Walking along the display of 120 collector cars, ranging from tiny two-seat BMW Isettas to massive Rolls-Royce limousines, it’s easy to imagine that the sagging economy hasn’t touched the hundreds of car owners at the Annual Winter Park Concours d’Elegance in Orlando.
As an investment, certain segments of the collector car market have suffered, while other segments — especially at the top of the market — seem unaffected.
“There’s a $10 million car here,” said Thomas duPont, who helped found the show nine years ago and continues to sponsor it. DuPont is the publisher of the duPont Registry, a publication based in St. Petersburg, FLa., that lists hundred of collector cars for sale, as well as other products that may appeal to high rollers, such as underground luxury storm cellars and $7,000 watches.
That $10 million car, incidentally, is a 1931 Bentley 8-liter, an ultra-rare race car owned by Gale and Henry Petronis of Orlando. Yet the massive Bentley just blends in with the other collector cars, unprotected by armed guards or even a velvet rope.
The November duPont Registry has 200-plus pages of collectible cars for sale, ranging from a limousine made from a Boeing 727 fuselage mounted on a bus chassis ($1 million, and includes a chauffeur for a year), to a Mercedes-Benz S600 ($119,900) built for the Sultan of Brunei with 3,400 pounds of armor added, thus able to “withstand attacks from handguns, assault rifles and armor-piercing military hardware.”
So what should collectors buy? “It’s like playing the stock market,” duPont said. “If you aren’t a professional with genuine insight into what you’re buying, what chance do you have of scoring big?” So duPont counsels his readers to buy vehicles that mean something to them as a first priority — a car you’ve always admired, or the duplicate of one you or a family member owned years ago — then secondly as an investment. “If you don’t know the market, get advice from someone who does,” duPont said. And look for a clean, original car from a reputable seller.
If your collector car increases in value, great. But if it doesn’t, “You’ll have something you enjoy driving,” duPont said, “or at least admiring.”