Chubb Collector Car Insider Newsletter Volume 4
Volume 4 / Issue 1
The Green Grass
’m writing this column just days
after as much as a foot of snow
fell on New Jersey and upwards
of three feet came down in parts
of Massachusetts, Rhode Island,
Connecticut and Maine. I was raised
in Maine, and that’s a lot of snow
even for me!
Thankfully, the Amelia Island
Concours d’Elegance is nearly upon
us, and I will soon be walking on its
green fairway grass. There’s something about the timing of the Amelia
Island Concours that puts me in a
springtime frame of mind. The event
lets me know that we’ve rounded
the corner of another winter season
and there will be plenty of top-down
driving to do soon enough.
Plainly stated, Bill Warner sets
the gold standard for how well a
concours can be run. Every detail
is considered, and he never fails to
attract a stunning array of cars. This
year the event will celebrate the 50th
anniversary of the Porsche 911 and
the iconic Ford GT40. Also on display
will be nine Cadillac concept cars,
most from the 1950s GM Motoramas.
That’s an astounding number.
Another “Dream Car” on view from
Harley Earl’s design studio days will
be the fully restored 1955 LaSalle
Roadster owned by our friend Joe
Bortz, alongside its unrestored LaSalle
Whatever gets your blood flowing, whether it’s sun, spring-like
temperatures, or more automotive
eye candy than should rightfully
be in one place, the Amelia Island
Concours d’Elegance will certainly
have it. The Chubb folks will be in the
Gooding & Company auction tents,
as always, as well as on the concours
grounds themselves. If you’re coming
to Amelia, make sure you stop by and
In the meantime, keep ’em running, folks.
Chubb Personal Insurance
In This Issue
Looking to Amelia Island����������������� 1
Gooding on the Market������������������ 2
Cars to Watch at Amelia������������ 2–3
The Classics��������������������������������������� 3
1928 “Al Capone” Cadillac������������ 4
Chubb Featured Client������������������� 5
Keeping Your Car Running Right���� 6
1969 DeTomaso Mangusta coupe� 7
Upcoming Events����������������������������� 8
Meet me at the Ritz!
I believe we are one-third of the way through a rise in collector-car prices
by Keith Martin
here’s something magical when
a high-end car weekend comes
together. And Bill Warner’s
Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance
does everything well.
Since the first time I attended the
event, as a judge over a decade ago,
I’ve looked forward each March to
packing my lightweight jacket, hat,
sunscreen and dark glasses, boarding
the plane and telling the pilot, “Go
South, Young Man.”
Yes, there are two high-line, market-moving auctions held the same
week as the concours, with Gooding
and RM moving million-dollar cars
like they were three-year-old minivans at a Manheim Auction. And the
world will be watching to see if the
record-breaking results of Scottsdale,
The Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance can’t be matched for its breadth of display
($52.5m for Gooding, $36.4m for
RM) will be replicated or exceeded here, or if the Arizona sales were just a temporary pop.
Personally, I believe that we are one-third of the way through an upward rise in collector-car prices. Recall that the
last real peak was reached in 1989, 24 years ago. I would propose that cars have been undervalued for nearly a quartercentury, and the world at large is just discovering them as investments — both financially and as artifacts that can bring
extreme pleasure with use.
Why are we just in the first third? Because it takes the financial world three to five years to figure out that something is
hot, such as Silicon Valley stocks or social media, but when they do, the pioneers jump in and the rest follow.
Each successive high sale makes it easier for a multi-millionaire to say to his buyer, “Let’s put $25m into cars and
see what happens.” If a collecting newbie pays $9m for a Ferrari SWB that everyone says is worth $8m, so what? These
players have made and lost millions on deals over the years. Being a little ahead of the market is no big deal for them.
This is where conventional wisdom goes out the market. The insiders, dealers and long-term owners who normally
control the marketplace are being edged out by investors of substantial means, who have no qualms about paying “more
than something is worth.” In fact, by buying a car at a new record price, they are simply encouraging others to spend the
same way. And don’t forget, at an auction, whatever you pay, you are just one bid higher than the losing bidder, so how
much above market did you really pay? Just one bid.
After all of the money-changers have left the temple, the weekend settles down to its raison d’être — the concours.
If you are going to go to just one high-end concours in your life, it should be Amelia. Pebble may have a deeper field,
necessarily narrower in scope, but Amelia trumps when it comes to breadth of display. You’ll find everything from Isotta
Fraschinis to NASCAR stockers. This year’s features are the 50th anniversaries of the Porsche 911 and the Ford GT40,
as well as the cars of Harry Miller. Finally, if you manage to get a room at the Ritz, you will have secured the enduring
affection of your significant other, as you can buy a Ferrari on Saturday, kick expensive tires on Sunday, then retire for a
facial, massage and spa on Sunday afternoon. What could be more perfect than that?
by David Gooding
Collector Car Insider
Ten Amelia Island
Each year at the Amelia Island auctions, some of the
world’s most significant automobiles are offered for sale.
Here are 10 star cars for 2013
Mathieu Heurtault, courtesy Gooding & Company
Darin Schnabel © 2012 courtesy RM Auctions
e at Gooding & Company
are proud and pleased with
our results this January —
101 of 104 lots
sold. Not only
did our overall
from last year’s
for the sixth
year in a row, we sold the most valuable car of Arizona auction week.
This means that extraordinary collector cars continue to soar in value.
Many original, limited-ownership,
low-mileage preservation cars
brought extraordinary results in
January, sometimes doubling estimates for the best models. Examples
included a 1965 Shelby 289 Cobra
that sold for $1,320,000 (estimate
of $850,000 –$1,100,000) and a 1956
Mercedes-Benz 300 Sc Cabriolet
that sold for $825,000, doubling its
estimate of $400,000 –$450,000. New
owners of these rare, time-capsule
cars are among the very few in the
world who can say they own cars of
If you follow American classics, an
exceptionally well-documented 1969
Chevrolet Corvette L88 Roadster sold
for $825,000, setting a new record
for the model, and a 1941 Packard
Custom Super-8 One-Eighty Sport
Brougham sold well at $176,000
without reserve, surpassing its high
We’re thrilled to present a catalog
of 72 collector cars at our Amelia
Island Auction on March 8, with offerings ranging from classic to modern,
European to American, and beautifully restored to original. Keep an eye
out for the many blue-chip Ferraris
on stage, including a 1966 Ferrari 275
GTB alloy ($2million–$2.4 million), a
1972 Ferrari Dino 246 GTS ($375,000 –
$475,000) and a 2005 Ferrari 575M
Superamerica ($175,000 –$200,000).
We’re also proud to present a
spectrum of 1960s and ’70s Porsches,
including a 1962 Porsche 356 Carrera
2 coupe ($375,000 –$425,000) and
1973 Porsche 911 2.7 Carrera RS
($450,000 –$550,000), and midcentury Mercedes-Benz, Jaguars and
American classics from Shelby and
Gooding & Company has already
begun taking consignments for our
Pebble Beach Auctions on August
17 and 18, so we invite you to reach
out to one of our specialists for more
information on your own classic or a
car you’re interested in. Throughout
the year, the specialists and I travel
to many of the leading concours and
events around the country as well as
abroad, so please stop and say hello
if our paths cross.
1935 Duesenberg Model SJ Walker-LaGrande convertible coupe
Said to be one of just three examples of its kind, and the only one factory-equipped with a
supercharged engine. RM estimate: $3.5m–$5m
Finding an Original Classic is a
by David Schultz, CCCA President
and CCCA Museum Trustee
1928 Bentley 4½ Litre Semi-Le Mans Tourer
Gooding & Company
Owned in period by noted Bentley enthusiast Gerard Bevan, who had the car upgraded to
Le Mans specification by “Bentley Boy” and Le Mans team driver Captain Henry Birkin.
Gooding estimate: $2m–$2.5m
1952 Ferrari 225 Sport Vignale Berlinetta
One of 22 225 Sports produced, and said to
be one of only six competition berlinettas. With
superb racing history. RM estimate: $1m–$1.4m
1948 Tucker 48
The third of 51 produced, and said to be one
of only 12 factory maroon cars. Restored with
special attention paid to drivability.
RM estimate: $1.5m–$1.9m
1953 Fiat 8V Supersonic
Gooding & Company
The first Supersonic of 12 created, and
regarded as the most original surviving
Gooding estimate: $1.1m–$1.4m
1966 Ferrari 275 GTS
Gooding & Company
A lifelong West Coast car, one of 200
produced, highly restored and Ferrari
Gooding estimate: $850k–$1.1m
1970 Porsche 908/3
Factory test chassis, recognized as authentic
by Porsche, rebuilt and restored to original
RM estimate: $1.4m–$1.7m
1939 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Sport Berlinetta
by Carrozzeria Touring
Pebble Beach Most Elegant Closed Car and
Best Pre-War Alfa Romeo at the Quail. Said to
be one of 13 built. RM estimate: $1.5m–$1.75m
1965 Aston Martin Short Chassis Volante
Gooding & Company
Rare short-production model. Offered at
auction for the first time, following recent
Gooding estimate: $1.5m–$1.8m
1959 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster
Gooding & Company
With black hard top over striking red body
Gooding estimate: $625k–$750k
hile it’s always enjoyable looking at Classic automobiles, the
greatest pleasure comes from
Right after driving them, however,
comes the enjoyment of finding
a Classic automobile, ideally one
that’s been off the radar for a few
years— and even better if it’s an unrestored original. Now that’s my idea of
something special. It doesn’t happen
But, it did happen to me a few
months ago when I heard about a 1936
Pierce-Arrow 1601 sedan in northwestern New Jersey. It had been acquired
nearly 50 years ago by one of the
founders of the Antique Automobile
Club of America and had remained in
the gentleman’s family ever since.
I knew I had to act fast. When a
trusted friend in the collector-car
hobby who lived near the car offered
to look at it, I accepted. He confirmed
that it was an excellent original car
with 32,000 miles. The paint showed
wear but the interior was beautiful and
the undercarriage was in exceptionally clean condition. I bought it sight
When I did see the car I wasn’t
disappointed. And I was able to meet
the owners, who handed me the car’s
log, with everything noted from new,
including the car’s mechanical history.
Is there a better way to buy a car?
I’ve spent recent weeks changing
fluids, repacking wheel bearings and,
generally, getting the car ready for the
road. I’ll drive it as often as possible,
including a 600 -mile round trip this
summer to the Pierce-Arrow Great
Lakes Region meet.
As much as I enjoy looking at this
wonderful piece of automotive history,
the true enjoyment will come when I’m
behind the wheel, heading down the
Collector Car Insider
1928 Cadillac “Al Capone” Series 341A
Client Profile — Special Feature
This car has a great history, but it’s only worth what someone will pay for it
by Tom Franklin
by Carl Bomstead
Engine number: 306449
he continuous history of this 1928 Cadillac V8 Town Sedan has
been established since 1932. While the provenance of the “Al
Capone” armored Cadillac has never been questioned, its origins
were never confirmed beyond reasonable doubt until now.
Thorough documentation begins with the purchase of this 1928 Cadillac
by Harry LaBreque in May of 1933 from Patrick Moore. According to
Moore’s daughter, her parents purchased the car from an agent in Chicago
with whom they believed it had been placed by Capone. The Moores worked
with a traveling carnival, where they exhibited the Cadillac.
The ownership history after the purchase by LeBreque is well known and
heavily documented, including its display at the Southland-On-Sea amusement park in England. It was restored in the late ’50s, when most of the
heavy plating was removed but the other features, including the bulletproof
glass and drop-down rear window, were retained.
In 2008, Richard Capatran, then 93 years old, recalled that he had helped
his father install armor plating on Al Capone’s Cadillac. The car was
delivered new to the shop, and 3,000 pounds of asbestos-wrapped steel plate
was installed along with inch-thick bulletproof glass and a rear window that
dropped quickly to allow the occupants to fire on would-be pursuers. Upon
seeing the Cadillac, Capatran stated, “This is without a doubt the same car
that was worked on in my dad’s shop.”
This 1928 Cadillac V8 “Al Capone” Town Sedan, Lot 152,
sold for $341,000, including buyer’s premium, at RM’s St.
John’s sale on July 28, 2012.
Al Capone and “The Outfit” required special transportation as they
managed their business — a business that was estimated to generate $100
million annually from liquor and prostitution. Expansion was at the expense of competitors, and rubbing them out was the method of choice.
Violence and retaliation continued through the late 1920s and culminated in the famed St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, in which seven of “Bugs”
Moran’s boys were gunned down for hijacking The Outfits’ booze trucks.
The armored Cadillacs
In 1927, Capone reportedly survived an assassination attempt, and he
wisely determined that his vehicles should receive additional protection.
His brother-in-law was a Cadillac dealer, and at least two 1928 Cadillac
Series 341As were purchased and given the full ballistic treatment.
Collector Car Insider
They were fitted with bulletproof glass that was formed by
gluing four sheets of glass together. They were further modified
so they could be raised an extra couple of inches, allowing
access to a circular hole large enough to accommodate
the muzzle of a machine gun. They were fitted with 3,000
pounds of armor plating, and the rear window dropped
down. Just the thing to support firing on enemies while
remaining relatively safe inside.
The 1928 Cadillac 341A produced only 90
horsepower, and with the added weight of the armor
plating and heavier glass, it was certainly lacking in
performance. The Cadillac 341A was also used by the
Chicago Police, so Capone had his painted in the same
black and green colors and added lights and a siren. He
also installed a police-band receiver, reportedly the first installed in a
Seizure and imprisonment
On October 7, 1931, Capone was convicted of tax evasion, and his
attempted bribery of the jury was discovered by federal agent Eliot Ness.
He was sentenced to 11 years imprisonment, and many of his assets were
seized, including his newer Cadillac V16s and one of the less-valuable V8
341As. Another, this car, was sold to Harry LaBreque in 1933 by one of
Capone’s agents in Chicago.
The 1928 Cadillac that was seized played an interesting role in later
history. The day after Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was
to give his “Infamy Speech” to Congress. However, the Secret Service did
not have a bulletproof car to safely transport him, and one was needed,
as we were now at war. An agent realized Capone’s armored Cadillac had
been in the Treasury Department’s parking lot since it was seized, and it
was quickly pressed into service. When the president was informed by a
reporter where the car came from, he was reported to have said, “I hope
Mr. Capone won’t mind.”
Capone as collectible
The 1928 Cadillac that Roosevelt used has disappeared, but our
subject car has had an active life. In 2006, John O’Quinn bought the car
for $621,500 at RM’s January Phoenix sale. After his death, his estate
attempted to sell the car at RM’s Monterey 2010 sale, but declined a
At first, that Monterey bid seems like it was well off base considering
what O’Quinn paid in 2006, but to put things in perspective, Bonhams
offered a far more desirable 1930 Cadillac V16 at their August 2009 Quail
Lodge sale in Carmel, CA. That car was also documented to have been
owned by Capone and had received the full armor package as well. It sold
What does that mean for our subject car? Well, although the car has a
great history tied to a notorious figure in American pop culture, a car like
this is only worth what someone will pay for it. When John O’Quinn bought
this car in 2006, he paid a considerable sum to own it, and finding another
buyer willing to pay the same money wasn’t going to be easy.
With the V16 sale and the Monterey bid on this car both taken into account, I’d say the price paid here was market-correct. The new owner has
a car with a great story, as well as one of the first armored cars ever built.
That ought to keep him smiling all the way to the speakeasy.
(Introductory description courtesy of RM Auctions.)
orn into a California car family, Bruce Canepa has been involved with motor vehicles nearly his entire life. He learned
about cars from the bottom up, working within his father’s car
and truck dealerships. He started simply washing cars, and eventually moved up working through the body, paint, fabrication and repair
shops. By the time Bruce was out of college, he began managing his
dad’s dealerships, which included Lincoln-Mercury, BMW, Renault and
International Trucks. By 1980, Bruce had his own dealerships.
Also in the early 1980s, Bruce started a specialty business as a satellite
attached to his Porsche dealership, where he began doing restorations, as well
as design and prototype work. As Bruce states, “All of the things I really
loved, I was doing. I had no idea if I could make any money or not.” This side
business eventually became Canepa Design, thus named due to his expanding
design and prototype work. “We were doing a lot of design work for Kenworth
Trucks,” Bruce continues. “I really liked big trucks, and that eventually developed into doing things for car manufacturers.” From there Bruce also began
developing special wheels, chassis upgrades, engine performance parts, and
body kits for new production autos and SUVs.
At the same time, Bruce started doing more in the collector-car business.
Bruce loves a wide variety of classic-car marques, including Mercedes-Benz,
Ferrari, Shelby, and even hot rods; but Porsches
are particularly special to him, as well as a
variety of historic race cars. Bruce didn’t come
by his love of race cars as a simple spectator,
but as an accomplished driver. He started racing go-karts as a kid in the alleys behind his
parents’ house and has never stopped racing.
Bruce has a fascinating history as a racing
driver. He raced in supermodifieds, sprint cars,
sports cars and others. In 1979, with his own
independent team, he achieved a third overall
finish at the 24 Hours of Daytona in a Porsche
934½ with co-drivers Rick Mears and Monte
Shelton. Porsche was so impressed with his
performance, they provided him with a brandnew factory 935 for the remainder of the 1979
season. As the 1980s began, Bruce found himself co-driving with Gianpiero Moretti in the
famous MOMO team Porsche. In 1982 he was
back at the 24 Hours of Daytona, co-driving
with Bobby Rahal and Jim Trueman in the first
MARCH GTP “Ground Effects” prototype. He
followed that with a drive in the Electrodyne
Lola T600 at the Riverside 6 Hours in 1984.
Bruce closed out the 1980s successfully competing in his own Porsche 962 at West Coast IMSA events. He continues to
compete in vintage-racing events today, usually with his 1979 Porsche 935,
1969 Porsche 917K, or 1970 AMC Javelin Trans-Am.
Bruce is known in many circles for his Pikes Peak drives, as much for
his climb times as for his racing vehicles. In 1981 he brought with him his
custom-designed Porsche twin-turbo-powered, open-wheel buggy. To everyone’s surprise, on his first visit to the legendary mountain climb he qualified first and finished an unbelievable second overall. He would revisit the
mountain 19 years later, setting the course record for tandem-axle big rigs in
2000 and 2001. In 2002 he crossed the line in 13:57.800 — a record that still
As Bruce states, “I went back to Pikes Peak in 2000 and drove the
Kenworth. I tested it for the chairman of Kenworth, and then he told me he
wanted me to drive it. So we went to Pikes Peak, and for three years in a row
we set the record for big trucks. Which is pretty amazing given it is a 13,000pound truck and has almost 2,000 horsepower and 4,000 lb-ft of torque.”
One Pikes Peak test run included a full-throttle wreck, with trees crashing
through the cab. With broken teeth, broken face bones, and a concussion, he
still managed to race the truck two months later, and win.
Today, Bruce is inextricably linked with his businesses. The parent company, Canepa, encompasses Canepa Motorsport, Canepa Design, Concept
Transporters and the Canepa Motorsports Museum. Known by many as
primarily a collector vehicle seller and restorer, the full array of vehicle
services offered by Canepa boggles the mind. The foundation of Bruce’s
business is highly personal. He simply asked
himself, “If you could do what you wanted to
with your business, what would you do with
it?” The answer to this question runs broad
and deep. “We do most everything in-house.
We have a great metal shop, we do all forms
of machining, we have our own paint facilities,
we do interiors, upholstery, and we do Porsche
engines.” The experts in custom fabrication at
the company work in all forms of composites
such as period fiberglass, Kevlar and carbon
fiber. One project currently underway is the
restoration of the first production Duesenberg
ever built, a hand-made car being restored
to its original specifications using all period
techniques. Canepa Marketing Director John
Ficarra states, “The quality of our work speaks
for itself. Immensely detailed, uncompromisingly correct, and certainly world-class.”
If a client wants something customized on
his or her vehicle, Canepa can do it. This has
included suspension and bodywork customization for Kenworth and Peterbilt trucks; a
custom kit for a Cadillac CTS-V for the 2011
SEMA show; outlaw Porsche 356s; 300SL
performance parts and A/C; and even racing brakes, coil-over suspensions
and superchargers for SUVs.
The company also works on many types of historic race cars, from
Porsches to Cobras, Lolas to McLarens, and is known as an authority on their
restoration, track support and race setup. Rounding out the custom business
is Canepa Concept Transporters, which builds high-end vehicle transporters,
designed for race cars and collector vehicles alike.
The 70,000-square-foot Scotts Valley facility also houses the Canepa
Motorsports Museum. It’s open to the public during business hours, Monday
through Saturday, and admission is free. Most everything at Canepa is for
sale, just don’t expect Bruce to part with his prized 1979 Porsche 935, or the
1969 Porsche 917K Gulf livery car that won the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1970.
Like his business, Bruce Canepa is one of a kind, and we’re proud to include him as part of the Chubb Collector Car family.
Collector Car Insider
Making Vintage Cars Drive Young
1969 DeTomaso Mangusta Coupe
We all routinely wax and polish our old cars, but optimizing drivability is a bigger payoff
Mangusta values have risen strongly in the past few years — more so across the pond than here
by Jim Schrager
by Donald Osborne
Finding the right mechanic
So what to do if you don’t have a talented wrench spinner in your area?
Enter the traveling mechanic. Pierre Hedary owns his own shop in Titusville,
FL, servicing Mercedes-Benz cars for routine maintenance or mechanical restoration. Hedary favors the no-nonsense build quality of pre-1993
Mercedes, and he has a wealth of experience on classic Mercedes from growing up in the trade. He is one of the technical advisers to the Mercedes-Benz
Club of America — and one of my secrets.
Hedary works on many collector Mercedes, but he can also take a dailydriver 1975 300D to the next level of original operating characteristics.
We all routinely wax and polish our old cars, but major driveline and
suspension components are often left to slowly — and often imperceptibly
— decay. Hedary can take a 1952 220 that hasn’t run for years and make
it operate safely up and down the highway, but he can also take that old
Mercedes-Benz that seems to run “okay” and make it sparkle.
Too many things on your list to do? Hedary does
a great job prioritizing, getting the things
done that make the most sense for your
car (and your wallet).
When Hedary travels, you pay
expenses plus his $75-per-hour
shop rate for the hours worked. He
likes to set up the parts he will need
before he arrives, to make the most
of his time. We source MercedesBenz factory parts at a healthy
discount from Ken Brown at
Mercedes-Benz of Monterey.
Hedary also sources true OEM
parts at a good discount. Excellent
parts can have a higher price, but
they often are the only way to restore original performance.
A 40-year-old daily driver
SCMer Bill Walsh lives in the somewhat
isolated area of Vail, CO. His only cars are three vintage
Mercedes: a 1991 350SD, a 1983 300TD (wagon) and a 1972 280SE
Collector Car Insider
4.5. He drives these cars year-round — and frequently across the country.
His cars simply have to be 100%. Walsh replaced all the rubber suspension
parts front-to-back on the 40-year-old 280SE 4.5. He then jumped in the 4.5
the next day to drive 1,250 miles to the 2011 Mercedes-Benz StarTech event
in Milwaukee. I got to drive this 40-year-old car when he was back in the
Midwest, and I can tell you it runs like a new one.
Walsh reports that Hedary gets a dizzying amount of work done in his
garage in 10 hours, where he avoids the routine distractions of running a
shop. It would be hard to guess how many more hours might be charged for
the same work at a Mercedes-Benz dealer or independent multi-make shop.
Walsh’s view is that the discount on quality parts and the outrageous
amount of work Pierre accomplishes in 10 hours makes for a very affordable
invoice — even after travel and lodging expenses.
When friends visit my warehouse and we go out and “drive cars,” many
are shocked at the way the cars perform. Not as much about the way they
look — but the way they operate. If they drove their old car for the visit, I
drive theirs while they drive mine, and in so many cases, their cars drive
nothing like they should.
I’ve driven beautiful-looking 356A coupes that feel like VW Beetles and
Mercedes-Benz 300 Turbo Diesels that drive like trucks. This is not the way
they were designed. Most friends come away from the visit shaking their
heads, thinking I simply got a “better car” than they did.
But the truth is, if you take the time to get your old car to operate as
intended, you’ll discover a whole world of driving enjoyment you never knew
strength and sleek Italian style is obvious. How
else should a GT with the same powerful Ford
V8 that powered the GT40 look when born in
Tim Scotts, courtesy of Bonhams
ars, as objects of desire, can both look right and run right.
Many of us focus on the external aspects of paint, body,
interior and trim. But cars are objects to be used as well
as admired. One of the hardest problems we all confront is
getting our old cars repaired properly.
If you take driving seriously, you’ve got to find someone who shares your
commitment to making it right. Much of the fun we’ve had over the years
driving our cars could not have happened without exactly the right kind of
mechanical assistance. Sports Car Market Publisher Keith Martin often mentions how important it is to get an old car right — and is always generous in
letting us know who does his work. But what if you don’t live in Portland, OR?
We understand the special pleasure of having our old Mercedes-Benz cars
spot-on. You’d think it wouldn’t be that hard, given a brand like Mercedes,
which enjoys a wide range of well-capitalized and highly professional dealers. But as the cars get beyond 15 to 20 years old, many dealer mechanics
aren’t aware of the intricacies of the older cars.
Since we drive older Mercedes-Benz cars daily — I commute 200 miles a
day in one of our 29-year-old Mercedes-Benz cars — our options for thoughtful repair dictate whether we can reliably make this happen.
A challenging drive
Chassis number: 8MA542
Engine number: 8MA542
ne of the very first supercars, the Mangusta effectively
established DeTomaso as a serious automobile manufacturer
on its arrival in 1967. The Mangusta (mongoose) was powered by a mid-mounted 289-ci Ford V8 engine. Also used
to power Ford’s GT40 Le Mans challenger, the iconic 289 produced 306
horsepower as installed in the Mangusta, which also used the GT40’s
early-type ZF transaxle.
Later Mangusta production used the less-desirable Ford 302-ci engine,
producing only 220 horsepower, together with a later ZF transmission.
Carrozzeria Ghia’s Giorgetto Giugiaro contributed the striking gull-wing
door coachwork, which had been intended for Giotto Bizzarrini.
With 300 or so horsepower on tap, the aerodynamic Mangusta was good
for a top speed in the region of 155 mph. Disc brakes all around helped restrain this outstanding performance. Only 401 examples were made between
1967 and 1972, and any Mangusta is extremely rare; this example particularly
so, given that it is one of the first made and therefore has the most sought-after
Chassis number 8MA542 was built for the European market, for which
150 were made. It is a rare four-headlight model built prior to the standardization of two pop-up headlights for both the European and U.S. markets.
This car also retains its original air-conditioning system, which has been
carefully rebuilt to be fully functional, and its European specification instruments. This car has recorded the exceptionally low figure of only 40,500 kilometers (approximately 25,000 miles) from new, and close inspection shows
it to be exceptionally original.
This car, Lot 126, sold for $209,490, including buyer’s premium, at Bonhams’ Goodwood sale on September 15, 2012.
The Mangusta is one of those cars that have a reputation. It’s the kind of
car you might like to take out for a long, hard ride on fast, empty roads, but
afterward you wouldn’t want to take home to meet your parents. Seriously, as
with other American-powered Italian sports cars, the products of DeTomaso,
like those of Rivolta, didn’t get their due and were regarded as over-powered
and half-baked, not suitable for connoisseurs of fine GTs.
Compared with DeTomaso’s first mid-engined offering, the Vallelunga,
the Mangusta was far more developed, although the word “refined” might
be a stretch. The Vallelunga’s “racer for the street” rawness was replaced
with a well-trimmed leather cockpit, reasonably sorted and not too horribly
non-ergonomic for the time.
Styled by Giorgetto Giugiaro for Ghia, the Mangusta’s shape is, for the
character of the car, the most appropriate that could be imagined. If you
picture in your mind’s eye a former U.S. Marine boxer who now works in
security for an Italian prince, the Mangusta’s superb blend of raw, muscular
220S — can you keep it
running the way it
was meant to run?
As with early 911s, the Mangusta is not impossible to drive but simply requires attention
and commitment. The Mangusta doesn’t suffer
fools gladly. That said, those limits are pretty
hard to reach unless you’re really trying.
Mangusta International estimates that 250
of the 401 cars built still exist, a very high survival rate for a car so many claim to be both
undriveable and horribly rust-prone. It proves,
of course, that neither is actually the case.
Nice car plus receptive market equals big price
The catalog photos show a bit of waviness in the paint at some angles, although the panel fit looks quite good. It was reported to have covered a mere
100 miles since passing its MoT, or road safety test, and had recent receipts
for maintenance work totaling £12,000 — more than $19,000. SCM’s man
on the scene, Senior Auction Analyst Paul Hardiman, shared his notes on
the Mangusta with me, reinforcing what I deduced from the catalog: “Very
straight and tidy, couple of tiny chips in paint but they hardly show, motor
tidy, clean and refinished, 40,527 km, leather and other trim hardly worn.”
He rated it at a U.S. Condition 2, which in the U.K. translates as 2+.
I wrote a profile of a 1969 Mangusta in 2008 (SCM October 2008, p.
38), a car that sold for $99,241 on July 11, 2008, at Bonhams’ Goodwood
Festival of Speed auction.
In the piece, I noted that “I would not expect them to continue to sell
at the considerable discount to an Iso Grifo as is the case currently. In a
short time, this sale may be considered quite the bargain.” A top-condition
1970 small-block Grifo would have cost about $195k then. Now, that Grifo
has drifted down a bit to the $175k area. Note that the big-block cars are in
another league altogether. It would seem that the much rarer Mangusta has
found its place in the sun. Well, not quite.
In analyzing the price paid, an interesting pattern seems to emerge. There
are some cars such as the Mercedes-Benz 300SL or Ferrari 250 GT SWB that
have almost uniform worldwide appeal and sell for a global market price.
Others, such as a Plymouth Hemi ’Cuda or a Gordon Keeble, would find a
very thin market indeed outside of the U.S. and U.K. respectively.
Looking at Mangusta prices, it would seem that the Brits pay a considerable premium for them, which is not reflected in U.S. offerings. The July
2008 Bonhams Goodwood sale of a #2 condition car for $99,241 was at the
same time that very good driver with some cosmetic needs was sold by a U.S.
dealer for half that price.
Today, this $209k U.K. sale can be contrasted with the $93k that another
U.S. dealer just received for a 1969 Mangusta with a nice older restoration.
Incidentally, both our subject car and that U.S. sale were “four-headlight”
early European cars, which have typically brought a premium over later
“pop-up” two-light examples.
On either side of the ocean, it’s clear that Mangusta values have risen
strongly in the past few years. I would not expect to see U.K.-level prices here
for quite a while, and this result may see a run on Mangustas leaving us for
greener pastures. For us in the Colonies, I would have to pronounce this as
quite well sold.
(Introductory description courtesy of Bonhams.)
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