An “unidentified buyer” in a “private transaction” reportedly acquired the 1963 TdF (not the bike race) winning Ferrari GTO for fifty-two million dollars.
Other GTO owners are fielding offers in the $40M to $50M range for their cars. If you are one of those people, this sale amounts to brilliant news and will no doubt give you an even greater sense of satisfaction at having purchased at prices ranging from $7500 (out of an old R&T classified) to $6M (the “ridiculous” price set during the previous collector-car bubble). For the rest of us, this is bad news — but not just because it means you’ll never see a LeMans Ferrari in LeMons.
Bloomberg broke the story on Friday, quoting various investment-type people who said that the price was “probably not sustainable” and whatnot. It’s not that $52M for a GTO is obscene or beyond human imagination, it’s just that compared to the known market of $40M or thereabouts, it seems a little high. It’s easy to think of many reasons why this feverish market is bad news for people who truly love cars for reasons other than investment value, but here are five of them… and because this is TTAC and not a “normal” website, we won’t make this a slideshow.
Reason #0: It Distorts The Market In Both Legitimate And Ridiculous Ways
You can easily make the argument that the price of every collector car in the world — in other words, the price of everything that isn’t currently depreciating through normal use — can be expressed as a fraction of the value of a 1960s GTO. Obviously, this is explicitly true for things that are effectively substitutes for a GTO, like Ferrari-based GTO replicas and other racing Ferraris of that era, but it’s also true for anything else that a GTO “intender” might consider. Because when you price a GTO out of reach for a guy who can “only” spend thirty million bucks on a car, he becomes a buyer for something else, which raises the price of that. Other LeMans racers from other manufacturers. Astons. Ford GT40s. As the price for those cars soars, the normal buyers for those cars start looking at other stuff. Seventies racers. Street Ferraris. Miura SVs. The dominos keep falling until all of a sudden the price of a 308GT4 is $40,000 instead of $20,000. No additional value is delivered to the buyer of that 308GT4, and he certainly isn’t competing directly with the Fifty Two Million Dollar Man, but he’s on the end of a long string of dominos. Which sucks, because the GT4 is a surprisingly nice car.
Reason #1: It Is A Stab In The Eye To Normal People And It Promotes Some Unpleasant Thoughts And Behaviors
It’s hard to argue that there’s no “one percent” in this country or elsewhere when you consider that a) the real-world unemployment rate in America is at near-Great Depression levels and b) somebody just paid fifty-two million bucks for a car. We’ve entered a mirrored funhouse where returning Afghanistan veterans can’t find work and children are going hungry and real-world wages have been worse than stagnant for a decade and above us the Gilded Age party just keeps roaring louder. This sort of thing causes Black Bloc protestors to spring out of the ground and it lends potent ammunition to those who advocate for a forceful redistribution of wealth. It promotes class-warfare rhetoric and excuses extreme behavior and in the end it’s the small businessman with a used F355 who winds up taking the brunt of that resentment when some yahoo boots his store windows in during an “Occupy” protest.
Reason #2: It’s The Most Pansy-Assed Way Possible To Acquire A Race-Winning Car
If you have fifty-two million bucks and you want a beautiful car with a race-winning pedigree, why not do something admirable and, oh, I don’t know, start a race team? Why not put your own name on the side of a prototype and create racing history in 2013 instead of buying the sixty-year-old accomplishment of better men than you? When a GTO was a used car and cost less than the entry fee for LeMans it made sense to buy one. Today, it’s a rolling declaration of tastelessness. It’s unlikely that the private buyer of this car is a man both young and fit enough to run LeMans in his own car, but remember: John Wyer was sixty-five years old when he won the big one. His name will be remembered as long as people remember the event.
Reason #3: It Could Effectively Take These Cars Out Of Circulation
Will the fellow who insisted on buying this car privately show it publicly? Or will it be like the hundreds of 1959 Les Pauls or other pieces of great artwork that hide in locked safes because their owners are afraid of theft or damage? Say what you like about Nick Mason — I’ve never thought any of the drumming on any Pink Floyd album was exactly brilliant — but the guy brings his GTO out and lets people see, photograph, and drive it. This was considered to be a slightly stupid idea when the car was worth five million bucks. What about now, when it’s worth fifty? At what price level do these cars simply disappear from view permanently?
Reason #4: It’s An Insult to 2004 Pontiac GTO Owners
Think, for a moment, of the poor bastards who bought a brand-new 2004 Pontiac GTO. Most of them paid wayyy over sticker for the car. Then they had to watch open-mouthed as GM put the bad-ass LS3 in it for 2005 and the dealers sold ‘em cheap. They didn’t get hood scoops. Those benighted early adopters didn’t get the big wing. They didn’t get the “6.0″ badge. They got nothing. Now they’ll have to explain to all their neighbors that despite what they’re hearing about the price of a “vintage GTO”, their cars are still worth about ten stacks, yo. And the depreciation train still has a ways to go over at GTO Station. Within five years we’ll start seeing the first auto-tranny Aussie Goats in the 24 Hours of LeMons. When one of them wins, the owner of that car will have one more race win to his name than the guy who bought the $52M Ferrari GTO. But let’s think about what $52M could have done for the owners of the approximately 13,000 2004 GTOs still in circulation. It would be about four thousand bucks a car, which would cover two-thirds of the price of a ProCharger kit. Not that the relatively “slow and crappy” ’04 Ponty needs a ProCharger to dust a Ferrari 250GTO, mind you.
I won’t cause a few of the B&B to have a heart attack by suggesting that “QE” has anything to do with this new fifty-two-million-dollar record, but it has to be said that there does seem to be a lot of folding money chasing a relatively low number of collectible cars. Even 3.2-liter Porsche 911 Carreras are regularly fetching twenty-five grand nowadays. If you’ve had your eye on, say, a Ferrari 328GTB, now might be the time to throw some of that Bernakified cheddar at one. Remember, you can’t pay too much… you can only buy too soon, right?