Gunners Garage

Last Weekend At The Newsstand I Picked Up Something Called The Barrett-Jackson Experience

   Last weekend at the newsstand I picked up something called the Barrett-Jackson Experience. I had bought the same magazine before, but the last two copies had auction prices and analysis.  This latest copy had a a few pictures of cars and a story about Chrysler (with several errors in it), but it was not really a “car magazine.”  It was a so-called lifestyle publication showing expensive gifts and famous personalities “being seen” at the Barrett-Jackson auction.
   Man, this old-car hobby is really changing, isn’t it?   The first car collectors I remember were often viewed as “kooks” or eccentrics in their neighborhoods.  These men and women had a true love of old cars when no one else wanted them.  They dragged home all manner of vintage vehicles and stored them like pack rats. In many cases, the cars were stored outside. Maybe a few “higher end” collectors covered them with tarps, but that was a rarity.  And the hobby remained much this way through the ’50s and ’60s.  As a kid, on Staten Island, N.Y., in the late ’50s, I used to have my mom drive me around every Wednesday afternoon to look at the various “collections.” I kept track of the cars and worried if one was missing.  (Of course, I hoped to grow up someday and own a few of them.)
   By the time I got into the hobby in the ’70s, prewar cars were being seriously collected and restored, often in fairly decent storage conditions.  But most people into early postwar cars at that time simply bought them because they were cheap.  You could purchase a real decent ’50 Ford or a ’54 Chevy for $300  and drive it everyday.  When people would see it at a gas station or grocery store, they would gather around and someone would invariably offer you $800 or $1,000.  Of course, you turned them down (in many cases, because they really weren’t going to buy the car anyway).  The point is that old cars didn’t cost very much, but they got you as much attention as a new one.
   Well, things are really different now.  It almost seems like there are no good, cheap old cars left.  And car collectors are no longer kooks or low-end car buyers . . . they have become investors or “connoisseurs of rolling sculpture.”  Not me though.  I still have old cars, but they are not an investment and not for sale.  After all, if I sold them, how would I get to work?

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