YPSILANTI, Mich. – The first Saturday of each month — even if that happens to be a holiday like New Year’s Day — owners and lovers of special cars gather at a nondescript single-story building beside the railroad tracks here to look at and talk about cars.
The early December crowd included members of a couple of car clubs plus the men and women who usually show up. Owners of cars that winter-over here pull back the dust covers so visitors can have a look at the toys.
This gathering usually features a speaker. Its December guest was McKeel Hagerty of the giant Michigan-based insurance company which, among other things, provides coverage for collectible cars.
Hagerty got right to the point. Special vehicles continue to be collectible; Many types have increased significantly in value in recent years; The oldest segment of the population is the most active in the buying and selling of vehicles in this country, and yes, even some Japanese cars now are sought after by collectors.
“There has been a huge run-up of collector car prices,” said Hagerty, adding that the current recession has not done much damage. (However, Hurricane Sandy may have ruined or destroyed up to 10,000 special cars.)
“Cars with special coachwork or chassis configurations are the most valuable,” said the man who now runs the family business and who holds the distinction of being the youngest person to serve as a judge at California’s Pebble Beach Concours.
Muscle cars, he added, have been the exception and, though perhaps over-valued before 2008, have been hurt the most in subsequent years.
“They haven’t recovered yet,” Hagerty said.
And while the multiple auctions in August in Monterey, Calif., and Pacific Palisades, also Calif., in 2012 recorded sales of $265 million, they were only about three percent of the market, he said.
Ferraris continue to lead the pack in terms of prices, Hagerty said. The most expensive to insure, Ferrari GTOs are valued at $30-$40 million each. Brassies like the Mercer are going up in value and vintage motorcycles are catching on as affordable collectibles.
There were no Mercers in the storage facility that day but there was at least one bright red Ferrari. Its wintertime companions ran the gamut from a 1927 Rolls-Royce Phantom I belonging to Guy Zaninovich to John Ottino’s 1967 Plymouth Hemi GTX 426, an early ’50s Dodge Coronet, a disheveled 90-year-old Buick touring about to undergo reconstruction, a Fiat racer and Bill Milliken’s 1927 Chrysler coupe modified as a LeMans racer.
Jon Waples put $100 of fuel in his spotless 1973 Rolls-Royce and drove the car over to Ypsi from his home in Detroit. He parked it in the building beside the 1934 Bentley Drophead Coupe which owner Roy Margenau III had piloted, top down, from Grass Lake, Mich.
Ann Arbor resident Tom Kauper was standing beside his blue-and-white 1928 Chrysler rumbleseat coupe.
Commenting on the day’s large crowd, Kauper said the monthly gathering is even better in warm weather when cars are out of storage and owners drive them.
“It’s great to see them all on the road,” he said.