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Hagerty Employee

Avoidable Contact #77: A simple twist of Phaet

After signing his first seven-figure book deal, and having sold The Witches Of Eastwick to Hollywood, the late John Updike confessed that he quite enjoyed what he called “minor fame.” By that standard, I have micro-fame. Perhaps nano-fame. Femto-infamy, more like it. The only people who recognize me on the street are secondhand guitar dealers. Yet there was once a moment in which I felt the warm flow of authentic minor fame. It was the fall of 2006 and I was seated in the globe-shaped executive cafeteria high above the hardwood workfloor of Volkswagen’s Glaeserne Manufaktur in Dresden, attempting to scoop up a little bit of caviar from my plate with half a sourdough cracker, when the plant manager leaned across the table and said, in his clipped English-via-Saxony, “You are the young man who owns two Phaetons.” 


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"We insist on the prophylactic application of meaningless upscale brands to everything we see, taste, or touch, lest we be mistaken for someone slightly poorer than ourselves."  You are an almost-poetic, canny iconoclastic observer of society.  And you know something of French and Latin.  Always a pleasure reading your musings.

Intermediate Driver

When my late wife and I toured Germany, we stopped in Dresden, (one of my favorite cities), and a couple of other guys on the tour and I decided to visit the VW plant there. Always like to take pix of our tours, but other than the main entrance hall, pix were verboten. We entered the elevator and were whisked up to the observation level and observed the assembly line, which moved leisurely along, and workers doing their jobs, but not frantically or in a frenzy.  Quite impressive. The moving floor was wood, and I suspect that it would be less tiring than working on concrete. Anyway, we were ushered back down to the level below the assembly, where there were 2 of the Phetons parked for our inspection. The price per car, if I remember correctly was in the range of $75K, and looking at the cars, the opinion of our group was that it was not really worth that much. We didn't see much difference between them and the mainline Toyotas and Hondas that would warrant such a price.  Beautiful facility though. Got a photo of it from down the street!


I agree that the Phaeton made the 7 Series, S-Class, XJ and even VW Group's own A8 feel inadequate in some way. Truthfully, the car was a result of a decade of excess, and a big pissing contest between all the manufacturers to design the most outrageous, expensive cars. And we got some really cool stuff: V10 diesel SUVs, Viper-powered trucks, trucks with convertibles, modern incarnations of heritage race cars (Ford GT), you name it. And, you're right, no one was being stingy on the cylinder count.


I am also tempted at the prospect of a cheap Phaeton, since I was in elementary school when they were new, and never had the chance to own a new one. But I know better. Most of the examples out there are extremely under-maintained, and they show it.


Sadly, there really isn't another stealth wealth car like this. I suppose the Genesis G90 and Kia K900 qualify, but they aren't built to this same standard, nor can the ownership experience compete.

As far as the G90, I find the '17-'19 5.0 Ultimate with the light parchment interior an alluring prospect. I may pick one up myself in a couple years. Hopefully, it fits in my rather-short garage.


Been there in Ohio, the only state where they tried to make speeding a death penalty offense.  I like the rear backup lights upgrade.