Chasing Classy Cars

As I stepped off the airplane, I halfway expected to see a film crew waiting. At least I was beginning to think I was part of a scene from one of those automotive TV reality shows.

A good customer of mine, we’ll call him “Joe” (since it is his name), was interested in adding a rare vintage car to his collection. He found a 1932 Chrysler Imperial Roadster that was to be auctioned off in a location far away from home. As it was potentially a large sum of money to acquire the car, Joe asked if I would go with him, prior to the auction, to check it out.

It wasn’t that we didn’t trust the auction company. In fact, they were quite helpful in providing information that they were aware of, and offered potential bidders the opportunity to spend as much time as desired examining the cars. They even allowed a test drive!

So off to Connecticut we went, first by jet, then prop plane, and finally a rental car. We arrived at the auction house and were greeted by well over fifty amazing vintage automobiles. Following a personal tour by the company president, we were left to review the cars of interest on our own.

The ’32 Roadster was as spectacular as it appeared in the photos. But upon closer inspection a few flaws became evident. After making notes on what we found, we requested a test drive. The Imperial drove well, but had a few shortcomings. The speedometer did not work, nor the charging system. Also, the clutch was worn out and slipping badly. We did not feel the auction company misled the original description of the car. It was simply a matter that they were not familiar with the car to the degree we sought. As a result of our personal visit, Joe was then confident in how much to actually bid on the car when it came to auction time.

So why am I sharing this story with you? Every day I hear of stories where people buy MGAs and Magnettes sight-unseen through eBay and other electronic means. I also hear of the disappointments some buyers experience when their purchase finally arrives.

I don’t intend to infer that all sellers are dishonest. In fact, many sellers, especially businesses and auction companies, want the buyer to have a pleasant experience. But there are certainly a few bad apples out there. So, it really is up to you, as a buyer, to research all you can about the car being offered and the true value.

That’s where NAMGAR and the MG community can help. As a potential buyer, you should read as much as you can about the particular model you’re interested in. There are some excellent books available, including one from our very own Bob Vitrikas. NAMGAR is willing to assist by providing production numbers and any history known of a particular car. There are several price guides to offer the latest in selling prices. Then there are local Chapters that can assist. If the car you’re interested in is located far away, contact the closest Chapter.

There may be somebody that can take a look at the car for you and give a knowledgeable assessment of the car. And if you want a professional opinion, we have a wonderful resource available there, too. The British Motor Trade Association (BMTA) is a network of British Automotive specialists throughout North America. They are truly dedicated to keeping the British car hobby alive and well. Visit their website for a list of BMTA members.

And if you are the seller of a car, be sure to have a BMTA shop evaluate your car prior to advertising. The documentation will go a long way in giving reassurance to a potential buyer that your car is being represented honestly. And don’t be afraid of having a potential buyer come check it out or have an independent look it over at their expense. In the end, both parties need to be satisfied with the transaction.

As for Joe, he did participate in the actual auction via phone. He was top bidder for the Roadster, but did not meet the reserve. So, his search continues. Should you have a car for sale, and get a call from a guy identifying himself as “Joe,” he is still searching for Classy Cars …. But be prepared to get a visit from me. Maybe by then, I’ll have a film crew! Safety Fast!

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Last updated on March 21, 2014.