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COLLECTOR CARS: Yesterday's Loss is Today's Gain

by Stephen Cox
Monday, August 20, 2012

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1972 Can Am winning L&M Porsche 917/10 driven by Mark Donahue and George Follmer sold for 5.5 million dollars
I'd like you to conduct an experiment. Go to your local racetrack this weekend. Makes no difference if it's a drag strip, oval or road course, big or small. Just go.

Look around, estimate the average age of the fans and let me know what you find. Did you see a lot of kids there? Not likely. Racing fans are aging and there aren't enough new, young fans to take their place. Which begs an interesting question...

At the Mecum Monterey auction last weekend, someone coughed up 5.5 million dollars to purchase the L&M Porsche 917/10 that won the Can Am championship more than forty years ago. 

But look into the future. In 2052, who will want to buy Dario Franchitti's 2012 Indy 500-winning Dallara and other historic racecars? I don't see enough young people at races nowadays to believe that the same market will exist. And I go to a lot of auto races. Like 100 a year.

1974 IROC Porsche 911 RSR driven by Emerson Fittipaldi
Attendance at most major races is down. Local tracks are closing left and right. The auto racing demographic is aging quickly and I really wonder about the future market for racecars.

I really like seeing a lot of racecars cross the block, but we’ve had very few this year.

That's why I was so excited to see all the racecars entered in this year's Mecum auction at Monterey. These were great racecars with rich histories, especially in Can Am racing. These were cars that deserved the recognition and really represented the heritage of the sport.

Vic Elford's Shadow DN4 was there. Elford had crashed it badly in 1974 before it was rebuilt for vintage racing. The car is nearly identical to the Shadow that carried Jackie Oliver to victory in the 1974 Can Am championship. Better still was the fact that the Shadow's creator, Don Nichols, was there to greet race enthusiasts.

1954 Ferrari 750 Monza Spyder Scaglietti
An original McLaren M8 racecar was also on hand. Denny Hulme, Pete Revson and Bruce McLaren drove M8's to four consecutive Can Am titles in the late 1960's. The example that crossed the Mecum block last weekend had a long, documented pedigree of privateer racing to increase its value.

And of course, the L&M Porsche 917/10 was the biggest draw of all. John Woodard, the chief mechanic who cared for the car throughout the summer of '72, was a special guest.

We also saw a 1972 Eagle Offy IndyCar, a Saleen LeMans endurance car, and nearly a dozen major Porsche racers. 

Vic Elford's 1974 Shadow DN4 is one of the most recognizable cars from the golden era of American road racing
So the market is there and it is strong. And it was a rare treat to see so many historic racecars in the same place at the same time. But I wonder how many race fans will be around over the next half century to buy more of them.

From the television side, the show went well. This still remains the smoothest live show I've ever been part of. Sometimes it's scary how smoothly it goes and you wonder if something really did go wrong, you just don't know about it yet. 

Although I'm the world's worst with social media, we're starting to get a lot of Tweets during the show and it's really kinda fun. Occasionally I can respond during a commercial break, or pass along questions to my co-hosts (Scott Hoke, John Kraman and Bill Stephens) on air.

If you'd like to pass along any questions or comments, please feel free to do so. Twitter gives us a fresh, new way to have more direct interaction with the viewers and that's always a good thing.

Dallas is just around the corner and I fear we won’t have anywhere near the number of racecars that we had at Monterey. I’m going to keep an eye on this trend in the future and see if it changes.

I hope it does. I want auto racing to hold the same fascination for my kids that it did for my father and myself. See you at the Dallas Convention Center in a few weeks.

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