The Use Case Rule of Car Collecting

Earlier this year I met a wise experienced car connoisseur over zoom (it is 2020).  This gentleman has owned a number of cars that have also passed through our garage over the years (including a Ferrari F50, 16M, McLaren 675LT) along with at least one that I can only dream of (McLaren F1).  He introduced me to the “Use Case Rule” of car collecting. The essence of the rule is that every car in the collection has to have a clear unique use and role in your collection. The Use Case Rule is like many of the rules in our society, I had been cognisant of the concept, mostly followed it without ever realizing it, but never studied or vigorously applied it.  What I had vigorously applied to car collecting, was my well-developed “man math” skills.  While “man math” is an integral part of the car buying process, it’s just that, a onetime process that doesn’t get revisited once the purchase is made.  The Use Case Rule is one that is ongoing as it will continuously guide the development of your car collection.  One note on the Use Case Rule, it doesn’t apply to Car Art Collectors (see: The Tyranny of Low Mileage) for it to apply, “use” has to be a core element of the ownership experience. There are also a few iconic cars that in my opinion transcend the Rule, examples would be the McLaren F1, Ferrari 250 GTO, Ferrari 288 GTO, Ferrari F40, and the Ferrari F50.

A Few Past Examples of the “Use Case” in Action

The first time I really found myself on the wrong side of the Use Case Rule was about 8 years ago when we lived in the UK.  At the time, I had assembled a small collection of supercars that included a Ferrari F40, Ferrari F50, Mosler MT900S, Koenigsegg CCR, and a Jaguar XJR-15.  When you are an enthusiast who likes to use their cars regularly and on long road trips, when the most practical, useable, supercar you own is a Ferrari F40, there is something amiss.  Had I diligently applied the Use Case Rule to each of those five acquisitions, two likely would not have happened.  The F40 and F50 easily pass inspection under the Use Case Rule due to being icons.  The Mosler MT900S got under the bar as it was my track car but the Koenigsegg CCR and Jaguar XJR-15 should have been flagged as day trip only cars and the F50 already had this role locked up.  In the case of the Jaguar XJR-15 it had the additional restriction of being a car that Karen rode in once and never again.  She was not impressed at having to wear headphones to be able to hear herself think.  With the Koenigsegg CCR, it was a catch 22.  The CCR works best with the roof off, its dark and claustrophobic with it on.  The roof panel fits under the front clamshell which is also the only place to store any luggage.  Road trips require a bit of luggage so a long multiday trip in the CCR just wasn’t ever going to be in the cards for us.  What forced the issue was a weeklong road trip planned up to Scotland.  For this trip we really needed a RHD supercar that could carry a week’s worth of luggage and we would be happy spending multiple hours in every day.  So out went the Koenigsegg CCR and in came a Ferrari 430 Scuderia and a 612 Scaglietti.  The Mosler MT900S later departed when my travel schedule basically put an end to track days as its use case had then evaporated. 

 

A few more examples of the Use Case Rule being applied since without even realizing it were the Ferrari 599 GTB HGTE being traded in for the McLaren 720S Coupe, the 720S Coupe becoming a 720S Spider, and the McLaren P1’s departure.  The Ferrari 599 GTB HGTE just wasn’t being used, at the time we had little need for a long distance Grand Tourer so off it went for an alternative that we assumed would get more use.  The 720S Coupe fell to a similar “more use” fate when the 720S Spider came up as an option as Spiders always seem to get more usage in our garage over a similar coupe.  The McLaren P1 fell afoul of the “Use” part of the rule as it just wasn’t getting used as there was no where to really be able to take it out and enjoy its capabilities anywhere near where we lived at the time.  There was a not so small issue with a potential hybrid battery failure and a massive bill that also played a very key role in driving that decision.

Recent Applications of the “Use Case” Rule 

A few recent examples of the Use Case Rule proactively in action have come about on cars that I’ve given some consideration to acquiring in the last couple of years.  First on the list is a Ferrari 308 GTB.  Since owning one years ago, I’ve always had a soft spot for them.  When looking at 308 GTB through the lens of how and where it would get used given the other cars we currently have in the garage, it came up quite short.  Given the option of taking out the F40 or a 308 GTB on a Sunday morning for a drive, the 308 keys are likely to sit undisturbed.  Hence a 308 GTB is highly unlikely to ever rejoin the garage.  A slightly different situation came up on another set of cars that we formerly owned, and I’ve always wanted to reacquire, the Ferrari 430 Scuderia and the Ferrari Scuderia Spider 16M.  I’ve always considered the Scuderia the ultimate evolution of the line of V8 Ferraris dating back to the launch of the 348 in 1989.  The F1 gearbox in the Scuderia is last and best evolution of the technology.  It’s wonderful engaging to use and banging upshifts off under heavy acceleration is petrolhead catnip.  In an article I wrote several years ago (430 Scuderia vs. 16M) I indicated that my preference between the two was for the Scuderia:

 

Despite the strong preference for Spiders, in the case of the 430 Scuderia, I actually preferred the coupe.  The raw focused nature of the Scuderia concept just works better as a hard top.  With the 16M Spider, it feels like Ferrari tried a bit too hard to compensate for the structural challenges that arise when you cut the roof off a non-carbon fiber tub car.  The extra weight from both the soft top and chassis reinforcement impacts the nimbleness.  To compensate for the extra weight, it feels like Ferrari stiffened the suspension which has negatively impacted the subtleness in ride quality and handling which makes the coupe so brilliant.  On the 16M, it also seems that Ferrari has turned up the exhaust another few notches and, in this case, louder isn’t better.  Net net, with the 430 Scuderia Ferrari got the balance right, with the 16M, the challenges created by loping off the roof resulted in a subtlety different car that just misses where the coupe nails it. 

However, looking back now I might have been a bit unfair to the 16M as the environment it lived in during our ownership did nothing to flatter its abilities.  Bad cement roads covered in potholes are not an ideal environment for any supercar.  If we were to acquire another Scuderia, knowing our preference for open top motoring today the decision would be I the favor of the 16M.  It would simply get more usage. 

The final recent example of the Use Case Rule in action over the last few years is the Porsche Carrera GT.  A Carrera GT has been high on the “want” list for over a decade yet the acquisition of one just hasn’t happened.  We came very close once and I did think we had a deal in place at Porsche of Newport Beach (Our Porsche History) until suddenly we didn’t.  This year with the pandemic and focus on social distancing, a sailboat was a more appealing option (Beneteau Oceanis).  If I really dig down to the core reason though, given the other cars we have, a Carrera GT just hasn’t yet been able to pass the Use Case test.  On one end of our current garage, you have the Ferrari F40 and McLaren Senna which are as raw, involving, focused, as they come.  On the other end you have the Porsche 911 (997.2) GT3 RS which has the manual gearbox hard core Porsche box ticked.  We would have the same problem with the Carrera GT in terms of luggage as we had on the Koenigsegg CCR, and again similar to the CCR, the Carrera GT is not a car I would ever want to drive with the roof panels in place.  If got really creative on the Use Case, I could probably justify trading in the 911 GT3 RS for a Carrera GT, but even my “man math” skills can’t quite justify the incremental $500k it would require to make that happen in today’s market.

As a guiding principle to car collecting, the Use Case Rule, has to be one of the best I have run across.  It took a wise man to clearly articulate a concept I had been applying for years without truly knowing it.  Going forward, it is the gateway every car must first cross before getting a garage space and must continue to meet in order to keep its space.

Thoughts and comments? Please see the comments section below.

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December 2020

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4 Thoughts on The Use Case Rule of Car Collecting
    Tim
    28 Dec 2020
    5:34am

    Interesting idea. It’s one that I’ve had in mind for a few years – admittedly not yet applied to supercars. It’s why we have a little 60s Ginetta, a ’27 Model T speedster, and a boring newish Porsche Boxster S. There’s also inevitably a couple of boring hatchbacks (one for practicalities and the other for the teenage children). Oh, and a Mazda Eunos that hangs around for entirely sentimental reasons. They all do things that the other cars can’t.

    I’m kind of surprised that you apply this concept to a bunch of cars that – to most people – would seem near identical. I get your thinking, but maybe this will be a spark that will change your collection in the medium term. I’m not talking about becoming a compulsive collector like the magpie Leno, more of a curated gathering that seems eclectic – like Harry Metcalf (I belive he has a maximum of 20 cars, and claims everyone should do something different).

    Would any of your cars be as good on a Britsh B road as a Lotus Elan? You couldn’t race a supercar at Pendine Sands (or TRoG in US). Have you ever tried driving a prewar car – they’re a fantastic way to rediscover the principle joy of driving a car?

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    Brian
    1 Jan 2021
    1:37am

    Great read…and makes sense. The use case rule should be applied to most everything one purchases. Why buy a second house, a boat, an RV, jewelry, a horse, etc……if you can’t use it and enjoy it. Cars are not art, although can look and feel like art to the beholder. Cars should be used and enjoyed by those fortunate enough to have them or sold for others to enjoy. Car guys and girls each have their own reasons for liking what they like. I think you make some great points and you seem to know why “you like-what-you-like.” Happy New Year!!

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    Jim Glickenhaus
    28 Dec 2020
    1:28pm

    Very interesting. Impulse Supercar buying often ends poorly.

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