Three Invesment Cars – Part One

What: Three picks for investment cars
Where: USA
Who: Anyone with the money
When:  Now 

We’ve all done it, we’ve all said it.  If I had bought that car when I was looking I would have tripled my money by now.  I’m sure I’ve said it multiple times a week for a long time.  I bought my 1978 Lotus Esprit Series 2 for a song a couple of decades ago; it was low mileage and in pristine condition.  When I was ready to sell it I took it to Barrett-Jackson when they were at West World and after commission I made $9k in profit.  The sale earned a Sports Car Marketplace magazine  comment “well sold” and they said that it set the Esprit price going forward.  Well, the prices have gone up, but I think my buyer was someone wondering why they got such a cheap Ferrari and not any great insight of mine.  But, please don’t repeat that because I use that example every time I want a new ride.

So with this post and the following two I will choose three cars using my “special investment intuition”.  In this post I’ll pick my three car, one $5k or under, one $10k or under, and one $20k or under.  I’ll give you my thoughts on why I like them without additional research.  My next post will be what I have found out from researching these cars as actual investments.  Then my third post on the subject will be where I decide to head to the bank and make a withdrawal for the big buy or where I eat my words and stick with my ’78 Lotus story.

Okay, my first car will be a sound 1973 SAAB Sonett III.  First, there are not a lot of sports cars under my $5k limit, but I think I can pick up a Sonett in that range,


I could be wrong and I’ll find that out in the research.  Swedish cars are an acquired taste, not everyone will go for a front wheel drive fiberglass car, but don’t they look cool.  This pick may be a little biased in that I owned one and taught my wife to drive in it.  They have a little 1.7 liter Ford V4 engine in them and there are over 200 specialty tools to work on them.  The headlights are manual, so they always work, the car always runs, it’s fun to drive, and you can always count on it being fairly unique outside of a SAAB rally.   Five thousand dollars is almost pocket change for a car these days, so how could you go wrong?


Other cars I considered: an early Mazda Miata, a later MG Midget,

For $10k there are a lot more cars to pick from and since I’m not using any outside resources yet I hope I stay within budget.  I’m going to go out on another limb with this pick as well… a presentable 1969 Datsun Fairlady 1600.

Datsun Fairlady 1600
Datsun Fairlady 1600

The Datsun 1600 has dual Hitachi carburetors and a 1595cc engine from what I remember.  The top flops back with a single hand, much like a British MG, but when you turn the key it usually starts, not necessarily like a British MG.  This is a more proper sports car than my SAAB Sonett pick for under $5k with a front engine and rear wheel drive.  They drive nice on the curves and can keep up with traffic on the freeways.  They turn my head every time I see them, at first you think British then you see there are no oil leaks under it.  They are solid, well-engineered cars.  Other cars I considered: a nice Austin Healey Sprite MKIII, a presentable Triumph GT6, Porsche 914 1.7 liter, Fiat 850 Spider.

For under $20k the field really opens up, so let me say up front my pick will be 75% emotion and 25% everything else.  I’ll turn those numbers around in the next post when I do the real research.  My under $20k pick is 1969 BMW 2002 roundie.  This is the car that turned BMW around and gave them the real image of the ultimate driving machine, the 3 series before there was a 3 series.  Don’t be tricked into buying an automatic, a real classic sports car is a manual.  These cars have clean lines, the engines are bullet proof, and great performance for the era of the car and a 2.0 liter engine.  The round tail lights and the all chrome bumpers give it such a classic look.  The later 2002 Tii has much better performance, but not the classic look.  Other cars I considered are: Porsche 914 2.0 liter, Lotus Europa, early MG B, Lancia Fulvia, BMW Z3 M

This post reminds me that I am a bit short on my scaled car collection as well…. no BMW 2002.

My Return to Le Mans

What: 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans (24 Heures du Mans)
Where: Le Mans, France
Who: The Automobile Club de l’Ouest
When:  June 14-15, 2014

LeMans 2001 literature
2001Le Mans literature and tickets

It has not been since Father’s Day in 2001 that I have gone to the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in Le Mans, France.  Although I have been a “car guy” my entire life, it was my first Le Mans style race I had been to and the highlight of my first trip to France.  2001 marked the return of Bentley to Le Mans after a 71 year hiatus and was also the year I purchased my Audi TT.  It was a very good car year.

Well, I will finally be going back this year.  My wife will already be in France on business for a month and I was able to get a week away to meet up with her.  I could have chosen either end of her trip; at the beginning and attended Le Mans or at the end and attended Le Mans Classic.  I chose the former.  I love the smell of the fuel, the sound of the cars, the raw power you can feel and see as they pull out of a Chicane and down a Mulsanne straight with their unbelievable amount of torque.

I am on a bit of a shoestring and will only go to the race on the 15th to watch the sun come up and finish of the race.  I am a romantic Lotus fan, wanting to see the great marque’s return to prominence.  They make great cars; my first was a 1978 Esprit Series 2 but, I’m not sure what my second one will be yet.  I would love a Lotus VI, even though the more practical side of me says Evora.  It’s hard not to enjoy seeing the dominance of Audi though, no other constructor has had such a run as they have since their debut in 1999 and to watch them race you know why.

We’ll be staying in Paris and taking the train in.  Le Mans in not a big city and hotels are near impossible to get at this late time.   I found a receipt for a Le Mans Polo shirt and baseball cap I purchased in 2001; I don’t remember paying that much (and won’t this time).  Wow!2001 ReceiptIf you are expecting to go on the cheap you will have to work at it.  You can buy tickets on line before the race or I found, in 2001 anyways, that you could purchase them at the gate as well.

If you don’t have a budget here is a VIP race package that might interest you:

I think this is going to be another great Father’s Day.  I hope yours is as good, but if I won’t be seeing you at the track you may be able to sneak in a few minutes of the race when you are out and about on your phone with live streaming here:

Le Mans facts:
Location: Le Mans (France)
Track Length: 13.629 km (8.469 mi)
Race Distance: 24 Hours
Longest Distance Covered: 3315 miles
Turns: 21
Direction: Clockwise
Closest Train Station: Gare de le Mans (7 KM)
Closest Airport Marce: International Airport (78 km)
Closest Main Road: E502

1971 Alfa Romeo Montreal

What: 1971 Alfa Romeo Montreal Coupe
Who: Val Herrera
From: Double Oak, TX
Where: Seabrook, TX, Lakewood Yacht Club
When:  May 3, 2014

My eyes were drawn to the Alfa Romeo Montreal Coupe I saw sitting up on the hill overlooking the docks at the Keels and Wheels Concours d’Elegance.   Throughout the day I had stopped by a couple of times hoping to meet the owner and get a few words with him or her.  On my last pass by I was listening to a gentleman that I later learned to be the owner, Val Herrera, talking to others interested lookers about his car.  He was telling them about it’s history and what work he had done since owing it.  The car’s front end has four headlamps partly covered by grilles that retract when the lights are switched on, but Val was able to show us how they worked manually.

1971 Alfa Romeo Montreal
Interior of Val Herrera’s 1971 Alfa Romeo Montreal Coupe
1971 Alfa Romeo Montreal
1971 Alfa Romeo Montreal

Val is a retired Texas Instruments engineer with a collection of 10 different Alfa Romeos.  Val bought his first car, an Alfa Veloce Spider,  in Hollywood, CA almost at the corner of Hollywood and Vine in 1965.  Val found this particular Alfa Montreal in the Alfa Owner’s magazine in the cars for sale section and it was first come first serve; so Val headed to Phoenix, AZ back in 2002 and has not regretted that trip yet.

Val Herrera's 1971 Alfa Romeo Montreal Coupe
Val Herrera’s 1971 Alfa Romeo Montreal Coupe

Val’s Montreal has 42,000 original miles on it and other than replacing the timing chain the engine has not been opened.  Val has installed both new paint and a new interior on his car.  That was good enough to enter it in Concours Italiano in Monterey, CA.  A recent record setting sale at Gooding and Company Scottsdale set the bar at $176,000 for a 1971 Alfa Romeo Montreal Coupe.

1971 Alfa Romeo Montreal Coupe
1971 Alfa Romeo Montreal Coupe at Keels and Wheels 2014
1971 Alfa Romeo Montreal Coupe
Val Herrera’s 1971 Alfa Romeo Montreal Coupe, rear view

 Val also owns one of only 35 copies of the Alfa GT6 Callaway.

Val took home the Silver award for misc. Italian cars; Congratulations!!  I hope you enjoy the pictures of Val’s beautiful car!

The Alfa Romeo Montreal Coupe:
Years Produced: 1970-1977
Production: Total number built was 3917
Driveline: longitudinal engine at front with rear wheel drive
Engine:2593cc (80×64.5mm) DOHC V8 with 200bhp @ 6,500rpm with mechanical fuel injection, and dry-sump
Suspension front: Double wishbone, telescopic dampers, coil springs and anti-roll bar, rear: live axle, coil springs and dampers
Wheelbase: 92.5 inches
Front Brakes: discs, ventilated
Rear Breaks: discs, ventilated
Gearbox: 5 speed manual, ZF limited-slip differential
Kerb Weights: 2493 lbs.

Comments from around the web:

It made 200hp out of just 2.6 liters, a very respectable specific output for a naturally aspirated car. Its high redline and small displacement made it one of the most lively powerhouses of its day.” Concept Carz,

“the soul of a concept car and the V-8 heart of a race car” Hemming’s Motor News,

“Very few road cars can claim an engine with antecedents in both long-distance sports car racing and Formula 1 but the Alfa Romeo Montreal is one of them. ”  Bonhams,

Keels and Wheels, May 2014

What: Keels and Wheels
Where: Seabrook, TX, Lakewood Yacht Club
When:  May 3, 2014

Outside the entrance to the 2014 Keels and Wheels
Outside the entrance to the 2014 Keels and Wheels

It was my first time to visit Keels and Wheels.  I’ve been to many car auctions and many car shows, but this is the first boat and car show combined; it was fantastic.  Even if you are not a boater, you can appreciate the work and care put into these beautiful floating machines.  Most of them were wooden Chris Crafts from decades and centuries gone by.

I was only able to make it to Seabrook for Saturday Concours d’Elegance and did not attend the auction or awards, so I’ll need to catch up on those after the fact.  There was a great collection of automobiles from the early 1900’s through today.  From the entry gate around the first corner they are mostly American brass cars, beautifully restored, many for much more than their value.  I started out talking to Don Sable who had almost 5 years into the restoration of his 1911 Ford Model T Torpedo Roadster.  The picture below is my wife sitting in his car.

1911 Ford Model T Torpedo Roadster
My wife sitting in Don Sable’s 1911 Ford Model T Torpedo Roadster

Although these were all great cars and restored to levels better than when they came from the factories, I thought I was going to be disappointed.  I came to see sports cars since they are my passion.  As we wondered down the road we came across a gaggle of Corvettes;

1955 Corvette
Carolyn Sikes’ 1955 Corvette

they were magnificently restored and then a lineup of Ferrari’s down by the docks.  There were some beautiful 430’s, one Dino that was a little rough on the outside, but presentable.

Though I had many favorites for the day, the one that I spent the most time with was a blue 1959 Maserati 3500 GT.   The owner wasn’t around, so I didn’t get any background on the car’s history.

1959 Maserati 3500 GT
1959 Maserati 3500 GT

Enjoy the pictures from the show and I’ll post some specifics about a few talks with some owners I had in a day or so.

The full list of the 2014 awards can be found here: