At Auction, American Cars Are Often Not Valued as Highly as their European Counterparts

In the 1950s, the Australian Broadcasting Commission Radio program “Incognito” The performance featured two musical performances by Australian and foreign artists.

At the end of the show, the audience was asked to guess which performer was Australian. Very often they were guessing wrong. The show unwittingly exposed a national inferiority complex that Melbourne author AA Phillips called “cultural loathing.”

It may be a common situation for American car collectors. They seem to value stylish foreign-made classics far more than their domestic counterparts.

It’s common knowledge that American car design, craftsmanship, and engineering suffered after the 1960s, but many American cars before that, especially pre-war ones, were elegant and well-engineered.

American automaker Duesenberg pioneered advanced technologies such as hydraulic brakes, and pre-war Duesenbergs, Auburns, Cadillacs, Packards, and more were as elegant as their European counterparts.

In the mid-1930s, Duesenberg’s sister company, Cord, produced the revolutionary 812 with front-wheel drive, futuristic styling and an optional supercharger. However, these cars are rarely sold at comparable European prices, either in the United States or elsewhere.

According to classic car insurer and automotive entertainment brand Haggerty, top 30 most valuable cars It has been sold at auction, but only one is listed. 1935 Duesenberg SSJ, I am American. It sold for $22 million in 2018.

This disparity is interesting. Unlike Europeans, Americans often disdain the classics built by their grandparents and great-grandparents.

At an auction in Florida in March, The 1931 Duesenberg sold for $4,295,000. Still, that was less than half what collectors paid for a single piece at auction in California.937 Mercedes-Benz, August 2022. Mark Hyman, a self-professed “car buff” based near St. Louis, said that both cars are extremely rare, each numbered in the 400s and rightfully called one of the best in the world when new. He said it was possible that he had been We have been selling and collecting classic cars for over 30 years.

“Cars like the Duesenberg have a cult following among those who simply want the best, but they tend to be seen more as museum pieces than drivers’ cars,” he said. Told.

“European vintage cars are more regularly used by owners because they offer a more sophisticated driving experience,” Hyman said, adding that owners of 1930s Bentleys and Alfa Romeos also have a plan. He also pointed out that there were many opportunities to participate in organized tours and rallies. It pushes the car pretty hard, but high-end American classic cars rarely have that opportunity.

“Ease of use is a value driver, vintage European cars tend to be sportier, handling and braking are closer to modern cars, so people will pay more.” he said.

One exception is code 810/812.

“If properly classified, they are fast and handle very well. But the number of people who understand and support these cars is a fraction of what you will find in the world of vintage Bentleys. This in turn has a negative impact on the automotive industry, “ease of use and value,” Hyman said.

The 1937 Code 812 looks like a spaceship when compared to a traditional 1930 4 1/2 liter Bentley upright, but actually makes similar horsepower. RM Sotheby’s recently put one of each at auction, but the results fell short. $698,000 For British Bentleys, $184,800 For cords built by Indiana.

The inferiority complex is not confined to epic pre-war classics. Known to collectors as the C2, the second-generation Corvette, with model years from 1963 to 1967, is often considered the pinnacle of not just Corvettes, but mid-century automotive design in general. Hyman pointed out.

designers Peter Brock, Bill Mitchell, Larry Shinoda Everyone was involved in the elegant shape and details of this car. It was a contemporary rival to the British-built Jaguar E-Type, with similar size, performance and overall aesthetics.

“The Jaguar is much more temperamental, over-engineered, with more parts, many of which are fragile,” Hyman said. “But complexity can also be a draw. It certainly offers a different experience than a complicated mechanical watch. For those who equate complexity with elegance, it explains why Jaguars often sell for twice as much as Corvettes.”

Recent auction results confirm this.This year, Gooding & Company 1963 Corvette Convertible, $52,640 and 1964 Jaguar E-Type Roadster, $92,400 — cars in similar condition.

According to Ramsey Potts, vice president of sales for Broad Arrow Group, the difference in values ​​between U.S. and foreign collector cars stems from motorsports.

“I grew up outside Pittsburgh with an uncle who owned a Buick, Pontiac, AMC and Jeep dealership. Our family garage was full of domestic cars, but I was fascinated by sports cars and F1 racing. and sophistication,” he said. “And I couldn’t find a domestic manufacturer at the top of the race results I was chasing. I think.”

John Wiley, valuation analysis manager at Haggerty, believes the inferiority complex dates back to the early days of the auto industry in the early 20th century, and American cars were early on when Henry Ford created automobile transportation. He points out that it seems to have been defined with burning obsession. Meanwhile, the European automotive industry has long remained focused on low-volume production and services to the wealthy. Wiley said he believes it’s only natural that cars made for the wealthy would be more popular with collectors.

Director Bradley Brownell Crawford Automobile and Aviation Museum In Cleveland, he said he believed the lackluster American cars made in the 1970s and 1980s for luxury brands such as Cadillac and Lincoln detracted from the collectibility of older classic cars.

It may be true that Ford’s mass production system defined the American auto industry, but Brownell also points out that the era produced some truly special American classic cars. –that they’re simply overshadowed by the perception that all American cars are mass-produced.

“Before the Great Depression, perhaps the world’s finest handmade automobiles were made in America by Packard, Pierce Arrow, and Peerless, but only two of those three survived the Great Depression. , and the third company, Packard, remains almost non-existent, 70 years,” Brownell said. “This is why it is not well known among American collectors compared to the current Mercedes-Benz, Bentley and Alfa Romeo.”

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