Classic-car hobbyists often keep costs a secret

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.  —  The annual state-of-the-hobby panel discussion at the Russo and Steele classic car auction here can be both entertaining and informative. This year it was both, and then some.

Consider the following, shared by panelist Randy Fox, founder of InKnowVision, which develops estate planning strategies for wealthy clients:

Fox said he asked a client what he wanted to have happen to his car collection after his death.

“My greatest fear,” the client told Fox, “is that my wife is going to sell my cars for what I told her I paid for them.”

In an auction arena filled by primarily male car collectors, the laughter was loud, but also knowing and even pained. Just as women may be reluctant to tell spouses what they really spent on those new shoes and matching purse, car collectors may hesitate to share actual transaction prices — or even how many vehicles they actually own — with their partners.

At one point during the discussion, one of the panelists had a question for the crowd:

“How many of you have more than one classic car?”

At least half of the audience raised a hand.

“How many of you have more than five?” came the followup question.

Only a few hands lowered.

“How many of you want more garage space?”

Pretty much every hand in the place went up.

However, as much as car collectors cherish the cars, trucks and motorcycles in their space-stressed garages, many know — and the panel reminded them several times — that they’re merely custodians of vehicles that often have historic and always carry emotional significance to those who see them, or even temporarily own them.

There was a lot of talk at the Russo and Steele panel presentation about passing on that passion to the next generation. Panelists also stressed that while classic cars tend to increase in value, they should be bought for the pleasure they bring, not for their potential as investments.

“Buy what you enjoy,” moderator, auto restorer and broadcaster Wayne Carini told the audience.

“Your passion will be contagious — and that will help their value,” added Corky Coker, whose family-owned company produces modern tires but with old-style looks for classic cars.

Speaking of value, panelists were asked what they see as affordable buys in the current classic car auction market that have growth potential a few years down the road. After a warning about buying in a bubble economy from publisher Robert Ross — who cited not only the Ferrari bubble of the late 1980s but the Dutch tulip bulb market of 1630 — their list included early Dodge Vipers and Lamborghinis such as Miuras, Jaramas, Espadas, original Volkswagen Beetles and first-year VW GTIs, 1950 pickup trucks and station wagons, late-model air-cooled Porsches, BMW E30-model M3s and BMW 2002s, Datsun 510s, classic motorcycles (still affordable and you can park three in the space needed for a single classic car), and vintage travel trailers to pull behind a vintage car or truck.

Asked what to sell to make room for such acquisitions, few panelists had an answer.

“Why sell anything?” was the response from classic car insurer McKeel Hagerty of Traverse City.

Perhaps Fox put it best:

“Buy what you love,” he said. “Hold what you still love. Sell what you don’t love anymore.”

Larry Edsall is a Phoenix-based freelance writer. You can reach him at


Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall is a Phoenix-based freelance writer. You can reach him at