There are a lot of well-known classic car collectors.
Serious people like Jay Leno (one of the greatest car collections on earth), Ralph Lauren (I think the highest quality collection on earth we know about), Jerry Seinfeld (Porker king collector) and Nick Mason (forget uni, drumming and drugs are clearly a better career choice for your kiddies).
Now there are other big metal collectors like Hasso Bolkiah (the boss of Brunei) and Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Hamad Bin Hamdan Al Nahyan, who keeps his monster trucks and cars under a pyramid.
Of course, the best collections are the ones even I don’t know about but I have met Swiss collectors who judge each other on how many levels down their garages go down and who charter jets to take their metal to Pebble Beach. In Australia, our big petrol pervs keep theirs in aircraft hangars or museums (for tax reasons).
Surprisingly, one of the world’s top collectors is the child in a grown man’s body who drives a citron green 1977 Mini 1000 Mark 4 with a matt black bonnet. Rowan Atkinson (aka Mr Bean) has everything from a Mille Miglia winning 1939 BMW 328 to a 2011 Skoda Superb.
He is best known as the owner of a McLaren F1 that he pranged twice. He spent $2.5 million getting it back in shape and then sold it for $13m. So, you would think that his celebrity would add value to any car he touched.
One of the original Mr Bean Minis sold last year for $100k, which is not a bad price seeing you can buy 60s singing star Cilla Black’s (real name Priscilla Maria Veronica White) 1977 Mini 1000 auto right now for $58k, or you can buy a pretty good one owned by a nobody for $6k.
But, and here’s the point of this long and rambling story, Rowan’s 1991 Merc 500E brought just $36k at CCA’s auction at Warwickshire Event Centre a week ago. While that sounds OK for a 27-year-old motor, the 500E really was a supercar. CCA called it the ultimate “wolf in sheep’s clothing”, because the conservative looking Stuttgart taxi hid a 240kW 5.0-litre quad-cam V8 that was good for 0 to 100km/h in 5.5 seconds and would hit 260km/h if you held the loud pedal down long enough.
Best of all, these Mercs were actually hand built by Porsche. In the US, these are bringing at least $60k but I can’t remember a sale in Australia. Well bought by the new owner.
From Mr Bean to why we need a royal commission into the car retailing industry. Lots of similarities there.
When you went to buy your new or slightly used car, you were probably offered a service plan. Maybe it was called pre-paid service or service inclusive. But whatever it was called you were told this is the best thing since sliced Franzbrotchen.
As BMW says: “The BMW Service Inclusive Basic package covers your scheduled servicing needs for five years or 80,000km, whichever comes first.” And Audi says: “With an Audi Service Plan, you can now have access to the same high level of Audi service for three or five years at an exceptionally lower cost”.
Depending what plan you choose, if you drive less than 200km to 250km a week, Melbourne’s BM Tech’s Joe Brogno worked out you would be better to have your car serviced at a qualified service shop like his.
His suggestion is to negotiate the best price you can on your new car. Then ask the salesperson how much they would take off the price if you didn’t want the pre-paid service plan. If they tell you that you can buy the car only with the plan, then walk away, because they are probably not being totally honest with you. When they agree to sell you the car without the service plan, don’t accept anything less than a $1250 discount.
I actually have a bigger problem with these plans and any manufacturer or dealer who is saying you need an oil change just once a year or every 25,000km to 35,000km. And I am talking from expensive personal experience. Any motor, including your outboard and whipper snipper, needs an oil change every six months.
This is particularly critical if you drive in cities like Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane or Perth. If you drive in Adelaide, then once every century would be fine. There’s a reason taxi engines seem to last forever. They keep running hot for nearly 24 hours a day. Stop start motoring, like when you drive in traffic, kills engines. And that’s exactly what’s happening to a lot of service plan cars.
Perth Euro owner David Dye, who has been working on European cars for 30 years (or half as long as Michael McMichael) says a lack of lubrication means engines are gunking up and parts like timing chains are breaking. If your car is out of warranty that’s probably a $9k job. But if your timing chain breaks then it’s a new engine.
In 2013, the BBC’s Watchdog program investigated total engine failures in BMW 1 Series, 3 Series and 5 Series vehicles built between 2007 and 2009. Those engines died because the timing chains failed. Forget about trading or selling your car. As David says “it’s all over”.
And in the biggest news of the week, Big Kev is revved to join Leyburn’s Grand Prix celebrations. Yes Kevin Bartlett, the absolute legendary racing driver of the 1960s, 70s and 80s, has joined the line-up of motorsport legends (including your WART team) who will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Australian Grand Prix at the Historic Leyburn Sprints on August 17 and 18. Now if they could just get Norm Beechey back on the track!