Collecting: What I’ve Learned

Great Buys 2020
January 2, 2020

Recently I exchanged a few messages with a gentleman who was looking for a bit of advice on plans for his car collection.  I quite enjoyed the exchange and hope I was able to provide at least a modicum of useful insights.  I found the experience fascinating as it forced me to reflect back on our car collecting experiences over the last 18 years and look into what I have learned (Supercar Ghosts).  To start, I went back and took a look at each of the cars we have owned during that time period and captured my key impressions.  From there I took a look back at the different garage combinations we have had over the years and tried to discern which were our favorites and why. 

When compiling the list of the supercars and limited edition/hypercars that we have owned over nearly two decades, a pattern clearly emerged.  If I look at longevity of ownership, there are three main buckets:  the 6 month cars, the 2 year cars, and the long termers.  Every single front engine V12 we have owned has fallen into one of the first two buckets. The occupants of the long termer bucket have all been mid-engine.  No matter how hard I have tried to love a big front engine 12-cylinder GT, I just prefer the way a mid-engine car drives.  “Like” was the best I got to with each of the 6 different front engine Ferrari V12s (Ferrari 599 GTB HGTE) that passed through our hands.  I guess this also explains why I have never owned an Aston Martin.  Another learning has been 4 seat supercars don’t work for us.  While it might be a noble idea to get a four-seater so we can use the supercar on road trips with the kids in the back, it never worked out that way.  First of all, teenagers have zero interest in being stuffed in the back of a Ferrari.  Second there really isn’t enough luggage space in the boot for four people’s bags.  Inevitably we always defaulted to using one of the SUVs in those situations.  

Over time I have found that how one intends to use the car has a huge impact on what I am looking for in a car’s dynamics.  I have used both a Ferrari 360 Modena and a McLaren 650S Spider as daily drivers.  While the 650S Spider has been by far the best daily driver I have ever had (650S Spider Daily Driver), the 360 Modena just wasn’t geared for heavy traffic.  At the same time, the polish of the 650S Spider, doesn’t make it my weekend or road trip car of choice.  The rawer McLaren 675LT Spider or the Porsche 911 GT3 RS (675LT Spider & 911 GT3 RS) fit this brief much better.  Alternatively, the 675LT Spider is too hard to use as a daily driver and I would never consider it for that role.  When it comes to the limited edition/hypercars, I am definitely looking for more personality and a bit of an edge.  Too much of an edge however gets old after a while.  I have multiple memories of getting out of the Koenigsegg CCR (Driving a CCR) after a spirited drive and just being thankful to be alive.  The cockpit of the Jaguar XJR-15 (Jaguar XJR-15) was a sauna and the suspension rock hard.  After an hour behind the wheel of the XJR-15 I normally needed both a shower and a massage. On the other hand, I have driven the Ferrari F40 (Driving the F40)  multiple times for many hours and never had anything but a big smile on my face.

The mix of cars in a collection is critical.  What has worked best for us is when we have had a balance of more usable supercars along with a few edgy limited edition/hypercars.  At one point we owned a F40, F50, Koenigsegg CCR, Jaguar XJR-15, and a Mosler MT900S.  While that might sound great paper, when a Mosler MT900S (Mosler MT900S) is your most practical/useable supercar it’s a bit of a problem.  That combination might make for great driveway pictures you aren’t really going to want to drive any of them into London on a Saturday morning.  None on this list were really “office/commuting” friendly and we basically had 5 “Sunday Morning” cars of which only the F40 could be used for longer road trips.  A much better mix was a F40, F50, XJR-15, 430 Scuderia, and 612 as the last two were highly usable and both saw plenty of mid-week & road trip usage.  Net net, making sure each car in the garage has a clear role and that there isn’t too much overlap is key.  When we have gotten this right, all of the cars in the garage have had regular use without it being forced.  Other garage combinations that have worked well for us are:

  • The current: Ferrari F40, McLaren Senna, 650S Spider, 675LT Spider, 720S Spider, Maserati Granturiso Cabrio, & Porsche 997.2 GT3 RS,  
  • Circa 2017: Ferrari F40, 599 GTB, McLaren P1, 650S Spider, 675LT Spider, & Maserati Granturismo Cabrio
  • Circa 2013: Ferrari F40, F50, McLaren 12C Coupe, 12 C Spider
  • Circa 2010: Ferrari F40, F50, 365GTB/4 Daytona, & 575 Maranello
  • Circa 2007: Ferrari F40, F50, 308 GTB, & 360 Modena

Another learning is if you are buying cars all from a similar era, make sure they are very different in terms of the driving experience and only buy the best in class.  A Ferrari 488 GTB and a McLaren 720S are a bad combo as they are conceptually very similar.  In terms of performance, the McLaren will run circles around the Ferrari and after a couple of months the 488 GTB will just sit in the garage until it finally gets sold.  Also, in regard to buying, one or two acquisitions a year works best.  This gives you time to bond and really get to know a car before the next new thing comes along.  The best way I know to bond quickly with a new car is to take it on a multiday road trip (F40 Road Trip) as soon as you collect it.

Summary    

While most of the above may sound simple or just plain common sense, it’s really only through trial and error that I have figured it out.  We all have perceptions on what different cars are shaped by friends, the media, and car manufacturers marketing.  Its’ really only by living with a car for multiple months that those perceptions convert to your reality. Personally, it is mid-engined cars that I really bond with and four seat supercars just don’t work for us.  

I have learned over the years that my daily driver needs to be polished, and the weekend cars need more of an edge.  A bit raw is great but certainly as I have gotten older, I am less interested in incurring physical or mental damage from a drive.  Having the right mix of cars in the garage, each with a clear role, is critical to making sure all get used.  Last but not least, just because a car might be a great buy, unless you have a clear idea how it’s going to fit into your collection, don’t buy it.

Thoughts and comments? Please see the comments section below.

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January 2020

5 Comments

  1. Jairo Andres Jaramillo says:

    Great article Mr SSO, I have always liked the EVO magazine Long Termer section and a lot of your articles read similarly. Interesting that you’re not a fan of the FF or a Rapide, guess the luggage aspect is a deal breaker? Keep writing cool stuff, I’ll be curious to see where the market goes and fingers crossed you get that Porsche CGT soon!

  2. Markos says:

    Hi SSO,

    very interesting article, which led me asking the following: how come you’ve never had/considered a Lambo?

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