A Curator’s Guide to Collecting Classic Cars

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Posted on August 17, 2018 by Laura Lucky

You remember. Easing yourself down into that worn leather seat while an uncontained grin spreads across your face. Lovingly caressing the dash as she roared to life. The intoxicating smells of motor oil and Turtle Wax filling your senses. The satisfying rush of adrenaline and the feeling of pure power as you floor it. That mind-blowing sensation of open-road freedom! Your first car.

The Drive to Collect

What amiable memories and nostalgia come with our first car, when we recollect those carefree teenage days. There’ll always be a special connection we hold in our hearts to that formative time in our lives and that’s precisely where the typical classic car collector gets their start.

“People often end up starting a car collection out of the love for and the desire to recreate their first car. They find themselves chasing those dreams and the connections they had to other particular cars and the collector is born,” says Walt Brown, classic car collector and owner of Brown’s Classic Autos in North Scottsdale. “Once they get their feet wet, they tend to dig into it deeper because it then becomes a love, a hobby, even an obsession.”

Perhaps it’s the memories of pleasant Saturday afternoons working on a car with Dad, or the affinity we have with a particular time in history, or possibly we’re fascinated by a car we’ve fallen in love with in a movie. It makes perfect sense why collecting classic cars feeds the passion and fervor for so many. “Classic cars are a form of art in every way, shape and form,” Brown smiles. “Some people look at their art. I race my art!”

The Keys to Success

Before you make a purchase, determine just what it is you’re trying to achieve. Are you looking for a project car to work on? Or would you rather spend your time driving and enjoying a car that’s ready to go? Perhaps you’re looking for something to buy and park for 10 years to later resell for profit.

Once you’re clear on what type of car you want, the next step is to do your homework.With the vast amount of internet information available at our fingertips today, starting or expanding your classic car collection is easier than ever. Brown remarks, “My biggest piece of advice is to do your research!

“With the internet, it’s really easy to learn a history of a car and to take the time to do the research to really understand what you’re looking at. There are many resources and tools online that give you information on vintage cars. In some cases, a car can be tracked through the web with information on its previous owners and prior purchase prices,” Brown says.

Once you’ve found a car that you’re interested in buying, you’ll want to quantify the facts – good or bad. “By the way, there’s nothing wrong with buying a car that needs work. You just need to take the time to fully understand what time and cost the car will require,” advises Brown.

Brown’s Classic Autos, with sales of $8.5 million a year and approximately 70 classic cars in its running inventory, sells cars to buyers from all over the world; such as Dubai, Australia and Germany. “We have a long history of sales, and a majority of our sales are sight unseen. Being transparent with our buyers has allowed us to earn a trust-worthy reputation that puts buyers at ease. Additionally, we offer our own 100-point check for someone purchasing a car elsewhere. We’ll identify the history of the car, help the buyer understand the documentation, and do a thorough mechanical review,” says Brown.

Buying a car sight unseen can be scary, but here are a few tips on buying a classic car: See lots of photos. With photo technology today, we can virtually see the car “in person.” Get photos of the underside of the car, under the carpets, in the engine, and photos of all the VINs and codes on the car. This will be a huge asset. You can even ask for a video of the car running, starting and driving. These photos and videos go a long way in helping you valuate and asses the vehicle.

There are many places to buy cars. Whether you’re buying from a reputable dealer, online, at auction, or from an individual collector; the key to your success always remains the same: Do your homework. “Don’t get antsy and don’t get ahead of yourself. There’s no better investment than a classic car, provided you’ve done adequate homework and you understand what you have and what your benefits will be from it,” opines Brown.

With the multitude of collector car auctions in Scottsdale, Brown offers further advice for collectors when it’s easy to get caught up in the festive atmosphere brimming with excitement. “Go to an auction with an objective and a goal. Do not buy something that you have not looked at first. Take someone with you that can offer their knowledge and expertise. Get online and do your homework right in front of the car. Climb underneath it, look around and really understand what you’re buying.”

The biggest question buyers have when buying a car is, “What is it worth?” This is a complex question especially in the collector and classic car world. Determining the value of these late model cars can be complicated; it’s not as simple as browsing through Kelly Blue Book. There are many factors that determine value beyond just mileage and condition; such as originality, documentation, special history or provenance, factory upgrades, production numbers, and much more. This analysis can be complex and intimidating.  EXPERT TIP: If you use an appraiser, make sure they specialize in the same period car you’re interested in, and they give you a fair market value assessment, which differs from the replacement value.

Scottsdale’s Horsepower is Unrivalled

Growing up, Walt Brown’s love of cars came naturally. His father owned car dealerships, and both his father and brother raced cars. Brown says, “I was always around hot rods and fun cars. My dad just always loved cars. And all these years later, I love cars just as much.”

With a lifelong love of cars, Brown has a unique appreciation of Scottsdale and the car collector community here.

“Barrett-Jackson being right here in Scottsdale has produced the greatest collector car nucleus in the nation. Bar none. What they have done is second-to-none in the auto industry. Being a car collector is particularly advantageous for Scottsdale residents. So many car auctions bringing in people from all over the world makes local car collectors the real beneficiaries of these events,” he pronounces.

“The collector car community is amazing across the world, but there is no better group of people than the collector car family here in the area. They share a connection. They’ve grown up with a love of cars and they’ve learned how to incorporate investment grade into a love. It’s a close-knit family that hangs around each other and spends time with their cars. It’s a nice family environment with amazing bonding. They’re really enjoying their investment all while creating a history and a value for a car,” Brown enthuses.

Have you been daydreaming about cruising around in your own set of vintage wheels? Maybe your mind wanders to the notion of possessing your own piece of history? Perhaps you too have caught the classic car collecting bug. With the aid and advice of a reputable local dealer, and the camaraderie of fellow collectors in our area; curating your ultimate collection is well within reach!

Brown’s Classic Autos offers support to buyers, sellers and collectors.

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