiple examples known to have long since exceeded a million miles on their original drivetrain. Whether in wagon or sedan form, the Volvo 240 is an icon of family hauling and a champion of boxiness. Front-engined, rear wheel drive, and available with a manual transmission, these workhorses can play too [slowly]. One of the very safest cars money could buy in the 90s, these cars make a ton of sense for new drivers who aren’t interested in the plastic-laden econoboxes of the masses. Well-kept, nicely-spec’d examples aren’t as rare as one would think, and these cars can routinely be had for less than $5k, amazingly enough. And with that small cost of entry, there’s plenty left for a second set of tires for year-round enjoyment! Hard not to consider that a win.
This list could go on and on and on. There’s no shortage of cool, interesting used cars out there, and even with the budget cap of single-digit-thousands, young drivers are still spoiled for choice. Everyone has their own preferences as to what they’d like to own or drive, and living and learning through the ups and downs of classic car ownership is right of passage for those looking to stick with the life-long hobby. Having been there, having been the kid feathering the throttle of his rust-bucket 914 in order to keep it alive in after-school traffic, my recommendation is this – buy the best example you can afford, even if that means opting for the bare-bones base model rather than the Turbo. Oh and lastly, don’t sleep on the W123, 944, and 240!
Written by: Jake DePierro
Unicorns are rare, but they do exist. Occupying the top spot on enthusiasts’ and collectors’ radars, the survivor cars of survivor cars, “unicorns” are those vehicles whose condition and unrestored provenance culminate into the most impressive, most desirable automotive specimens. These are vehicles that can be appreciated by anyone and everyone not necessarily because they’re particularly beautiful or exciting, but because they present the closest experience we’ll ever have to a time capsule. There’s something special about climbing into an unrestored, like-new-condition classic and taking a moment to appreciate that at that moment you are experiencing exactly, truly exactly, what it was like to get into that hot new Cadillac back in the late 1970s. There are certain cars, and this Eldorado Biarritz is one of them, that capture their era in spectacular form. The late 1970s, and in the automotive sphere Cadillac in particular, had a reputation of extravagance to the verge of gaudiness, and this one-owner Eldorado Biarritz tiptoes that fine line with grace.
Ordered new by N&S Sausage Co., an Illinois couple who operated a sausage company together, this car remained with the original owners for forty years. We were fortunate to buy the car from the original owners themselves, as they had made a point to hold on to all of the factory manuals and sales documents from when they brought the car home, and even went so far as to include a photo of the car in their driveway in the summer of ‘79. In the background of the photo you can make out another car in their garage, an Eldorado Convertible, also white. Very cool. These folks knew what they liked!
Browsing through an extensive paper trail that goes all the way back to new, it’s clear that these champions of sausage were really treating themselves when they ordered their new Caddy. They didn’t skimp on options; no, this Eldorado was loaded. With a digital dash display and self-dimming lights, this was already a well-equipped car. But these folks took it to the next level by ticking the box for the stainless steel astroroof, a tremendously expensive, not to mention flashy, option.
$3,838 in 1979 is equivalent to just over $13,500 today, to put the cost of the Biarritz stainless astroroof package in perspective. Hell, the option itself made up almost a quarter of the sale price of this car!
So many of the unrestored survivors that we come across have a backstory that includes periods of extended storage; somebody grew old or passed away and, as a result, let their beloved car sit unused. However, and this is massively confidence-inspiring from a mechanical standpoint, this car has been continuously registered, insured, and driven all the way since new. This is hugely uncommon for a car of this vintage, and is very much a value-add as it relinquishes concerns of things like dry seals and deferred maintenance. This car’s paper trail indicates 13k miles in 1988, 22k miles in 1998, and 35k in 2009. Amazing. With a 40 year active streak of 1,000 mile summers, one enthusiastic owner since new, excellent documentation, and the fantastic, totally over-the-top spec of Cotillion White over white leather and with a stainless astroroof, this Eldorado Biarritz is truly one in a million. A unicorn, you could say.
Written By: Jake DePierro
While we fancy ourselves automotive gurus, or at least within the space of classic and collectibles, every once in a while we’ll be contacted by someone looking to sell a vehicle that, as much as we hate to admit it, we’ll need to reference a quick Google search in order to fully grasp what’s at hand. These oddball, little-known vehicles, while definitely not the poster cars of our youth, almost invariably account for our most entertaining, fun-to-deal-in inventory. There are a number of reasons as to why these vehicles so often yield a positive experience, but the overarching driver is the fact that getting up close and personal with a vehicle outside of our typical wheelhouse presents an excellent learning opportunity. It’s a way to keep things fresh, broaden our horizons, and delve deeper into previously uncharted reaches of the automotive hobby. There are other positives too; for example, it’s a heck of a lot easier to sell a particular vehicle when it’s the only one on the market, let alone the potential value-add of being the sole example available. At this very moment, the oddball of our fleet hails from Packard’s line of Professional Cars, a ‘54 Packard Henney Junior Ambulance.
So, the big question. What is it, exactly? In 1953 and 1954, Packard, in collaboration with coachbuilder Henney, offered what they called the “Junior”, a smaller, more budget-friendly counterpart to their line of full-sized Professional Cars. Standard Professionals had a 156” wheelbase; the Junior was quite a bit smaller, with a 127” wheelbase. So while still useful in professional services, it was slightly easier to navigate and, more importantly, easier to fit in a standard sized garage. Interestingly enough, Henney didn’t actually realize the Junior’s tremendous production costs until it was too late. It’s been reported that, on average, Henney lost just over $300 on each Junior they sold. In today’s dollars, that’s about a $3,000 loss on every single car! In order to combat the loss, Henney/Packard hiked Junior prices way up midway through production, from $3,333 to $4,333, which effectively killed the model. Junior production over the two-year run totaled just 500 units, roughly half of which were under government contract, the other half sold to the general public. This particular car is one of just 120 units produced for 1954, and in addition to having an interesting, known history from new, retains much of its original equipment. This example has an impressive range of equipment for a Junior, having come factory-equipped with a siren, dome rotator, front tunnel lights, a cot, and jump seats in the rear. But while well-equipped, what really sets this particular example apart from the rest is its fantastic backstory…
Originally delivered to The Eureka Williams Company of Bloomington, Illinois, a manufacturer of vacuums, this Junior spent the first decade of its life serving as an ambulance for the company’s on-site medical center. One of the staff members at Eureka was close friends with a fireman at the LeRoy Community Fire Protection Department, so when Eureka had gotten their use out of the car, they sold it to the LeRoy firehouse for $1. We were actually able to get the full backstory on the car from the 80-year-old LeRoy Fire Chief himself, and he provided a tremendous amount of information about the car’s history. When the firehouse bought the car in 1965, it wore a supposedly hideous florescent green Eureka-themed paint job, which the firemen of course promptly sprayed over with red. The fire chief chuckled as he recalled a time in 1968 that they piled nine guys, in full fire-fighting gear, into the back of the Junior and responded to a call. Nine fireman piling out of the back; it sounds like something out of a cartoon now, but this actually happened in the 60s! The LeRoy Fire Department kept the car from 1965 until 1985, when they listed it for sale in the local newspaper for $2500. The car stayed local, and was purchased by a gentleman who made a habit of taking it out to local car shows. The sale was under one condition, the firehouse would leave their lettering on the car in order to preserve its history. The firemen obliged and, fueled by the buyer’s enthusiasm, even threw in a bunch of used equipment – helmets, a fire suit, oxygen tanks, etc. The new owner was so appreciative that he kept in touch and actually put together a photo album from his first few years of ownership and mailed it back to the firehouse; the fire chief still holds onto the photo album today, decades later! This post-firehouse owner held onto the car all the way from ’85 until this year, when we purchased it from him along with two other ’54 Henney Juniors. So yes, of the 120 total built for 1954, three are currently here at our facility. A fascinating vehicle for sure, and one that we’re particularly excited to have in inventory.
The car is now listed for sale on our site, link HERE.
Written by: Jake DePierro
That’s right, it’s time to tackle what is undoubtedly the hottest topic in the automotive hobby at the moment, Bring A Trailer and its implications for the classic and collectible vehicle market. It wasn’t long ago, only ten years or so, that BaT was a low-rent webpage who garnered a small but loyal following posting links to interesting or competitively-priced Craigslist finds. The core focus was older European cars in various states of disrepair, hence the “Bring A Trailer” moniker. However, as the site’s following grew and the potential for monetization became more clear, we began to see some fundamental changes to the BaT structure. Live auctions were introduced, which brought forth a whole new level of interactivity. No longer were site visitors limited to just voicing their opinion on select Craigslist finds, they were actually able to actively participate in an enthusiast-driven purchasing process that allowed private parties to interact through a structured online medium, something the classic and collectible vehicle market had never seen. Success was immediate. Twenty live auctions at a time became fifty, then one hundred, and so on. As the inventory grew, so did the site’s following.
BaT has brought tremendous visibility to classic and collector vehicles, an industry that had previously been somewhat in the shadows of the general public, only familiar to those who were really in-the-know. Bring A Trailer has opened up classic and collectible vehicle trading to the masses, and it is having a profound impact on the market, for better or for worse. It’s impact can be massively positive or massively negative, depending on who you ask. For the core enthusiasts who have been sourcing, working on, and trading unique cars for decades, BaT is, for lack of better terminology, blowing up their spot. For those who were on the fringes of the hobby, BaT is opening up a clear path to the center. It enables just about anybody to participate in the buying and selling process, with little-to-no barriers to entry. Regardless of where you stand, love or hate BaT, we can all agree on one thing, it’s effect on the market cannot be overstated.
As someone who trades classic and collectible vehicles for a living, the gut instinct is to feel a bit bitter towards BaT; after all, the site does encourage private parties to handle the buying and selling process on their own, rather than deferring to an industry professional. However, BaT does bring to the table some significant positives that should not be overlooked by those within the industry. A key part of what we at Chicago Car Club do is to help folks place a value on their car, regardless of if we’re looking to purchase the car or not. We like to let people know, “Fair market value for your car is between X and Y, so if we were to purchase it, we’d be willing to offer Z.” In most situations we’ll at least have a general idea of the value of the car in question, but always, without fail, the first thing we’ll do is look to the BaT search bar. BaT, having sold thousands of classic and collectible vehicles in recent years, is a gold mine of relative data. More often than not, we’re able to find a comparable example that has auctioned on BaT, which not only gives us insight as to the state of the market for that particular car, but often brings to light interesting value-add tidbits thanks to the comments section.
The comments section, or “Peanut Gallery” as it’s so often referred to as, tends to be an entertaining read, to put it lightly. In certain situations, like when we see super original, concours-level cars coming up for auction, the comments section is often full of deep, intimate knowledge from folks who have “been there”. In BaT’s come-up, this tech-heavy comments section was it’s saving grace. It’s what gave BaT such credibility among automotive enthusiasts, and made those core enthusiasts want to use the medium to do business. However, as the site grew, newcomers wanted to be a part of the BaT community and share the field with real grassroots experts, as is only natural. While good and fair in theory, allowing anyone enthusiastic enough to register to participate, this ease of access has lead to an unfortunate tendency for individuals with no skin in the game to act as armchair quarterbacks, nitpicking vehicles, sellers, or bidders for no real reason other than to see their opinion voiced. A case of too much too soon, really; with the explosion in BaT’s popularity, there was no way for an effective moderation system to be set in place. Even now, a few years since BaT really hit the big time, the growth continues; it’s not total anarchy, but moderators are facing an uphill battle.
When you hear folks knocking BaT, which does happen fairly often in the circles we run in, it usually stems from harsh feelings towards the Peanut Gallery. But aside from the Peanut Gallery, what else about BaT aggravates core enthusiasts, the folks the site was originally intended to benefit? The biggest sticking point is this: The tremendous visibility and ease-of-access of BaT has brought previously underappreciated cars into the limelight, which has driven up demand, and therefore prices, of these particular makes and models. But if these enthusiasts are also owners of underappreciated cars, wouldn’t they want to see the values increase? Well yes, but that’s not the whole equation. Prior to BaT, truly knowledgeable enthusiasts had a strong upper hand in the purchasing process. Relatively unknown yet special cars could be had for little money and were plentiful on local Craigslist pages, but no longer. For example, take the Porsche 944 Turbo. Not necessarily unloved, but overshadowed by Porsche’s other offerings, the 944 has long lived in the shadows. It did, until a 5k mile example auctioned on BaT for $74k. That inspired a stream of 944 Turbos coming to market, and seemingly overnight, the going rate jumped an easy 20%. And now, because of BaT’s powerful online presence, if a somewhat out-of-touch 944 Turbo owner Google searches “944 Turbo for sale” in an effort to see what their old used car is worth, the $74k example pops right up, which immediately inflates their perceived value. Again, good for the non-enthusiast owner, bad for the hobbyist stretching to purchase their dream car. Of course, like any other industry, there are other external factors driving the market, but it’s undeniable that BaT has solidified itself as a key underlying force driving upticks and establishing trends in the market for classic and collectible vehicles.
So, what do we do, those of us who have been here all along and do have skin in the game? Well, we take the good with the bad. BaT rolls on, and we leverage the pluses that it does offer. We relish the constant stream of quality car-related entertainment, refer to the search bar for unparalleled valuation-related data, and maybe, every once in a while, put our Peanut Gallery armor on and buy or sell something. As much as we love to hate it, BaT isn’t going anywhere, and with the recent influx of desirable wheels, seats, engines, and memorabilia coming up for auction, it looks like the spectrum of sellable goods has yet to see its full potential. Buckle your seatbelts, friends.
Written by: Jake DePierro
Paperwork. Documentation. It’s one of the first things we ask about when considering a vehicle for purchase. Now while a lack of documentation will seldom sour a deal, the presence of thorough, well-organized paperwork absolutely can sweeten it. The term “documentation” is of course a fairly encompassing umbrella term, but we use it in reference to any items, paper or otherwise, that hold on record the date, location, and ideally mileage of a car at a given time. As someone who tends to purchase cars with the intention of reselling them down the line, paperwork can definitely add a certain level of attraction to a car. It goes without saying that it’s nice to see service records that document what has been replaced or repaired on a car, but this really isn’t the primary reason we get so caught up in documentation; the real value in paperwork is the ability to trace back the history of a car as far as possible. Has the car been in snowy, salty states? Were there any periods of extended storage? Is the mileage indicated on the odometer actually correct? Well-kept documentation addresses these would-be-buyer concerns, which then inspires confidence in the car and in turn, adds monetary value.
Fortunately for us owners and enthusiasts, most repair shops make a point to record a basic description of each car they work on. This record will typically include the year/make/model, VIN, color, and mileage. Noting the mileage of a car, though rarely thought of as such, is a very real value-add. Down the road, if someone is reviewing a car’s service history, this mileage log will play a key role in establishing a credible history of the car. Think about it, looking at the market for classic cars, so much of a car’s value is tied up in the level of originality and the mileage from new. Having the ability to reference past receipts in an effort to verify a car’s mileage, location, and original condition is a tremendous help in the selling process. It’s no revelation that a car having one owner from new adds quite a bit of value, and the closest, most accurate alternative to the story coming straight from the original owner themselves is a thorough paper trail of where the car has been and when. This is exactly why CarFax and Autocheck, though not relevant with pre-1981 vehicles, have been so successful since their inception; the more you’re able to piece together about the history of a car, the better you’ll feel about it. This paper-trail-based confidence in a particular car will actually translate to dollars when the car is put up for sale.
Lastly, it’s a pretty safe bet that if an owner had the presence of mind to hold onto all of their service receipts, manuals, etc over the years, they were fairly diligent about maintaining their car. Another confidence-booster. So in scouring the internet for your next toy and doing the homework that comes with it, don’t forget about the unforeseen value-adds. Be sure to probe, “what’s the extent of documentation you have on the car?” When the time eventually comes for you to sell the car, you’ll be glad you asked.
Written by: Jake DePierro
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