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Conversations With People We Value #51

Returning from a too long deferred journey to visit the hallowed grounds of the Gettysburg Battlefield, I found myself on the old Lincoln Highway and in the heart of Amish Country. In possessing no meaningful contact with the Anabaptist community, reliance on contemporarily derived depictions like Harrison Ford’s movie “Witness” shaped my life view. That void left me unsatisfied. I had increasingly desired a better understanding of their chosen path. Now, writing Drivin News afforded a context for me to explore the seemingly simpler path chosen by these gentle people.

Join me for a buggy ride in Amish country.

Amish Buggies, Where Worlds Collide but No One Crashes

 

The approaching rhythmic clop-clop sound of horse hooves created a calming sound track while triggering learned memories of a simpler time before our birth. Fittingly, a hunched, weathered, gray bearded man in dark trousers, white shirt and black, flat brimmed hat gently eased the wooden-spoke buggy to a halt in an open barn yard. Pulled by a handsome sweat glistened black Morgan cross breed, the Amish buggy presented a timeless image that, save for safety lights and a windshield wiper blade, would seem appropriate to any day over the last two-hundred years. As  tourists departed the buggy, a man of similar age and dress as the driver appeared at the opening of a nearby barn. Reserved but open, he introduced himself as the owner of this tourist buggy ride business. Hearing of my intention to write about driving an Amish buggy in the modern world, he willing agreed to the interview.

Before proceeding with the story, attention must be directed to what will prove to be the complete absence of names and/or photos of the Amish men and women who agreed to be interviewed. Their religious views and cultural imperatives precluded,, such perceived expressions of ego.

The unwavering Amish reliance on the horse drawn buggy serves as a perfect metaphor for the their culture’s steadfast commitment to a simpler life. As well, their favored mode of personal transportation stands emblematic of their passive and powerful resolve to defy the pressures of a modern world. One cannot help but be curious as to the nature of life lived by the Amish at the intersection of their chosen path and that of a frenetic modern world that compels the vast majority of its members headlong into an uncertain future.

Amish Buggies serve as the hood ornament for our modern society’s clichéd objectification of an Amish culture rich in tradition. Originally called Anabaptists (meaning to baptize again) the Amish embrace the practice of baptizing members as adults rather than children. Primarily an agrarian society, the Amish adhere to the teachings of Jesus Christ, particularly the Sermon on the Mount which calls for a rejection of violence and a commitment to mercy, forgiveness, and nonresistance.

These beliefs did not necessarily endear them to those of other Christian denominations who in 18th century Europe believed differently. To escape religious persecution, the Amish embraced William Penn’s holy experiment of religious freedom centered in Pennsylvania (Penn’s woods). The early 1700s saw them establish their roots in American soil. In understanding what some may view as their peculiar ways one Amish gentleman explained it this way saying, “Jesus’ words remind us that our good deeds should be done in an effort to glorify God, and that, through our conduct, people will see Him.” In that vein, the Amish believe that worldliness keeps one from being close to God. Thus, they choose to live without many modern conveniences and technologies such as automobiles, television, etc. Rather than using electricity, bottled gas stoves and refrigerators serve their needs.

Humility, a core attribute central to the Amish culture, gives substance to the Amish aversion to being photographed and certainly to having ones image used for promotion. One Amish gentleman explained saying, “The danger here is the exaltation of the person. The fear is that the photograph is an attempt to preserve and make permanent that which God has decreed shall pass away.” As Amish author, Elmo Stoll warns saying, “Let us beware lest we permit self to be exalted becoming unto us a graven image.”

So here we have a hard working, God loving society built around mercy and forgiveness conducting an alternate merge with a modern world that has spawned phrases like “Road Rage.” They name towns like “Bird-in-Hand.” Modern society coins phrases like “Flip the bird.” So Mr. Amish person, “How’s that merge working for you?” Apparently according to the Amish with whom I spoke, pretty well. But that said, confirmation demanded a road test.

Eli with Paul holding buggy “accelerator”

Luckily, I engaged a buggy driver named Paul, a Mennonite and good story teller who did not mind being photographed. Mennonites are also Anabaptists but more liberal, kind of Amish light.

Paul with a charming Pennsylvania Dutch flavor spicing his stories explained the different types of buggies with models that include the closed “family wagon”, open “spring wagon” , runabouts and pickups.

All Amish carriages derive their motive power from a one horsepower, well, horse. Handsome, powerful, sturdy and even tempered, crossbreeds of the versatile and athletic Morgan and the hard working Percheron draft horse seemed favored when observing the local Amish buggies. Paul explains the cross breeding saying, “We don’t need speed. We just need the power.” On the road, horse drawn buggies cruise at about 5 to 8 mph. A short sprint can produce a top speed of 20 mph.

Buggy specs include a braking system utilizing a 7-inch drum brake on a front or rear axle. The driver’s position has a single pedal, to apply the drum brake. Though infused with a certain church pew quality, buggies offer somewhat comfortable upholstered seating, though a Recaro upgrade would be welcomed. Concessions to modern technology have been made in the name of safety. Battery powered electric lights mounted front and rear, thanks to more efficient LED lighting, no longer demand a deep-cycle marine battery for power. Now, a single DeWalt 20-volt/6-amp battery, the type that powers a cordless electric drill can run the whole electrical system for two to three hours on a charge. Those traveling for longer periods carry spare batteries. Diesel generators at home take care of recharging. The Amish do not hook up to the grid.

Before hightailing it out on the highway (I could not resist. For the first time in my life my ride actually possessed the ability to hightail.) I had taken the opportunity to visit a nearby manufacturer of Amish buggies. My only disappointment came with my acceding to the gentle owner’s wishes. He requested that I not promote his company by name in my story. His world and mine, different, neither wrong, most important, both respected.

Used buggy lot

Outside the factory’s orderly paved courtyard fronting the clean brick two-story edifice stood an angled line of refurbished buggies. OMG, This new buggy factory offered CPO (Certified Pre-Owned) buggies as well. The austere product presentation spoke of an understanding that those in the market would know where to go. Apparently a reputation built on history and performance served as the only marketing effort necessary. Did this profoundly understated business model need an upgrade, considering the Amish value system, probably not. Tall flapping Gumby-like attention grabbing roadside promotional balloons with arms whipping in the air would have been terribly out of character.

Upon entering a side entrance, I encountered an Amish gentleman with an easy, engaging demeanor. I hoped to get a brief overview of the operation. Upon explaining my intention to write a story he, without skipping a beat, offered a complete tour. Exhibiting an encyclopedic knowledge of the manufacturing process, he wove a path from floor to floor that touched each work station. Once there, he explained the function in detail and introduced the gifted craftsman plying trades including metal working, paint, upholstery and wood working.

Clean, orderly and busy, the facility showed a fascinating amalgam of hand craftsmanship, functional technology and ingenuity. With no access to the grid, the operation displayed a fascinating application of compressed air and hydraulics. The factory seemed to be doing quite well. Confirmation came with learning that all new buggies built had confirmed buyers. Other than new buggy construction, the shop of Amish workers kept busy refurbishing used buggies for existing owners or for sale.

I understand that some city types exposed to this experience might view it through the lens of a tourist at a quaint Disney staged experience. If so, how unfortunate to deprive one’s self of an appreciation for the existence of true craftsmanship actively engaged in supporting daily lives in a productive society manifestly different from their own. Bidding my tour guide goodbye, my carriage and Paul awaited.

In a somewhat awkward fashion, I squeezed my long limbs into the confined buggy cab to be shared with Paul. Uttering a gentle chk-chk he alerted Eli our Chestnut Morgan crossbreed. We headed out onto Route 340 with its speeding tourists and rumbling truck traffic. Paul scanned the presently open road and guided Eli to carve a large arc defined by the big harnessed horse and the buggy he pulled. Main arteries in Amish country offer a buggy-width shoulder that serves Buggy drivers well. Off the main thoroughfares, however, unforgiving narrow roads abound.

To employ a very forgiving description, our buggy had now entered the traffic pattern. More to the point, sharing the road with Class 8 trucking felt like the tortoise racing an 80,000 pound GVW hare. This seemed like a good time to pop the question to Paul. His response when asked “How do other drivers react to sharing the road with an Amish buggy” came as a surprise. Paul said, “When it comes to the truckers, they respect who we are and they give us room. We have very few complaints if any.” When asked what advice he would give to someone unaccustomed to sharing the road with Amish buggies, Paul smiling reflectively, said, “It’s important to be mindful that compared to them we are going slow, really slow.” As long as room to pass exists, the law allows a driver to cross a double line.” The biggest problem for automobile drivers and thus for us comes when they do not watch their speed. Paul with a slight wince said, “When accidents do occur they often result from drivers not appreciating how fast they are going versus a buggy’s slow speed. Especially when climbing a hill when a driver does not pay attention then suddenly, POW, they are on top of a buggy. Luckily that does not happen often.”

In reflecting on driving manners especially of tourists, again a surprise. Paul says, “Basically we find people very respectful.” Amen to that.

 

 

Follow -up on Ford F100 sale on Facebook Marketplace

 

Earlier this month the Drivin’ News story “An old car guy goes face-to-face with Facebook Marketplace” described my decision on where to sell my 1953 Ford F100 Pickup truck. I am here to briefly describe the outcome. Rather than choosing one of the popular auction sites, I chose Facebook Marketplace, and because I am not a Facebook guy, I engaged Navarro Automotive Consulting (NAC) to assist me.

In a nutshell NAC:

  • Provided guidance in creating a four-paragraph vehicle description and appropriate photograph.
  • Provided masterly navigation with a site where I had no experience.
  • Shielded me from online tire kickers and hassles. NAC only sent me vetted prospects.
  • I had full control of the listing from creation to sale.
  • The listing offered the potential to be viewed by more eyes than other classic consignment sites. Granted Facebook delivers a much broader audience than a car-centric BaT or Hemming’s, etc.

The result:

  • Viewed 27,128 times
  • Saved by 631 people
  • Shared 135 times
  • Direct messages 70+
  • With an asking price of $23,500. It sold within the week.

If you are considering selling a vehicle and want a hands-off quality experience, I would highly recommend NAC. It translated a normally painful process into a smooth sale.

By |2023-11-30T16:26:26+00:00November 30th, 2023|2 Comments

Conversations With People We Value #50

Though not exactly Sophie’s choice, the decision to sell my 1953 Ford F100 Golden Anniversary Edition pickup left me torn and uneasy. Grudgingly working through the process of winnowing down my small collection of vehicles left standing alone my able and eager Meadow Green F100 work horse of the 1950s. Consideration of my other vehicles found them either worth too little or meaning too much. Now, the question facing me required deciding on how to sell it. Park it on a busy street sporting a for sale sign? Maybe an online purchase site. Certainly myriad online auctions beckoned. Finally based on a friend’s suggestion, I turned to Facebook Marketplace. Let me say upfront, I consider Facebook to be the Devil’s work. That said, I figured why not let the Devil work for me.

Going face-to-face with Facebook Marketplace

An old school car guy goes face-to-face with Facebook Marketplace

Unlike billions of other Earthlings I did not spend time on Facebook…until last week. Enlisting the aid of friend and online sales maven Nick Navarro of Navarro Automotive Consulting (NAC), I elected to go where millions of people have gone before, just not me. I entered Mark Zuckerberg’s digital bazaar.

My friend Nick represents the “Hope” side of what I call “The History and the Hope” spectrum of automotive enthusiasts. The “History” side of the classic vehicle obsession makes itself painfully evident with the departure of the many skilled craftsman and passionate collectors we witness melting out of the culture. Nick conversely represents one of the many young men and women who share the passion and willingly accept the baton we of the  “History” side happily hand off, grateful for their youthful interest.

With a Bachelor’s degree in Automotive Restoration from McPherson College and, after post graduation work in high-end classic car restoration including work for the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) and the Audrain, Nick began his own company, (NAC) focusing on restoration consulting and brokering.

Nick, being both a dyed in the wool car guy and an accomplished digital native, represents the future of classic car enthusiasm. To better understand those comprising the “Hope,” one should recognize an attribute, that of “Digital Native,” common to those like Nick. Think of digital communications as a language. Rare is the older person who learns a language without retaining an accent as compared to a person who learned a language as a child. So it is with digital communications. Those who have learned to navigate social media outlets from childhood, like Nick, employ it’s refinements with a natural ease and artistry. An ease, artistry and interest which I, as part of the history, frankly lack.

At the start Nick suggested posting my F100 using his site. He offered that this would relieve me of significant phone drudgery. Nick Says, “For most sellers, it is best to channel initial inquiries through my site. It allows me to vet the contacts and weed out the tire kickers, scammers and kooks.” Nick’s functioning as a buffer benefits sellers like me by limiting their involvement to dealing with serious prospects. I agreed. Now, on to creating the posting.

Interestingly, especially for those preferring computers (desktops, laptops) versus mobile devices (phones and tablets) Nicks notes that Facebook Marketplace, counter intuitively at least for non-digital natives, actually offers more features when accessed through a mobile device.

Anyone can access Facebook Marketplace to browse, though one needs an account to engage. Nick cautions saying, “Anybody can do this on their own personal page. It can be done on select commercial pages too, but it requires registering and it involves more of a process.” So, to begin.

Select marketplace

Start by logging on to your Facebook page and click on the Marketplace icon to begin creating a new listing. It offers three choices, Item, Vehicle or Home. Select Vehicle.

A prompt comes up requesting photographs as well as specific information including type of vehicle, location, model year, make, model, price and description. Additional prompts may request type of fuel, transmission, interior and exterior color.

In referring to writing the description Nick says, “I prefer to keep it broad because the Facebook audience is a broad audience.” He believes a broader description may offer a greater appeal to a first time buyer or someone new to the hobby. He continues saying, “However, I do like to include a few specifics that will resonate with a more knowledgeable reader.” In the case of my truck he calls attention to the hard-to-find under-bed spare tire hanger and wing nut. Nick says, “Marketplace does not offer as sophisticated a platform as, say, Bring-a-Trailer with BaT’s space for hundreds of photos, expansive copy and comments.” He does emphasize that photography remains an important feature essential to creating an effective Marketplace posting.

As to photography Nick says, “You want high quality, sharp, well composed images clearly showing all the specific areas such as underneath, engine compartment, interior and exterior from all sides of the vehicle and all angles. Three-quarter shots are a must. Videos of your vehicle can also be posted. Nick says, “Videos, if available, showing the vehicle running, etc. can add to the power of your post.”

Accompanying the crisp, and clear photography must be a written description equally clear. Copy should provide the basic vehicle history and important attributes in clear succinct paragraphs. Not too long, not to brief, it should simply provide enough detail to make an interested party more interested. A written description should provide what you as a buyer would want to know. It should not so much sell, rather it should accurately describe. Good writing does not tell. It shows. Copy like “WOW, a super powerful tire smoker” would better be written as “Dyno tuned 426 Hemi.” Trust that the buyer has a brain. While some callers may make you question that assumption, a real prospective buyer will not. Have faith.

Accompanying the “DOs” for a quality Facebook Marketplace experience are a number of DON’Ts.”

Be mindful that certain precautions should be taken as you are attaching this post to your social media platform. Nick says, “You shouldn’t have any personal data on either the listing or your personal profile page. Strangers can link both of them.”

With all bases touched Nick launched the competed post. An important reminder, a post will last for seven days. At the end of the week it must be renewed, not recreated, just renewed.

Always know that anything posted goes public and lasts forever even if deleted. Do not include your phone number or your address. Social media company Meta owns Facebook and Instagram. They make money off your data. With every click you make, Meta creates a file. Presently this reality rules the social media world. If this makes you uncomfortable do not use it. Or, as I have done, have Nick and NAC do it to keep the seller anonymous.

That said, Facebook does offer the ability to access over three-billion users world-wide. Does that mean you post will be seen by potential buyers from the town next door to across the globe? No. However, anybody on Facebook can access your post whether your neighbor Tony on the next block or Sven in Gӧteborg, Sweden. Marketplace offers multiple paths to your posting.

When listed your posting will be made available to your Local area much like Craig’s List. Areas such as Northern New Jersey or Southern New Jersey. So if someone in Carlisle, PA is looking for an F100 pickup but they are only searching their local area my F100 would not come up. However, again like Craig’s List, that buyer can expand the search area around his location by 500 miles, then my F100 would show up. Or Maybe someone in Vermont thinks he or she can get a cleaner example of the vehicle they want in California. That person can set their geographical position to California to conduct their search there. This represents an enormous advantage over Craig’s List.

As a seller I can boost my exposure a number of ways. I can join a national or international group focused on a certain vehicle. In my case Ford F100 pickups. Nick says, “Hypothetically, you can share your listing with groups around the world focused on what you are selling. As a sales tool, if used properly, it can be very effective.”

NAC offers a clean vetting process. Nick says, “Prospects contact us via Facebook Messenger, with a message basically stating an interest in the vehicle. First thing we do is request a contact phone number. When we get a number, it tells us two things. It proves that they are real and that they are interested. With that, a call can be used to vet them. Through that process of separating chaff and wheat we can provide prospects worth the sellers time.”

Planning for success can create success. However, without a good plan problems can arise. Some quite bad. In this day and age setting up the right location to show a vehicle to a prospective buyer is important.

Nick’s key points:,

  • Unless you know the person, Nick suggests picking a busy populated place to meet a stranger. Outside Starbucks works. Next to a police station is better. Many police departments have a dedicated “Meet” space with cameras for citizen transactions.”
  • Cash is king. If the buyer needs to come back with the cash. He must leave a non-refundable deposit, $1,000 works. As seller, write up a simple contract with amount of sale, amount of deposit and date due final payment. Dealing with payments from out of state best involves establishing a third-party escrow account. Check with your bank or attorney for details
  • Accompanying a buyer to his bank for a withdrawal can work.
  • Always trust your gut!

Decades ago when breathlessly scanning the latest local WantAd Press, gut instincts, learned from experience, served buyers and sellers alike. However, the WantAd Press and its beloved ilk are gone. Supplanted by a digital landscape that has wildly reconfigured the structure of the selling function, the process remains reliant on the same timeless gut instincts to achieve success.

Today, my F100 entered public consciousness by way of the  Zuckerberg digital bazaar. A few hours later a meeting with a prospective buyer had been arranged. Time will tell. So will my gut.

By |2023-11-09T21:04:01+00:00November 9th, 2023|2 Comments

Conversations With people We Value #49

The immediate dopamine rush when discovering a previously unknown car brand bearing one’s first name is heady stuff indeed. Certainly for me. While a fairly lengthy list of automobile brands sport the last name of their founders, only one brand, Mercedes, took on a person’s first name in advance of making it famous. Or so I thought, until at a recent car show I pulled up next to a charming, if rudimentary, blue European sports car branded with the name Burton, my first name. And in this case it would be all about me. The surprise coupled with my healthy sense of self fired my curiosity. My total ignorance of the Burton brand would soon be addressed with my introduction to European car importer Simon Knott.

Meet Simon Knott and the Burton.

What’s a Burton?

With a slight autumnal chill in the evening air and a brilliant blinding sun hanging low in the sky, I slowly squinted my way into a spot on the field of a local car show. With my dazzled eye sight returning to normal, I turned to the car on my left. It strongly resembled a cross breeding of a Lotus Seven (Patrick McGoohan drove one in “The Prisoner”) and the 1950s British built Singer roadster. This MGTD-sized open sports car projected a charm and vigor that would seem to fit nicely as a runabout in a Florida, California or other sun drenched temperate community. Adorning the nose and the high cutaway door sills, elegant chromed script copy within an oval emblem spelled out “Burton.” I couldn’t help wondering, “Why choose that name?”

At the car’s left hand driver’s side a genial man with a fine British accent spoke to a group eager for details about the Burton. A smooth blend of salesman, tour guide and professor, he spoke in a most engaging and casual manner. Before the curious group of admirers he held forth detailing the virtues of the Burton. Clearly, this little blue sports car was the first Burton any in this gathering had ever seen. I would soon learn that the Englishman explaining its merits was Simon Knott whose company, Round Peg International, had imported it to America from the Netherlands.

As the crowd dissipated, I had the opportunity to ask Simon, “What’s a Burton?” and, for me, even more pressing, “Why choose that name?”

I learned that, by now in his 60th year, Simon’s life had included an eclectic mix of professions and accomplishments that culminated in his founding Round Peg International in 2019. Over its young life Round Peg would prosper by specializing in the import to America from Europe of very clean original Minis, Land Rovers, a few stray Citroën Deux Chevauxs (2CVs) and the solitary Dutch built Burton standing before us. Why choose that name? That question, like a buzzing mosquito in a darkened bedroom could not be swatted away. I returned to exploring Simon’s path to Burton advocacy.

Simon Knott

Initially trained as an aircraft engineer, Simon spent ten years  in the Royal Air Force servicing jet fighters and helicopters. By the late aughts, life had swept him to the U.S. and Mercedes-Benz of North America. Then, after ten years of serving the three-pointed star 2018 found him waving goodbye as Mercedes packed up and headed to Atlanta. Wanting no part of their southern strategy, Simon set about in a search of a new pursuit. Serendipitously, a whim morphed into a plan.

Unemployed and at a bit of loose ends, Simon, skilled at things mechanical and technical, bought a 1991 long wheelbase Land Rover 110. He says, “Frankly, I found the idea of getting my hands dirty quite appealing.” Putting his technical skill set to work he rebuilt it and put it on eBay. He says, “It sold in an hour.” Quick to grasp an opportunity, Simon recognized that a clear course of action had revealed itself. His future would be as a broker of pre-owned European cars. As he had spent much of his life driving and appreciating original 20th century Minis and Land Rovers he founded Round Peg with the express intent of focusing on pre-2000 Mini’s and Land Rovers. In short order Deux Chevauxs and the closely related Burton (more about that later) would expand Round Peg’s offerings. By October 2019 Simon had completed the rigor of acquiring his New Jersey dealer’s license. Game on for Round Peg. With approximately £150,000 to spend, Simon set off to Europe on a buying spree. It would prove to be one of many to come. Cutting to the chase, I asked THE question about the Dutch manufacturer, “Why choose that name?” Simon with his charming British accent and brevity said, “No idea whatsoever.” Disappointed, I pressed on.

When asked what inspired the naming of his company, Simon said, “For an individual, finding and buying a quality pre-2000 Mini, Land Rover or something unusual like a Burton, it can be a challenging task fraught with problems, missteps and frustration. It poses the classic square peg in the round hole situation. My business model strives to shave the troublesome corners off the square peg to make for a smooth round peg in a round hole buying experience.” He summed it all up saying, “The Round Peg experience for a client means a simplified buying experience.”

To maintain a steady inventory, Simon employs a network of knowledgeable “Bird dogs” around Europe that keep a sharp eye out for quality cars to show Simon on one of his buying trips.

Opening the door to one of Round Peg’s two warehouses revealed three very clean Minis and the Burton. The three Minis a blue 1980, a green 1993 and a red 1996 all show exceptionally well with excellent mechanicals. However, in their midst resided the blue roadster I had seen at the car show. I quickly learned that while sporting a Dutch body it boasted a French heart.

As has been noted, Round Peg imports 20th century Citroen Deux Chevauxs and there the story begins. On one of Simon’s many buying trips he joined a Citroen specialist with whom he had worked for over 30 years. At one of the destinations he found a wealth of 2CVs and among them the blue Burton. Poised to head home to America with many cars but little cash, he closed the deal on the Burton with all the money he had left. With the Burton what exactly did He buy.

The brainchild of two Deux Chevaux loving Dutch brothers, Dimitri and Iwan Gӧbel, the Burton came to life in 1998 as a kit. Inspired by dreams of Jaguars, Bugattis, Delahayes and Morgans the brothers Gӧbel hand shaped a prototype sports car body that would mate seamlessly to the stock 2CV chassis. Citroen’s 2CV employed a traditional body on frame construction making replacement of the original body easy. By 2000 the brothers had Burton kits for sale. My buzzing mosquito, Why choose that name?

In the case of Simon’s Burton, despite the body coming with a 2011 Burton kit batch number, the fact that its chassis and mechanicals come straight out of a 1987 2CV meant it being titled as a 1987 model. As a 1987 model it met the 25-year waiver and could be imported into the U.S.

Deux Chevaux translates to, literally, two horses. It reflected the cars status when the Citroën 2CV was first introduced in 1948. Its horsepower rating for tax purposes was two horsepower. (It actually delivered 9 horsepower). Powered by a durable air-cooled 2-cylinder flat-twin engine, over its 42-year production life its output climbed slowly but steadily to a peak of 33 horsepower. A realistic top speed for most 2CVs fell in the 55 MPH range. Its transmission reflected a design that many would describe as curious. A gear shift described by some as an umbrella handle sticking out of the dashboard did, to its credit, provide four forward speeds though accessed through a rather non-traditional but easy to master shift pattern. Indeed much of the 2CV design featured unique solutions, possibly none more so than its suspension. Described in a road test by Britain’s Classic World TV that stated, ”The suspension in layman’s terms offers a big coil spring in a can tucked inside the rocker panels on each side of the car. They connect the front and rear wheels on both sides with the net result being a car that rides fantastically well over rough roads.” This system actually can adjust the wheelbase and caster automatically depending of the load, to deliver improved handling. In the road test the driver offered his opinion saying, “There is no car that contains so little and offers so much.” It actually seemed a living tribute to Lotus designer Colin Chapman’s oft quoted mantra of “simplify and add lightness.” Not without reason, the test drive described the 2CV chassis as the working class Lotus. Heady praise indeed.

In essence the Gӧbel brothers grasped the efficiency, potential and economy of the 2CV and translated it into a sports car experience but, why choose that name. I had to find out.

Burton Cars remains in business today both providing body kits and as a source for all things Deux Chevaux. I reached out to their home office. Their only contact came in the form of an email. My query, “Why choose that name? Nothing, crickets. I learned that Burton had been bought by French company 2CV Mehari Club Cassis of France. I called. A lovely English speaking French woman answered. She explained that this was no longer the company’s number. Au revoir.

Undeterred, well maybe a little deterred, I found the name of a North American Burton distributor, Mr. DeWitt. My pulse quickened when a man with Dutch flavored English answered the phone. “Why chose that name?”, I asked. “I cannot tell you,” he responded. “It is too complicated. Call Iwan Gӧbel.” He gave me a phone number. Aware of my logging international calls like an eastern European scam line. I dared not think about my phone bill.

However, I was not going to stop now. With my newfound mastery of dialing internationally, I dialed. Iwan Gӧbel answered. Hearing my voice he seamlessly switched to Dutch flavored English. I prepared for a long explanation. “Why choose that name,” I asked. Without equivocation and in less than two minutes, Iwan Gӧbel cheerily explained, “For months we were looking for the right name. We had a list of over 400. In the end we decided on Burton.” “Why?” I asked. He answered saying, “Because it was a name you pronounced the same in English, French or Dutch and it imparted the feeling of an English product.”

I have now joined Mercedes Jellinek as having a car brand bearing my first name.

By |2023-10-30T15:55:52+00:00October 26th, 2023|4 Comments

Conversations With People We Value #48

In conducting research for “The Lost Royale,” I had the good fortune to stumble across fascinating and worthy stories depicting events in Europe during the months leading up to WWII. For me, one story rose above the others. Left forgotten in the dustbin of pre-WWII history, this heroic tale captured what would prove to be the unfathomable irony that informed daily lives as the fevered madness of a few evil men propelled mankind towards unthinkable horror and world war.

The following recounts the efforts of Britain’s MG in 1939 to set land speed records and break the 200 mph barrier in Adolf Hitler’s back yard.

MG shatters records on Hitler’s “Salt Flats” in the shadow of WWII

Major Goldie Gardner in MG EX135 at Dessau, Germany 1939

As the ominous clouds of impending conflict gathered on the horizon, May 1939 witnessed a factory racing team from Britain’s MG set sail for Nazi Germany with great hopes for returning with a fistful of records set by its experimental MG EX135. The “Dessauer Rennstrecke” (Dessau race track) ultra high speed test track section of the autobahn awaited MGs arrival.

Led by its accomplished driver Major Alfred Thomas “Goldie Gardner,” a highly decorated British army officer in WWI, MG had set its sights on breaking speed records for the 750cc to 1100cc International Light Car Class.

Dessauer Rennstrecke

Though an ambitious goal, MG eagerly embraced the challenge. It reflected the plucky little company’s DNA. While the Depression had exacted a terrible toll in bankrupting many small car companies, MG’s decision to embark on a racing program had produced international recognition and with it many orders. Right up MG’s alley, the challenge to set 1100cc class records now sat squarely in its sites. Only time would reveal an added opportunity that MG would seize to expand the EX135’s record performance.

In retrospect, the choice of the Dessau track represented an interesting window into the mind of Adolf Hitler and a curious insensitivity by others to the realities of the day. Hitler’s notorious envy of things possessed by others often lead to his taking that which he desired or if not possible, then to at least copy it. That America had the Bonneville Salt Flats to test high speed vehicles and set records galled “The Fuhrer.” Nothing similar existed in all of Europe much less Germany. The Dessauer Rennstrecke represented Hitler’s effort to address this German shortcoming.

In the 1930’s the great ribbons of concrete comprising the German autobahn system ranked in the minds of many as an amazing wonder of the world. As well, for Hitler it provided a solution for solving his lack of a high speed testing site. To create his German “Salt Flats” Hitler had a ten kilometer section of the new autobahn between Dessau and Leipzig widened to roughly 25 meters with the center median paved to make one exquisitely flat concrete race track. Its surface so perfect some believed it to be hand finished. Its pillarless bridges and absence of interchange exits left no doubt as to its intended use as a high-speed track ideal for races and record attempts. The gracefully arched bridges seemed intended to serve as gun sights to guide drivers attempting high speed records. Here Rudolf Caracciola in a Mercedes-Benz W154-based streamlined special achieved 399.6 km/h (248.2 mph) over the measured mile for a world record.

For MG, the Dessauer Rennstrecke’s close proximity to England as compared to the Bonneville Salt Flats certainly made it attractive. However, the choice of Dessau, as well, seemed to indicate a certain resignation to the existing troubled world condition leavened with a bit of British “Carry on regardless.” And MG would indeed carry on with a very sweet piece of performance engineering and one very special driver at its wheel.

No standard MG sports car, the EX135 featured a 1086cc supercharged, 6-cylinder, 195-horsepower streamlined vehicle with a single purpose, go fast in a straight line. A British Racing Green beauty over 16-feet long, 5-feet wide and a little over 2-feet high with a wheelbase of 99”, EX135’s beautifully sleek streamlined design reflected the genius of designer Reid Railton. Those knowledgeable of his accomplishments consider Railton “A titan of 20th century high speed automotive engineering having collaborated with the likes of Sir Malcolm Campbell and John Cobb.”

Reid Railton trying on his EX135 creation

Called upon by MG to wrap the EX135 within a slippery wind cheating skin, Railton drew upon design concepts developed by Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union that employed aerodynamic patents of visionary designer and aerodynamics pioneer Paul Jaray. In the early 20th century Jaray advanced the use of wind tunnels in streamlining automobile and Zeppelin bodies. An added design challenge facing Railton included the six-foot three-inch and somewhat immobile frame of driver Major Goldie Gardner. It demanded special consideration. Indeed, Goldie Gardner stood out in many ways as a very special man.

Bearing his mother’s maiden name of “Goldie” as his lifetime nickname, Gardner, a decorated WWI British army officer had quickly risen through the ranks to be the youngest Major in the British armed forces. In 1915 as one of the first 98 officers to receive the British Military Cross (Similar to the American Silver Star) Britain recognized Gardner for bravery in battle.

In 1917 his reconnaissance plane succumbed to withering enemy fire. The crash resulted in Gardner sustaining leg and hip injuries that required two years of hospitalization, twenty surgeries and a subsequent life without the full use of his right leg. He would walk with a cane for the rest of his days. In 1921 the army discharged him as being medically unfit for military service. By 1924 Gardner despite his disability had embarked on a path to becoming one of the most accomplish racing drivers of his time. Through the 1920s and 1930s Gardner established a reputation not only for driving excellence but a broad spectrum of competencies. In 1935 he served as team manager for Sir Malcolm Campbell’s World Land Speed Record attempt.

In retrospect, while the focus of the story rests squarely on MG’s efforts to set records, stepping back for a broader view affords a noir undercurrent recalling the movie Casablanca.

John Dugdale a respected editor of The AutoCar Magazine in the 1930s had been invited to accompany the MG racing team to Dessau. His notes from that experience profile a world for which  the phrase “whistling past the graveyard” seemed painfully accurate. After crossing the English Channel Dugdale, accompanied by Goldie Gardner; Alan Bickwell, Public Relations Manager for Lagonda and George Tuck,

Giovanni Lurani, John Dugdale, Goldie Gardner

Publicity Manager of MG picked up their car and set out for Dessau Germany. Anyone long in the car business knows that publicity events in the good old days had many perquisites. In this case the four companions had at their disposal the latest V-12 Lagonda Saloon-de-Ville,  the brainchild of W.O. Bentley, revered founder of Bentley Cars. Dugdale swooned over the luxurious Lagonda saying, “A real beauty. A 4-door sedan with silky smooth multi-cylinder engine, 4-speed manual transmission and independent front suspension.” Living in the moment with Goldie Gardner at the wheel, they enjoyed the ride. Dugdale recalled cruising through Belgium and passing through the German town of Aachen. He said, “In that gorgeous summer of 1939 that balmy sunshine denied the ominous war clouds which had threatened for years.” How prescient, as not many years later Aachen would be the sight of possibly the toughest urban battle of WWII for American troops. Dugdale went on to recall his experience when he wrote, “We dined deliciously at the Rotisserie d’Alsace in Brussels then crossed the sinister fortress lined frontier passing both the Belgium Maginot and German Siegfried Lines.”

Dugdale’s recollections of positive interactions with members of the German military and public who would soon become sworn enemies took on a surreal quality considering what the near future held. Dugdale said, “It was quite an adventure going to Germany. War was likely to break out at any time. But that did not deter our little party of Englishmen led by Goldie Gardner. Besides he was popular among Germans as a typical British soldier type. The Germans even called him “Der Herr Major’” A few years earlier Gardner had been chasing speed records near Frankfort and as a former Royal Artillery Officer, he received an invitation to a local Wehrmacht officer’s mess to dine.

Interestingly Dugdale noted that in traveling to Dessau they passed through Hanover, once the house of Britain’s own royal family. Interestingly in 1917 with England during WWI experiencing a strong anti-German sentiment, England’s King George V decried that that all British descendants of Queen Victoria (A Hanover) in the male line would adopt the surname Windsor. Apparently it made things less confusing when explaining the mortal enemy thing.

All stood ready to run the next day. The plan called for challenging the records for the kilometer, the mile and the five kilometer on all the same runs.

6:00 am Wednesday May 31st found the EX135 poised and ready facing the length of the Dessauer Rennstrecke. Red lighting boards to mark the timed sections stood ready, painted lines had been retouched and a huge Zamboni-like machine swept the road surface.

With the sun bright and rising, 7:00 am saw Gardner arrive. At 8:00 am the EX135‘s super-tuned engine fired up after maybe a ten-yard push. After first sputtering and coughing as it woke from a week in storage, it then quickly smoothed to reach a crackling perfection. Time to go. Following the awakening EX135 down the track, observers in the Lagonda at 100 mph quickly fell behind.

Now ready for the run at the record, Dugdale positioned himself on a cross bridge about a kilometer south of the measured mile. If all went well the MG would be doing 200 mph as it passed below. EX135 though almost 10 kilometers away could be heard in the distance. Like a symphony of mechanical perfection, the music of the MG rose to a crescendo and then at 7,500 rpm held the note at a high pitched whine. A black dot first quite small in the distance, then ever larger grew to where its green color could be distinguished. Locked on to the center line the EX135 announced its passing with a trumpeting blast from its vertical exhaust.

Since the record would be calculated by averaging the speed out and back, the MG had been turned around and began its charge north with the record now at stake. In the distance the black dot again grew and the symphony reached its crescendo. The roar blasted up from below and the EX135 had again passed below. History had been made. It had set the “under 1100 cc” class record for all three distances with class records of 200 mph set for the kilometer and mile. EX135 broke 200 mph for the kilometer (203.54 mph) and mile (203.16 mph). The 5-kilometer finish fell just short (197.54 mph) while still setting a record.

German Soldiers with EX135

Gardner felt so pleased that he decided to go for the 1100cc to 1500 cc records. For Gardner it only required boring the 1086 cc engine out to 1186 cc and rebuilding the engine overnight. Interestingly, the MG team lacked some of the capabilities to do the rebuild and happily found that the Junkers aeronautics engine factory just outside of Dessau showed a willingness to help. Dugdale remarked that their generosity was quite startling considering that Junkers had the task of developing Germany’s latest twin-engine medium bomber the Junker JU88. Dugdale wrote, “This JU88 was a hot secret at the time. One of them flew fast and low over the record road early one morning. I snapped a photo that I brought back providing a useful record of its profile for RAF reconnaissance for the mass bombing to come.”

The record runs on Friday for the 1500cc class proved even more successful. EX135 broke 200 mph for the kilometer (204.28 mph), mile (203.85 mph) and 5-kilometer (200.62 mph)

With the record run completed but before departing Germany, Dugdale and his three travel buddies would drive the Lagonda to Berlin. There Gardner would speak of the record braking success for the BBC. While there Dugdale learned of a big event planned for the next day to celebrate the visit of a Yugoslavian dignitary. Dugdale chose to stay. His companions chose to return home.

The following day Dugdale witnessed what he called, “A glimpse of the Nazi propaganda machine at the height of its powers.” A mammoth celebration staged within the Berlin East/West City Axis, a massive 5-kilometer long central mall created as the centerpiece for Albert Speer’s grand architectural plan for Berlin. Dugdale wrote, “The city was crowded with marching spontaneous demonstrators escorted to their posts by double rows of SS troops. Little three-wheeled vans puffed among the crowds distributing the appropriate flags of the Reich and Yugoslavia. Postcards of the Fuhrer and Yugoslavian prince were on sale. Special magazines celebrating the return of the Condor Legion from the Spanish Civil War were selling well. Overhead roared over 150 Junkels and Heinkels, quite a lot of aircraft for 1939. A particularly hearty cheer went up for the Yugoslavian prince by the single expedient that 60,000 lusty throated Hitler youth had been imported. When all was done, the apparently carefree crowd broke up mixing with the helmeted Herman Goering troops whose marching songs echoed among Alfred Speer’s new government buildings.”

Shortly afterward, on a train back to Dessau Dugdale pondered the meaning of all he had witnessed.

Within weeks WWII would provide answers.

 

By |2023-09-15T01:19:40+00:00September 15th, 2023|6 Comments

Conversations With People We Value #47

Classic car auctions can be enormously entertaining events featuring wild mano a mano jousts of dueling checkbooks, or not. Much depends on the person at the rostrum wielding the gavel. In the case of Gooding & Company, the auction rostrum is home to one of the most capable and entertaining auctioneers in the world.

Meet Charlie Ross.

Charlie Ross, Gooding’s Master of the Auction Rostrum

Charlie Ross with David Gooding to his right

Clearly this auction presented an uncommon if not unique set of circumstances that played to my interests. While wiling away time in the Blue Ridge Mountains, I had learned of a Gooding & Company auction disposing of a local collection containing a diverse array of desirable and unrestored classic cars. Even better for me and quite unusual for Gooding, the auction would not be hosted in an expansive and elegant setting capable of accommodating an audience that could easily exceed a thousand.

1932 Chrysler CG Imperial Custom Roadster at Lynchburg auction

In this instance the feel would be decidedly boutique-like with the action taking place in a well preserved early 20th century Chrysler dealership that had housed part of the deceased owner’s collection. Rich with 1930s charm and character but sparing in space, there would be no elevated stage for displaying the car at bid in the flesh, so to speak. To accommodate the limited space photos of the vehicle being bid upon would be displayed on large screens flanking the rostrum. Up close and personal inspection of the vehicles prior to auction would take place in a nearby warehouse. Being set for April seventh in Lynchburg, Virginia it was only a short distance away for me and just a few days in the future. Best of all, it offered an excellent opportunity to interview the Gooding & Company auctioneer extraordinaire, Charlie Ross.

I had never personally met auctioneer and BBC antiques expert Charlie Ross but I had seen him in action and enjoyed and admired his work.  The following quote says it all:

        “Without doubt the finest auctioneer I have ever seen in action is Mr. Charlie Ross. Charlie’s vast experience and ease on the rostrum,
         combined with his charm and quick wit, enable him to engage and keep total control of a room that is sometimes as large as two
         thousand people.”

Quite the performance review indeed, especially from the man who owns the company. That quote comes from David Gooding, President and Founder of Gooding & Company. For those unfamiliar with Gooding & Company, it is recognized as one of the premier auction houses in the classic car market. One can measure Gooding’s success in the fact that, to date, Gooding holds the world sales records for 12 marques including Ferrari, Porsche, McLaren, Duesenberg and Bugatti. It is not a coincidence that since Gooding & Company’s inception in 2004 the auctioneer for every Gooding auction but one has been Charlie Ross. (A detached retina forced his one absence).

I jumped at the opportunity to request an interview with Charlie Ross. The Gooding staff could not have been more accommodating. Specific thanks go to Gooding Publicist Pauline Pechakjian.

Chrysler dealership (Location of Gooding Lynchburg auction)

Residing at the pinnacle in the field of auctioneering, Charlie Ross exudes the consummate professionalism of an astute English barrister and the awareness of a seasoned entertainer, all leavened with a dry, sly, quick and engaging wit. He puts all of it to work in orchestrating the sale of some of the world’s most prized articles to many of the world’s most wealthy and knowledgeable collectors. Wielding a seamless synergy of superior platform skills with a proper British tongue, Charlie consistently manages each auction in a supremely entertaining fashion while fairly serving the interests of both seller and bidder alike. Charlie’s path to success, however, did not come by way of childhood dreams realized, quite the contrary.

Early on Charlie dreamed of emulating his uncle Mac. Charlie recalls, “Uncle Mac was a dentist who lived at the absolute top of the tree so to speak.” His uncle Mac had a practice on prestigious Harley Street in London. Charlie says, “He was Winston Churchill’s dentist, Bob Hope’s dentist. The list of notables goes on and on.” In Charlie’s mind his future had been decided. He would be a dentist to the rich and famous just like his Uncle Mac. However, taking the entry exams required to pursue a career in dentistry quickly quashed Charlie’s dreams of a rich and fulfilling life fixing teeth. Apparently Charlie’s many gifts did not include those necessary for success in dentistry. However, his future held in store a vocation that would involve him with a cohort not unlike that of his Uncle Mac.

1932 Chrysler (rear)

Plan “B” commenced with a reversal in family fortunes that dictated that Charlie, then 18-years old, find work, Now! Two choices presented themselves. One dealt with processing fuels. The other offered an opportunity to join a firm of local auctioneers who Charlie says, “Sold your house, your farm, your chickens, your furniture and so on.” Charlie’s decision clearly favored poultry over petrol. He joined the auction firm of W.S. Johnson & Company in September of 1968.

By October first Charlie found himself auctioning pens of chickens in England’s open air Bletchley Market. As Charlie proudly relates, soon afterwards his auctioneering skill elevated his status to auctioneer of turkeys. Proudly recounting his success with turkeys, Charlie says. “In the week before Christmas in 1968 I sold 967 dead turkeys, individually. What a triumph that was for my career.” He began sensing the seeds of a future. Indeed, his vision proved out. As his employer had an auction room for antiques, Charlie quickly advanced from avian auctioning to gaveling antiques. In retrospect, no doubt could exist that this opportunity would set the course for the rest of Charlie’s life. And Charlie remembers the moment the die was cast.

1934 Mercedes-Benz 500 K Offener Tourenwagen (in foreground) at Lynchburg auction

Charlie remembers clearly saying, “In the furniture auction room I was working for a fine man named John Collins who was a superb auctioneer. It was at that time, I was 19-years old, that I fell in love with antique furniture.” Charlie would stand in the back of the auction room and soak in the beauty, craftsmanship and history of the pieces that would cross the auction block.

The pivotal moment in Charlie’s life arrived when John Collins, in the middle of an auction, stopped the action to inform the audience, “Ladies and gentlemen Mr. Ross will now take over.” With that the wise John Collins surrendered the rostrum to the very young Charlie Ross who Collins knew was ready. Charlie says, “It was the best possible way to do it. It gave me no time to worry. Just do it.” Charlie did. Indeed there would be no stopping him. By 1983 he had his own saleroom. Then came the big break.

By the turn of the new century, Charlie, with his passion for antiques and a special love for Georgian furniture, had become somewhat of a BBC personality. His encyclopedic knowledge of antiques had him featured on BBC programs like Antiques Road Show, Flog It and Bargain Hunt.

Then around 2003, a dear friend of Charlie’s, Peter Bainbridge, an accomplished auctioneer working with RM Auctions (now RM Sotheby’s) told Charlie that he had recommended him to David Gooding who had been President of RM Auctions. Charlie says, Apparently David expressed to Peter his intention to launch his new venture, Gooding & Company, with its first classic car auction. It would be at the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2004. David told Peter that he had the site and the cars but needed an auctioneer. Charlie fondly remembers saying, “Peter proving our close friendship advocated on my behalf saying, there’s this funny old chap in England. While he’s got no car experience, he’s got a saleroom in Wobern and he’s a good auctioneer. In my opinion you two would get on very well.” David and Charlie did and the rest is auction history. Charlie offers very forthright answers about what others describe as an incredibly successful career at the Gooding rostrum.

“No,” admits Charley, “I do not know vintage cars like I know antique furniture. Gooding & Company’s expertise equips me with a detailed knowledge base beyond what I need to successfully manage the auction of the kind of top tier vehicles that cross the Gooding block.”

When asked how he has earned his reputation as a master at maintaining control of a room Charlie says, “Achieving and maintaining control? Have a clear voice. Sound authoritative but flavor it with a certain light-hearted air.” Charlie believes strongly that if you get people on your side they will do what you want them to do. He also makes very clear the penalty exacted by being too domineering. He says, “If you get too dictatorial the audience will rebel. Most everyone likes to take the “Mickey” out of someone that’s a bit too full of themselves.”

Charlie benefits as well from the presence of one particular colleague working the phone lines. That would be his wife, Sally Ross, better known in auction circles as Lady Ross. One of Charlie’s great interactions with Lady Ross came during the 2018

Audience at Gooding Lynchburg Auction

Gooding auction of Miles Collier’s 1935 Duesenberg SSJ once owned by Gary Cooper. In a positively electric auction environment approaching a frenzy, bids had blown by the low estimate of $10 million. Charlie smiling at the recollection says, “It was quite apparent that there were two people who really wanted that car at almost any price.” Lady Ross was going strong representing one bidder on the phone. Then with the bid having reached $15 million on a phone bid from the other bidder that drew a gasp from the crowd all eyes turned to Lady Ross. With exquisite timing in a room positively rocking, Charlie paused the bidding, and turning to Lady Ross at the phones across the room, said, ”Ladies and gentlemen hold on for a moment please. Lady Ross, you’re not bidding on your own behalf are you?” She said no and the room burst into laughter. To complete the story, the bidding carried on with Lady Ross dropping out at $19 million. The winning bid plus buyer’s premium reached $22 million.

Charlie says, “What a wonderful experience. You could feel the warmth of the crowd coming with you, everybody’s on your side, they’re on the bidders side. The crowd pulsed with the intoxication of a special moment when expert estimates were cast aside by a passionate desire shared by two people of means intent on possessing something exceptional, whatever the cost. It was a very, very exciting moment.” The $22 million result set a standing sales record for all Duesenbergs and, in fact, all Pre-WWII cars.

When asked if he has any preference for audiences, Charlie clearly prefers a crowd. He says, “It’s very possible to create a good atmosphere with fifty or sixty people in attendance.” That said, Charlie’s style and energy delivers the power to drive the largest of rooms. He makes no bones when saying that a very small live audience with most of the bidding offsite leaves precious little kindling to heat the room.

Vehicles for inspection at warehouse

A Brit by birth, Charlie finds members of different cultures express distinct personalities when participating in an auction. Charlie says, “I have conducted auctions in Mumbai, India. The mood there clearly projected a greater seriousness than say in American. Though the bidding was not on cars but footballer contracts.” He does believe Americans are better audiences. He says with conviction, “They are more fun, you know. At a Pebble Beach or Amelia Island, there’s somewhat of a party atmosphere. Of course, there are people there prepared to spend $10 million, $20 million. There’s also a lot of people there who are there just for, what the Irish would call “the crack” you know, the fun and the jollity.” When it comes to the English, not as much fun.” Charlie says, “In England people that deal in cars at the top end, in my experience, take themselves a bit more seriously. Without any justification I might add. They can be a bit arrogant. And I am an Englishmen talking.”

Vehicles for inspection at warehouse

Clearly reading the audience demands a specific skill regardless the venue. When asked Charlie says, “Experience experience. I do think rooms differ depending on what you’re selling. You know, if you’re selling chickens to a bunch of farmers, they are a very different breed from car collectors with million pound bids

at the ready.” However, Charlie emphatically states, “Everybody is a human being and responds well to being understood. If you can relate to them, whether being serious, or having a laugh or appreciating the spectrum of emotions in between, meaningful communication will occur.” Charlie says, “That is where I would like to believe my skill lies.”

Clearly a most important skill at the rostrum stands as the ability to “tease” out a price. Charlie says, “A little humor bordering on flippancy can provide a hesitant bidder with an appropriately gentle nudge to action.”

An example used by Charlie describes a situation where bidder “A” bids $1.1 million and bidder “B” bids up to $1.15 million. Clearly the pressure rests on bidder “A” and Charlie would like to see him go to $1.2 million but the bidder has turned hesitant. Here Charlie remarks, “I might take the liberty to suggest that, well frankly, if you’ve got $1.1 million you must have $1.2 million. It can work but other times a bidder has established a hard line. Then he will just smile and hold firm with his “no.”

Nobody has enjoyed a better seat to view the evolution of the classic car market and value trends at auction than Charlie. From everything he has witnessed, He says, “ First and foremost, the top-end has always ruled.” Someone once asked Charlie what were the cheapest lots he had ever sold in his saleroom. He responded, “The most expensive lots were the cheapest because ultimately, the number one lot is what everybody wants now. And subsequently, when it comes on the market again, in 5 years, 10 years or 20 years, everybody will still want it.” He has seen that the best or most expensive items over time, almost as a rule, gain in price. For more run-of-the-mill items, that does not necessarily hold true. He says, “Buyers don’t necessarily want the second grade or the third grade but the best is always the best.”

As to the tastes prevailing in the current marketplace Charlie expressed a clear opinion saying, “Modern, modern, modern seems to be the way forward. Modern and low mileage.” In referencing the cars of the Mark Smith Collection that would be crossing the auction block the following day, Charlie offered some pointed comments. With a hint of concern He said, “Interest in modern seems to trump pre-war vehicles. I am hoping that assessment will be proven wrong tomorrow. I say that because a lot of these wonderful cars in the Mark Smith collection are pre-war cars.” He went on to reflect on the tilt toward modern in bidder interests saying, “We’ve seen an explosion of interest in Porsches and Ferraris from the last twenty years, low mileage examples.”

Charlie shared his perspective on the interest expressed in modern cars by younger bidders, those referred to as “Youngtimers.” He reflected with a nod to the reality that the wonderful old collectors in their 80s and 90s, like old auctioneers, will not be with us forever.

SOLD!

He observes that despite their glorious nature and head-turning beauty, pre-war Olympian cars such as Duesenbergs, Packards, Lincolns and Cadillacs do not deliver the enjoyable driving experience offered by the modern tier 1 collectible. Charlie says, “I don’t believe the younger car enthusiast wants to be worried about whether his prized car will start or stop. Many don’t want to deal with it. I question their desire to stick their heads under the bonnet. They desire a car that can be driven with ease and enjoyed with little concern for reliability.”

In considering the buying population he serves, Charlie says, “I would like to think that the person buying these best cars is  cut of the same cloth as a chap with a Ferrari 250 GTO who turned up at one of our auctions driving it. This is a car worth $30 million, $40 million. He parks it outside and the people, this happens to be in England, are shocked by his driving it. The owner’s response, ‘Of course I bloody well drive it. It’s a car.’”

In closing, Charlie, in considering the David Gooding quote, admits, “There are a lot of auctioneers in the world, David’s comment makes me feel very warm. It makes me think that, in life, there is one thing I can do well.”

Very well, indeed.

By |2023-04-27T13:57:37+00:00April 27th, 2023|2 Comments

Conversations With People We Value #46

Spending time as I do in the Blue Ridge Mountains offers a great opportunity to commune with the beauty of nature. However, where I stay, being at the end of a serpentine dirt road snaking its way deep into the forest, affords a level of social connection just north of Neil Armstrong’s solitary stroll on the moon. Jeremiah Johnson I am not. So to break the spell of the woods, I often go in search of stories. The other day my friend Eddie, mentions a local restoration specialist. Game on.

Escaping from my forest sanctuary, I head out to meet a man who I would come to respect as an artisan. He works in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains where he produces Amelia Island, Pebble Beach and Cavallino quality work with a special place in his heart for British cars.

Meet Mike Gassman.

Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda with One of America’s Most Important Cars

1907 Thomas Flyer

Heading north, the Rockfish Valley Turnpike passes beneath the terminus of the Virginia Skyline and the entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway. We are talking God’s country. Clinging to the western side of the mountain above the Shenandoah Valley this old blue highway cuts through the Rockfish Gap before descending to the valley floor below where my destination awaits.

Clean and white with a garnish of distressed old British sports cars from the 50s and 60s dressing the side lot of the shop, Gassman Automotive presents itself as a buttoned downed source of high end restoration services, NOS parts and restored vehicles for sale.

Mike Gassman welcomes me with the warm humor of an old friend. In his mid-50s, he possesses a forthright country geniality reflecting his farm family upbringing. Mike converses with the intensity of a high energy, engaging storyteller. Conversations reflect the technical acumen of a master restorer delivered with the flavor of comedian Ron White.

Time spent at Gassman Automotive offers rich servings of eye candy and good information. Mike’s business offers a great story. However, that story will have to wait to be told another day. Why? Because before I interviewed Mike he told a couple of great stories that I had to share, now.

As we walked through his fabrication shop, Mike motioned to a bare metal shell mounted on a rotisserie. It appeared to be a smaller mid-century coupe of European breeding. Indeed, it turned out to be an early 1960s AC Greyhound. It actually represented a very rare find considering the total production numbered just 83 with only three having left-hand drive with this being one of the three.

It had been off the road since 1968 and left untouched in a barn in North Carolina. It would spend the next year undergoing a full restoration at Gassman. As Mike told it, the really funny part of the story resided in the fact that it had sat quietly for over fifty years under a thick layer of dust in a barn within sight of Tom Cotter’s home. Yes, that Tom Cotter “The barn find hunter.”  As Cotter says, “They are out there, sometimes right under your nose.” Cotter must have laughed at this find.

With that story told and well received, it triggered Mike to bust out saying, “If you like barn find stories I have got one for you.” As told to me by Mike, it actually starts well before Mike was born in 1964.

Mike says, “My family ran a dairy farm in Alden, NY east of Buffalo. A widow lived on the farm next to ours.” Apparently the widow’s deceased husband had been good friends with Mike’s grandfather, so Mike’s father would farm her field for her. Before Mike’s birth his dad had a real thing for brass era cars. Mike says he heard his dad probably had 20 of them at one time. In the course of tending the widow’s farm Mike’s dad discovered her barn contained a terribly distressed but very interesting car from the brass era. Mike’s dad had his eye on it with intentions to buy. With that in mind Mike’s dad would take every opportunity to squirt a little oil in the cylinders and turn the engine.

At that time Mike’s dad supplemented his income of $45 a month from farming with money he could make flipping cars. Mike says, “He would buy a car for $5 get it running and sell it.” Though the widow’s car was in terrible shape she wanted $500. Mike’s dad felt the $500 price outrageously steep especially considering its condition.

Mike says, “I have heard this story a million times. One day in the 1950s as my dad rides over to the widow’s farm he sees a tractor-trailer backing its stainless steel trailer up to the barn. On the side it reads “Harrah’s.” Ken Gross writing in Hagerty/Insider quotes David Gooding recalling Harrah’s trucks saying, “There were semi-trailer trucks bringing cars that they’d picked up around the country, every few days – both cars that were pulled out of barns and new purchases. They had different car spotters in different parts of the country.”

While Mike’s dad had made offers for the car, they never approached the $500 asking price. He accepted the reality and helped load the car onto the truck. He watched the loading of two straw filled crates that contained the vehicle’s brass head lamps. Lastly he witnessed the loading of what would prove to be a very important old bicycle. And that, was that, until.

Over a half century later young Mike, born in 1964, had grown into a master restorer fine classic automobiles. In 2008 he had brought one of his restorations to the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. On the day of the judging, in the early morning hours, he went to the underground garage where cars had been stored to detail his car. Right next to his entry stood the car that he recognized as the “wreck” his father recalled pushing onto Harrah’s trailer.

Michael knew more details than most about the 1907 Thomas Flyer that had won the 1908 “New York to Paris Great Race” and its grand prize of $1,000. (An interesting sidebar to history is that, at the time, the race sponsors The New York Times neglected to present the prize money to the winning Thomas Flyer team. It would be another 60-years, in 1968, that The Times awarded the money to driver George Schuster the only team member still alive.)

Michael knew that the Thomas Flyer finished first in 169 days beating the German Protos in second place by 26 Days. He also knew the significance of the headlights and the bicycle.

While the German entry, the Protos, had arrived first to Paris, the Germans had been penalized for cheating (The Germans had put their car on a train between Ogden, Utah and San Francisco) so the American had the race in hand until a gendarme refused them access to Paris and victory. Why? Parisian law required two headlights and the Thomas Flyer only had one. Unfortunately the Thomas flyers lost a headlight during a misadventures along the route. Just as things seemed poised on a pin head and ready to tilt towards ugly, a gentleman offered the team his bicycle which had a carbide lamp. After numerous failed attempts to attach the headlight, the team simply lifted the bicycle onto the hood of the car and held it there by hand allowing the Thomas Flyer to enter Paris and claim victory.

Now standing next to the Thomas Flyer he just stared as a man came over and began wiping the car down. Mike says, “I told the guy, my dad had a chance to buy this car in 1952 for $500. He looked at me like I was an idiot. I said believe it or not. He said I find it hard to believe.” The man then asked Mike where his dad lived and Mike said Alden, NY. Mike says, “His eyes lit up.” Mike then told him that his dad had pushed the bicycle next to it and carried the two crates with the headlights into the Harrah’s truck. Mike says, “Now the guy was listening. That I knew about the bicycle flipped him out. I learned later that day that he was the grandson of Ernie Schuster who drove the Thomas Flyer in the Great Race.” Mike says, “If you ever want to read a great book about it all get a copy of Race of the Century by Julie Fenster

Today, the 1907 Thomas Flyer that won the 1908 New York to Paris Great Race has been recognized for its historic importance by its inclusion in The National Historic Vehicle Registry. It now resides in the pantheon of most significant cars in American automobile history, treasured by the National Auto Museum where it resides and a priceless icon, which, Mike acknowledges, his dad passed on for $500.

By |2023-03-02T16:36:23+00:00March 2nd, 2023|4 Comments

Conversations With People We Value #45

“Maurice, come join us,” they called to him as he passed. Friends with whom I sat beckoned him to our table. Clearly, he recognized them and enjoyed their respect and warm feelings. A slight man with white whiskers and genteel manner, his charming and proper English accent left no doubt as to his British roots and breeding. A youthful 88-years of age, no dodderer he. With an exchange of pleasantries he begged off claiming weariness at day’s end and with goodbyes completed his after dinner departure.

My friends explained that he possessed a wealth of knowledge concerning fine art and antiques. His business focused on the purchase and sale of both. They marveled at the stories he shared. And, oh yes, during his early years in post-WWII England he refurbished and brokered vintage Rolls-Royce automobiles. They affectionately boasted of his encyclopedic knowledge of early Rolls models. Indeed his expertise with the iconic British marquee had earned recognition on both sides of the Atlantic. So much so that by the beginning of the 1970s his renown had drawn the attention of the Rockefeller Estate. Now living in America, Maurice accepted their offer to oversee the vintage car collection of, the now departed, past New York Governor and Vice President Nelson A. Rockefeller.

Shortly after our dinner time introduction, I reached out to Maurice. Indeed he had great stories to tell and this one is a doozy.

Meet Maurice de Montfalcon.

A Silver Ghost story. Real or Fake? You decide.

Portrait of the real 60553 by Stephen Salmieri

Upon entering a small but tasteful antique shop in a tony New Jersey suburb, I see owner Maurice de Montfalcon. Exhibiting a frenetic blend of determination and confusion he moves about a room strewn with rare historic documents. All will prove to address the iconic 1907 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost in general and one specific 1907 Silver Ghost in particular. More about that in a bit. The shop presents itself in a sort of discordant integration of neatly arrayed upmarket collectibles and antiques overlaid by a blizzard of pictures, magazines and papers blanketing every flat surface. The scene recalls photos of Einstein’s office.

Maurice standing in front of 60553/565, with son (Sam Stevens Jr.) of original owner according to Maurice

Exuding warmth delivered with an air of preoccupation, Maurice, after the briefest of formalities, launches into a breathless description detailing the subject of his apparent obsession. In short order I am grappling with a torrent of historic, legal, and personal detail flooding my brain courtesy of Maurice. It focuses on one 1907 Silver Ghost in particular. Very possibly the first Rolls-Royce to come to America, one once owned by the Rockefeller Estate, as well, once a car for which Maurice had personally cared.

Much the self made man, Maurice, born in 1935, lived through WWII as one of those children shipped en masse on trains departing from London for the countryside to spare them from the relentless Nazi Blitz firebombing. By his early 20s he had been employed in the repair of complex surgical instruments and then sophisticated cameras such as Rolleiflex. Maurice, with classic  British reserve recalls saying, “I had a natural ability with mechanical things.” About this time his penchant for Rolls-Royce automobiles blossomed and he began purchasing and refurbishing early 20th century models. Over the next twenty years he worked his way through the labyrinth of the British automotive agency hierarchy to the point that he had achieved a high level of success and recognition from his work associated with Vintage Rolls-Royce models. Quite the stickler for accuracy, his conversations would be sprinkled with the specific chassis numbers of vehicles he would be discussing. Letters he submitted to publications such as MotorSport, would politely school writers on nuanced inaccuracies in their stories involving vintage Rolls-Royces. Self-confident in his knowledge, Maurice prided himself on the accuracy of his professional opinions. He took strong offense at those who challenged his knowledge, honesty and motives.

As the 20th century moved on, the 1970s found Maurice in America. It was at that time that the Rockefeller Estate had reached out to contacts in Britain in search of a person qualified to oversee the classic car collection of Nelson A. Rockefeller with its pre-WWI Rolls-Royces. Maurice came back as the answer. During the period spent overseeing the Rockefeller collection he developed a special affection for a 1907 Silver Ghost, #60553/565, recognized as the first Rolls-Royce delivered to America and a special vehicle of historic importance. He respected it. He cared for it. He drove it. And when the time came in the late 1970s to liquidate the collection he oversaw its sale.

To appreciate the manifest significance of Maurice’s story, if true, requires an appreciation for the importance of provenance, a vehicle’s history. As relates to authenticity, provenance can have a profound impact on a specific vehicle’s historic significance and, thus, its value. A perfect example illustrating the importance and often the difficulty in establishing provenance occurred with the 1952 Cunningham C4R displayed in the prestigious “Winner’s Circle” at the Simeone Museum. Identified as the winner of Sebring in 1953 and a 3rd at LeMans its accomplishments made this specific car historically significant and very valuable. For over sixty-years this car had been recognized by the cognoscenti of automotive racing history as the car that won Sebring, until. Until one day Dr. Fred Simeone, a man of unquestioned integrity and automotive knowledge, noticed that his C4R on display had one more louver on the side than the Sebring winning Cunningham in an old photograph. He recognized that his C4R no longer enjoyed the significance or the value it had before his discovery. Dr. Simeone, though the only person in the world who knew this truth, chose to changed the sign on the display to reflect the discovered truth of its lesser provenance.

If as told to me by Maurice, his story holds water, it would dwarf Dr. Simeone’s discovery and have a far greater impact on the automotive community. It could mean that a Rolls-Royce displayed as an historically important original model could indeed be a replica.

Maurice driving 60553/565 in London early 1980s according to Maurice

Maurice’s story tracks a convoluted tale of provenance. To best understand it requires an appreciation for a few 1907 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost chassis numbers. Chassis number 60553 belongs to a standard side entrance, Barker bodied Silver Ghost recognized as the first Rolls-Royce delivered to the United States. This makes it a very important and valuable car. Chassis number 60565 belongs to a Rolls-Royce body-less rolling chassis delivered to the same buyer a few months later. In the subsequent telling of Maurice’s story, the first Rolls (the one in the Rockefeller Collection) had its 60553 chassis plate removed during its ownership by the original buyer. Years later the owner affixed the chassis plate from 60565 to 60553 before the sale of 60553. In an attempt to avoid confusion in the telling of Maurice’s story, the chassis number 60553/565 will be used to describe the original 60553 vehicle which in later years would bear the 60565 identification plate from the other car.

As Maurice tells the story, he cared for 60553/565 as part of the Rockefeller Collection knowing its true provenance. In 1979 Maurice placed ads in car magazines promoting the liquidation of the collection. He says, “Then bad things started to happen.” He felt savaged by a letter published in the magazine Old Cars concerning the provenance of the Rockefeller Collection’s 60553/565 by a man, Millard Newman, who claimed that he owned the original 60553. Maurice felt his integrity, knowledge and character had been impugned by a very personal attack. Maurice says, “Newman’s letter took the shape of a personal attack. He wrote ‘”This is a deliberate lie only to enhance the value of the Rockefeller car.” “(Maurice) certainly does not know his Rolls-Royces. I doubt if he has ever seen my car and if he did he apparently did not know what he was looking at.’”

According to Maurice he responded to the letter stating in no uncertain terms that Newman’s car was a fraud. Maurice recalls saying, “That is when the attorney’s letters started coming in promising all types of hell about to rain down on me.” Maurice continues, “They sent all kinds of documents that I was directed to sign recanting my description of the Newman car as a replica.”  Actually Maurice emphasizes that he returned every letter basically having written that he would recant nothing.” All hell did not drizzle much less rain. He says, “They did nothing because I was right.” Maurice says, “I had the documentation, letters and photography to prove it.

During that turbulent period Maurice turned his attention away from vintage automobiles as a business to brokering art and antiques as a living. He would do so for the next forty years. Over decades the sting of the Silver Ghost kerfuffle subsided though never vanished. So why now?

What after all these years and at the age of 88 has brought the pain back with such intensity that he wants to write a book to defend his honor, integrity and reputation?

Pain from such events never totally disappears. It resides inside where the body keeps the score. It lurks poised and patiently waiting for a trigger to unleash its fury. Two months ago, after all those years, the discovery of an old letter tripped the trigger. The righteousness of Maurice’s fight for the integrity of the Rockefeller Silver Ghost “his Silver Ghost” returned with a hot vengeance. The letter authored in the 1990s by Samuel B. Stevens the son of the man who originally bought 60553, gave full color clarity to Maurice’s memories and brought bitter indignation to this still unresolved attack on his integrity. Maurice with a nod to inevitability says, “At this point if I die no one will ever know the truth.”

The following provides select pieces of the trail of evidence upon which Maurice stakes his claim to the true fate of 60553.

EARLY AND LATER PHOTOS OF CAR THAT MAURICE SAYS IS A FAKE

Newman car in restoration. According to Maurice, notice the incorrect distance between rear running board bracket and spring shackle. It is incorrect.
Maurice claims it is a proof of fraud.

According to Maurice a later photo of Newman car with repositioning of rear running board bracket to proper location closer to shackle.
Maurice describes it as the same fraud with new paint.

1979 NEWMAN LETTER

First page of Millard Newman letter to Old Cars in 1979 challenging Maurice’s opinion of Newman’ car

1964 ARTICLE WRITTEN BY WILLARD NEWMAN ON CREATING A REPLICA

Page 1. Story from 1964 explaining how Willard Newman built a replica.

 

Page 2. Story by Millard Newman from 1964 explaining how he built a replica from a chopped down racing chassis.

LETTER FROM KIRKLAND GIBSON

Letter from Kirkland Gibson confirming his sale of a Rolls-Royce to Millard Newman and that it lacked any identification markings and debunks Newman’s story of finding the car in hay-filled barn. As well, Gibson states he had no doubt that the car he sold to Newman was newer than 1907.

LETTER FROM JONATHAN HARLEY

1982 Letter from Jonathon Harley, British Vintage car expert, as explained by Maurice, seriously questioning the authenticity of the chassis sold by Gibson to Newman .

1986 LETTER FROM SAM STEVENS (SON OF ORIGINAL OWNER)

Page 1 of 1986 Letter from original owner’s family confirming early history of 60553 and debunking idea of it as a chopped up race car and suggesting 60565 was scrapped.

 

Page 2 of 1986 letter from original owner’s family confirming early history of 60553 and debunking idea of it as a chopped up race car and suggesting 60565 was scrapped.

1996 LETTER FROM SAM STEVENS EXPLAINING WRONG 60565 CHASSIS PLATE ON 60553

1996 letter (fully legible in person) from family of original owner explaining 60565 ID tag on 60553

RETYPED 1996 SAM STEVENS LETTER FOR READABILITY

 

1990 SOTHEBY’S CATALOG

1990 Sotheby’s catalogue, which according to Maurice, misidentified 60553 and 60565. Maurice states that the red car is a fake and that the white car is the actual 60533 with the wrong chassis plate

Interestingly in 1990 Sotheby’s auctioned two 1907 Rolls- Royce Silver Ghosts believed to be 60553 and 60565. One identified as 60565 went for $2.8 million the most for a Rolls-Royce up to that time and the alleged 60533, depending on whether you believe Maurice or not, went for $2.05 million

So you decide. Which is the real 60553?

If you believe that Millard Newman found the real 60553 in a hay-filled barn, then the car sold at Sotheby’s in 1990 is 60553 and the first new Rolls-Royce delivered to America. Today, that Silver Ghost stands on display at the respected Peterson Museum.

But what if the case presented by Maurice is true? Then the car sitting in the Petersen would be a replica and whoever owns 60565 would actually own the first Rolls-Royce in America wearing the wrong chassis plate.

Who thought provenance could be so dramatic, suspenseful and exciting? Other than Maurice that is.

By |2023-02-16T14:44:38+00:00February 16th, 2023|6 Comments

Conversations With People We Value #44

Sometimes life taps our shoulder to remind us of the sacrifices others have made so that we have the opportunity to have so much. The recent passing of my friend James (Jimmy) Anagnost at age 98 did so for me.

In his later years Jimmy belonged to an ensemble of dedicated morning workout-aholics at a local gym. Though one of the older members, he showed up on schedule with a Cal Ripkin-like consistency for years without fail even into his 90s. An old soul imbued with values recalling a simpler time, Jimmy sported a sprightly elfin humor and laughing eyed geniality that earned him the love and affection of his gym buddies, men and women alike. Only in his later years did Jimmy honor me by breaking his good-natured smiling silence and share with me elements of his history. I found him both uniquely special as an individual and, again, representative of a generation. Jimmy’s story rightfully honors both him and his peers.

His story begins before the WWII Battle of the Bulge in 1944.

Fanfare for an uncommon man. A decorated soldier passes at 98

Jimmy Anagnost at MetLife Stadium

Born in July of 1924, little in his early years would prepare Jimmy Anagnost for the future that awaited him and millions of others like him. While that cataclysmic future bringing WWII awaited all, some, when finding themselves in fate’s crosshairs, forced to face cruel choices chose to respond to a higher calling. Such was young Jimmy of Nashua, New Hampshire.

“As a high school senior seeing the war in full swing, I figured knowing a little German might come in handy,” Jimmy said with a “did not need to be a rocket scientist” gesture. Jimmy would find his intuition about the benefit of speaking some German to be oh so true.

Jimmy in uniform

The following year after completing his freshman year at Springfield College on a Friday in June of 1943 Jimmy received his draft notice the next Monday. By November Jimmy found himself aboard Britain’s original HMS Queen Elizabeth. No pleasure cruise this. Being berthed five hammocks high in tight quarters together with wicked rough seas reduced the crossing to a six-day barf fest. A further wrenching of the ship’s collective stomach came with rumors that the QE1 had a Nazi U-boat in pursuit. The only stress relief resided in the belief that no U-boat had the speed to catch Britain’s queen of the sea.

Jimmy recalled, “Our destination would be Belgium. The Battle of the Bulge had broken out.”

For those unfamiliar with the “WWII Battle of the Bulge” It stands as the Nazi’s last major offensive of WWII and an all out effort in the dead of winter to split allied forces along the Western Front. It got its name from the large sag or “bulge” in the Allied line resulting from the German surprise attack.

It resulted in a frozen six-week blood bath in the dense Ardennes Forest of Belgium. Winston Churchill called it “the greatest American battle of the war with a deployment of over 500,000 troops. Adding to the frozen horror, a deep snow, freezing rain and record breaking cold temperatures brutally assaulted the troops with over 15,000 injuries resulting from the severe cold alone. Many of the soldiers were young men barely out of high school, just like Jimmy. In the end, the American forces prevailed and threw back the Nazi offensive though paying a terrible price in the process. According to the National WWII Museum, in what would be the costliest battle ever fought by the U.S. Army, American troops suffered over 80,000 dead and wounded.

All units in the frozen Ardennes meat grinder needed replacements, young Jimmy with the rank of corporal would be a replacement with a battered infantry division. His first exposure to death came with witnessing dead American soldiers being loaded like uncut cord wood into a truck. Jimmy said, “To this day, every time I see a truck loaded with cord wood it brings that sight back to life for me.”

Battle of the Bulge,  Ardennes Forest

Life came at Jimmy with increasing speed. A following morning  found Jimmy and his fellow replacements being stocked with supplies, ammunition and fed a breakfast of pancakes with chocolate syrup. Jimmy said, “A veteran from D-Day informed me that that breakfast was tradition before heading into battle.” He remembered the day being bitter cold and snow depths made it difficult to walk. Jimmy said, “Marching to battle I was scared. No conversations filled the air. A deathly quiet seemed to choke life itself. Not knowing what to expect fed my fear. In all my time in combat that was the most fear I ever had.” Once action started, Jimmy said, “I fired my gun. Yelled for my men to move forward and basically acted like a leader.” It helped eliminate his fear. It did not free him of experiences that would haunt his memories for the rest of his life.

Jimmy recalled coming under intense German fire. His friend Sergeant Joe Vosek hugged the ground next to him firing in the direction of the German attack. Jimmy heard a gulping sound. Jimmy said, “I turned and blood was flying everywhere. Joe had been machine gunned in the throat. Joe died. I was ordered to advance which I did but I will never forget Joe Vosek.”

One especially bitter day in this frozen hell Jimmy faced decisions that would forever impact the lives of his men and lives of those who depended upon them.

The following comes directly from Jimmy’s Commanding Officer’s recommendation of Jimmy for the Silver Star.

On 2 March 1945 as Company K 23rd Infantry (Jimmy’s unit) crossed the Urft River the enemy opened fire from 18 pillboxes trapping the company in a small open pocket. Strongly prepared enemy positions poured a hail of fire from three sides. The company found itself unable to withdraw because of enemy mortar and machine gun fire.

When 2nd platoon was ordered to withdraw Corporal James Anagnost volunteered to remain in position to keep in radio contact while the platoon leader reconnoitered a favorable withdrawal route to safety. Although it meant being dangerously exposed to enemy fire, Cpl. Anagnost with high devotion to duty took up the exposed position.

Upon receiving word to withdraw the 2nd Platoon he utterly disregarded his own safety to crawl from position to position to contact each man to order him to pull back. All the while Cpl. Anagnost was dangerously exposed to the hail of enemy small arms fire, automatic fire and mortar fire as he moved over the open and fire swept field. Only when he was sure that every man was withdrawn from the area did Cpl. Anagnost dash through enemy fire to reach the cover of a brick wall. There, with a handful of riflemen Cpl. Anagnost directed a rear-guard fight to cover the withdrawal of 3rd Platoon and other elements of Company K in the area.

Just as Cpl. Anagnost received a radio message to withdraw from his position, he heard a wounded man calling for aid from the open field in front of the wall. Aware that the platoon aid man was busy treating and evacuating several wounded men under cover of the brick wall, Cpl. Anagnost called for a volunteer to try to reach the wounded man. When no one responded he declared that he would make the perilous journey himself. Despite the advice and arguments of the other men that it was suicidal to leave the cover of the wall Cpl. Anagnost moved into the enemy fire crawling some thirty-five yards over the fire swept ground to reach the wounded man. Discovering that the man was wounded in the leg and arm and unable to help himself in withdrawing, Cpl. Anagnost dragged the man through the snow to the cover of the wall where he treated the leg wound and applied a tourniquet to the arm. Cpl. Anagnost then directed the men to withdraw to the rear and cross the river. He was the last man to leave the area and withdraw across the river.

By his high devotion to duty, courage and utter disregard for his own safety, Cpl. Anagnost was highly responsible for the successful withdrawal of Company K from its perilous position without staggering casualties and for the rescue of a wounded man who otherwise would have been killed or captured.

Two months later, Jimmy, now Staff Sergeant Anagnost and his men, after clearing two villages of snipers, moved on to neutralize several heavy gun placements targeting Allied troops at point blank range. After calling in a punishing heavy artillery barrage on the enemy position, Jimmy, surveying the scene from a location on high ground, realized that the enemy was surrounded. Clearly it would be in the Germans best interests to surrender and prevent the terrible loss of life assured by the impending withering fire awaiting to pound their inescapable position. Jimmy armed with his high school German, amazing chutzpa and basic decency volunteered to go forward alone into a clearing and facing the enemy line attempt to talk the Germans into surrendering. As described in the Army account:

S/Sgt Anagnost went forward to the enemy position and was met by a German with a bazooka pointed at him. At that time S/Sgt Anagnost was joined by Sgt Ray Legg, Albany, NY who whispered to Anagnost to hit the ground while Legg would shoot the German.

Jimmy in recalling the incident said, “My German was not that great. I was not getting through to the Germans that they were surrounded and basically faced annihilation. Ray kept whispering, almost imploring me, saying Jimmmmyyyy. I told Ray just one more chance.” According to the Army report, on this final effort “Another German soldier jumped out of a gun emplacement and yelled, ‘I’m from New Jersey we can make this work.’” Apparently the German soldier’s father, before the war, had come with the family to work for a German company in Edison New Jersey. Returning to Germany before the war, the son, still a German citizen, was conscripted. Jimmy said, “If you saw this in a movie you would say what a load of B.S. I guess what they say is true in war you see things that you just couldn’t make up.”

Jimmy as Shulton Rep judging for Miss Nebraska 1958

Jimmy’s actions resulted in the capture of over 50 flak guns that would no longer jeopardize allied planes, many 88mm heavy guns that would no longer kill allied troops and 250 prisoners who could no longer take allied lives and had been given the opportunity to live out their lives after the war.

In returning home after the war Jimmy finished his degree at Springfield College and set about building a good life after surviving a terrible war. Jimmy began a career with the Shulton Company best known for its Old Spice products. Jimmy represented Shulton products to military bases around the world. Interesting Jimmy once acknowledged to me that the most fear he ever experienced in his life occurred when going to Vietnam for Shulton in the mid 1960’s. Jimmy said, “You never knew who was the enemy nor how close they were. There was no enemy line. It scared me.”

In 1953 Jimmy married the love of his life Katharine (Kitty) Anagnost and raised a family with 3 sons and a daughter. Jimmy and Kitty’s marriage lasted 68 loving years. Kitty passed in 2021.

Jimmy’s later years had found him spending summers in Maine and when at his home in River Vale NJ attending a health club in Westwood, New Jersey. It was at that gym where Jimmy established himself as a beloved member of the health club family. Into his 90s Jimmy would work out diligently. He amazed his fellow gym rats with his vigor and by his sheer genuine joie de vivre and decency charmed

Happy 90th Birthday Kiss

the women and was beloved by “the guys.” That said, one friendship in particular stands out for both its apparent incompatibility and depth.

Over the years a deep, strong almost familial bond developed between Jimmy and fellow gym member New York Giants Pro Football Hall of Fame Linebacker Harry Carson. This friendship defied a phalanx of possible divisions from age, physical stature, regional roots, race, profession, celebrity and more. And in so doing, made a profound and universal statement about the deep transcendent nature of true friendship.

Jimmy roughly five feet seven inches tall and 150 pounds and Harry at six feet two inches and 255 pounds (He retired in 1988 and still maintains his playing weight) were so different yet so comfortable together. Harry deferred to Jimmy like a respected and beloved favorite uncle. Harry remained in constant contact with Jimmy right through Covid and during Jimmy’s time in assisted living right till his passing. Simply a joy to see them together. Watching Harry a bright, famous, revered, giving and personable man defer to Jimmy seemed a moving expression of a hero’s joy when focusing the spotlight on another.

Jimmy and Harry Carson celebrating Jimmy’s 90th Birthday

Harry’s deep affection and respect for Jimmy evidenced itself in 2015 when at Harry’s urging, the New York Giants honored 91-year old Jimmy during the NFL’s salute to veterans before a packed Metlife Stadium.

Announced to the full house by Harry, Jimmy walked on the field with a deliberate stride (all his gym friends told him to confidently stride out on the field and snap off a salute). Mission accomplished. Rising with a thundering roar from a single voice shared by the 83,000 fans, all in attendance celebrated the life of an uncommon man.

At 98 Jimmy has passed. Our lives are better because of the life he and his peers lived. Long live Jimmy.

Jimmy Anagnost will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

By |2023-02-16T14:33:21+00:00February 2nd, 2023|20 Comments

Conversations With People We Value #43

A recent crisp and bright December day delivered conditions that brought the big cat heart of my XK120 Jaguar to full roar. With the Jaguar feasting on the cool air and eager to run, Elaine and I had set out to visit an amazing and still thriving remnant of American Revolutionary War history, a three-century old Public House and America’s oldest tavern, “The Old 76 House.” I found it amusingly ironic to be behind the wheel of a very much alive piece of later day British automotive history. Once again the British were coming. My journey would travel routes once traversed by General George Washington at a pivotal time in American history when the battle for independence hung uneasily in the balance.

Now, join Elaine and me as we break bread with ghosts of the American Revolution.

Driving to history, Visiting America’s oldest tavern and the man who saved it

During the later colonial period, taverns served as the powerful pumping heart of Revolutionary fervor leading up to and during America’s War of Independence. Two of the most famous of these taverns, Fraunces Tavern in New York City and The Old 76 House in Tappan, New York, remain in operation today. Both have been operated by members of the Norden family. For a number of years Robert Norden oversaw Fraunces Tavern and for the past 37-years his son, Robb has owned and operated The Old 76 House.

The significance of the tavern or “public house” in colonial American history evidences itself in the central role it played in community formation. For a land patent (think of today’s incorporation) to be granted for the formation of a new town, e.g. Tappan, New York in 1686, the town actually had to have pre-existed as a town for one generation. The existence of a public house stood as a requisite feature central to a town’s formation, much like the role a grain of sand plays in the formation of a pearl. Colonial Tappan like its Mid-Hudson Valley brethren of communities featured a predominately Dutch and German population. Decidedly anti-British, they rejected the idea of using the British term public house or pub in their new community. Tavern instead would be their choice. And across America that tradition lives on today. In 1686 the site that would become the Old 76 House three centuries later came into existence as part of the newly created town of Tappan. By the time of the American Revolution the tavern bore the name of its, then, keeper, Casparus Mabie (Pronounced like the word “maybe”). Mabie’s tavern lived at the center of the gathering storm that would engulf the 13 colonies and ultimately change the world. Here, George Washington, Lafayette, Von Steuben, Lord Stirling, Anthony Wayne, Generals Green, Knox, Talmadge, Grover, and Alexander Hamilton, who actually lived in a room upstairs, ate drank and charted a future that would see the birth of the United States of America.

On July 4th 1774, two years to the day before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the New York Committee met at the site of the Old ’76 House and adopted the Orangetown Resolutions. With language foretelling what would come two-years later, voices emanated from Mabie’s Tavern that would join with others from across the colonies in a united call for relief from the oppression imposed by the British Parliament’s passage of the Intolerable Acts.

Located a short walk from the historic DeWint House that served as General George Washington’s headquarters four-times during the Revolution, Mabie’s tavern sat front and center to witness  events that would change the world.

With the war in full stride came an event that would indelibly mark Mabie’s Tavern on history’s ledger. In September of 1780 Colonial soldiers captured British Major John Andre who served as head of the British Secret Service in America during the Revolutionary War. After meeting with, soon to be reviled Colonial General Benedict Arnold, Major Andre had with him documents detailing General Arnold’s plan to surrender West Point to the British. Forced by failed efforts to return by boat to British controlled territory, Andre had to make his way through Colonial held territory by land. He did not make it past Tarrytown, NY.

The bar at Old 76 House

General Washington’s availability at Mabie’s Tavern, assured that Major Andre would be tried as a spy in Tappan, NY. There Andre could be confined at Mabie’s during his trial. The door to his holding cell remains in place at the Old 76 House to this day. Despite the high regard in which Andre was held by many Colonial officers including Alexander Hamilton and Marquis de Lafayette, Andre, being found guilty as a spy, faced the gallows in Tappan on October 2, 1780 before a crowd estimated at 2,000.

Hearing of Andre’s capture, Benedict Arnold deserted West Point and, reaching the British warship, Vulture, fled for the protection of the British. Given a Brigadier General’s commission, Arnold would lead British troops against Colonial forces in Virginia. Retiring to England and infamy, Arnold avoided any punishment for his treachery. He died in 1801.

Letter written by Benedict Arnold found on Major John Andre

Fast forwarding to 2022, Drivin’ News has come to speak with Robb Norden the man who researched, restored and, now, owns and operates The Old 76 House. Warm, welcoming, exuberantly gracious with a ready laugh, Norden offers a high energy mix of menu recommendations leavened with a docent’s feel for sharing the stories this grand old building has to tell.

Though educated as an architect, life as a chef seemed a hard wired given for Robb Norden since early childhood. His grooming in the fine art of culinary excellence started at a young age. Robb says, “I never experienced a Thanksgiving sitting down. As a five-year old my family would put me in some crazy little costume and I would walk around the Fraunces Tavern dining room with apple juice refreshing everybody’s glass.” Not that he did not fight his family’s apparent predetermination of his future as a restaurateur. Despite the grooming by a father who operated Fraunces Tavern, Robb went back to college to be an architect. His father, believing that his son would not follow in the father’s footsteps cut Robb off. With a shrug of resignation Robb says, “Since I needed to support myself through school, I fell back on what I knew. Since the age of eleven Robb had been working in kitchens with a broad spectrum of culinary professionals. Conveying deep respect, Robb says, “The last kitchen in which I trained was the Union Square Café where I worked with Ali Barker a culinary pioneer and a master chef extraordinaire.”

Talking with Robb one finds his interests range far and wide.  His appreciation for preserving and enjoying items with a history extend well beyond the Old 76 House. A pilot, he enjoys flying his restored 1962 Piper PA-28. As well, as a hobby he updates vintage airplanes with modern avionics. A car enthusiast, he finds his pleasure in bringing old Porsche 911s and BMW 2002tiis back to factory spec. While also a diver, recreational chef and collector of artifacts associated with his interests nothing surpasses his passion for the living museum he brings to life each day when he turns on the lights of the Old 76 House.

Robb Norden at home in the Old 76 House kitchen

What triggered this perfect fusion of talent and passion? Robb explains saying, “In my 20s I worked as the preservationist overseeing the restoration. This took more than a year. During that time the owner’s involved me in discussions about the character of the dining experience they had in mind.” Robb responded by adamantly protesting their vision. Robb says, “Their vision was completely wrong.” He told them that they needed to embrace the fact that this is a tavern. The prior owners did not see it that way. He says, “They wanted to make it a very high-end restaurant. They wanted a poissonnier, saucier, two pastry chefs, their plan had more people in the kitchen than they would have had in the dining room. They would have been billing meals at $100 per person. In the 1980s it would have been as well received as billing a thousand dollars a person today.”

Not long after the discussion, Robb received a call. He had won over the owners with the wisdom of his vision. They conceded the site perfectly suited housing a restaurant that celebrated its rough hewn historic charm with a refined dining experience free of ostentation but oh so rich in character. That said, they had no interest in implementing it themselves. Robb says, “They went on to say that I had invested so much of my life into this building and my passion for it was so evident that they would sell me everything for $1…and…and for that $1 I would also be buying their restaurant corporation and their real estate corporation, both of which had crazy debt.” In considering this “opportunity” Robb explains his reasoning saying, “I was in my 20s. At this time in the 1980s a 20-year old couldn’t get a loan for five bucks. So now I would own the business. I would know how to run it better than they did. I would pay it all off.” Now, 37 years later as 2023 appears on the horizon, Robb acknowledges that he is still paying it off. While Bob clearly exhibits qualities associated with the classic Renaissance man, he acknowledges that while he has great acumen for certain things he possesses no acumen for others and he says, “Making money clearly resides in the no acumen column.”

His love affair with this proud old colonial lady from a distant past runs deep and strong. A few years back a physical exam revealed tumors that demanded immediate attention and removal. One of the attending physicians projected that Robb might have less than two years to live. With a grateful nod of the head, Robb offers a tight lipped smile and says, “It has been more than two years now. I feel fine. I feel free. But all that being said, it forces you to re-evaluate.” Inspired by that self directed  challenge Robb faced the question “What have I done with my entire life?”

Party in the house, The Old 76 House with Mark Sganga ensemble (Jen Heaney , Mark Sganga, Larry Eagle (obscured), Freddie Pastore, Candyce Giaquinto)

Robb pauses and notes that he has been here, in the room where we both now stand, for 37 years. He says, “I honestly believe I could have done great things in other areas.” He continues saying, “Did I waste this time?” He slowly looks about capturing and savoring all he sees, he leaves a silence hanging in the air and quietly says, “No.” Again pausing he then continues, “This is not a business. For me it is almost like a living breathing fine art project, like the David or the Sistine Chapel. I feel it is a great accomplishment because I don’t serve food here. I serve an experience and try and make those who are receptive to the fact that they in a building that has grown with our country and is still doing that self same thing. Equally impressive nothing here is artificial. There’s nothing fake. What we have as ornaments for lack of a better word are real, from start to finish, there’s no false cheesy prints. The armaments hanging around are real and were used in battle. When the floor deteriorates in a certain area, I don’t replace it with something that looks fake. I replace it with something that is obviously of fine quality. Now these floors are pine. And if I have to repair it, I use a fine piece of Oak so that people can say, well, that’s the older stuff. And that’s the repair, and the repair should be evident because this is the true place that remains. If you go to Williamsburg, which is great. It’s super for propagating that kind of American History idea. However, it’s Disneyland. Here is where everybody actually sat where they actually caused, so many important things to happen. And these are the actual beams and building and so on. And it’s been not only preserved but protected for years to come.”

Old 76 House, good spirits fill the room

In honest reflection Robb explains to people that his ownership of the Old 76 House is not so much a “living” as it is a life style. He agrees with the old adage that “you do not own a restaurant, the restaurant owns you. Clearly Robb loves his Old 76 House and he shares that affection with the customers he cares for through the camaraderie he promotes. Enjoying an eclectic taste in music, Robb promotes a musician friendly climate with music most every night that attracts a level of talent rarely encountered outside of premium music venues. Wednesday nights belong to an ensemble cast of respected musicians and session players who have played with the best and rank among the best and invite friends who are the best.

Some say the Old 76 House harbors ghosts, if so, then when the band starts, good spirits fill the room.

 

Drivin’ News will be taking a break for the holidays. 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

May 2023 bring you joy and abundance.

By |2022-12-08T14:50:33+00:00December 8th, 2022|7 Comments

Conversations With People We Value #42

A recent Drivin’ News story, “When the collection outlives the collector,” resonated with a broad spectrum of readers. Its theme focused on the challenges facing adult sisters charged with disposing of their recently deceased father’s collection of distressed classic Cadillac cars and piles of associated parts.

Much of the feedback focused on the need for a collector to organize and preferably simplify the contents of a collection in advance of the time when it gets passed on.

Inspired by the research of Drivin’ News friend and “avid car guy,” Rocco Scotellaro, Drivin’ News will explore channels available for collectors to dispose of their collection’s contents. The word “dispose” may seem a rude assessment in contrast to the more positive “sell.” Unfortunately, while most classic car pieces and parts have a value, the market for some items associated with classic cars especially pre-war cars may be melting out of the population. For the sake of one’s progeny, information about purpose and worth can be invaluable.

With that said, Drivin’ News explores managing down a collection.

How to manage down a classic car collection.

Mr. Doan and his collection being auctioned by VanDerBrink Auctions

Disposal of classic car parts, pieces and print materials presents a daunting task even for the collector who knows what his collection contains. Thus, avenues for clearing out parts and pieces will be the focus of this article. For a discussion of the sales channels for complete and running vehicles, readers can refer to the October 14, 2021 Drivin’ News story, Comparing classic car sales platforms.”

The plight of the four LaFronz sisters featured in the Cadillac story hit home for both the younger readers who might be on the receiving end of a collection and the not so young audience members (You are not going to catch me calling my friends old) who find themselves staring at piles of vintage car parts accrued, often times, over decades. In hearing the sisters’ story, younger potential collection recipients can envision the painful loss of a parent complicated by the daunting task of disposing of items for which they have neither an interest in keeping nor a knowledge of their value. For older collectors, with most residing in an age bracket frequented by grandparents, the task of planning for the disposal of their collection presents the potential for an equally unpleasant experience. Issues relating to one’s mortality offer little in the way of pleasant reflection.

LaFronz sisters’ Cadillac collection chaos

Today, many longtime collectors with a clear eye on reality, some grudgingly and others with a quiet nod to inevitability, find themselves coming around to facing the responsibility that rests alone on their shoulders to do right by their collection and those who will assume the responsibility for it. Whether being kept in the family or organized for liquidation, they know they need to prepare their collection for the transition.

Rocco Scotellaro has been a life-long car enthusiast and collector. A professional engineer, Rocco had been my student during my brief stint as a middle school science teacher in the time of the first Nixon administration. We reconnected 50 years later when he registered for an adult school class I presently teach on collectible automobiles. With a special place in his heart for classic Pontiacs and C2 Corvettes, Rocco has accrued a mountain of parts during his decades of restoration activities. In a concerted effort to keep his inventory under control and promote marital harmony, he has developed significant expertise in the avenues for turning excess inventory into cash while reducing that mountain to a mole hill.

To equip collectors with effective tools for disposing of parts and pieces no longer needed, Drivin’ News has combined the work of Rocco and the widely respected Drivin’ News research department to offer an overview of proven avenues to reduce the clutter and make a few bucks.

Seek help!

SPECIAL NOTE: If you have a space filled with an eclectic jumble of random car parts that you passionately defend against any suggestion to reduce the chaos, you have crossed the line and are, indeed, a hoarder. Seek help.

Before charting a path for the sale of items in a collection, it is paramount to be clear on the scope of what is being sold. A manifest difference exists between clearing out some NOS and used parts for which you no longer have a need versus a one-time disposal of a barn chock-a-block with bodies, chassis and shelves of associated parts. Answers to the “How to” question can range from creating a small side business that serves as a pleasant distraction and makes a few bucks all the way up to contracting a professional auction house with the market savvy and resources to move everything at one time. The spectrum of solutions existing between those poles demands an honest assessment of your knowledge, your time and your objectives.

As an example, the adult sisters in the distressed Cadillacs story face real choices. At a disadvantage with their lack of knowledge as to the value of the collection, they could contract with a respected auction house that deals with the disposition of such lots. The benefit would be that the responsibility for resolution of the matter would no longer be the sisters’ day to day concern. However, the cost for this convenience could be a significant percentage of the money raised at auction. This also assumes that a reputable auction house would take on the task, meaning it has assessed that money could be made. For those predisposed to such an arrangement the frightening possibility exists that a reputable auction house would determine that auctioning the lot was not worth the effort.

A second alternative exists where the sisters seek venues where they can advertise the total collection at a set price or ”Best Offer.”

Lastly for consideration here calls for the sisters to assume the responsibility of parting out the collection through venues where individual parts or batches of parts can be offered for sale. The phrase “daunting challenge” was specifically created to be applied in situations like this.

As we review different avenues for the disposition of parts we will return, from time to time, to assess its applicability in the case of the sisters’ inherited distressed Cadillac collection.

All avenues for parts sales have a few basics in common. Every one involves displaying the item, agreement on a deal, payment for the purchase and transfer from seller to buyer.

Rocco Scotellaro doing business even in the time of Covid

Display – Description of an item can be in person or through a written ad and/or photography or video.

Confirming a deal can either be in person or through electronic communications.

Payment can be in the form of cash, check, PayPal, or apps such as Venmo or Zelle. As explained in Forbes Advisor, Zelle (rhymes with sell) and Venmo rank as two of the most popular P2P (person-to-person) mobile apps providing digital payment services. Zelle allows you to send and receive money instantly between U.S. bank accounts. It partners with over 10,000 financial institutions with over 1.8 billion made between its inception in 2017 and 2021. It enables you to send money quickly from your bank account to anybody you pick. In a matter of minutes.

Venmo, unlike Zelle functions as a digital wallet, allowing you to accrue money in your Venmo account to pay for future purchases. Money transferred through Venmo arrives in your account instantly. The recipient can then keep the funds in their Venmo account or transfer the money to a linked bank account. Money is not available instantly unless you pay a fee.

PayPal offers a much more comprehensive menu of services with  users in over 200 countries. Its broad international reach is accompanied by a complex fee structure. Unlike PayPal, Zelle and Venmo only serve users in the U.S.

Transfer either is through an in-person exchange or by shipping. This involves packing and selecting a shipper.

Packing – Rule 1, if you are shipping an item pack it well. The last thing you want is a shipment damaged. Returns and insurance are a real hassle. Double wall boxes are the best. Big stuff can be a challenge. Packaging large body panels and engine blocks are best not attempted by the inexperienced.

Shipping – Size more than weight matters. A large light door panel will cost more to ship than a small heavy engine component. Small items are well served by flat rate boxes available at the post office. UPS and FedEx offer a menu of delivery schedules and prices. If you ship enough you can get a price break. Shipping without a doubt adds a level of complexity avoided with a simple hand-off.

Garage SalesBasically, a garage sale requires writing an ad that can be placed on Craigslist, a local garage sale website or a local newspaper. If your garage sale will be primarily car parts and pieces it is important that you reach out everywhere to alert your intended buyers. A properly placed clear ad promoting “Car Stuff” for sale will draw car guys like flies to, well to whatever flies are drawn to.

PROS

  • Easy
  • Free
  • Buyers interact with item before sale
  • All cash transactions
  • Items sold as is,
  • No taxes
  • No shipping

CONS

  • Days of preparation to organize, price and label items. Write the ad Make and post signs.
  • Need to sell at lower prices (Be prepared to negotiate because everyone wants a deal)
  • Weather dependent
  • Limited customer base
  • Thieves cruise garage sales to distract the seller and take things. It is best to have a few helping you. Don’t be bullied and be alert to distractions and confusion.

Garage sales are hard work. They can also be fun and profitable. In the following example Rocco describing one of his garage sales the past summer (keep in mind that Rocco is good at this). Rocco says, “I put an ad on Craigslist for “tools” in the automotive section. I had good traffic maybe 50 people over the two days. I had been collecting carpenter planes. I had maybe 15 of them displayed. The first guy there asked how much for all of them. He bought them all. First sale, $350.” In two days I sold two thousand dollars worth of stuff. It is worth the effort.”

This is not to say that this happens every time. Sometimes it can be a dud. That is life. But, most often if you advertise properly, have good stuff and are willing to deal, sales will happen.

Swap Meets/ Car Shows/ Flea Markets

From the local car show to the sprawling acres of Hershey, Carlisle, Charlotte Motor Speedway and the like, the basics of a swap meet remains the same only the size of the event differs.

Hershey Swap meet

Basically a swap meet is like a big flat area filled with a whole bunch of garage sales. That said swap meet participants are certainly a notch above a garage sale in the organization of their operation. Usually for swap meet participants, it is not their first rodeo. That said one can usually expect a large friendly gathering of like minded car enthusiasts having a good time and eager to buy something. Offerings at swap meets extend across the spectrum of car enthusiast needs. Small swap meets have some professional participants mixed in with folks that bring stuff that would be found at a garage or estate sale.

PROS

  • A far more targeted audience than a garage sale
  • Buyers interact with item before sale
  • Cash sales
  • Higher prices
  • No shipping
  • Secure environment

CONS

  • Must pay for Vendor space
  • Must pack and transport stuff to location
  • Cost of travel/ lodging (if overnight)

Craigslist/ Facebook Market Place

Kind of the wild west of online shopping. Real bargains and real misinformation. Like garage sales everyone has a bargain in mind. That said, I have sold parts and cars on Craigslist. Think of these sites as having both wheat and chaff. It remains up to the buyer to sift through it.

Craigslist also is rife with scam artists. One particular one has a very motivated caller who desperately wants to buy whatever you are selling. Unfortunately, the caller will be out of the country so he will send over a friend with a certified check to pick up the item. A deal sweetener of say $100 or, if it is a large purchase, $500 will be added to compensate you for the inconvenience. If the seller goes along, the item is picked up in exchange for the certified check. Only two weeks or so later does the certified check prove to be worthless. Always be wary with Craigslist.

An increasingly major concern with Craigslist is personal security. As reported by NBC News, a robbery arranged on Craigslist is the perfect crime. Whether the victim is buying or selling an item, he or she arrives at a meeting with either a wad of cash or something valuable.

Such meetings often involve the disclosure of much personal information, including phone numbers and home addresses. A clever robber may even persuade the potential victim  to disclose tidbits like work schedules or number of adults in the household at a given time.  And while most consumers are now appropriately skeptical of e-mail from criminals, many let their guard down when a person-to-person meeting is arranged. One very common example occurred in sleepy suburban Bogota, NJ. There a man selling a MacBook on Craigslist had arrived on a sleepy suburban street to meet a buyer responding to the seller’s Craigslist ad. The buyer approached the seller and started counting out the cash. With his focus on the alleged buyer the seller did not see the man who shoved a shotgun in his face. The men then grabbed the computer and ran off. It is becoming increasingly common. Police call it robbery by appointment.

Be warned. Be careful.

Due to this trend many police departments are setting up an area at the station where such exchanges can be made safely.

PROS

  • Free targeted audience
  • Usually a cash sale
  • No shipping unless buyer chooses to (Be careful)

CONS

  • Must submit ads with photos
  • Limited/local audience
  • Must field questions
  • Must arrange for pickup and payment
  • Security concerns

eBay

Ebay represents the online sales 900-pound gorilla in the room. With a potentially global audience and easy payment options eBay grew into an international phenomenon. Unfortunately accompanying that growth has come a complex and off-putting fee structure.

Rocco has developed some pretty strong feelings about eBay based on his years of experience. He says, “eBay is pretty interesting but it can get very complicated and it is getting more complicated by the day. Their terms and conditions seem to change every quarter. I’m kind of glad that I’m running out of stuff to sell because it’s getting more difficult and less worth the trouble. eBay can easily take 15% of your sale.”

PROS

  • Wide targeted audience
  • Available access to meaningful sales data
  • Higher prices as compared to garage sales and Craigslist
  • Can target your market to global or U.S. only

CONS

  • Fees
  • Tax liabilities
  • Required record keeping
  • Necessity of shipping
  • Have payment procedures
  • Necessity for ad copy and photography
  • Be prepared to answer questions
  • eBay rules and regulations

 Bring-a-Trailer.com

Primarily BaT has evolved into the premium on line community for the sales of special interest vehicles. Parts are a very small piece of their offerings being primarily confined to high end components primarily wheels.

 Car Club Forums

Pretty much have the feel of a craigslist targeted to a specific and often knowledgeable audience.

PROS

  • Targeted audience
  • Knowledgeable audience

CONS

  • Very informal
  • Necessity for shipping
  • Must be comfortable with online discussions

Auctions

High-end auctions such as Gooding, RM Sotheby’s, Bonham’s and their ilk primarily focus on the disposition of premium special interest cars or collections of special interest vehicles. They will deal with parts if they come with the collection.

However other auctions have made a name by serving the need for disposing of collections not necessarily comprised of pristine classic cars.

One example is VanDerBrink Auctions. Owned and operated by Yvette VanDerBrink, the company focuses its operations in America’s heartland having run sales in 17 states, but it’s hardcore heartland, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Minnesota where the company and founder have made their respective reputations. To see how they operate visit their website www.vanderbrinkauctions.com. Even if they do not operate in your area, it affords a good reference for what to look for if you want to move a mixed car and parts collection at one time. For the “Cadillac sisters” finding a suitable auction house might be the best solution to their disposal challenge.

PROS

  • Relieves you of the responsibilities of disposal.
  • One single financial transaction
  • Your sale is advertised to a targeted audience
  • You don’t have to write ads or do photography
  • No security issue
  • You have the best chance to get the best value for the collection

CONS

  • The collection needs to be large enough to make it worth while
  • The service comes at a price
  • Demands research to confirm the auction you select meets your standards.
  • You may not get what you want but what the market will pay.

Marque enthusiast club publications

Cadillac enthusiast Magazine

Major marques such as Cadillac (The Self-Starter), BMW (Roundel), Porsche (Panorama) and many more have publications published by enthusiast organizations. These publications have classified sections where cars and parts can be advertised. If you are seeking to dispose of parts for that brand these publications offer a great opportunity to connect with people possessing a passion for what you may be selling. While far more work than an auction, this type of advertising of a single lot for sale could certainly be a consideration for the “Cadillac sisters.”

PROS

  • Marque specific
  • Knowledgeable audience
  • Higher prices
  • Less wasted communications

 CONS

  • Necessity of shipping
  • Have payment procedures
  • Necessity for ad copy and photography
  • Be prepared to answer questions

 In the end choosing a path for disposal of part or all of a collection comes down to issues of time, money and emotions. Do you have the time to personally manage a sale? Do you need to wring out every penny possible from the disposition. Does finding a “good home” matter?

For those considering thinning or disposing of a collection, the avenues for disposition offered here could prevent the bequeathing of a collection in chaos from turning into a gift wrapped in a headache.

 

By |2022-11-25T13:19:22+00:00November 25th, 2022|Comments Off on Conversations With People We Value #42