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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

The fleeting cost of fame

Pierre Laval was TIME Magazine Man of The Year in 1931. Let's say, hypothetically, a very expensive and elaborate automobile once owned by him were to come up for sale. How much would it be worth? That answer rides on many factors, but none more significant than whether or not you had to just now Google the name Pierre Laval.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/market-trends/hagerty-insider/the-fleeting-cost-of-fame/
66 REPLIES 66
hyperv6
Racer

There are some cars that ownership means much. Or many cases who drove the car or what event or movie it was tied to.

But too often sone of these cars are not what they really are portrayed to be.

Let’s face it more than one Elvis Cadillac has. Been sold where he’s he bought it but it was given away and he never even saw it.

Before his death there was a cottage industry of Bandit Trans Ams owned by Burt.

Burt did own one back in the day as a personal car. None of the movie cars survived but yet every time we turned around there was another Burt black TA selling for a silly price. Most times these cars were put in his name and restored. Burt would sign the dash or scoop and toss in a hat.

So yes in context Burt did own the car but it was not one he and Sally hit the town in on a night out.

If you are going to buy a celebrity car best to know the true history and how it was used by said celebrity as not all celebrity owned cars are the same.
Sledogpilot
Detailer

Good article, good comment.
One other thing I’ve learned from watching Pawn Stars or reading Rick Harrison’s surprisingly good book is that values don’t just keep increasing as things become rarer. The market for baseball cards, WWII leather jackets or Bob Hope memorabilia is not necessarily going to go up as the market ages and dies off.
hyperv6
Racer

Too many equate rare with valuable.

 

Rare has to be weighted against demand. 

farna
Advanced Driver

Exactly! More than one person has seen my 1963 Rambler wagon at a show and commented that they "haven't seen one in ages, must be worth a lot." My answer: "If it was the last one in existence and no one wanted it, what would it be worth?" Ponder that a bit. POPULARITY drives car prices a whole lot more than rarity. If there are 20,000 still around and EVERYONE wants it, it's still going to command a good price -- early Mustangs are the best example.
JagManBill
Intermediate Driver

so true. I have a 65 Jaguar Mk10 B Limo...one of three built to serve British Embassy's in Washington DC, South Africa and Germany. Rare...yes. Nice conversation bit at a show or CnC? yup. adds to value?... somewhere between probably not and no. Maybe if you were one of the people who were the driver's of that particular car during period you might pay a bit more for "your" car, but that's a really small pool of potential attractors (and knowing the age of one of the drivers who drove our car, he'd be 90 now so probably not all that interested in it).
kyree-williams
Detailer

This is great.

For the last several years, there’s been a 1996 BMW 750iL (that was the E38 with the V12), allegedly owned by Death Row Records, and in which Tupac Shakur was shot. Currently, they are asking $1.75MM

64jeepsrt
Detailer

Was that with blood included... lol
espo70
Advanced Driver

I once owned a Chrysler Lebaron, previously owned by John Voigt.
2013GSVETTE
Intermediate Driver

ME TOO.

HotRodGTO
Intermediate Driver

Awesome! The John Voight?
PurelyPMD
Detailer

It's a Seinfeld reference, I doubt he's serious.
HotRodGTO
Intermediate Driver

lol.  That was the point of the Seinfeld reference.

dooscoop32
Detailer

Is that the one that burned to the ground?
SteveShay
Pit Crew

It is conceivable he and his wife had Angelina Jolie in the back seat. 😳🤠
G911
New Driver

I have the pencil from that Le Baron, still has John Voight’s tooth marks on it and authenticated by none other than Dr Tim Whatley, dentist to the stars 

DUB6
Specialist

Wow, let me know when you put that up for auction - Imma gonna bid!  😀

autowriter
Detailer

Who owned it before should be unimportant. If it's a car you like, then it has more value than one you don't. The previous owner's panache does Not rub off on the subsequent owners. At the very most, it might be an interesting photo in the documentation history. For example, the Lancia Astura that took best of show several years back at Pebble Beach had previously been owned by a Famous Person -- well-known musician. But when it was pulled out of a thicket, it was still in really bad shape from an inept previous "restoration" that was costmetic at best. It still took over a million to have it put into presentable condition. The fact that a Famous Person had owned it had Nothing to do with its value. Now that fact just a mere curiosity.
FloridaMarty
Advanced Driver

Celebs are just overpaid stuffed shirts (and blouses)! I would not pay $1 more just because someone famous sat in the car. Unless of course it was Jon Voight. Lol.

DUB6
Specialist

Another Pamela Anderson reference!

Maestro1
Technician

I'd be very reluctant to buy a car based on its previous or existing celebrity ownership because that has nothing to do with the car. I have owned celebrity cars, but not because of that reason. Some were through litigation settlement.
DUB6
Specialist

Watch closely, there may be some deals coming up based on the Heard/Depp case(s).  😎

Bertone780
Detailer

Joe Walsh's Maserati - the one that does 185.
DUB6
Specialist

Only if it includes the Gold Record On The Wall...

okfoz
Advanced Driver

I do not think any Maserati went that fast before that song was released in 1978.
DaveA
Instructor

Yeah, but he never drives it anymore. I heard he lost his license.
r2avanti
Pit Crew

I own a 1963 Studebaker Avanti owned by James E Meyer. Nearly no one knows who he is, but most know the rock and roll song he wrote…..”Rock Around the Clock” made famous by Bill Haley and the Comets.
Does this change the value of the car? Probably not.
People drive cars, individuals drive Avantis
phog
Pit Crew

I knew someone who was in a 1964 film he produced, "The Block"; on their behalf I contacted Mr. Meyer for a copy of it but sadly he had passed away the month before and the movie now seems lost, no extant copy in any form anywhere. James looked like an Avanti kinda guy.
r2avanti
Pit Crew

I also tried to get in touch with Mr. Meyer around 2006 or 2007, but learned that he died about 2001 or 2002 and last lived in Florida. Apparently he had no immediate family surviving him.
People drive cars, individuals drive Avantis
SteveShay
Pit Crew

Does the clock work?
r2avanti
Pit Crew

Yes, of course!! Works perfect
People drive cars, individuals drive Avantis
BigDog
Pit Crew

I have never been a "People Worshiper", meaning a infatuation with Hollywood, Sport stars or the such. It would not matter to me if the vehicle was owned by Elvis, I still look at what value is it to me personally!
JBBearcat
Detailer

Are you buying it as a car or a historic artifact?
The "bigger" the name, the more historic it becomes.
The JFK DallasLincoln, or a car used by a famous race driver to win an event transcend mere autos.

A run of the mill car owned by someone well known would still be fun to have, it helps tell the car's history and the time in which it was built, but don't remortgage the house to buy it.


This isn't a new thing. More than a century ago, the then thriving Studebaker company, which made its reputation for building wagons in the 19th century, established a collection of carriages owned or used by famous people....Lafayette and Abraham Lincoln included.
They were kept by the firm until its demise, and are now in the Studebaker National Museum.
So collecting predates Elvis and today's celebrity culture.

The points made by the author are seen if you look at the sales of celebrity cars, in auction reports found in magazines like Sports Car Market.
Even then there can be surprises...recently a one-off 1980s Mercedes SL heavily customized for Wayne Newton brought big bucks. Newton isn't a "car guy", and the custom isn't to everyone's taste, but it certainly reflects the period in which it was built.
So the answer is, yes, celebrity helps, on some cars, some of the time.


RodneyRacer
Intermediate Driver

I have a Cadillac that I bought from Johnny Otis (who?) He told he got it from Red Fox (who?) Do I consider it to be more valuable because of the attachment? NO, I do not! I owned a Continental MKII that was a gift from Elvis to the person I got it from. More valuable? NO! Interesting, Yes... Then there is the 1960 Cadillac Seville bought new by Jim Reeves (who?) This car has been magnificently restored to as new condition when Jim bought it. Jim's last car before he died in a plane crash back in 1964. The Cadillac was only 4 years old. It is now owned by a close friend of Jim's. Provenance, sure! But unless I mention one of Jim;s most famous songs, not many know who he was. More value? --- Sure to a person that has some connection to his song writing and can see the excellent condition of the Cadillac. Yes, I am an appraiser.
Roomer
Pit Crew

I think most of the people on this thread will know most/all of the people you mentioned!
Redenzo
Pit Crew

I have seen it go all over the place- Paul Walker's cars are a perfect example of how there can be a substantial price bump based on celebrity ownership- but in most cases just because Reggie Jackson once owned it is not going to be a significant vector in value. As was indicated- fame is fleeting so the halo of star power fades with time. What does remain is the history and provenance that adds to the story behind the cars, especially for race cars. A friend of mine told me that he only bought race cars based on their history, winning races and famous drivers which is something the no restoration can ever beat.
GoFaster
Pit Crew

I recall reading a story many years ago about Elvis purchasing a new 1971 Cuda, 340 automatic, for one of his mistresses. She drove the car but the title was in his name. The car had been restored, if my memory is correct, and the story was published in Mopar Collector's Guide. Having his name on the original title definitely increased the value.
Figgy308
Intermediate Driver

There was a feature in Mopar Action back in June 2016 on a 71 Cuda allegedly owned by Elvis. It was for sale but they issued an update that the Elvis title was "bogus".
AG1962
Instructor

“Masseur” Laval? I think you have been had by the eleckteronik spell-chucker, which clearly did not like the word “Monsieur”…
Zephyr
Instructor

Redd Foxx, not Red Fox.
db2sub1
Intermediate Driver

Several years ago at Mecum Kissimmee, the small Avon trailer gifted to Pamela Anderson (when she was HOT!!) by Hugh Hefner was auctioned. It had a stripper pole in the middle of a pink velvet circular bed and no kitchen, or bathroom. It also had a closet full of very sexy nighties. Man... It sold for a low $20k. Man... (ps. my wife forbade me to bid... lol)
DUB6
Specialist

Well, there's "fame" for many reasons - and many levels.  And then there's the "Pamela Anderson" reasons and levels.  Man, indeed...!  😋

PurelyPMD
Detailer

John Davidson owned two 69 Trans Am's - A RA III & a RA IV. Did his ownership add value to them - no. Had Steve McQueen owned them - sure.
Gary_Bechtold
Specialist

I would say to me who owned it would rarely be a positive or negative. If I like the car I like it regardless.
Tim2
Pit Crew

You can bet,if there were two identical cars for sale side by side,and one was 10 grand and the other was 100 grand because someone " famous" owned it, I would be buying the 10 grand car.celebrity means nothing to me.
Tsaxman
Advanced Driver

The fame leverage is relative. In the 1990s, I had a newly-restored 1968 KR convertible which I took to the SAAC show at FMC Headquarters in Dearborn. To my surprise and delight, when I walked around and looked at all the great cars, there were four or five other 1968 convertibles present. When it came time to give awards, I figured I would be good for at least third. There was an immaculate triple back one, rolled off a trailer on vintage Goodyear Speedway bias play tires. It was easily #1. Second place, I thought, would go to either mine or another similar condition KR, that looked more original than restored. It did win second place. I was guaranteed third, I thought. Nope. A clapped out, metallic lime green car took third. It even had the wrong air cleaner.

When I walked around again, after the ribbons were distributed, that nasty lime green car had the third-place ribbon, but also there was now a full-size cutout of Madonna, next to a framed copy of a previous registration. It seems that this was a car she gave to Sean Penn as a wedding gift, but somehow got back in the divorce, because here it was in Detroit. Damn that Ciccone family. I lost to DNA.

In a fake fit of mild disgust, I burned rubber with a wheel-hop on Michigan Avenue on my way out.
okfoz
Advanced Driver

So many times I think a good prop does a lot of the work for car shows. My sister used to have this life size stuffed doll she named "Lola" that she would put in her front seat at car shows. Lola resembled a human sized sock with eyes. There are other examples of people putting life-sized children dolls crying in front of their car, and people seem to be drawn to the obscure. I would bet that the life sized cutout had a lot to do with the voting in this situation. What you need is a life sized Darth Vader or something ridiculous, and simply put on the sign, "This car was never owned by Darth Vader, it is placed here to get your attention."
I have found that sometimes a little sign, maybe with a copy of the window sticker, or some information about the car will aid in getting attention.
DUB6
Specialist

This is spot on.  A local gentleman (now gone) had a '58 Biscayne Sedan Delivery.  Nice enough car, and relatively rare, but otherwise, not a particular "crowd-drawer".  But he would always arrive early for shows, 'cause it took him some time to set up all of the surf and Coca-Cola stuff that he had packed in the back.  When he was done, his display was like The Strip in Las Vegas: an eye-catcher for sure!  Then, when the show was over, he had to spend all that time in reverse, packing up his stuff (and quite often his "People's Choice" trophy).

mfp4073
Detailer

No doubt! I use a toy chicken in front of my Dodge at the shows. It gets laughs and sometimes the young kids (aged 3 to 10 range) try to steal it, so it now sits with a leash on it. The only connection to fame hear is that people say I look like Frank Purdue of the fresh chicken meat market business. There is more to this story but we will leave it there.
PorshaBoyLee356
Pit Crew

James Dean's long-lost Porsches...the 356 Super Speedster and the 550 Spyder.
Up until now....both have been MIA. This year.. announcements will be made regarding both Porsches. One has been found and is being restored....the other is still unaccounted for...however, a proposed media hunt may be in the offing. Lee Raskin, Porsche historian and James Dean biographer / author.