Odds And Ends

No, that is not the name of the shared practice of a psychiatrist and a proctologist. My wonderful wife and I will not attend today’s final auction day at Barrett-Jackson as we have some more pressing matters.

Today’s docket is short, about 120 vehicles. A quick count yielded 51 pickup trucks and SUVs among those vehicles. While that might be a slightly higher proportion than for the rest of the auction, it’s not much higher if any.

I know I am already sounding like a broken record, but I am dismayed by the invasion of these non-cars into car auctions, regardless of how that mirrors what is happening in the “regular automobile” market where more than 70 percent of new vehicles purchased are not cars. I will once again offer my politically incorrect view that the trend away from cars is in large part due to the fact that more than 70 percent of American adults are overweight and more than a third are obese.

Shifting gears, the right to buy the first retail production 2023 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 was sold yesterday for $3.6 million. It was among the vehicles sold for charity at this auction. Barrett-Jackson offers many significant vehicles where the sale proceeds are given to various charities with no fees paid by consignor or buyer. Operation Homefront was the organization that received the $3.6 million from the sale of the first C8 Z06. From their website: “Our mission is to build strong, stable, and secure military families so they can thrive—not simply struggle to get by—in the communities that they’ve worked so hard to protect.” A relevant photo:

 

 

To be clear, VIN 001 for the 2023 Corvette Z06 has not yet been built. The winner of this car will get to pick the exterior color, interior color and trim, option packages, etc.

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An interlude from Barrett-Jackson…four years ago today Kevin Towers, former General Manager of the San Diego Padres and the Arizona Diamondbacks, died of thyroid cancer. Of course, I worked with Kevin during my four years with the Padres. As I have recounted previously, he always treated me with respect and we enjoyed real camaraderie even though he didn’t hire me. Below is a picture shown many times before in Disaffected Musings.

 

 

This picture was taken in the visitors clubhouse at Dodger Stadium after we clinched the 1996 National League Western Division title. Kevin is the one kneeling in front and I am one of the other three people.

It is difficult to describe the amount of work necessary to be involved with making decisions in a professional sports organization. Although I enjoyed most of my roughly 10 years working in a full-time Baseball Operations job for a major league team–six-plus years with the Orioles and four-plus years with the Padres–it was a lot of work. (I worked as a Baseball Operations/Player Personnel consultant for major league teams for more than ten years, but that was not as a full-time employee.) It might not seem like work, but the effort expended is quite real.

It is important that the principals can work well together because the hours are so long and the stakes are high, relatively speaking. No, we’re not healing the sick, but in case you hadn’t noticed professional sports are important to a lot of people. Except for my last year with the Padres I enjoyed working there. My dissatisfaction at the end that led to my resignation had little to do with my baseball colleagues, anyway.

 

“And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

– John Donne

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Remember this car?

 

 

This supposedly genuine 1969 Pontiac Trans Am with the Ram Air IV option, of which only 55 were built, hammered for $105,000 yesterday, which is $115,500 all in. I am reluctant to mention this again, but a fugly box on wheels, a 1957 Volvo SUV, brought twice that amount.

Although the price of most collector cars is on the rise, and even though “experts” advise car aficionados to buy what they like instead of worrying about potential price appreciation, a comparison like the one above makes me wonder if relative car bargains still exist. I worked as a consultant for the Oakland A’s for ten years. The A’s, led by General Manager Billy Beane, were the team featured in Moneyball, Michael Lewis’s famous book about analytics in baseball and, in all honesty, a book that played a large role in the eventual end of my baseball consulting business, although that was not his intent, of course.

Anyway…the A’s never had a large player payroll–they couldn’t afford to–so they needed a way to compete with less. They needed to find assets that were undervalued in the baseball marketplace. Relying on data more and subjective evaluations less they used principles that are taken for granted today, but that were cutting-edge 20 years ago.

Eventually, of course, other teams copied what the A’s did. It has been said that teams like the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers started using “Moneyball” with real money.

The sub-head in the header of this blog reads, “I am a disaffected Moneyball pioneer who loves cars.” My contributions have been forgotten, but I am a real Moneyball pioneer. I was using analytics in a full-time job to help a major league team make decisions 15 years before the book was published.

If I had access to car auction data I might try to unearth relative bargains, assuming the collector car market can be modeled accurately. Sometimes, human behavior defies mathematical modeling.

 

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6 thoughts on “Odds And Ends

  1. “I might try to unearth relative bargains.”

    They are out there, you just have to hit the right combination, at an in person auction, of;
    1) wrong venue
    2) wrong crowd
    3) not a “popular” model

    It’s been a while since I’ve attended an in person auction. I grew weary of watching an endless parade of Camaros, Mustangs, GTOs, etc. going across the auction block. For that reason, I mostly buy online or in person from a private seller. As you have likely noticed, my tastes run quite a bit to the eclectic vehicles. You typically would not find these vehicles at a large auction. Auction house is going to list what the market is buying, as they are there to make money, not watch vehicles go unsold.

    The one trend that baffled me is the craze for “patina.” Yes, they are only original once, BUT if you go thru and upgrade the running gear to a modern powertrain, upgrade the interior to modern specs, but leave the exterior looking ratty, WTH? It’s no longer “original.” Would you take your grandmother out to a nice restaurant for her birthday, but have her wear some ratty, torn, stained, old house dress? Paint that vehicle, show it the respect it deserves.

    Just my $.02, YMMV.

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    1. Many thanks for your thoughtful comment, DDM. Your views on “patina” (which I share, by the way) remind me of what Steve Strope thinks about modern “rat rods” that look, well, ratty as some kind of homage to the earliest such builds. He says that the early rat rods looked like crap because the guy building the car couldn’t afford to make it look nicer and the look was not intended to make a fashion statement. “There are some people that if they don’t know, you can’t tell them.” – Louis Armstrong

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  2. Haha how things have changed. I remember seeing Wayne Carini judging a car down to the appearance of its toolbox on one show, and crowing about the “patina” on a barn find on another. I think for normal humans, it’s going to come down to emotion. A Porsche 928 makes no sense to own per se, but a dear departed friend owned one and I will always lust after one.

    “I will once again offer my politically incorrect view that the trend away from cars is in large part due to the fact that more than 70 percent of American adults are overweight and more than a third are obese.” I wonder how many of those same people have small penises?

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    1. If the car is restored with original or NOS parts, then “patina” might make sense. As DDM pointed out, though, a rusty restomod is a silly concept, at least in our opinion.

      LOL on your last line. While I would never write anything quite like that I do think that many men use their vehicles as a way to shout “I’m here!” and/or as a way to compensate for some insecurity.

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  3. I kinda had a very long response about the idea of determining relative bargains, but, it’s bordering on article length. I will say this… I used to read Hagerty’s ‘index’ articles. It seemed a good system. If you aren’t familiar, the idea was to index vehicles (so like 55-57 Chevy) to the market. In a nutshell, they’d take recent auction results, sale price, number of cars available, number of registrations to new owners, any private sale data available, new insurance policies etc and come up with a number that would describe how the car performs relative to the collector car market overall.
    In that respect, it’s rearward-facing but does hint at trends. Cars at 50 are even with the market, so one trending up over a couple quarters is a decent short-term bet probably. I think it also helps identify ‘the next wave’ to some extent. I mean, if mid-60s Cadillacs are moving higher, it’s likely mid-60s Buicks Lincolns and Imperials could ride the wave as the Cadillacs price themselves out. That makes the Buicks etc the relative bargains, if you get in early enough.
    I find it interesting. It’d be a huge undertaking of course. And I’m sure the results would disappoint at times, like now because as you say, F100 and C/K pickups, Jeep CJs and Toyota FJs are high right now, where as post-war classics tend lower as the population of buyers trends younger.

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    1. Thanks, Mark. I think the Hagerty data is interesting, but as you say it looks at the past. Markets can undergo a sea change in the blink of an eye and can really change over 3-5 years.

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