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2008 Connoisseurship Symposium, Naples, Florida — What Future for Tomorrow's Car Collectors?

The 5th biennial Connoisseurship Symposium to be organised by American hyper-enthusiast Miles Collier at his fabulous Floridian museum in Naples, on the US Gulf coast, attracted tremendous support in early-March.

cobra_daytona  bruce_mccaw_with_doug_nye 
Left: Participants learn the secrets of a Cobra Daytona from expert collector Dr Fred Simeone

Right: Seattle based collector Bruce McCaw (left) exchanges views with historian Doug Nye

Keynote speaker of the three-day event was the great Gordon Murray - the renowned lateral thinking automotive engineer whose credits include multiple Formula 1 World Championship-winning car designs for Brabham and McLaren, plus the world's fastest production car - the first complete carbon-composite monocoque, and Le Mans 24-Hour race winner - the McLaren F1 and F1 GTR. Gordon made a fascinating presentation concerning the future of the modern motorcar as a collectible item. Essentially, while collectibility is one factor, he believes that restorability will plainly become another, while usability may well depend more upon the political and regulatory climate than upon any preservation standards or processes which might be applied. He did not, in fact, paint a particularly rosy picture...

alfa_romeo_8c_2.9  restoring_a_grand_prix_bugatti
Left: Doug Nye recounts the story of the 1947 Mille Miglia winning Alfa Romeo 8C 2.9
Right: A discussion about the challenges of restoring a Grand Prix Bugatti

Significantly, perhaps, the McLaren F1 which he conceived in the late 1980s/ early 1990s included long-term restorability as one of its design parameters. In more recent, more computer-dependent, so-called 'supercars' the high proportion of injected-moulded plastics and of complex computer programming involving all manner of communication codings between one system and another may well kick restorability beyond the pocket of any conceivable owner. The cost of recreating long-since scrapped or discarded patterns, moulds and above all computer software codings and systems would surely outweigh any conceivable value of the restored end product.

Against this background, therefore, it would appear that in very few years' time we will already be recognizing a definable high tide mark for the collectible motorcar. The pool of useable, dynamic, exciting and above all worthwhile collectible cars will no longer be growing decade upon decade. Where competition car usability on the public road already has a distinct cut-off mark with production of the last Le Mans-winning cars of the mid-1960s (at the latest), it may well be that high-performance road car usability itself will prove extremely restricted within 20-30 years time.

Against this background, should demand to enjoy great motorcars - the iconic and defining machine of our modern world - hold up into the future, it is becoming self-evident that supply will remain virtually fixed. Demand defines perceived value, and the top-quality motorcar of the 1900s will surely sustain its investment value - and its thrill of ownership - long after its younger sisters of the early 2000s have deteriorated beyond use - politicians allowing!