4 January 2012

A classic case of seller's remorse

Virtually everyone who has ever played with collector cars has a story like mine, of getting in over your head, then selling and taking your lumps. Mine involves the one and only Italian exotic that I’ve owned, a 1967 Maserati Mistral coupe. I bought it in early 2008, prior to the sub-prime mortgage meltdown when the faintest cracks were just starting to appear in the muscle car market. I loved the car enough to invest in new paint and the recommended Bosch fuel pump upgrade for the intact and very sweet Lucas mechanical fuel injection.

The car was a joy to drive; commentators who have long carped in writing about the long-stroke straight six being rev-averse and no fun have simply never driven one. The Grand Prix derived twin-plug six was a delight, certainly more comfortable above five grand than an E-Type. Steering, brakes and ride were all first rate, the latter surprisingly so given the relatively unsophisticated live rear axle.

The biggest problem was the legacy of the single-supplier situation that formerly existed in the Maserati parts world. Stuff that cost $50 bucks on my E-Type cost $500 on the Maser. And then there was the engine. Although not likely, a bad noise from inside was a $25,000 prospect; a similar noise in my E was about $8,000. Both cars scratched the same itch and since I was afraid to use the Maserati much, it had to go.

My timing couldn’t have been worse — August 2009. I had counted on the auction company to work some magic. In the end, the middling result of $55,000, including the buyer’s premium, put me under water after transport, upgrades and commission. Fast forward to last year at RM’s sale in London, where the car brought nearly the same figure in pounds sterling. I did the math (and then had a stiff drink). Gulp — nearly $100,000.

In addition to the passage of time and different economic conditions, 1960s Italian GTs just seem to be better appreciated in Europe than in the U.S. Even at this price, pointing out the discrepancy between Maserati 3500s, Sebrings and Mistrals vs. Aston Martins of the era, I’d have to call it well bought and well sold. I just wish that I wasn’t one transaction removed from it.

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