Many of us oldtimer drivers have a tendency only to take our jewels for a spin when the sun is shining and temperatures are mild, completely forgetting that it actually rained when the cars were built as well. This time of year our beloved cars are mostly sleeping in a garage somewhere, with batteries disconnected. It is only the hard guys that drive in any weather, but even among the hard ones, only the REALLY hard ones would even think about taking the 356 for a spin on a rainy December day with temperatures around 6 degrees. The only thing missing is the ski rack! Dear owner, I did not get to meet you but I salute you!
We use the occasion to wish all our readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, with plenty of great cars and great drives!
Next time you are around West Hollywood with a couple of hours to spare, make sure not to miss the Petersen Automotive Museum, based on the car collection of the late Mr. Petersen, publisher of the first hot rod magazine in the US and lots of other car-related publications. Given LA’s extensive movie scene, the collection also includes some famous movie cars, two of which are pictured below. Well worth a couple of hours!
When coming to Santa Monica beach a few days ago after a drive down from San Francisco, seeing a Volvo test squad (or rather their cars) in a parking lot was not a sight I expected! I first reacted to the new (and already fairly common) XC90, parked next to the far less common S90, then to the giant screens on the passenger seats of both cars and then obviously to the covered one in between. It didn’t take much to figure out that this is the upcoming small SUV XC40, but unfortunately the cover was really well fixated so this is all you get to see. Still haven’t figured out what kind of test you conduct on a parking in Santa Monica beach, but I guess test drivers need to go for a swim every now and then as well…
Yesterday I went to buy a second-hand lawnmower in the countryside near Zurich. Not much excitement in that you will think and indeed, neither did I, until I made it to the address, followed the seller Markus to the barn where he had stored the mower, and discovered next to it a shining black Morgan Threewheeler, one of the most original and exotic cars of these last years. Markus was obviously very happy to find a soulmate and happily spent the next hour with yours truly, talking about cars in general and Threewheelers in particular, and then to round it off took me for a short ride in this strange creation, something that was a truly unique experience!
Morgan started producing the modern Threewheeler five years ago, in 2011. The car bears some resemblance to the original Threwheeler that was in production for more than 40 years until 1952. Hand-built around a wooden frame and weighing only 525 kgs, as the name suggests the car stands on three large and narrow wheels, and another (of many) peculiar features is that the engine, a two-cylinder Harley Davidson delivering 82 hp, is placed at the front of the car, fully exposed. 82 hp from two cylinders may not sound like much, but as I was soon to discover, in this car it is! If however you want even more power, it is apparently quite easy to trim it up towards 135 hp. Behind the engine, under the bonnet, you will find the oil tank and the battery, and behind the seats, the tank sits next to it the tiniest of luggage spaces that will accommodate a rain jacket, which is pretty good since the car has absolutely no roof and the only cover supplied is a tonneau.
The seating position is extremely low and narrow, as is space around the pedals, so you’d better be friends with your passenger beforehand, and the passenger had better not be a wrestler. If you try you will easily be able to touch the ground with your outer arm, an exercise that should only be tried out from the passenger side as the exhaust pipe runs alongside the chassis on the driver’s side. The pedals can be adjusted in length, which the seats can’t, but you can only do so with tools and it is a reasonably complicated exercise. Markus has replaced the original steering wheel with a smaller one, as the original wheel does not really leave enough space for a man of average length…
Before we squeeze in next to each other, Markus pushes the start button upon which the most wonderful, blurring sound flows from the exhaust. For obvious reasons it is more reminiscent of a Harley than a car, and the Threewheeler is actually registered as a motorbike in Switzerland, although you are allowed to drive it on a car permit as well. I squeezed in on the passenger seat next to my new best friend, rubbing shoulders with him as we took off among Swiss hills.
The standard Threewheeler does 0-100 in 6 seconds and the last thing you will wish for (at least as a passenger) is more power, since the extremely low seating position gives a very intense impression of speed – and everything else happening around you. The sound is gorgeous, there is an extreme feeling of lightness about the whole car, which actually feels like something of a hybrid between a bike and a car, obviously due to the size of the wheels and the single rear wheel. Especially quickly driven corners are quite hairy and speaking of corners, the short hand brake sits just next to the gear change. When I ask Markus about this he says it comes from rally sport so that you can hang out the rear around corners. Apparently he has a few friends doing this on alpine roads but says he is to old for it. “But they’re also quite crazy” he adds, something I find quite easy to believe from my squeezed passenger seat.
Markus bought his Threewheeler second-hand a year ago and says build quality has been so-so. As he has discovered, his car, although being a 2013 make, consists of parts both from 2011 and 2012, and he has had some pretty bad – and costly – mechanical failures. Each car is truly individual as tuning and trimming possibilities are limitless, and some mechanical details need to be modified if you do not want the car to break down straight away. But Markus says he wouldn’t hesitate buying it again and again and again, as he has never drive anything like it, neither car nor bike – of which a few were also parked in the same barn.
There is nothing practical about the Threewheeler, it is a pure toy best enjoyed alone on dry roads near a mountain somewhere. It will set you back around 40.000 EUR and it may be a pretty good investment, as quantities produced are small (no reliable number can’t be found but according to Markus around 30 have been sold in Switzerland, and this is a country where there are a lot of expensive toys with little practicality…). But above all, it is a unique driving experience and most probably a buy you will never regret!
I meet up with Filippo Pignatti in a former Porsche dealership on the outskirts of Zurich that he, together with two other petrol heads, has transformed into a spectacular car showroom with exactly the right pit lane smell, featuring a selection of the cars in The Classic Car Fund (TCCF). This is also the HQ of the TCCF and where Filippo has his office. Italian and from Modena (where else?) by birth, he is a true European nowadays based in Switzerland where next to running a family office business he set up the TCCF five years ago, driven both by a passion for cars and for uncorrelated assets.
As Filippo tells me over an excellent espresso in the pit bar that is one part of the showroom, and as most readers of this blog know, well selected classic cars have provided better returns to investors over the last decade than most traditional and alternative asset classes, including things such as art, wines and gold. This is partly driven by the falling interest rates since the financial crisis, but also by baby boomers becoming solvent and realizing their childhood dreams and emerging market buyers that were not there a decade ago. “The Chinese have so far only been able to own classic cars abroad,” Filippo explains, “but that is about to change and that will create even greater demand in the future”.
The philosophy of the The Classic Car Fund is simple; buy well-selected cars at attractive prices following a thorough evaluation by an independent expert, and sell them later at a profit. The fund is not focused on any specific make or production year, but the emphasis is clearly on sports cars from various periods, especially Italian and quite a few of them from Filippo’s home city Modena. Holding periods vary vastly but the fund does not fall in love with its investments. Some cars have enabled the fund to realize a healthy double-digit profit in as little as three months, others will remain in the fund for up to a few years.
As always it is easy to be clever with hindsight and arguably you could have bought most Ferraris from the 90’s and earlier in these last years and realized a good profit. But it’s not just about finding the right model. “It has to be the right car”, Filippo explains, citing factors such as early production years, small, limited series, or, slightly surprisingly, famous previous owners. This last point explains two satellite positions in the fund’s current portfolio, a Maserati Quattroporte once owned by Elton John, and a fully-loaded and personalized Range Rover Sport initially ordered by David Beckham. “Obviously buying a famous person’s car brings an additional risk”, says Filippo and hints at the person’s reputation. “Should it come out tomorrow that David Beckham was doped through his whole career, that would not necessarily be good for the value of the fund”. Luckily though, the risks of that happening seem relatively small.
Next to selecting the right cars, the additional challenges of a car fund are the same as with a private car collection, most notably that you need a place to store them that is not only dry and warm but that also allows for regular exercising to avoid the cars being damaged from being immobilized. The TCCF stores its cars in various locations in Switzerland and Italy, and employs mechanics to keep them in shape. Two additional features of the fund further strengthens the link with private collections: subscriptions are permitted in kind, meaning that you can buy into the fund through a car or a car collection, following an evaluation by an independent expert. Ownership passes to the fund but the original owner receives a buyback guarantee at the same price up to two years from the point of purchase. Also, and perhaps of more interest for most, against a small fee, fund investors may borrow and drive the cars in the fund over a day or a weekend. Filippo smiles and says “take the Testarossa in the showroom down to St. Moritz over a weekend. If anyone asks you can truthfully say it’s your car, as it is part of the fund you are an owner of”.
In Filippo’s eyes, the tangible nature of the assets in the fund as one of its best guarantees of future value. “If something goes bad or the market turns completely, we can always sell the cars, making sure you do at least get part of your investment back”. He is also the firstto say that this is not something for the core of your portfolio but rather a satellite position. In terms of the current market he does not see any dramatic changes but some signs that it is becoming more selective, meaning greater expertise and competence will be required going forward. He also sees a breaking point relating to the electronic age: “the Testarossa, or Culo largo (large ass) as we call it in Italian, is a mechanical car. the LaFerrari is very complex electronically, which does not necessarily bode well for future values as it gets increasingly old and fragile”.
The Classic Car Fund has been running since 2012 and has provided investors with net returns of 7% on average p.a. after fees without any negative years (as per April, 2016). It shows no correlation to traditional assets and could thus be an interesting addition to a diversified investment portfolio. At its core though, it is really about the passion for cars. Before we shake hands and part, Filippo concludes with some very sensible words. “I always tell people that if you buy a classical car, do so because it is a car you like and that you like driving. After all, that is really what these cars are for”.
For further information on The Classic Car Fund you are welcome to contact me over the blog.
This week finds me in Tokyo, a city where you can see many interesting things but dirty cars is not one of them. As a Japanese friend explained to me on my last visit, any Japanese man with self-respect washes his car when he comes home – every day.
Yesterday it rained, and a couple of hours after the rain stops, these four policemen could be seen polishing their cars by hand before the next call to duty (which, given the low level of criminality in Japan could arguably be after the next rainy day)…
Over the last years the restoration of classic cars and supply of original car parts have become a small but increasingly important business for leading brands such as Porsche, Mercedes-Benz and of course Aston Martin. Under the name Aston Martin Works, the specialized units provides all services connected to its classical models. The beauty and quality of the work is amazing, as illustrated under the following link. Clearly, it doesn’t come cheap – a reliable source/friend told me last week that the asking price of the beautifully restored dark blue DB6 Mk 2 that can be viewed on the site is a very respectful GBP 460.000. The same car would have yielded about a third of that value no more than 5-6 years ago…
You have not found and will not find any reporting on our blog on the VW scandal, quite simply because it has precious little to do with the thrill of driving. The Bugatti Veyron on the other hand has a lot to do with thrill behind the wheel, and I therefore felt this small anecdote that appeared in the FT this week was worth passing on.
As you know the Veyron was built in a small series and with a hefty price tag of around EUR 2.3m. According to auto analysts at Bernstein Associates, in spite of that VW managed to lose a staggering EUR 4.6m on each Veyron sold. It thereby ranks on par with the Phaeton, another loss-making car within VW (however no numbers are public here) that will not have a successor, as well as what seems like a generally quite lofty expense policy at the company, including notably 6 corporate jets. It may well be that that money could have been needed before the last lawsuit in present scandal has been settled…
Veyron 16.4 Super Sport, €2.3m to -€4.6m in 2.3 seconds…
You have to give it to the Pope, the man is a clear break with his predecessors and knows how to make an entrance! Currently in the US he arrived in Washington a couple of days ago. The usual cortege of Chevy Suburbans awaited him, but in between them was not the regular Cadillac but rather… A Fiat 500, that took him to the White House! Forza Italia!
It was nearly 6pm when we left Portsmouth. Three hours later than planned, but we had a full battery and only 250kms to go.
How did we choose our next stop when we’ve never driven an EV in the UK before?
The way we plan trips is partly based on where we want to go and partly on the overnight charge options available. Overnight charging is key because the car is stopped anyway.
In the UK there are a growing number of motorway services with 22kW charge points (Ecotricity have set up many) but sleeping in a UK motorway service stop is not high on my list of things to do.
One day hotels.com will have a filter option for hotels with charge points but the only resource I know of now is the excellent zerocarbonworld.org site. They have helped many UK hotels install 7kW outlets, which is the bare…
So, the whole point of Drive & Dream is to make electric car touring as easy and pleasant as possible, in order that people can overcome their worries and start buying electrics by the million.
This means that we are always doing something for the first time, because after that it’s easy.
On this trip we were to try the first long (24h) ferry crossing with on board recharging. All the rest, I thought, was just routine. Ah, how innocent. 🙂
If you recall, back in September we did the first Tilburg to Southern Europe trip. Then, it was a challenge just to locate and book a hotel or lunch stop with a reasonable (7kW+) charge point. We drove down through Belgium and France to home in a weekend and on the way confirmed places like the Parador in Lerma as great places to stop.
The enclosed picture, courtesy of Swiss business bi-weekly Finanz & Wirtschaft and German car magazine Auto, Motor und Sport, is an interesting illustration not only of Mercedes-Benz evolution over the last 40 years, but also of the car industry as a whole (for the Swedish audience by the way, it also provides a good example of why Saab post-GM never stood a real chance of survival, being a mass-market producer).
In 1974, Mercedes was present in three segments; luxury cars with the S-class and the 600, mid-sized cars with the 8 sedan and coupé, and sports cars with the W107 SL and SLC. 40 years later and very much like the other brands that dominate today’s mass car industry, the three segments have become seven, with a far larger number of cars in each segment. And where there was previously not a segment/model, one has been invented (think shooting breaks and grand coupés, to name but a couple). 40 years ago, Mercedes built 6 different models, today it’s 25.
Obviously this is the result of quite an amazing production development in terms of common parts and platforms, but also of far-reaching but often little-known collaborations between brands on different levels. However, what has fundamentally not changed over these 40 years is the usage of petrol and diesel engines under the hood, although these have obviously been heavily developed and refined. When we look at the same picture in 40 years, when we’re gray and old, is that perhaps the big change we will see? What are your thoughts? Comments are as always welcome!
On a recent trip to Amsterdam walking down one of the main shopping streets, I passed a quite beautiful car I’ve never seen before. Having read up on its history afterwards I suspect I may not be the only one to which this was a new discovery, and I am thus happy to introduce you to the Artega GT from the German brand Artega!
Artega was founded in 2006 as a small car manufacturing company. The first and only model GT was shown in Geneva in 2008 and production started in 2009, in a new plant built in the German city of Delbrück. It was powered by the 6-cylinder, 3.6 litre 300 hp engine that was also found in some VW top models, along with the VW six-speed DSG gearbox. The limited weight of around 1300 kg helped it to a 0-100 km/h time of 4.8 seconds and a top speed of over 270 km/h. Marketed at a very reasonable price of around 75.000 EUR as new, the Artega GT received quite a lot of praise from the automotive press. Chassis and handling and value for money were deemed very good, the somewhat dead steering feel, the oversized rearview mirrors and some typical small-manufacturer tweeks less so.
Unfortunately, as with so many small scale manufacturers, the 35-employee Artega car company didn’t survive for long. After a couple of company restructurings and plans for both a convertible and an electric hybrid version, production ceased in 2012 after as little as 130 cars produced. Obviously most of these are still around today, but it’s still far from a car you risk seeing on the next corner. There are currently 12 Artegas for sale on the German site mobile.de, with prices starting just below 50.000 EUR. For a very rare car likely to preserve value quite well, no doubt offering quite a lot of driving thrill and based on an engine and gearbox that can be serviced at the next VW garage, that is actually quite a bargain…
From late spring to early fall, the Swiss city of Zug hosts an oldtimer event called the Oldtimer Sunday Morning Meeting, a nice gathering with a beautiful mix of 150-200 cars from the 10’s (1900 that is) to the 80’s. The official end of the season is celebrated with a parade through the city center of Zug, which is reserved for the oldtimers for this occasion. The 2013 parade took place today, and even though the weather gods could have been friendlier, it was a great day of which a few pictures can be seen here below.
One of the oldest participants from the somewhat forgotten brand American la France…
.to the more recent, beautiful 50’s curve on this early Corvette.
Under the hub of a Ferrari 365. 12 cylinders, 6 carburettors, 100% mechanic…
Mercedes 540 K.
.and a beautiful Bugatti with an even greater sound from the 20’s.