Every family has a story of “The Car that Got Away” — or they should have one, at least. Mine involved missing out on a car whose value then increased eighteen times over. My family had what some say is the most collectible sports cars ever. One of only 167 built. One that often sells for well over a million dollars nowadays. We just didn’t get a phone call in time ... Read the full article on Hagerty.com:
I got to spend time with Frank Bank Lumpy of Leave it to Beaver fame one week at Hot August Nights in 2004.
Frank was a guy who loved cars but was more an investor than car guy. We were taking about the cars at the auction there. He really wanted to find one.
I told him about the car that got away from me. In 1985 I was offered a Dino in prime condition for $15,000. This was at a time when no one wanted one.
I had just bought my Fiero and was just finishing collage. I needed something as a daily driver and here in the rust belt an Italian car with high required maintenance just was not a wise move for a kid. I told Frank I still regretted not buying it.
He said don’t cry too hard. When he was younger he owned a Gullwing Benz. He bought it from Tim Considine of My Tree Sons. He kept it for years and one day he was offered $120,000 for it. His wife said sell it you will never get more than that for it.
In 2004 he still felt the pain of the missed opportunity.
I think we all have cars we passed on with regret.
I had a second chance with a Pantera at $16,000. My buddy had two and said get one now as they will be $30,000 grand soon. Well they are much more than that.
Note I still have the Fiero. Now don’t get me wrong as I have had a life time of memories with the Fiero. But Some day I will buy the right rare car at the right time.
In 1970 I was looking for a Porsche Speedster to replace the one I had that was totaled by a guy who ran a stop sign in his brand new Pontiac. I went to look at a prospect, a former race car. No rust, nice straight car. No engine, no top or windshield. Perfect because I had all the needed parts from the crashed Speedster. Price was $300. I didn't have the cash on me (foolish 19 year old kid) and offered a substantial deposit. The seller said, "That's OK kid, I trust you. Come back tomorrow with the money, I'll hang on to it for you." I called the next day to tell him I was on the way and you know the rest. The guy says, "Well a guy showed up with cash in hand so I sold it to him." Lesson learned the hard way. I found an engineless 356A coupe for $300 and threw my engine it that, figuring it was a stopgap car and resolving to continue the Speedster search. Speedster values started moving up and were always just a little ahead of my wallet. I looked at some wonderful $1500 Speedsters I couldn't afford so it's a story of many cars that got away. Today I'm sitting about 20 feet from that same old stopgap '57 356A coupe getting ready to celebrate 50 years of looking for a replacement Speedster.
Around 1972 in north Atlanta I heard about a crunched 289 Cobra for sale near my home. It was parked behind a gas station a block from my best friends house and the aluminum nose was flattened from an encounter with a wall but the frame appeared to be straight. The owner was asking $2400 for it - I offered $1600, then $1800 and probably could have bought it for $2100 but I had no idea how to fix the bodywork and decided not to buy it since I was trying to fix up the Porsche 356A Carrera coupe I had bought the year before. I should have just bought the Cobra and stuck in storage until I could find some one who could fix it. As it turns out another friend of mine later introduced me to one of his friends who had been a panel beater at Aston Martin. Robbie would make replacement Cobra bodies from sheet aluminum using his English wheel and various other hand tools. By then the Cobra was long gone.
In around 1984 I had an Ally bodied 6 carb Ferrari 275 GTB which had been supplied new to Bernard White’s Team Chameco Collect and delivered personally to him at Le Mans in 1966 by Col. Ronnie Hoare. When delivered it was Connaught Green (BRG) with a spare set of Borrani wire wheels. All this information was supplied to me by Maranello Concessionaires. I have no idea whether it was ever used in anger by Mr Whites racing team but that by implication was the intention. When I owned the car it had been resprayed red but other than that was original. I used it for a couple of years including competition events such as the Brighton Speed Trials and a full season of historic sports car racing. In 1986/7 I had the opportunity to purchase an industrial unit for £100k and needed £20k deposit for the finance. At the time I was being offered circa £12k by dealers for the Ferrari but an advert in MotorSport magazine brought a phone call from a Belgian gentleman by the name of Armand Blaton who had a brother called Jean Blaton who raced very successfully at Le Mans under the pseudonym “Beurleys” and was well placed driving a 275 GTB in the same spec as mine. He paid my £20k asking price and car went from the U.K. to Belgium and I bought my factory unit. All’s well except four years ago I sold the building for £400k and the Ferrari is probably worth circa £1.5m. Some you win......,, Grrrrr!
Back in 1960 my dad could have bought a Duesenberg (not sure if it was a model J or SJ) for $2500. At that time, that was a princely sum to pay all at once. A full size car was about the same money. He just couldn't afford it. He kicked himself for many years after. And, as someone said, we lived in Illinois- would the Duesy have survived the crappy weather (we would have had to store it outside). Sigh...
Reminds me back in early 80s I came across a convertible car I thought was really neat. I was still a few years away from getting my license. On occasion I would miss my bus and walk to school and sitting in the drive way of the two flat house was a 71 Convertible Cuda 340 4 speed car. Car had a some rust spots and faded paint so looked kinda bad with primer and two different shades of blue to try to blend in previous work. Interior and top were pretty worn too. I had been working odd jobs to save for dirt bike and wanted to buy the car. But needed the other half of the $300 asking price. My parents were divorced, so money was tight with my mom. My dad thought it was a waste of money on crappy old Plymouth. The car sold in a few months. Few years later I came across a 68 Road Runner that I bought in the mid 80s. Drove it hard and put it away wet. Needs total restoration now, but I still own it.
Sad but great story. Funny how family members think they know what is best for others in the family. I'm sure you are not the only family who had this happen to them.
In the early 80's a friend of mine had a 71 Hemi Cuda convertible. It was triple black. When I asked him what he wanted for it, he said 10k. I told him he was crazy, that's about twice what it cost new. Little did I know. He also had a 66 Hemi Charger that he sold for $500.
My father's best friend was the Ford dealer in our small Iowa town...the dealer had taken in trade a 1953 Corvette from a young fellow who did not like the poor performance...the dealer told Dad it was "the car for him" so he loaned it to Dad for a day...that evening Dad put the top down and we drove up to the town north of us and back...it was my first ride in a convertible and I still remember how thrilling it was...Dad was offered the Corvette for $1,500.00 but he told me could not afford it as there were bills to pay...so it was returned to the dealer...as an avid Corvette fan I still dream about that missed opportunity...
Boy.. that sounds familiar. In 1962 or 1963 (I had just begun to drive and so had started reading the Cars for Sale section of the Chicago Tribune) I saw and ad for a 1955 300 SL, asking price $5500. Somewhere I had seen an SL before, and knew enough about to know that was a good deal, even then. I immediately showed it to my dad, who shrugged, knowing helping him invest his money was not my main goal. It was, kinda. But I had my eye on driving it, obviously.
Several years earlier, maybe 1959 or 1960 he had taken me with him when he looked at a 1958 Porsche Carrera. British Racing Green (?) and a tan interior. He passed on that too. He could be an unnecessarily cruel man.
Eventually he settled on a 1963 Corvair Monza, small engine and a three speed. For him, this was a huge advance. But, it was white and not the standard blue/grey color he usually went with, and it had a red interior and bucket seats. It was just enough to shut me up, which I think was the plan. But I have never forgotten the passes he took on the SL and Porsche.
in 1972 Ray Koch, the former Harley dealer in Denver told my friend and I that he had three motorcycles for sale. A model 841 Indian shaft drive military, a 1929 Indian 101 Scout and a 1948 Harley WR racer. $500.00 ea. Take your pick. My friend bought the 841 and I had $20.00 on me to buy four brand new 1938 Harley kidney belts (two men's and two women's). The belts were in a piled up 3 feet high another room. Don't even ask about the 1947 Knucklehead that we missed the year before for the princely sum of $250.00. Bone stock and running. Being a broke teenager really sucked back then.
Portland, Maine - 1972. Classified ad in the local newspaper. 1959/60 MB 190SL, grey, red interior. $500. Turns out it was owned by a young doctor in town. It was his father's car. Gorgeous car except that the lowest 4" of it was largely missing. Loads of rust. I walked away. Saw that car around town for years after that, restored by the next owner...
A guy that traded at my Dad's service station in east Texas stopped by once and told him about an old race car down in Kilgore that he thought was for sale if Dad was interested. Dad said he was and the guy got back to him a couple of weeks later with the owners phone number and address. We went down to see it the following Friday. A nice, well preserved Lotus 18, for $3,300 (this was in 1990 if I remember). Dad offered him $3,000 and the guy said no. Well, we told the guy we'd think on it over the weekend. Dad called him Monday morning to tell him we'd go ahead at take it at $3,300.
The guy said he sold it over the weekend for his asking price. Turns out the enclosed trailer it was sitting in was included in the deal. Here is a car that has been sitting for years (decades), unknown and not for sale. We go look at it and it gets sold on the same weekend.
Well it bothered me as to why such a car would be way out in east Texas so I started digging (this the early days of the internet). Turns out, there was an "international" race at the Kilgore airport in the early 60's and this car had participated in the event. Owned and driven by
In the early 1970s, my Dad was a college professor in a small town in Nebraska. A fellow professor was moving and had a white, 1960 Jaguar Mark II sedan for sale. It wasn't running and he wanted $300 for it. My brothers and I (there were four or us) begged him to let us buy it, but Dad said we could never keep a Jaguar running in rural Nebraska. He was probably right but every time I see an old Mark II, I think of that Jag sitting in the professor's driveway!
And then there was the early 1964 AC Cobra with a 260 that I could have bought in the fall of 1995 for $2995. My father asked me, "Why do you want that *** **** thing?"
My answer was the expected replies but all his mind heard was something I didn't say but was probably the truth, "Gee, dad, I'm almost 16. I want to go out and kill myself."
High performance cars do not belong in the hands of low performance drivers.
2995? I think you have the dates wrong. They were 6 figures around 1995. As a longtime Shelby owner(1984) I have been following Cobras for decades when a 427 was 35K in 1980. A friend bought a original paint 1 owner 427 Street Cobra for 225K in 1992(He has turned down 1.4 million a few years ago and it sits on loan in the Gilmore Museum in Mi)I Told my Uncle in 1980 to buy one instead of a DeLorean he was thinking about buying and putting away. He bought neither. Before he passed in 1998 I reminded him of 427 Cobra values and why he should have bought one to put away.
Of course part II of this story... what did the neighbor do? Did they buy it because they loved it, or because they knew what a special car it was and then they made a tidy profit? Since these cars are so rare and coveted, you could likely be able to trace the history on the car.
If that 300SL got sold to a neighbor I wonder if I saw it exiting a highway ramp when I was out visiting my sister in Alamo about 10 years ago? Looked just like this one and at the time made my day!
In 1978 I came across a 1970 Plymouth Road Runner owned by a co-worker.
this car was a sleeper with Rally rims and didn't look like anything special.
Under the hood was a 440 with six pack carbs. It had ram air induction through a scoop on the hood that was operated by a switch on the dash. The car was glass black with no lettering or numbers on the outside of the vehicle. It was automatic with a shift kit and line locks on the front brakes. Under the hood on the wheel wells were painted three deuces to represent the three two barrel carbs ( Six pack). I took this car for a drive and it would lift the front wheels when you manually shifted into second gear. when I went to put insurance on the car before finalizing the deal I found out that it was going to cost me $3000.00 to insure a car that I was paying $3000.00 for. Regretfully I had to walk away. In retrospect I should have bought the car anyway and insured it for fire and theft. not sure what storage would have cost until I had enough driving experience to get cheaper insurance. Oh well!!!!!
Upon further reflection and reading some of the other stories, Maybe I was too hard on myself. If Hagerty grades on a curve, I might be still in the running for the middle of the pack. Car I mentioned was in 1974 when fresh out of high school, after taxes and union dues, I was clearing about $99 a week.
The year after high school graduation, my best friend and I were out shopping used car lots for muscle cars. In the post -gas embargo era of 1976-'77, there were deals everywhere. As an example, we bought a 1967 GTO, with a 389 and 2 speed automatic from an older couple for $500. My buddy drove it for 6 months and sold it for $600, so we thought this was great. We would sometimes combine our finances to buy more expensive rides - like a 1969 Chevelle 396 4 speed for $800. Well, on this particular day of car hunting we found a clean 1970 Nova Yenko Deuce, in metallic green. The asking price? $2500. We balked, having something near that amount between the 2 of us, but deciding it was too much. We went down the road and found a Dodge Demon Wedge 340 - 4 speed, missing a front bumper, but for a much more affordable $750. The Yenko, had we bought it would have likely been flipped quickly for a few hundred bucks, but it is fun to contemplate having kept it...
It was 1968 and I was just out of college and working as an engineer at Pratt and Whitney Aircraft in Hartford, Ct. At the time, I was driving a 1968 AMX and had just become engaged. My Fiance, Barbara, needed a car and I had my eyes open for anything reasonable with low miles. One day, I stopped at a friends gas station to fill up and he informed me he had a used 1957 Gullwing that was available for $5000.00. Although a significant amount of money in that day, I saw an opportunity and asked Barbara if she would like to take a look. She came up to Hartford from New York the next weekend and we paid a visit to Rogers Gulf Station. A quick look at the Benz and she decided that "those funny doors" just didn't cut it. A remark from Roger, that he was having trouble finding a fuel pump diaphragm (he claimed it was leather, but I never confirmed if that was true) cinched the "non deal" and we walked away. I am a little ashamed to admit, a week later I found a 1959 Rambler with 13k miles for $350, put a new set of tires on it and everybody was smiling. Don't think for a moment, that every time I see a Gullwing at an auction, I do not hesitate to remind my wife of our ill fated decision.
For me, when I was in high school, it was a retired machinist in my neighborhood that had restored to 100 points a Type 43A Bugatti. There was no way I could talk my Dad into $20k, so it went to **bleep** Teague of American Motors (and later, the Red Barn Museum in Kalamazoo)
The year is 1972, my Sr. year in high school. My Jr. year US History teacher’s wife and her first husband road rallied. She got the car but her new husband wasn’t a car guy so they decided to sell her 1961 Bugeye Sprite. The top was off of the car and the head had been removed for a valve job. I was in auto shop for 3hr every day so, no problem.
The problem was, I was a young guy who wanted to have something to drive right now and decided to buy a 1965 Pontiac LeMans, 326, 4bbl on an Edelbrock, centrifugal clutch, T10 4spd and HiPro rear end instead.
That was the day I paid $675 for a Pontiac instead of $80 for the Sprite!
A few years later I saw a salvage yard was offering a ‘61 Sprite for sale so I went to check it out. This one was complete not running with the top on. With the top on, that’s important. Not because I lived in the rainy NW but because at 6’1” I could not get into the drivers seat!
”The One That Got Away” became a “Dodged Bullet” that day!
In 1972, I had a '68, 4.2 liter E-Type roadster but, no removeable hardtop. A shabby little used car lot around the corner from the building I worked in in downtown Oklahoma City had an E-Type on the lot with a hardtop. I went in to see if the owner would sell the hardtop to me (he did). Sitting next to his E-Type was a 300SL roadster. $8,200. I cannot say it "got away" because I could never have afforded $8,200.00. I was struggling with the $3,400 I paid for the E-Type. The SL was a fixer-upper, too. If only my roommates and I had pooled our resources . . . If only I might have persuaded my Dad to buy it! If only. Incidentally, Dad was a WWII figher pilot. In about 1958, a pal of his called to inform him that the Canadian Air Force was selling "surplus" P-51 Mustangs for $800.00, and they should each go up there and get one. Dad replied that he could - just - afford the plane but, not the fuel to fly it! And passed. Sigh.
In 1967 mine-that-got-away was a 1949 Chrysler Highlander Convertible (grey exterior, red plaid interior). The owner was an eccentric local groceryman who rarely drove the car. He was related to close family friends. After he passed away and it became time to sell I got first dibs.... for $75. The car had sat idle in his garage for a good while. It wasn't running at the time. The owner had a reputation in town for, shall we say, being very 'conservative' with his money. That said, as a wheeless 17 year old I was super enthused to buy it. My dad, a very practical person, looked the car over closely. When he showed me the dipstick he looked me straight in the eye and said: Son, this is a problem. Which was his way of saying: No way are you buying this car. 14 years and several other vehicles owned later, I did buy a different classic that didn't get away. Thought about that old Chrysler's potential a good bit over the years but "letting" that one get away was ultimately a very good thing.
When I was 14 (1973), a yellow '70 or '71 Torino 429 Cobra Jet with three pedals and a blown engine came in and sat out front for many weeks. I asked my Dad to buy it for me ($1000) as a father/son fix up project. He said no. I probably would've killed myself anyway, and I'm sure that was his thoughts as well. So I can relate to Tim's story.....
In 1968 my brother, fresh out of college and heading to Washington, D.C. for a government job, found a 1959 190SL of his dreams in the Cleveland area. Within 5 years the floors were about gone. So, the "rust belt" winters were very hard on M-B products of that era.
I too have missed or sold what thought were "worthless" cars.
Bought a 55 bel-air coupe v8/auto, because had nice interior, needed front tin, for $35.
took out the interior for a different car & junked rest for $10. return.
Had a factory 64 malibu ss coupe, bought from orig owner, had 327/350hp (not available till 65, but numbers match car), 4spd, 4.56 posi. Bought for $2200 in 66, sold in 71 for $2500. thought made a killing...wrong !
The malibu was sold because I wanted to buy"sportier" car. Looked at 67 bb/4spd corvette roadster (2 tops), 289 shelby cobra (were no replicas back then) and 63 jag e-type coupe, all around the same $2500. price. Bought the Jag (oh stupid me) was the worst car ever owned, was always broken & parts very hard to get. Only kept for about 6mo & sold for around price paid.
Bought a 66 deville convert, which became my daily driver.
All this time my ex-wife was driving a 66 caprice coupe, which I bought in late 69, paid $2200. for. Saw on chevy dealer used lot...according to dealer had had for some time, couldn't get interest in to sell, since was 427/425, 4 speed, ac, buckets, console, triple black. Ended up totaled by insurance co, due to rear ended in traffic, think got about $1800. for. The deville now became the ex's daily driver, (she hated the car) since I had acquired a company car as daily driver, was a 70 malibu coupe, when came time to replace by company, refused offer to purchase for $750.
Deville was sold in early 74, due to first "gas shortage" sold for about $1500 & took 3 months to sell.
In 98 was negotiating back and forth with a used dealer on a 57 corvette, was older "restoration" but ok car. On friday, we were about $250. apart on price, thought would call back on Mon and buy for his price, if dealer had not accepted my price. Called Mon - was sold on Saturday.
Now have McBurnie California Daytona on C3 chassis ... maybe will have learned my lesson by this time...but you never know.