Buy and Sell: What We Wanted When We Were Kids

Story By Andy Reid

One common thread in classic sports car collecting I see is that many people buy the cars they liked when they were in high school. I have heard many people, including myself, make fun of people for basically “buying back their youth” in this way. Quite honestly, I do not know the collector who has not bought the car or cars he wanted when he was young, now that he is older and can afford to buy them.

I have done the same many times. The biggest one so far was the Ferrari Daytona Coupe I had the opportunity to own for a while. It was the car that made me lust for Ferrari road cars and the one that I had always hoped to own. The car delivered on some levels but not on others. It’s like the saying, “be careful when you meet your hero.” The sitting in traffic was a pig, and the ergonomics had a few shortcomings. That being said, the view from behind the wheel was amazing. It made the right sounds, and I felt at the time that I had achieved automobile nirvana.

The downside is that sometimes the cars you wanted when you were younger fail to deliver. This is partly, at least in my experience, due to the fact that they are built up so much by us and we approach the cars with so many expectations, that they cannot begin to deliver on these unrealistic expectations. We forget that many of these cars were hand assembled—not always using the best parts available—and often built by manufacturers who did not have anything close to an R&D department, let alone a testing department.

Take, for example, the Ferrari 300 GTC: This is very much a car of the moment and is on many people’s buy lists. Yes, a Ferrari 330 GTC or GTS is a wonderful car with nice driving dynamics and strong performance. However, this is a limited-production car built by a tiny manufacturer in Italy at a cost. And as a result, it has some flaws. The electrical system is not awesome, the switchgear is cheaply made, and it really was not designed for everyday use. These issues cause the car to need constant attention for all its components to work properly; and even then, it is not unusual for things just to fail for no apparent reason. They are still great driving cars—better driving in fact than any Daytona—but they do not excite me the way a car like the Daytona does. The Daytona’s strengths certainly outweigh its weaknesses.

This is not limited to Ferrari cars. Ask an owner of a 1968 Corvette about his Rube Goldberg windshield wiper system. Ask an MGB owner about the newly installed SU fuel pump that stops working and then starts again after being whacked with a screwdriver. Ask the classic Porsche 911 owner about the alternator that continues to self-destruct in as few as 20K miles, despite multiple replacements.

These things are part of the classic sports car ownership experience and many of us learn to deal with it and get along just fine. This is in many ways part of the initiation fee all of us in the hobby pay to be a part of classic sports car collecting. Many of us have been at it a while and these things do not bother us anymore, but think of the poor newcomer. We need to do our best to help along the newbie collector to keep him interested so that he knows despite the niggling issues he is likely to have with his car, those late spring afternoon drives when everything is working perfectly more than make up for the pain of ownership.

Having said that, I have had the pleasure of a few cars that have not only delivered that wonderful feeling from behind the wheel but have not driven me crazy with issues. The Daytona was not one of them, though there have been some Italian cars that have delivered beyond my expectations. They all seemed to have their issues, but believe it or not, my Alfa Romeo GTV 6 and my lowly Ferrari Mondial did deliver on their promise to be exceptional cars.

You may think there are no British cars with limited ownership hassles, but I beg to differ. I have had a few British cars that have delivered all they had promised with none of the maddening issues I have had from other cars.

My 1993 Bentley Brooklands is not a classic to many people, but considering that it is a hand built car with a lacquer paint job, hand formed aluminum panels, and a hand built engine in a factory that dates prior to World War II, that sounds pretty classic to me.

Every single well-maintained MGB I have ever owned or driven has made a fun and relatively trouble-free classic, with the fun of driving the car outweighing the problems I may have with the car.

The other British car that delivered for me completely was my Aston Martin DB7. Yes, some people—even in the Aston club—called the car a Jaguar XJS in an Aston body kit but that really shortchanges the car. The car was designed by Ian Callum and Tom Walkinshaw of TWR Design fame. The engine was built by hand, the exterior painted in Crewe at Rolls-Royce, and the interior done by the wizards at Aston Martin in the town of Newport Pagnell. That does not sound like any Jaguar I know.

Besides its pedigree, the car looks, sounds and drives like a proper Aston Martin should. Also, I have never had a car that attracted more positive attention than the DB7. People make U-turns to follow that car to find out what it is.

Yes, the car had some issues, but most of these were due to previous owner neglect and not faults with the car itself.

How much did I like it? I actually bought it back from the friend I sold it to. I have never done this before, so the car definitely made an impression.

Finally the other classic sports car that tends to deliver on its promise of a classic sports car experience with minimal hassle is the Porsche 911. Any 911 from the 1965 model to the ‘89 Carrera is a true classic sports car that offers great performance and incredible reliability. They have a few issues, but for the most part they exhibit Camry-like reliability. I have owned more that 20 of these cars over the years and speak from experience.

Reliability is not everything, though. The next car purchase I am making is a white Lotus Esprit S1 or S2, or one of the early Turbo cars in white or Lotus Bronze. The Esprit is legendary for their pain of ownership, but I love the look and have wanted one since I was in seventh grade and watched “The Spy Who Loved Me.” I have driven a few, and they are amazing driving cars, which makes you forget about the money you spent last week pretty quickly. This is not a rational purchase, but I have wanted one forever and will have one in my garage this year. I will keep you posted on the Esprit as soon as I find the right car—again I want to avoid fixing 30 years of bad repairs and start with as clean a slate as I can.

Remember that no classic car is perfect, but the best ones are the models that either have such remarkable performance, styling or both, that you completely forget the hassles involved with ownership. In other words, you need to lead with your heart, but use your head. Buy a nice example of the car that you have always wanted—the one that was on the wall of your room when you were in high school. If you do that, you will find yourself not minding the issues that sometimes crop up. Those just make for good stories at the next club meeting.

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ian @ Jewel Or Jalopy
ian @ Jewel Or Jalopy New Reader
4/22/13 3:54 p.m.

I really need to buy a GTV6, I've loved every one I've driven, and the Milano Verde I owned for a few years was one of my favorite cars.

There are plenty of cars I wanted in high school that I still want. Some I will own eventually, some I hope to just drive someday.

For now our Alfa Berlina remains a reliable classic that we can use everyday. We love her.

Andy Reid
Andy Reid HalfDork
5/2/13 10:19 a.m.

Get the GTV6 soon. The prices are moving and they really are great cars.

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