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:
In the summer of '73 I was driving a Boss 302, which sported a 289 2bbl under the hood. On a Saturday night my room mate and I were cruising campustown of an area university in it, and saw a Shelby GT500 convertible go by with dealer plates on it. The Sunday morning paper had the Shelby in an ad from the local Ford dealer and the price looked reasonable, so we went to take it for a test drive. Given the price they were asking, and what they were offering for the Boss in trade, (and the payoff on the loan on the Boss) I probably could have kept up the payments on the Shelby, and possibly could have bought enough gas to feed the 428. But being about a month shy of 21 years old at the time, I would have undoubtedly gone bankrupt trying to buy insurance for it. A few months later, after a couple of beers and just before the first oil embargo, I traded the Boss 302 on a 318 2bbl Charger, which was geared so high to try to get good gas mileage that it wouldn't hardly pull itself in 3rd gear, (would only do 5 mph faster than in 2nd) and got about the same mileage as my brother's 340 Duster.
To this day, I still wish I had ONE of those mustangs.
!969 was stationed in Berlin and bought a 1956 Porshe 356 Speedster for $500.00 and shipped it home, the roller crank snapped while downshifting at too high an RPM, rather than fix it I traded it in for a new Volvo, still kicking myself and then almost bought a Mercedes 280SE convertible in 1973 for $5000.00, didn't, mistake number 2, then I had a 1972 Mercedes 250 coupe which my wife made me sell for a new four wheel drive vehicle, 3 mistakes that I regret to this day.
I don’t have a story about “the one that got away” as I’ve been pretty fortunate in my car buying experiences. However, I do have a comment about your model car collection.
I see that you have both a DeLorean and a 300SL model. Did you know that John DeLorean adored the 300SL? He owned one, and the decision to build his cars with gullwing doors came from his love of the Mercedes.
In 1971 I bought a 1967 Ferrari 275GTB-4 long nose 4 cam from it's original owner Boyde Jeffries for $8,500.00 I drove the car for 9 months and really enjoyed, but didn't realize how really rare it was. I sold it for $8,200.00 witht he thought if I ever wanted another I would just go buy one. I had no idea that this car would be worth $3MM today. I do have a Ferrrari 575M Maranello now which is a modern day version of the 275 and much more driver friendly, with A/C and power steering & Brakes.
We had a lot of cars that got away, or rather cars that never got near us. My grandfather was a very successful Chevrolet & Oldsmobile dealer with 3 locations on eastern Long Island when a foreign car company approached him to take on their brand in the late 1950’s/ early 1960’s. He declined as he thought there wasn’t a market for the line.
Do you know how many Volkswagens were sold in the ensuing years?
All the cars that”got away”from my family’s fortunes that could have been..............
The oil embargo hit about the same time as I started driving. Everyone was dumping their muscle cars for something more economical. At one point there were 2 Superbirds and a Charger Daytona on the local used car lots. Any one could have been had for less than 2 grand. I looked and drooled every time I drove by in my 60 Dodge Dart Pioneer (something else I should have never sold). Even stopped by the lots to look a few times but for a high school kid bagging groceries after school it just wasn't in the cards.
An immaculate white 2002 BMW at the pick a part sales section in year 2000.Owned by woman,1 owner,it had a blown headgasket.Went home,spent the next day looking up how to do the repair,went back a day later and the 800 dollar beauty was long gone.
My Canadian Aunt lived much of her life in Cupertino, CA. My Uncle purchased her a '65 Mustang. She barely drove it. So it was spotlessly original and rust free. She died a while back and in her will instructed the executor (her neighbor and long-time friend) to give first right of refusal to family members. Being a car guy I was keen on getting my hands on the car. It didn't leave the factory as a special car, but it was special to me. I figured that even though it was a base 289 car, it had sentimental value. And with low miles and only two owners, it would have some market credibility. When I called the executor he told me that it was already sold. "What?" I said. "The will said that family has the first right of refusal". Just before he abruptly hung up he said: "I did sell it to family. My nephew bought it for $500."
In 1973, I had a 1970 340 Cuda which I had bought new. I got in an accident and the insurance company considered it totaled (even though it just had some front end damage). I could have kept it for $300 but I was getting married in a few months and figured $300 and the repairs charges would be better spent on the wedding. The one good thing is I'm been married to a wonderful woman for 47 years.
Yes, mine is not anywhere as amazing as this but, before our children were born (10 years into marriage) I owned a beautiful 1970 all original corvette 350/350. Car would screw a smile back on my face after a hard days work. But when we had the first kid, I couldn't get a baby seat in the back (could have sawed a few inches off the top) and my wife always said "it rides like a tractor" so off it went. It is worth three times (or more) what I sold it for. God I miss that car.
We were offered a Gullwing back in the early '70s. Hubby remembers the price as $8000, and I remembered it as $6000. Either way, we didn't have garage space, and we were vehicle poor with 3 cars and 1 airplane. Oh well. We did hang on to the ''64 Porsche 356 SC Sunroof Coupe, which was bought in '67, restored in '20-21, and graces our garage to this day. Can't sell it--it's our honeymoon car!
Fresh out of high school in the summer of '65, 3 buddies and I drove from Minnesota to Southern California to see the beaches, girls, and cars. I have pictures on my garage wall of all the cars I've owned, but the head shaker is a photo of ones I didn't, taken through the fence at the Shelby plant at LAX. If we had pooled all of our money, and borrowed another $3000, we could have purchased one of the 21 Shelby GT350's lined up outside the building. They're now going for somewhere around $350K. Or if we borrowed another $4000, we could have had one of the 13 427 Cobras (now worth $3M each) staring at us through the fence like purebred puppies waiting for owners. Instead, we all ended up driving mutts.
In 1985? while driving my Fiat X1/9 I caught glimpse of a Lamborghini Miura on a small car lot in Fresno, CA. The car was beautiful and sounded fantastic. I was only 20ish and in college, so the $26,500 was way out my price range. The dealer was nice enough to let me sit in the Miura and even fired it up. What a beautiful sound. That memory will never fade, although the price sure did!
My first job out of college (1980) was a Mercedes salesman in Warren, Ohio. I loved cars and that sales manager saw something...god knows what. I saw everything from a red Pantera to a stunning gold 280Se Convertible with 12,000 miles, various Porsches, 6.9 Mercedes SELs, and far more get traded through that dealership. Each car that I saw...I had the money, but was stuck on the '73 Trans Am I already had, and wanting the new White/Red leather 450SL I couldn't afford (then nearly new). Today, the T/A is gone, I have the immaculate '75 450 SL White/red leather which depreciated to the point I could buy it 10 years ago...but I still drool every time I watch The Hangover and lament not buying the 280SE. I am a lucky man...but "what if" still haunts me. BTW, I sold my 1957 Ford F-100 shortbed in 1993 and would love to find it and drive it again. If anyone has it....
55 years ago, I was in Houston on Thanksgiving Break from Texas Tech. As an avid car nut (my 1st car was a 120 Jag junker) with nothing to do, I wandered by Star Motor Cars (Mercedes dealer still there). On the showroom floor, fresh out of Stuttgart, was a pristine racing silver Gullwing, white leather interior with matched, fitted luggage, for $6000. I had $2500 for a down payment and fantasies of rolling up to a girl's dorm with the driver's door up (!). But then, a sliver of rational thought disspelled the fantasy: there was no one within 250 miles of Lubbock, Texas that could work on a Gullwing and I was just savvy enough to know that all Mercedes of that day were high maintenance on good day. And oh, by the way, with no roll down windows, the car isn't habitable for 6 months out of the year in Texas. So, with a wistful whimper, I walked away.
In the early '70's, while I was in the navy, a shipmate of mine had a pretty nice '59 Jaguar XK150S roadster. Due to some poor choices on his part, he got himself restricted to the ship for a few months. One day when returning to the ship, I noticed his Jag was no longer sitting in the usual place in the parking lot. (I had been thinking about offering to buy it since it was sitting on 4 flat tires by then.) When back on board the ship, I asked my friend where his Jag was -- he said he had sold it. Sold it?? Without letting me know? Yep, sorry. How much did you sell it for? $400. Huh? Seriously?? Yep.
I still think about that Jag as one that got away
1982 I had a repair shop. Customer came in with a '63 Split window Stingray for a repair in the turn signal switch. Offered me the car ( all original ) for $2000. I have kicked myself ever since, but family came first at that time.
I knew a neighbor who's son had been arrested & incarcerated. The son owned a 1968 dark green with a white top Shelby GT500 convertible & it was a 4-speed & his dad was trying to sell it for $7500. This was 1971 & for me way too much money. Who knows, it might have turned me into a Ford man.
I was 22 years old, rolling in dough, single and had a great paying job. Some sailor came back from Europe with a baby blue, 1958 Gulwing with no, no flaws. He would park it on Grand Ave. In Waukegan, Ill and put it up for sale. Asking price $ 5000. I wanted it and was chastised by my father, my girlfriend and few friends for wanting to pay 5 grand for a 6 year old car with 35,000 on the clock. I finally capitulate. OMYG. Never did again. Sad.
The only positive my girlfriend has been my wife for 56 years.
You never know. Jim
It was 1980 and I was on business down in McAllen, TX. Driving my rental one evening I passed a used car dealer and there under the lights was a beautiful yellow De Tomaso Mangusta.
I’d been out of college a few years and was working, so I had some investments and a worn ’68 GT350 and a ’70 E-Type back up North and had run out of garage space. I anguished how to quickly pull together the $20,000 asking price and then get it back to the Chicago area...And then where to garage it.
The logistics of it all got to me so I relented and sadly walked away and never saw it again.
Later, I got married and the new, and future ex-wife, “advised” she would be taking up a spot in the garage and one of my cars had to go. The Shelby lost the toss and headed out the door for $2,500. Granted it did need work but had a beautiful redone NOS interior. I had bought it in college for $2500 though and at the time I thought at least I broke even.
Luckly the Jag roadster still holds a spot in the garage and it’ll never ever be leaving regardless of anything or anyone who holds also may hold a place alongside it in my heart...
Never mind the “aging gracefully” silver Gullwing I once saw parked near a Shelby meet back in the day. The owner’s price $60,000.
My Dad had a 300SL get away from him in the very early 60s it had some minor crash damage from what I was told but $5000. He had 3 or 4 of us and a mortgage. Maybe made $5000 a year ? Oddly enough though I do not remember our family never having at least one Mercedes. We drove around the country in a 0319D Bus/camper in the late 60s early 70s. My first car past down from 2 older siblings was a 59 190 gas my little sister got it next. My mom was nearly killed in a 190 diesel...probably not because they had seat belts ? Back to the 0319d bus my dad's uncle and cousin also had one each. The cousin's was stolen from Fort Benning and never recovered ? How do you not find that unicorn ? I became what you would call a Mercedes tech in the early 80s and built about 100 aluminum V8s, 380, 420, 500, 560s . The car that got away from me...1969 600 SWB limo. 58,000 miles and I bought it in 2002 only kept it for a year ? Still miss it . I think one of the top 10 cars ever made.
My family did not have" one that got away", but "an entire manufacturer that got away" in the late 1950's or early 1960's.
My grandfather was a sucessful Chevrolet & Oldsmobile dealer with 3 locations in eastern long island when a foreign car company asked him to take on their line. He decided against it saying the car would never sell.
Do you have any idea how many Volkswagens were sold in the 1960's & 1970"s ?
The 'ones that got away" !!
When I was a kid, the local Plymouth dealer had a brand-new Superbird that languished in a back storage lot for years. I first found it while riding a bike through the rows of new cars in 1974... At the time I didn't know what it was, but a salesman told me about the car and how it came to be created by Plymouth.
Somehow this small town dealership in rural WV had gotten one - complete with a Hemi and a 4 speed - with the intent of selling it to a wealthy gentleman that had a stable of hemi powered cars he had previously bought from the dealership... but he balked.
So it went on the sales floor and the price proved too high for the townsfolk. Gas prices spiked and nobody was buying gas hogs, so it was moved to the back lot and sat there for years. I heard that it sold to an out-of-towner that spotted it while passing through town.
Years later, when I had gotten my drivers license and my first hotrod (a 69 Road Runner), I took it to a local car show, and I parked it next to another Road Runner. The owner was the gentleman with all the Hemi-powered cars I'd heard about 4 or 5 years earlier. His RR was a hell of a lot nicer than the modified mess of a ride I had bought... its 383 smoked, the transmission slipped, the seats were torn up, but it still spun the tires, and that was all my 17 year old self needed in a car.
So, it turned out that he had 5 Hemi cars in total - a GTX, a Charger, a Road Runner, and a 'cuda. He told me the 70 'cuda was the reason he didn't have the money to buy the 70 Superbird. But to me, the coolest car he had was a Coronet station wagon with a Hemi and a 4-speed. He said he ordered it with that drivetrain to tow his Airstream on vacations. I bet it towed the hell out of it!
He said that if he ever sold any of his cars, he'd let me know. After college, I joined the Navy. When I returned home from a deployment in the late 80s, I stopped to see him and his wife told me that he had died unexpectedly and she had sold his cars to a collector.
In 1973 my father bought a 1967 RS/SS Camaro, Mountain Green w/ a black bumblebee stripe, 350 w/automatic and AC from a buddy who was going through a divorce. We lived in Reno at the time, and I was given the honor of firing it up every morning to get it warmed up before my mom would drive my sister and I to school with a foot of snow on the ground. Our driveway was flat and straight about 200 feet long, so I always made sure that axle and transmission fluids were warmed up as well. Pure heaven for a 12-year-old kid, and sparked a life-long love for those cars. My dad traded it in for a brand new 1974 CJ5. There it went. It was the only one that “got away”, but at least – I -- got to enjoy it for a short while. I’m on Camaro number 12 now, a 68 RS with factory AC. It’s got to go though, dad just had a debilitating stroke, and the mortgage is more important.
In 1976, at the age of 20, I had a decent paying factory job and decide I was going to buy a Corvette. It came down to a $6000 '63 split-window red coupe and a Elkhart green $5500 '72 with t-tops. The '63 was a driver and a little rough around the edges, while the '72 was in excellent condition. I bought the '72, a car the I loved and enjoyed, and eventually got married, bought a house, then traded it in even up on a new '80 F-100 pickup. Should I have bought the '63? Probably, in light of today's value, but in practicality would probably have caused it to turn into a pickup as well. Hindsight.
@hyperv6 Correction: there were people who wanted a Dino in the '80s. I was one. At the time, I recall that $15K was just out of reach. By the time $15K was affordable, they were $25K. Then $35K. Then $100K. Now, $200K +/-. This car has always just sprinted ahead just out of my grasp. Somewhere around the $100K mark, I determined it wasn't meant to be.
I'd say we probably all had one that got away. I ordered and bought a new brewster green Trans Am in 1973. I wanted the SD 455 while my wife wanted AC. You couldn't get both together. Let's just say the AC has been nice to have over the 47 years of ownership. But I often think "what if?" The car would be worth twice what it is with the standard 455. And yes, I still have the TA.
Really enjoyed this article, I have a story of my own to add here. My dad was almost killed in 1966 when a 1962 Impala hit his door at about 40 MPH, he was driving a 1962 VW bug. To add insult to injury (literally, 3 weeks in the hospital for my dad!) the young lady driving the Impala was the Police Chief's daughter! Anyway, our family decided to have us a bigger car, so dad bought a 1963 Rambler station wagon, 6 cylinder, auto, push button shifter on the left side of the steering wheel on the dash. As a 7 year old, I thought that was kinda COOL! My dad also decided we needed a 2nd vehicle, he bought a 1957 Chevy two-door post, 283, 3 on the tree, with 2 4-barrels! My dad and I spent lots of hours "tinkering" under the hood of that ratty, old '57 Chevy trying to help out on gas mileage with NO LUCK! Purchase price, $175.00 and later sold it for $275.00 thinking he had made lots of money, keep in mind this was 1967! Fast forward to 1990's sometime, my dad and I were walking through a swap meet and dad spotted a small block Chevy intake with 2 4-barrel set up. Asking PRICE $1200.00! He laughed and said "Might should have kept that old '57, huh??" One of my "one that got away" stories!
The two that I think "got away" were both in the summer of 1972. While in the Army, I was driving a 1960 Chevy Bel Air with about 100K on the clock. In those days at 100k, most cars were pretty well worn out and mine was rusty too so I started looking for a replacement.
A guy in my unit was driving a '66 Impala SS, 390HP 427, auto, bench seat column shift with PS,PB and a radio. It had 80,000 miles and was in real nice shape. He wanted $600. I thought the mileage was to high so I passed.
I started shopping local for something with less miles and found a '69 Chevelle SS 396 with 60,000 miles (high for a three year old car) at the local AMC dealer. Like the Impala, it was bare bones....bench seat, column shift, PS, PB and a radio. They wanted $2000. I offered $1825. Neither of us would budge so I went down the road and bought a brand new '72 Nova Coupe with a V8 and three on the tree for $2500.
I still have the Nova but I think either of the other two would have been the better investment.
I still live my 'one-that-got-away' story, but it is not all sad. In the early '70s I bought a 1965 Volvo 544, because I always loved the looks and the bullet-proof driveline. My first 544, a 1961, actually saved my life in a vicious wreck because it had shoulder harnesses! I was a mechanic apprentice at a Volvo dealer in Oshawa, ON, Canada. I loved everything foreign that moved and got a hankering for a British sports car. Still had the 544, mind you. I looked at MGB's and Triumphs but ended up with a 1960 Austin-Healey 3000, an early roadster, two-seater only. It was going to need some work, but drove well as long as you fed it lots of Castrol 20W50 oil, every 400 miles. I loved that car. Made great sounds with my buddy's TR6 as we did laps of the town every night. I paid $1200 for it. But I decided to buy a house, and it was inevitable that either the 544 or the Healey was going to have to go. The Volvo was a use-anytime-anywhere vehicle, where-as the Healey was restricted in its usability. And it was in tear-down mode as I had removed the cylinder head in anticipation of doing a ring job. It was also going to need body work, as the aluminum and steel components were fighting each other. There was no way I had the funds to do the proper things with this, as it turns out, rare car. So I sold it, for $800 as-is.
Fast forward to the present, the Healey is probably worth $80-90 grand now. The 544? I would be lucky to get $14 grand for it on a good day. Makes no difference, it is not for sale. It had been my daily driver in its time, my competition car, my cherished ride for 50 years now, and it is going nowhere. I miss the Healey, but it would never had stood up to the style of my driving. And I probably couldn't have kept up with the maintenance on it, especially the body. The 544 has turned out to be the ultimate usable classic; only thing better might be a Volvo 122/Amazon, but I will keep pounding my 544.
In 1976 I was a Urology resident and the head of the department had a 1955 300 SL he wanted to sell because he was having maintenance problems. He wanted $12,000. I wanted to buy it but with a wife and two kids plus the fact that 12k was my annual salary, I passed. I have regretted it ever since but not as much as my chief who several years later claimed it was the biggest mistake he ever made. He sold it to an ENT resident who had family money.
I too, have a lamentable 300SL gull wing story. In 1969 I was in the service, stationed in Arlington, VA. There was a well-worn 300SL Gull wing for sale for $7000. I remember sitting in it, climbing over the enormous sill, seeing the thread bare carpeting and inhaling the leather smell...dreaming. But a PFC, being just married with a wife who justly could not see the dream, I had to pass up that treasure. I can still feel the confines and steering wheel and leather seating of that old car today. Shouda, woulda, coulda.
Two sad stories
In 1956 my dad passed on a 1948 Tucker Torpedo for $1800 because there were no dealers.
In 1976 I passed on a 1955 Mercedes 300 SL for $12,000 because it wasn’t practical.
Must be a genetic defect.
This story isn’t in the Ferrari/Mercedes realm but a couple of years ago I saw a 1960 Corvair listed in an estate auction. The car had about 30,000 miles on it and was in near new condition. I have been driving Corvairs since the 70s and 1960s are kind of unique in the Corvair world and have their own following. But I thought that several people would probably bid on it and having been outbid in auctions before, decided not to attend. Well, no one has bid on the car so the auctioneer paid $300 for it, tuned it up and resold it for $1400. Sigh....
It was 1963, and I was 11. My father was a master sergeant in the Air Force we were stationed in the Netherlands. His captain was being transferred back stateside and was selling his 300 SL gullwing because he didn't want to jump through the hoops of shipping the car to the United States. I believe it was in 1960 model and he was asking $6500.
Dad came home one evening all fired up and announced he was going to buy the car. Before the evening was over my mother managed to douse the flames and stomp out the last of the embers. She explained to him over and over, how ridiculous it would be to spend that much money, money we could ill afford, on a car that only had two seats. Besides, we had a perfectly nice 1962 Plymouth Belvedere we were still making payments on. Sanity prevailed, we passed up on one of the finest automotive investments ever to come down the pike. Oh well, mom was a sweetheart and had many fine traits. 😉