Is greed good?

“…Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures, the essence of the evolutionary spirit.” Gordon Gekko; Wall Street, 1987

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Classic cars nuts (including us) often complain about speculators who buy classic cars with the only goal to make profit on selling them at an higher price. During the last years also many people with pockets full of money have decided to invest some million dollars in top-end classic cars just to be sure that their investment doesn’t decrease the value or, even better, to make a spread after some years. Few of them are real car nuts. On the other side, real classic cars lovers can’t afford many cars because such market law have made a lot of cars economically unreachable.

The fantastic footage above, shot by Peter Helm about Stephen Mitchell’s GTO at Willow Springs race track, shows how a car like the GTO was driven just like a car is supposed to be. You can also see a 250 GT California painted to look like an army car just for fun. Those weren’t investment objects, just cars, beautiful cars.

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On the other hand, a thought rises after having watched the image above: in this clip from the 1973 italian movie “Milano Trema“, you can clearly spot a Dino 206/246 and a Maserati Mistral in a scrapyard of Milano, ready to be disassembled or crushed: the fact is that it has been the destiny of most classic cars. What could have been the end of most classic cars, if they were only loved by petrolheads? Back in 1973, my father (a real car nut) was asked if he was interested in buying a Ferrari 330 GTC for $1,000; his answer was “What am I supposed to do with it?”. The fact is that even today it’s not easy to spot a classic car running through the town, probably if few people were interested in these cars, nowadays you could see them only on books. We’re forced to admit that greed helped all these cars to survive, like it or not. However, no matter if you can’t afford them: as an heritage of our past often it’s enough to see one passing by at high speed in front of our eyes for just a second: this memory will accompany you for many years. And, if you own a classic car, drive it even just if you should go to the mall: do a favour to yourself and to people watching you.

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3 Responses to Is greed good?

  1. Cargirl says:

    I have read your post several times and have to say with all due respect that you fail to address your subject. “Is Greed
    Good.” Greed by its very definition can not ever be good. If I am to understand your post you presume that money, a lot of money, is the only thing responsible for keeping these cars alive. I beg to differ. I think it is money that is killing these cars. Your topic caught my attention because it is one I deal with every day as an exceptional car broker. To address your topic I am just going to cut and paste an e-mail I sent to an elderly seller just yesterday. He has decided to sell his cars so that his wife will not have to deal with the task should he die first. The letter is self explanatory. No matter his reason for selling I think the e-mail addresses the topic of your post:

    Dear Bob,

    My buyers are real. They are also not stupid. Not even you could justify your asking price. You keep claiming your Aceca is the best in the world, the only thing you have not done is to tell us why.

    Why is your car worth 75,000. more than this car? http://www.barrett-jackson.com/application/onlinesubmission/lotdetails.aspx?ln=1275.1&aid=525 It is not. I saw this car personally. It was gorgeous – everything, including the engine, had been taken apart and restored to perfection. So this is a good example to start with. Other than the engine (and trust me it has an excellent engine in it now) – what makes your car worth $75,000.00 more?

    You know what the numbers for these cars are and you know the real reason you won’t discuss numbers with REAL buyers is that you are stubborn and you have no intention of selling your car or cars. At least not while you are alive. By Gosh, it’s not like you’re not trying. You have organized pictures and come up with a price but that is where it will end because you have no intention of selling.

    This is what I hope is true. The only other alternative is that you are purposely driving the market up and single handedly putting these cars out of reach of real buyers who will love them and drive them into the hands of those that I classify as having “More money than Brains.” And you may very well find that person. He will come pay your asking price and brag to all of his friends that will listen about his new car. And then he will put it in the collection never to see the light of day. And then when the next guy comes to buy the car of his dreams (as you did with this car 28 years ago) he will see that some moron paid way too much for a car and some pockets got lined. And that that car is now out of his reach. It makes me sad. The whole thing makes me sad. Yes I am a broker and I should be fixated by selling your car for alot of money so I can make more money. But that is not why I got into this business. I got into it because I love the cars, and the people and l love to see that I can put the people and the cars together and that history can continue because of this successful transaction.

    Please humor me because we have spent so much time talking and tell me why your car is worth more than $75,000.00 than the car at Barrett Jackson (75k before any commission of course).

    Finally, please give my card to your wife so she can call me after you are dead. I would hate to see unscrupulous brokers or auction houses taking advantage of her.

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  2. Classicvirus says:

    Dear Cargirl (correct?), thanks for your considerations.
    It’s not accidental that the subject “Is greed good?” is not “Greed is good” like the famous monologue.

    Although I agree with you about the fact that such word has not a positive nuance by itself, it would be naive not to think that if you’re going to face a total restoration on a low-value classic car, you are: 1) A rich person 2) A mad person (in a good way). There’s not a third way.

    Passion alone is not, unfortunately, enough to push people to restore or preserve classic cars if they don’t have the certainty to recover at least most of the money spent if they are forced to sell.

    I’ve mentioned what’s happened to my father fourty years ago because, even though he was (and is) a car nut, he couldn’t see the sense to buy and preserve a seven years old Ferrari, with all the costs related and the space needed to store it (my father was not rich). Of course, if someone had said him that the same car would have been worth hundred times the asking price just ten years later, he would have bought it in a second, despite of the previous considerations. Now it’s impossible to say where that Ferrari is now: maybe in a collector’s garage, maybe its steel was recycled and it’s now part of my washing machine.

    And this, is even more true for all those cars which were less “beautiful” than a Ferrari: think at all the coachbuilt Fiats lost during the years.

    You say that greed is killing these cars, but I didn’t understand how: I have read carefully the email you sent (btw, you go straight to the point, don’t you? ;-) but I can’t greed there, it seems to me that (I haven’t seen his car) simply “Mr Bob” lives on the moon. Maybe he is simply sentimentally attached to his car, or maybe he just needed an excuse to say to his wife “You see honey? It’s full of sharks out there. We’ll keep the car”.

    Maybe greed is killing passion, and I completely agree with that. I’ve not many certainties, so I’m open to whatever discussion about it.

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  3. Cargirl says:

    You are right about the seller being attached to his car. That is why I have given him the benefit of the doubt as to how and why he priced his car.
    I think we are discussing many different subjects under one topic. But if you are up to the debate I’m game to discuss whatever it is we are discussing because all aspects related to the buying and selling of collector cars interest me (it is what I do for a living).
    So let’s break this topic down and get back to the term “Greed”. What part would greed have played in your father’s decision to keep his Ferrari?
    And what part does “Greed” play in someone buying a low value classic? On this level people buy out of love more than investment opportunities (trust me I have an MB in the driveway right now that I have piled money into blindly because I love her even though she refuses to start in the cold and no one will ever pay me the money I put into it.).
    Would greed not apply more to the types of cars that are coveted – the high value classics where the stakes are higher.

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