Feature Article

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The Auction Circus Comes To Town

Would you find it hard to believe that until last year, Orange County had not played host to a major annual Collector Car auction in over 14 years? From our best information, the 1997 Kruse Auction at Newport Dunes was the last time auction tents were pitched in the OC. This June, two Collector Car auctions will be held in Orange County, the second annual edition of the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction at the OC Fairgrounds and the Electric Garage “EG” auction being held in conjunction with the Dana Point Concours d’Elegance.

Starting in the late 70’s, Rick Cole held an annual Collector Car auction at the Hyatt Newporter that quickly became part of the local car enthusiast scene selling up to 400 cars during these annual and sometimes twice annual multi-day events. Remember that these were the “pre-internet” days and hunting for Collector Cars meant combing the pages of Hemmings Motor News, searching classified ads in the local paper or getting up early on Sunday and pounding the pavement at the Pomona Swap Meet. A more upscale opportunity was the Rick Cole auction and it was your best local chance for viewing and purchasing a Collector Car. At this time there was just a single auction held in conjunction with the Pebble Beach Concours/Monterey Historics and traveling to Arizona in January for the Barrett-Jackson auction was the only other local option. For a few years from the mid 80’s to the early 90’s, Palm Springs hosted vintage car races and a Sunday concours with Rick Cole presenting an additional Collector Car auction but that event faded away around the same time the annual Newport auctions.

In 2008 two major OC based car collections, Art Astor and Joe MacPherson, both repeat exhibitors and supporters of the then “Newport Beach Concours” were liquidated by RM auctions, the world’s largest Collector Car auction house. Record prices were achieved and a very high sell-through percentage was reached validating that Orange County was a market that could again support a major Collector Car auction. Barrett-Jackson, an auction house veteran of forty years, held discussions with the OC Fairgrounds, outlining necessary infrastructure so a major auction could be held on the property. A new building with accommodations allowing “drive through access” and the addition of a temporary tent for expanded seating/viewing was erected and last year, June 2010, the first Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction and Lifestyle event was held. Over 58,000 people attended the three day event and nearly 400 cars were sold reaching more than $15 million in total sales.

This year, in addition to the 400 car Barrett-Jackson event on June 24-26, Electric Garage (EG) has partnered with the Dana Point Concours and will be holding a manageable 100 car event on June 25th featuring many affordable Collector Cars and select automotive memorabilia. This will be the first time in the 29 year history of the Concours that a Collector Car auction will be held in conjunction with this premier Southern California enthusiast car show.

Collector Car auctions present a special opportunity for viewing and bidding on a large variety of cars but the learning curve can be quite steep. While the pre-auction viewing can be relaxed and executed at your own pace, the actual auction get’s very exciting and the pace picks up considerably. Many collectors enjoy the electric atmosphere of a live auction and chose to buy and sell exclusively through one of the many auction houses that host dozens of events across the county and around the world. The word “live” is used because 365 days a year eBay has hundreds if not thousands of Collector Cars being sold at auction on the internet. The internet has made searching for Collector Cars accessible to many more potential buyers and has greatly improved the opportunity to research and educate enthusiasts before they make a purchase. Besides the multitude of eBay listings, every major auction house posts most if not all of their consignments on their web sites and welcomes phone and internet bidding at their auctions. This expanded exposure and viewing audience is good for both buyers and sellers. If an individual is not comfortable bidding online or in person at a live auction, agents can be hired to consult and facilitate the purchase of a car at auction or at a private sale.

Make sure you attend one of the local auctions as they are very entertaining events. There is a social aspect and casual atmosphere while viewing the cars but the actual live auction offers unmatched drama and thrills. Great fun even if you’re just watching and have no intentions of participating. The public can purchase tickets to view the auction without being a “registered bidder” while “registered bidders” enjoy reserve seating, an auction catalog, and possibly other perks like food and beverage service. Visit www.barrett-jackson.com and www.theelectricgarage.com for event details.

Charles Rollins
Chief Award Steward, Newport Concours d’Elegance from 1999-2009

Remember, Buying a Used Porsche Is Supposed to Be Fun!

Paul Kramer www.autokennel.com

Purchasing a “previously owned” Porsche should be fun and one of the best experiences of your life.  This isn’t like buying some boring transportation to get you from point A to point B.  It’s all about the journey. This is probably one of the most emotional major purchases you will make in your life. I have heard all kinds of stories about buying a used Porsche.  Many times, the process sounds more like getting a root canal than purchasing your dream car. I really try to tell my clients to have fun with the experience.  For many of them, this is the realization of a life-long dream.

I think that is why people have called me in the past to help point them in the right direction. They want to purchase their dream and they are ready financially and emotionally to move forward. However, they really have no idea what to do.  Usually, they first start the process by going online and looking at the popular websites. Many times, this can become overwhelming.  Their eyes glaze over as thousands of Porsche ads flash before them.  They begin to look like a small kid who steps into FAO Schwarz on 5th Avenue for the first time.  Hours of looking quickly turn into days, weeks, months, and yes, sometimes even years. No, they don’t have OCD; they are just a bit overwhelmed and lost.

 The first step is to not listen to your friends or Internet banter, but rather look at your lifestyle and figure out what will fit best. It is pointless to buy a Porsche that is going to sit in the garage and never be driven. Also, I strongly recommend that you involve your spouse in this decision.  If they are on board, they are going to enjoy the Porsche with you.  This is critical. I can’t tell you how much more fun it is to share this experience with your loved one. I think sharing a Porsche easily trumps marital counseling.

Ok, then what Porsche should you buy?  Open the Pando and check out all the many great events that are happening.  Which ones appeal to you? Which ones do you realistically think you can do?  Ask yourself if you would like to drive your Porsche every day to work, a few days a week, or just weekends.  You may love the romantic idea of a convertible, but is it realistic? In my case, I’m follicle-challenged! Usually (even with a hat), after a half -hour of having the sun beat down on my head, I’m done.  No convertibles for me. Or, you may absolutely love convertibles.  However, if your significant other can’t stand them, is a convertible really the best decision? You may be very lonely in your new toy and end up just detailing it in the garage. I strongly recommend that before you look at one online Porsche listing, you narrow down what kind of car will work for you.  Many of my conversations with clients feel more like  therapy sessions rather than car purchases.

Once a decision is made, then you can decide which model and year best fits your lifestyle and budget. So begins the tedious process of looking at all the Porsches in the market.  The best thing about the Internet is the search capabilities. You can set specific parameters to help focus your search. In order to find the car you want, you may have to expand your search to the entire country.  Also, you might consider looking at a model year before and after your ideal choice. You will be surprised how this may open your choices.  Besides the major websites such as AutoTrader®, eBay®, and Cars.com®, you might consider niche sites and forums.  Places like Rennlist, PCA, Early S Registry, and Pelican Parts are some great options.  Of course, don’t forget our OCR website classifieds.  Your perfect car may be in your fellow PCA OCR member’s garage. Some other great ways to find Porsches is to use a Google search .  Many times Porsches are listed in small local markets and will never pop-up on the sites I listed. A great example of this is Craigslist®.  You can type the model Porsche you want with the word “craigslist” into Google and you will see all the Craigslist® ads across the country…this is incredibly handy for some of the older Porsches.

When looking at eBay® ads, don’t be frightened by the auction style listings.  Just treat them as any other classifieds. When you review the ads, carefully inspect the pictures provided as well as the description. It’s possible to learn a lot about the owner and how the car was cared for.  If the car is photographed in a garage full of crap, you can pretty much guess that the car will have its share of scratches and door dings.  One of my personal favorites is a Carrera photographed in the snow...hmmmm.  I wonder how the bottom of that car looks?! Furthermore, the description can help you identify if the current owner understands what his car is and how passionate he is about it. Many times, either Carfaxes® or Autochecks® are attached to the advertisement.  If not, I ask the seller if they have one (this only applies to cars newer than 1981). These background checks will give you further insight to the ownership history.  They report items such as branded titles (salvage or lemon law buyback) as well as accidents and odometer fraud.  Like anything else, these reports are not the end all. Many times I’ve found gross errors in these reports. This is like looking at the family album for your car.  Just because someone had a mullet 10-years ago doesn’t mean they have one today.

Once you have a short list of the Porsches you are most interested in, a phone call with the owner is critical.  If I cannot talk to the seller on the phone, I do not consider that car regardless of how “perfect” it seems.  Many times fraud is involved in car listings. (Fraud will be the subject of a future article.)  A good discussion with the owner will help you read between the lines and get a clearer picture of the current condition of the car. When you ask good, open-ended questions, it’s amazing what kind of information you can gather. If everything looks good from here and the car is close enough for you to see in person, schedule something sooner rather than later.  Good cars sell quickly.

The final component, and probably the most important of the purchase is an inspection commonly referred to as a PPI (pre-purchase inspection).  The key is to find a neutral shop (not the one that worked on the car) that is close to the seller and has a good reputation.  Even if it is a newer car and under warranty, you want to verify that the body is ok.  A decent inspection for a car ranges from $150-$500 depending on the area of the country and if it is being done by a dealer or an independent repair shop. With older Porsches  (1998 and older), a compression test and possibly leak down test on the engine are mandatory.  This is like an EKG for the Porsche’s engine. It will tell you if it is healthy or close to needing a rebuild.  Also, I discuss with the mechanic doing the inspection items that are important to me. For vintage cars, you might even have a separate PPI for the mechanical and one for the body…especially since many of these cars can cost over six figures.

This discussion just scratches the surface of the process. It may sound daunting, but it really isn’t that bad and should be fun.  I hope this helps and happy hunting.

Besides helping people sell their toys (usually to make room for their next automotive acquisition), I frequently help people navigate the rough waters of finding and buying the right used car.

Paul Kramer

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