I grew up in the Midwest; at the time, most of the cars I saw were American. In fact, many people in our union town despised foreign cars. It was practically a law — you were expected to buy American, and that was that.
$125,000/ RARE PATEK PHILIPPE POCKET WATCH
Antique Buying in the 70's
Traveling across the country in the 1970s buying and selling antiques, I rubbed elbows with a wider segment of the American population. European cars started to catch my eye as I traveled across the pond doing research for my Rolex book. Back in the U.S., my friend Jimmy Watters and I got involved in Porsche racing at Sebring. I drove my 1973 Porsche Carrera on the track and it was a great experience.
$60,000 / 1952 MODIFIED MG WITH BERTONE BODY
But the most interesting car I ever owned was the personal car of Wacky Arnolt. (Do some internet research on Mr. Arnolt — he was quite a character.) An Indiana antique dealer called me and had a car and a watch he needed to flip (as we say in the trade). We auction cars quite often, including modern cars, but this one was unusual. He had recently purchased the car from Wacky Arnolt’s son.
Wacky lived in Indiana and loved cars. He had visited MG’s headquarters in England and bought 100 MGs, but he recognized they were too small for American drivers, so he special ordered Bertone bodies for them. He sold them to wealthy people in 1952 and 1953, including entertainers like Jack Paar. He held onto one of these unique cars for himself and kept it in the family garage. It had fewer than 2,000 miles on it.
Watch Collecting and Car Collecting
Watch collecting and car collecting have always gone hand in hand, so it should come as no surprise that while Mr. Arnolt was in Switzerland he also bought an extremely rare Patek pocket watch — which was likewise stashed away (this time in the bank) and never worn.
The Indiana antique dealer bought these two remarkable items for $100,000 and needed to move them, so I bought them for $130,000. I entered the car in several car shows before I sold it; it was fun to show and won several prizes in Tampa Bay. I sent the watch to Sotheby’s, where it made the cover of Sotheby’s catalog. The watch sold for $104,000, and after auction fees I netted almost $85,000. Today the watch would likely bring $125,000 at auction. The car went for under $60,000, so my profit was tiny, but, boy, did I have fun! This was over nine years ago. Of course, the fellow who bought the car has shown it all over the world; today it is worth considerably more.
Value? In this case we don’t know, because fair market value is dictated by auction price, and the owner has said that he will keep the car forever.
I have quite a love for cars — really cool, older cars — so give us a call if you have one in your garage.
This is an archival article formerly written and is for informational purposes only. The valuations in this article have likely changed since it was first written.