Number Crunching - Faine 434

By: Jon Faine

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jaguars jaguars

Jon finds an Aladdin's cave in leafy Melbourne

A 1974 Dino Ferrari. E-type Jaguars ... not one, not two… but four. A V12 Roadster, two V12 coupes and a 6-cylinder Series One and a half, 2+2, manual E- Type with Webasto sunroof.

Then two mid-70s BMW 3.0 CS Coupes, a Karmann Ghia, a Goggomobil Dart…  And on it goes.

You know you have found a serious hoard of cars when you visit the warehouse for the fourth time and suddenly see a WWII Willys Jeep that was so thoroughly buried under crap on the previous visits that you did not even know it was there.

jaguars-2.jpg

Then there is the XJS V12 Jaguar, the multiple Honda Scamps, the monkey bikes, the old Moto Guzzi…the Go Karts, the pedal cars. And then there are more, and more, and more.

How did I stumble onto this treasure trove of sports cars that have been sitting for 25 years gathering dust?

It began some 10 or more years ago, as I was pleading with my accountant to find me some more deductions, he asked me about my old cars. After he stopped rolling around on the floor laughing at me, he casually mentioned, "my dad has some old cars in his shed…".

jeep.jpgOf course there would be a WWII Jeep...

As any of you would, I interrogated him and discovered that my accountant knew next to nothing about cars, but clearly his father did. So each year, as I forlornly submitted my exaggerated book-keeping efforts for conversion to a tax return, I would torment the accountant along the lines of "and what has your dad done with those cars…".

Last year, as the ritual played out, I was embarrassed to be told that my accountant’s father had recently, tragically and suddenly died. After condolences were expressed, I also offered any assistance his family needed to deal with  the "old cars". Hence my introduction to my accountant’s mother, who knew there was some value in her late husband’s collecting, but had zero idea how to approach selling any, let alone all of the cars.

honda.jpgAnd a Honda Z as well...

My role needed clear definition before we went past introductions. I ethically declared that if I was interested as a buyer, then I could not advise on prices. But if I was not a buyer, I could assist with some market knowledge. Did I contemplate buying any of them or them all? Since I have recently sold a BMW CSi, recently bought back my own E-type from the man I sold it to, since I am fond of my wife and do not want a divorce, it was easy to declare myself a non-buyer. And so the games began.

The warehouse was crammed with stuff. Serious hoarder syndrome. Cars so close together that it was impossible to squeeze between them to inspect. Cars with boxes piled up on bonnets, boots and roof space, wherever a near-horizontal surface could be found.

honda-2.jpg

Dust, grime, pigeon poo, litter… Every imaginable obstacle. Poor light, oily puddles, wobbling stacks of packages threatening to collapse if anything is disturbed… An occupational health and safety nightmare.

My initial visit uncovered most of the cars, sufficiently to accept that the Dino was not a fibreglass replica on a VW chassis, but a real-deal, genuine RHD Dino complete and mostly rust-free. Likewise for some of the Jaguars and the BMWs, but one V12 Jag seemed much more rust-stricken than the other. The V12 Roadster, in a different shed, had a mild dose of tin worm, and the Karmann Ghia had bulging rot at the base of the A-pillar, never a good sign!

ferrari-dino-steering-wheel.jpg... not to mention the Dino

The conversation began. I patiently explained the options: Give the entire collection to an auction house and see what happens. Or advertise the cars and put up with the tyre kickers, wheeler dealers and quick-buck merchants. Or discreetly offer the cars through personal contacts and see if buyers for value could be found. My commission of zero was readily agreed.

My accountant’s mother and family were first and foremost reluctant to reveal the whereabouts of the cars – for obvious reasons. Secondly, they expressed no rush, wanting to make sure the cars found genuine restorers and collectors, rather than traders. And while price was important, they were not wanting to expend significant funds on re-commissioning any of the cars prior to a sale.

shed.jpg

We went through the different websites and magazines, including this one, noting the prices being asked as well as lengthy explanations about restoration costs. Try explaining to a novice why it costs $50,000 or more to strip and repaint and trim a classic car? Try doing a back-of-the-envelope run-through of leather seats, wiring, chrome plating, tyres, hoses and brakes, radiators, instruments… And not even adding up a motor, gearbox or suspension re-build. Then explain why a barn-find is for many buyers an attractive proposition, and the cars must not be washed, vacuumed, started, or in any way played with prior to inspection by prospective purchasers. Exhausting.

At the time of writing, two Jaguars and the Dino are sold. Interested parties have made approaches for the BMWs and only two E-Type Jaguars remain – the V12 roadster and the six-cylinder car. The Goggo and the Karmann Ghia can wait – neither will be difficult to move once the others are out of the way. The Jeep might be kept, and the XJS will eventually get looked at too. The other bits and pieces are a long way down the priority list!

And just as I was saying goodbye after my fourth visit, she tells me,"Oh, and there is another storage shed with a 1970s Porsche in it…. I suppose I have to do something with that too!"

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