Sunday, 15 February 2015

Never Mind the Quality, Feel the Width


A Jaguar D Type romping round Le Mans in the late Fifties
 
I still occasionally receive notifications from auction houses for forthcoming sales in which they have pleasure in bringing to my attention particular entries which may arouse my interest and ‘should not be overlooked.’  I admire their optimism.  I am no longer in the market for classic cars, especially now that prices are ludicrous and I am skint.  The only auction I know of around here is the one run by Angolan Customs to rid their warehouses of uncleared imports.  Since it is rigged, there is no point going.

Racing car prices (the prices are racing, not the cars), though, like soaring stock markets do provide the investor an opportunity to make quite a return.  As values of vehicles possessed of rarity, beauty, engineering excellence and provenance are hammered to the stratosphere, the values of others less blessed rise as well.  Even the value of American cars, relatively few of which possess any of the forgoing qualities, are soaring. 
 
Despite the rave reviews it attracts now, the Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Berlinetta, better known as the ‘Daytona’, was about as well received as a replacement for the gorgeous 275 GTB/4 as Jaguar’s replacement for the E-Type, the truly awful XJS.  The coupe ‘GTB’ version was so unpopular that many owners, realizing that attached to the expensive badge they had bought was an ugly car, cut the tin tops off and had them converted to ‘GTS’ (convertible) specification (which had some redeeming qualities) in the hope of their cars commanding a better resale value.  The kudos of the model took a further cruel blow when a replica with Corvette underpinnings starred alongside Don Johnson in Miami Vice. The acting of both was execrable.
 
Ferrari replaced this...
...with this!
 
Still, there is no accounting for taste so when an ex-boss of mine (I seem to collect them) emailed asking which classic Ferrari he should buy as a long term investment, I advised him to buy a tin top Daytona GTB/4 in any original colour but brown.  I even found him a pristine, original, low mileage example up for grabs at less than $100k.  He could have slapped cash on the table and had it for around $80k.  I don’t know how much he paid, bosses very rarely acknowledge even accepting personal advice from a subordinate much less offer thanks if following that advice proved lucrative, but I watched the value of the unloved  Daytona climb steadily and it was to a rather ordinary Daytona requiring refurbishment and recommissioning that one auction watcher drew my attention.  I see the estimate is between $600-750 thousand.   A quick search of other Daytonas suggested an average of a million dollars for one in excellent original condition.  So long as he hasn’t pranged his or been forced to part with it to placate irate tailors or soon-to-be ex-wives (I let go of a Cobra for similar reasons), it will have been a good return for my old skipper.

It was this tenuous link to Daytonas that provoked me to cast an eye over other interesting cars on offer and there was this, claimed to be the rarest of Jaguar models, the XKSS. 
 
This is what Jaguar did to the racing D Type to turn it into the road going XKSS.
A taller screen and a luggage rack...
 
Having triumphed at Le Mans with the D Type in 1955, 1956 and 1957 Jaguar, with stiffer competition and new regulations decided to convert 25 of the remaining D Type chassis to road going versions of the D Type, and called it the XKSS.  A fire at the Brown's Lane factory destroyed all but sixteen of the cars under construction, most of the survivors going to the US (Steve McQueen had one).   If we are talking about rebodied D Types, however, the eye-wateringly expensive XKSS (at least one owner turned down $10 million for his) is not the rarest. 

And this is what an Italian did with the same car.

Chassis number XKD513 ran at Le Mans for two years before crashing.  The car was bought by coachbuilder Giovanni Michelotti of Turin who decided to rebody it.  The result, under the skin, is pure racing D Type (all the mechanical components are interchangeable) but could not be more different in appearance.  It is said that he performed the styling exercise in order to attract mainstream British vehicle manufacturers and, if true, was successful to an extent as Harry Webster, the Director of Engineering for Standard Triumph asked him, about the same time, to drag Triumph’s styling out of the Thirties (although which came first is arguable).  Either way, comparing Michelotti’s version of the D Type with Jaguar’s, I am reminded of what the Italians and English each think of as sensible attire…

An Italian ready to go out...
...and an Englishman.
Mind you, the clothing and car styling analogy doesn't hold true for Germans because a man dressed very much like this...
...designed this:
If you have cash to spare, invest in one of these.  You'll thank me in ten year's time.

29 comments:

  1. My neighbour up the street has rebuilt six Model T's and currently has an old Chrysler convertible he drives in the summer. I figured if I won the MG that was being raffled off last summer, i'd be asking him for mechanical help. He told me he had a few VWs he worked on, too, but as he's quite tall, my guess is that he likes cars that are roomy.

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    1. When I was younger, I was happy to squeeze into anything small and fast. Now I prefer comfortable and refined!

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    2. Probably because your ass has grown since then ;)

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    3. That's it, I'm getting the ouija doll out again...

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    4. Your OK I'm not fishing at the moment, Bathroom ceiling, painting, Tiling touched up, Kitchen painting, the list goes on.......:)

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  2. You sound like Jeremy Clarkson! He's a Yorkshireman but we have been trying to have him relabelled Lancastrian for years.

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    1. But, but... he's the most famous Yorkshireman ...................................................................................................................................................................................................................in the world!!!

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  3. Every now and then I purchase a classic car mag to peruse what is on offer and drool over cars I can never afford. I'm ever hopeful of my numbers coming up etc and plan my own little collection. The only trouble is that being of large stature, I would want cars I could fit into. And I would have an old Beemer in there somewhere.
    Any news on the war memoirs update? Still looking forward to that story.

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    1. No news on the update, Seems to be a bit harder now that I have sobered up!

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  4. My oldest boy is considering changing his car, and we have spent the past few days looking on-line at Mercs and Porches. He fancies a 911, and his wife wants something to go to the shops. I see no compromise.

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    1. Why the need to compromise? Hasn't his wife heard of public transport? My first wife was pigged off with me because I was always tooling around on motorcycles, she wanted something to go shopping in so I bought her a 300SL, Suggest to him a good R107 300SL (not an earlier 280, that has a cast iron block). A well fettled classic is far smarter than any modern car all of which depreciate like mad and are victim to the 'ooer, I see it is only the GTSL model, not the GTSLX with the double overhead chrome dipsticks', that sort of thing. Mercedes still make all the parts so servicing can be done at a regular Mercedes dealer and costs the same as a modern car. Of course, if he wants to drive around as if his hair is on fire, even though his wife would look gorgeous in it this would probably not be the car for him.

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    2. A very good friend of mine's dad had a gullwing 300SL (I went in it once), but swapped it for a huge power boat. The 300SL was later sold for almost a million, whilst the power boat slowly rotted at their Cornish 'second home' farm. Oh dear!

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    3. You know what they say, if it flies, floats or fornicates, rent it.

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  5. Wasn't your Englishman rather German, and prone towards them too?

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    1. How clever of you to notice! As the first gentleman is a Count, I felt it appropriate, when making my comparison, to choose someone from the same social strata but I am sure you noted as well the seamless link it provided to Germans and their cars.

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  6. My brother was telling me only this morning that on a recent trip to Brisbane he saw classic cars are very cheap and even with shipping them back to the Uk they would still be cheap. He visited a ginger growing farm who also had a classic car museum and they were "thinning the collection out a bit" and many were for sale.

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    1. I see a lot of ex Australia cars coming up at auction. If there is a link to the museum, I would be interested in seeing which cars they are thinning out. Do you have space in your garage in case I do fall for something interesting?

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    2. A little trip to Brissy town seems to be in order. Yandina ( where they grow ginger) is only a little way to the north. You just need to wait out the cyclone that is heading our way at the moment !

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  7. Oh you men and your sports cars. Give me the largest RV available where the sides go out and the top goes upward.

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    1. Sports cars are better value than a mistress...

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  8. I have a hankering for a Morris Minor van I'm afraid.
    John

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    1. Nothing wrong with a Morris Minor van. It'd be pretty useful here, solid, cheap, easy to fix.

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    2. How about this one, John:
      http://bringatrailer.com/2015/02/16/coupe-utility-1952-vauxhall-velox-ute/

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    3. I saw that Vauxal today and was about to send you the link. Glad to see you've caught on to BAT if nothing else but to tease yourself. Reality is, well a bit more frustrating, Hows the battle with old red Jeep going? or did you replace it with that blue Triumph Stag?

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  9. Tony had an Austin Healy 100-4 before we were married. The passenger had to stick their feet out the window on long trips cos the exhaust pipe ran under the metal floor on the passenger side. He sold it for $1500 . It would probably be worth $40000 or even $50000 these days !

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    1. Most men have sports cars until they are married!

      AH 100/4, a real bruiser! Rusted through basket cases are fetching ten times what yours was sold for.

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  10. My Dad also had an Austin Healy at some point, though I don't know what model. At one point, he had the entire transmission on his kitchen table.

    Alas, my only "nice" cars were a 2000 Dodge Stratus with leather seats, a 6-cd changer and a gasket leak; and a 1988 Suzuki Samurai, currently rotting in my parents' backyard. I still have dreams of fixing it up, even though it tried to kill me twice -- once by throwing one of its back wheels while I was doing 40 mph down a busy intersection (it's a tad disconcerting to get passed by one of your tires); and, once by detonating a u-joint at my feet and dropping its drive shaft while doing 55 mph (yes, with a tailwind) over some nice, rolling hills.

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    1. What really sends the women wild is not the gearbox on the table but the flywheel in the oven so you can sweat the new ring gear on!

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