The Adviser

Good Vibrations?

by Dave Kinney
3 September 2021 3 min read
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Photo by Evan Klein

It was football coach Lou Holtz who said, “When all is said and done, more is said than done.” Instead of just pilling on with more words about individual sales, let’s take a look at a few of the big picture items. The Monterey Herald newspaper front-page headline on the Tuesday after the festivities ended read “Classic Car Week exceeds expectations.” And that, my friends, is as good a place as any to start a wrap-up.

As part of my job as Publisher of the Hagerty Price Guide, which powers the Hagerty Valuation Tools online, I talk to classic and collector car dealers. Lots of them. Most of them have their fingers on the pulse, and they can tell me, from their perspective, what’s hot and what’s not. They often know the mood of their buyers and how free they feel to open their checkbooks. Often, they’re the first to know when the party is about to end.

This party is not yet over. I’m happy to report that the dealer mood was more “let the good times roll” than I have seen in a number of years. Not just among dealers, who are often justifiably wary of what the next days or weeks will bring, but among the general public in attendance at the events as well.

Restaurants appeared to be as full as in previous years, hotel rooms were scarce (but not impossible to find), and those businesses that could charge a premium were doing just that.

So, on the face of it, all is well in Happy Town, correct?

Not exactly.  Those flying into nearby airports might have seen the earlier than usual California wildfires. Getting a rental car would be tough if you had forgotten to make a reservation, and, in some cases, even if you did. And this was just the on the ground and nearby stuff. Realistically, the world has lots of other problems to worry about. With the global supply chain messed up, that restoration project might have to be delayed because of shortages.  That Talking Teddy your kid wants for Christmas? Forget it, its chip is heading into a new Kia instead. The Delta variant… okay, I’ll stop.

Across the board, the Monterey auctions did well, in some cases very well. Bonhams, Gooding & Company, Mecum and RM Sotheby’s all walked away with bragging rights and a few world records. If it was $2,000,000 and under, chances are quite good it found a new home. We have all seen the fantastic results in online sales almost from the start of the pandemic, things have yet to slow, and Monterey continued the trend.

All of this begs the bigger question, Why, in the face of so many global challenges, do collector cars continue to do well? Nostalgia has always been seen as a primary motivator of collector car sales; however, I would discount pure nostalgia and go straight to boredom, or possibly a straight-up “reward” for pulling through the challenges that COVID-19 and its personal and business challenges have presented us. Don’t discount cheap money as one of the motivators, as interest rates continue to stay at or near historic lows.

That lots of people went to Monterey and spent lots of money is not news—this is nothing more than a continuation of a trend started a long time ago. What is news is the continued growth and interest in the dozens of events that take place in August in a series of not-too-big towns on the central coast of California. Older patrons are being joined by younger attendees, and the popularity continues to spread across generations. For some, it is a regular event, while for others it is a lifetime goal to show up just once.

Like the headline said, the Monterey Car Week did exceed expectations yet again. The blur of events, the traffic and the crowds (thankfully mostly outside), and of course the cars. The storm clouds of challenges parted just long enough for us to celebrate old friends and new, cars, camaraderie and the good vibrations generated underneath the California sun.

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