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Hagerty Employee

The missed phone call that cost our family $915,000

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


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Back in the 1960's when my 1957 Pontiac Catalina convertible was fairly hot stuff, I was perusing a used car lot that I knew had a regular turn over of new GM cars, 4 speeds usually, that the owner would use to street race the local cool stuff was on the I looked around a mechanic approached the sales Mgr and  said" What do I do with this car we just got in, it won't hold paint for crap!" I turned to see a Mercedes 300SL aluminum bodied coupe with crappy paint....I got on the phone (rotary dial in a phone booth) and said to my dad the Dr., I thought that  he might be interested....."We don't need a foreign piece of crap in the garage!"  He hadn't been to Elkhart Lake yet, and neither had I.....


New Driver

Late 1960's.  Ferrari 250 GTO. $7,000.  Ex Rodriguez bros.  My dad turned it down.  Ex racecar w too much bondo used to repair it he said.  I think the car was shown a few years ago at the Louvre by Ralph Lauren.


In the late 60's as a teenager we lived in a large 14 story apartment building in a ten building complex in Vailsburg (Newark, NJ). It was sketchy back then and much more so now. A resident would park his faded red 300SL gull wing in the huge unfenced and no access control  parking lot. Cars were stripped and stolen on a regular basis. It was still there a couple of years later when I moved out to go to college. Never went back and have always wondered what happened to it.


My story took place in 1973 and involves a red/black/black 1962 E-Type roadster. It was early in the summer of my 16th year and having paying job and a lifelong obsession with cars I was perusing the classifieds and came across the above car with an asking price of $875.  I didn't have the money, but had saved up $560 from my first real job.  It was my expectation as well as my parents, that I would't buy a car till I could pay cash.  However, even then, the price seemed low, and so I wasn't expecting much of the car, but I was curious.  I fully expected to find a car sitting in a field with corn (I grew up in Kansas) growing up through the middle of it.  I gathered a friend and we drove over to take a look.  The owner lived in a trailer park and as we drove up we saw a beautiful XKE setting on the car pad.  I assumed this was his "keeper" and he must want to sell his "parts" car.  I knocked on the door and he answered and pointed to the car on the pad and let us know that was the car for sale.  He showed us a pile of receipts for work already completed.  The only thing I could see wrong with the car is the door panels were in the trunk, even though they looked fine. It was beautiful, long and sleek, sparkling chrome wire wheels, but I didn't have the money. 


So I thought about it for a few days and came to the conclusion that this was too good to pass up.  I approached my parents about the possibility of borrowing the remaining money from them.  I pointed out I had a job and had been saving money steadily.  It took a few days, but they acquiesced. Yes! I could see myself motoring down the road in great British fashion. 


They asked about the car and I described it and as I did my mother's smile melt from her face.  Why would I buy a 10 year old car?  It had to be junk, would never run, would end up being a piece of junk in the driveway.  Bubble popped, but gears turning.  It took another three or four days, but I convinced her that we could take the car to a shop and let them go through the car searching for any problem areas.  Yes, she agreed!  I was going to pilot Sir William Lyons finest. 


My Dad stated he would drive over to look the car over on his lunch hour.  He as for a description and I described the gleaming red paint and black convertible top.  My mother was aghast, " A  rag top?  You can't have a rag top, you'll kill yourself!"  Mind you, I had a restricted license and had been riding a motorcyle on the street since I was 14. Another couple of days passed before I presented a solution, a roll bar.  I pointed out to them that I had been a fervent seat belt wearer since I started driving (not so much due to concerns for safety as much as my main transportation being equipped with a bench seat that I would slide across if I cornered in my usual aggressive hit the apex method and didn't have the seatbelt holding me in place). My dad backed me up, I did always wear my seatbelt and the rollbar would protect me in event of a rollover.  She relented.  


The next day we were all to go over as a family and look the car over. During the two weeks since I had first seen the car I had driven by and seen it was still available.  I called the owner late on a Saturday morning only to be told he had sold the car earlier that morning.  Defeat.  The obstacles I'd overcome only to see the bubble popped on last time.


Later that summer, again perusing the Sunday classifieds, I came across an ad that described a car that sounded like the same car, asking price  $1450.  A week later, same ad, asking price $1650.  This price was way out of my range as $1.65/hr flipping hamburgers at McDonald's did not lend itself to a growing car fund quickly.  The following Sunday there was no ad and I assumed the car had been sold, however the next Sunday, three weeks after being offered at $1450, it was again in the classifieds, this time at $1875.  Again, curiousity drove me to go take a look.  It was the same car, only now the door panels were in place.  I pointed out that I had looked at the car earlier that year and asked why the price was changing weekly.  He just laughed and stated he kept finding the car was worth more than he originally asked.  I don't know if people were offering his asking price only to have him turn them down.  It didn't matter, this is my "one that got away."



That was a heartbreaking story. I was pulling for you as I read to get that e-type!

In 1967, my uncle purchased a 1967 VW Deluxe Microbus new from the dealer he worked at. It was the kind with the sliding ragtop and 21 windows.  At some point, it became his father's bus (my grandfather).  I have fond memories of riding in the bus over the years.  By 1986, I had a 1967 beetle and kept trying to get my parents and grandparents to let me buy the bus from him. It needed work and they refused. One day in the late 80's, my grandfather sold it in the local paper thrifty ads for less than $250.  Fast forward and today VW buses like that one are $100,000 in restored condition.


That's so sad!

Yea, woulda, shoulda, coulda. From the Hemi Cuda Convertible I turned down, the dumbass with a 260 Cobra that wanted to trade it straight across for a mustang fastback and the guy that had a Gullwing with this goofy custom bumper around the perimeter of the car that wanted $2500. Ahhh the 70s


My dream is an offy midget   the only chance I ever had was an old sp outdated sprintcar with a much bigger offy   many years ago  ( at the Portland swapmeet for  $ 7000)  I turned it down   now I am pining my years away   thinking  what I missed everyday  I am thinking  that by some magic that I will find one of them Little Growlers and cherish  it to the end of my Days


Good luck!
Pit Crew

It's fall 1961 and our neighbor just got his 62 Biscayne 409-409 after trading in his 61 Impala 348.
I'm 15 years old and live for Chevrolets and their 'W' motor cars. I ask my dad to buy our neighbors used 61 Impala from the dealership down the street and he says 'NO' I'm driving an Oldsmobile and not about to buy a Chev. (Dad was one of the local pharmacists and image was a concern). So I ask my mom to talk to dad and see if she can convince him to get the Impala (white, red strip, and red interior.) Well she tried but to no avail. Mom passed away about a year later. Fast forward forty years to 2002 and I finally find a similar 61 Impala in #1 condition and convert it to a 348, 3 deuces and a 4 speed. Then went to the local license office and ordered personal plate 'HI MOMM' to show my mom that I finally got my Impala. Thanx mom.

That's a great story. I'm so glad you ended up getting "the one that got away"! Your story gives the rest of us hope it can happen for us too!
New Driver

The story about losing the 300 SL and its later value of $915,000 is nothing in comparison to my experience. In 1965 I was lucky enough to attend the Le Mans 24 hrs race in France. It was a terrific experience with many fabulous cars, including the Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupes.

In 1972 I happened to see an ad in Competition Press & Autoweek publication. It was the premier publication for racing news and a bible for the sale of race and special interest cars. The ad was for one of the six Daytona Coupes that were built. The published price was $27,500.
I was a young man then so without the necessary funds myself I recommended to family members that we should purchase the car, that it was very, very special car and would be worth a "fortune" in the future, although I did not quantify my recommendation other than applying the "fortune" tag. Everyone thought I was crazy and so no purchase resulted. I knew at the time that such an opportunity would never again come about. History would show that I was 100% correct.

Come to the present time of 2020 where I would have no problem whatsoever selling the car for upwards of $30,000,000. I must say that the basis of my recommendation was an extreme appreciation for the aesthetic and creative aspects of the car. It was such a fabulous design for the time, that was unmatched in that respect. To understand the Daytona's current position in the car world, second only to the 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO, one must think of it in the context of an art piece.
Similar to understanding that a Michelangelo or Leonardo Da Vinci painting stands far above
any other paintings in the pecking order.
Community Manager

I was a little skeptical that your story could beat the 300SL but oh boy, as I ever wrong!