Monterey Car Week August 2012

September 12, 2012

 Every August the otherwise sleepy little seaside town of Monterey California becomes the exciting, fun and showcase center of the entire automotive world. Wayne Carinie of “Chasing Classic Cars” called it “The greatest car show in the world”. For one full week there is so much to do and see that is impossible see everything. Some of this years’ events included The Automobilla Auction, The Little Car Show, Concorso Italiano, The Quail Gathering, The Concourse of Lemons and the grand finale on Sunday, the legendary Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. (French, literally “a competition of elegance”)

 Auctions are also a major part of the Monterey scene. Gooding, RM, and Mecum are just some of the auctions held during the week. Gooding’s auctions, held at Pebble Beach on Saturday and Sunday, set a new record for total sales at an auction.

 The origin of Monterey Car Week can be traced back to 1950 when a group from Sports Car Club of America – West Coast, teamed up with Del Monte Properties Company. Since then the Pebble Beach Road Race, Concours and other events, has grown from 10,000 spectators to an estimated 150,000 spectators this year.

 This was my first trip up the coast to Car Week in Monterey. For several years I had only looked at pictures, watched highlights on TV and listened to stories from my car obsessed friends about this bigger than life car event. For once a bunch of car guys were right! Monterey is impossible to capture in just words or pictures. The excitement and raw electricity is something you will have to feel for yourself. 

  If you plan in advance this trip can be very affordable. During Car Week, Hotels are at a premium. Three hundred and fifty dollars a night room rates are not uncommon for even a modest room. However, I was with a group of car people who had “been there and done that” so they booked their rooms (and a few extra rooms) the day after last years events and secured room rates of sixty dollars a night.

  I didn’t go for the entire week. I hitched a ride with a friend and arrived on Wednesday night, had dinner with my car friends and walked around the town. Thursday morning I attended the Concourse On The Avenue in Carmel-by-the sea. There were million dollar cars placed, with great care, in the middle of town on both sides of the main street. The line of cars went on for about three city blocks. This was a free preview with most of the cars that would be competing in Pebble Beach on Sunday. It’s a $200.00 ticket on Sunday. Fortunately I had  friends with passes. 


 The cars were great to see. What was not so great were the parking and the crowds. However, it was worth it in more ways than one. There was a bonus show that was not advertised. As I walked a few blocks to the center of town, it was hard to miss the show that was not on the avenue. The cars in the parking lots and parked on the street were a sight to see by themselves. I took my time walking to the center of town, stopping and looking at all the vintage Mustangs, Corvettes, T-Birds, Oldsmobiles and several all original Cobras. A car show with-in a car show…beautiful! 

 Friday I stayed in Pacific Grove, a town not to far from all the action and yet it still keeps its small town charm. Friday morning I walked just a few blocks from where I was staying to The Pacific Grove Car show and rally. Often times in So Cal we see the same cars at all the local events. This show was like a breath of fresh air, literally. While my friends and family were dealing with the 100 degree August heat back home: it was a cool and breezy 70 degrees in Pacific Grove. I spent the day looking at cars in this little friendly town and swapping car stories with their owners. Friday night; more cars and good food at the Baja Filling Station Cruse Night. 

 Saturday morning I was joined by my girlfriend, Cheryl, who loves classic cars too. We started the day at “The Concourse dLeMons” (Concourse of Lemons) Self titled “The worst car show in the world”, it’s a silly celebration of cars like Pacers, Gremlin’s, Pinto’s, Vaga’s and other cars competing for the worst in class prize. Some of the cars are so well done its hard to call them lemons. This unique car show is all about the fun! The judges let you know that they take bribes… usually in the form of food or wine. Here is their web site: 

 We did some sight seeing and ate lunch at Phil’s Fish Market in Moss Landing. Serving a wide variety of fresh sea food in a water front atmosphere, it is “Great Grub!”. We spent Saturday night at the Gooding and Company Car auction on the Pebble Beach site where we watched millionaires buy cars like it was monopoly money. Three million for this car… $7 million for that car 11.7 million for a used Mercedes Benz. Wow, that’s more than I make in a week! When your still a working man or woman it’s hard to relate to those kinds of numbers. There were several world record prices set at the auction. 


 Sunday was the main event. The town was packed with people and cars. There was no parking at the golf course so we had to park on the coast… did I say had too? The view looked like a painting. We took a bus ride for about 10 minutes until we arrived at The Pebble Beach Golf Course. Truly, this was an outstanding sight as the bus door opened. Beautiful pieces of mechanical art work lined the breath taking 18TH hole. Each car holds a rich history, and I do mean RICH. The 220 cars in the show had a combined estimated worth of over 250 million dollars. Several of the owners stood by their cars and answered questions and told stores about them. It was almost like the Mustang Nationals, only the cars were (in most cases) longer and had a higher price tag. There was still the same sense of pride of ownership, sharing and caring about cars. It was definitely an experience that I will never forget. We will be back next year.

Scottsdale Classic Car Auctions Jan 2012

March 16, 2012

The Scottsdale Auto Auctions 2012
By Ed Levitt

 CARS CARS CARS! The third weekend of January in Scottsdale Arizona is a must see for anyone who has a passion or interest in classic cars. There are thousands of cars up for auction at the six different auction houses. Each auction company has their own specialty. Russo-Steele has quite a few muscle cars. The RM and Gooding and Co auctions specialize in “high quality” collector vehicles. Barrett-Jackson has a wide verity of cars and is not the only game in town however, they are the largest and sold over 1300 cars in just 6 days. That’s more than some new car dealers will sell in an entire year.

 I go to the auctions for several reasons. Fun, Ed-uaction, (Get it? My name is Ed) to find a bargain or to find a car just like the one I had in high school. A 1965 Mustang Fastback, Burgundy with Black interior and all original. It was my first car and first love. As we all know you never forget your first love. I just happen to sell mine for (gulp) 325 dollars back in 1975. To buy a 1967 mustang that was all tricked out. Someday I will get her or one like her back. 

 It pays to be informed before you bid on a car. It’s truly “buyer beware”.  As my Uncle from Arkansans used to say “Boot Hill is full of fellers who shot first… and aimed later” Most of the cars at auction can be seen on line. I research the market value as well as having to add in the 10% auction fees, California sales tax and shipping coast back to California. 

 I can’t afford a bad mistake so I get as much information as I can before I bid on a car. For example in 2011 Cheryl and I looked at a 1966 Mustang Convertible that was advertised as “Fully restored with no expense held back. Mustang Club of America Grand National winner 17 times. “Concourse Class” judged best of the best. Awards do not go with car.” Now that was a car I had to at least look at, possibly bid on and take her home if the price was right. 

 Cheryl and I looked at the outside of the car a couple of days before the day it was to be auctioned. That was as far as we could get. Just the outside. There was no one around to talk too about the car and it was kept locked up very tight. Just about 30 minutes before it was going up for bid we found the guy that brought it to the auction. I asked to see pictures or some kind of documentation of the cars history and those Concourse Class wins. The guy said to me. “I guess you don’t know too much about auctions. Barrett-Jackson has all of that at the auction podium.” Ignoring his attitude I ran up to the podium and asked if they had the documentation. The auctioneer looked at me and said “we don’t have it here the owner has it.” I looked at him and said “that’s interesting… the owner said you had it”. The auctioneer just shrugged his shoulders. 

  I got back to the car and the trunk was open. I looked inside and found rust and a bad paint job. Looked up at the guy who brought the car and said “concourse winner .. Huh?”. He didn’t say a word. Still the out side and the engine compartment were clean so I just decided I would bid on it as a nice car. Not a concourse winner. The value would be about 23-28 depending on condition. If it was truly a big time MCA winner the price would have been close to 40 or more. The car sold for over 38. So, someone over paid by at least  12 thousand dollars. (Not this Cowboy!)

 This year Cheryl and I spent most of our time at the Barrett-Jackson and Russo Steele Auctions. They are run differently. Russo Steele allows their sellers to put a reserve (minimum the seller will take) on a car. Barrett-Jackson only will have a reserve on cars that are worth 200,000 dollars or more. (Way out of my price range) All the other auctions in town also have a reserve. 

 There were a few bargains to be had at the auctions, very few. I am only speaking form my own experience and I did not keep exact records what these cars sold for at the hammer price. I would guess-tamate that about 5 % of the cars sold were below current market value. The rest were at full retail and some at “You Paid What?!” prices. 

 At this years Barrett-Jackson auction there was a very rare Tucker up for bid. The pre-auction estimates for the sale of the car were between 700 thousand to 900 thousand dollars. Two people remained bidding on the car that ended up selling for 2.915 Million dollars. More that triple the auction estimate and falling into the “You paid what? Category . I would never pay over retail… wait… What am I saying. I know that if I saw a fully restored 1965 Mustang Fastback Burgundy with Black interior that I would pay more than top dollar for it. 

The Barrett-Jackson auction started on a Tuesday. Cheryl and I arrived in Scottsdale two days before that, to have a chance to really take a good look at the cars before they get detailed and sent up to the auction block. I like having a second set of trained eyes on the car and Cheryl knows her stuff. We both look at the car from different angles, get underneath them and ask questions if the owner happens to be there. Then I set a price based on what I want to do with it. If it’s a car to flip, I have to buy it at a much lower than retail price. If it’s a keeper… I pick a number that would be fair market value for the car. Then I do the best I can stick to my guns. This year I bid on a few cars and all of them went over what I thought was fair for the car. Oh well there is always another auction down the road. 

 Yes, the auction is the highlight of the week. Yet there are many car related things to do and see at The Barrett-Jackson experience. You can test drive a car. Go for a fast ride with a pro on the race track. Shop for car clothing, accessories, model toys and antiques. The “Automobilia” auction is held before the start of the car auction. Featuring everything related to classic cars like, antique oil cans, pumps, signage, Coke memorabilia and even Bob’s Big Boy collectible’s are up for bid. 

 Car auctions are all about the cars and the people who have a passion for them. The sharing of that passion is the main reason why most of us go to car shows and auctions. One of the highlights of our trip was the Scottsdale Pavilions Shopping Center it’s the longest consecutive Saturday cruise in the nation. We had a great time swapping stories about cars. The way Cheryl and I found to get the most out of a car auction is to look at it simply as one big car show…. that happens to have an auction. 

Speaking of Car stuff….

October 25, 2011

Do you have a group that would benefit from learning more about current trends in the car biz? I can ED-vise you and your group like I have done for The Burbank Chamber, The Rotary Clubs and other Organizations. The purpose is to inform, empower and ED-Ucate people about changes in the car business.

Want to know more? Feel free to contact me about speaking in front of your group.

Ponies By The Sea

October 17, 2011

Vivian won 1ST place in her class. 1967-1968 Coupe. There were six cars in her class. Had a great time in Ventura. One of the best shows for Mustangs on the West Coast.
Awesome time just talking and looking at cars on a beautiful Sunday by the beach!

Route 66 Last classic carshow of the year

October 4, 2011

This is a “cool” show to see. Vivian was there and we had a good time. Enjoy, Ed

Click to access CruiseNight_Saturday_Rt66SantaClarita.pdf

What’s in a name? Ten of the worst car names.

May 12, 2011

Top 10 worst car names of all time
From Hagerty Ins Co

Some car names just make sense. The curvy Volkswagen Beetle, the devilishly powerful Lamborghini Diablo and the superfast Ford Mustang were given monikers designed to call attention to each vehicle’s unique characteristics.

But not every car is so fortunate. Whether these vehicles were top sellers or commercial failures, they all have one thing in common: prime real estate on our list of the worst car names of all time.

1.Mohs Ostentatienne Opera Sedan (1967-75): Well, a really bizarre-looking car needs a really bizarre name, and former seaplane mogul turned automaker Bruce Baldwin Mohs came through on both counts with his Ostentatienne Opera Sedan. Incidentally, we have no idea what it means, either.

2.Zimmer Quicksilver (1984-88): Quicksilver is an archaic name for mercury, exposure to which causes all sorts of neurological impairments, a few of which may have afflicted those who came up with the idea of designing a hyper-expensive luxury sport coupe around the lackluster Pontiac Fiero.

3.Studebaker Dictator (1927-37): In fairness to Studebaker, when they named the car Hitler, Mussolini and Franco hadn’t yet given dictators the black eye they later would, but still, naming a car after an undemocratic, authoritarian head of state seems more than a bit weird. Ford Führer, anyone?

4.Geely Beauty Leopard (introduced in 2003): If you imagine being a non-English speaker, it’s conceivable that pairing the words “beauty” and “leopard” might have a certain cachet. Or not. The car itself is a relatively non-descript Chinese compact whose only claim to fame is that it sported the world’s first in-car karaoke machine.

5.Mitsubishi MAUS (Mini Active Urban Sandal) (1995): The name conjures the image of a smelly, worn-out pair of flip flops, so it’s no wonder this micro compact concept car flopped. Little was heard of it after the 1995 Tokyo Motor Show.

6.Isuzu Mysterious Utility Wizard (1991-2004): A compact SUV produced by Isuzu in Japan, the real mystery here was why anyone thought this was a better name than “Amigo” or “Rodeo,” the way the car was marketed outside of Japan, unless both Amigo and Rodeo mean something rude in Japanese.

7.Honda That’s (2002-07): A tiny urban car built in Japan for the home market. Honda’s rationale for the name was that it wanted people to see the car and exclaim, “That’s it!” They more likely exclaimed, “That’s totally lame!”

8.Mitsubishi Delica Space Gear (1994-2007): Mitsubishi has an illustrious history of nonsense names like Starion, Cordia and Tredia, so Delica isn’t out of character in that mishmash. The “Space Gear” part likely refers to the chubby minivan configuration of the vehicle and contributes immensely to the overall absurdity of the name.

9.Datsun Fairlady (1959-70): Nothing says macho sports car like show tunes. Amazingly, Nissan named its sporting roadster after the musical “My Fair Lady,” thereby alienating at least 50 percent of the market for the car.

10.Mazda Bongo Friendee (1995-2005): To non-English speakers, this probably sounds like it means something. To English speakers, it just sounds silly and is perhaps even the silliest-sounding name on the list. Other than the nutty name, it’s a rather nondescript minivan.

Paymemt, Payment, Payment!

April 25, 2011

Payment, Payment, Payment. What’s your car payment?
It’s not just about just the payment. A better question is “what is your total cost of the loan on the car”?

An age-old salesman trick is to get you to talk about the loan payment and not the true cost of the car. Salesmen have been known to pack (over inflate) a payment in order to maximize his profit. Thinking only of your monthly payment could mean a problem down the road. (Pun intended) Especially if you want to trade your car in on a newer super deluxe model before you are done with your current loan.

The key to creating a successful car deal is just like putting pictures of a puzzle together. At first keep the pieces separate so later you can stand back and look at the big picture. The pieces of the puzzle will include the price of the car, sales tax and DMV fees as well as your interest rate and length of the term of the loan.

Should you go 60, 72 or 84 months? You could be saving hundreds of dollars in interest by shorting your loan term. Sometimes the difference of 25-30 dollars a month and could save you hundreds even thousands of dollars in interest depending on the loan amount and term.

Know what total cost of getting a car is before you go to the dealer. Ed Car Guy before you buy… After you sign a contract you have commitments.

Hey! How about the price of gas?

March 10, 2011

You can’t control the price of gas however, you can control how much gas (and money) you will burn. With just a few simple adjustments you can increase your gas mileage and save a lot of money.

Getting Ed-Ucated on saving gas and money:
Give yourself more time to get where you are going. In a hurry? Slow down. Rapid starts and stops will waste gas. Driving efficiently could increase your mileage up to 33%.
Stick to the speed limits and use your cruise control on the highway.
Keep your car tuned up and your tires properly inflated.
Remember to change your gas and air filters regularly.
Use the correct kind of gas for your car. Don’t put 87 octane in a car that is designed to run on premium gas. Consult your owner manual if you have questions about what kind of gas to use.
Junk in the trunk? Remove excess weight. No I am not talking about you going to the gym. I am talking about removing unnecessary heavy items from your car.
Following these few simple tips can greatly improve your gas mileage and keep dollars in your pocket.

Another good reason to have a car broker.

December 27, 2010

This would have not happened using Ed Car Guy.

From the N.Y TimesIT’S the holidays and you want uplift.

Well, find an elevator, pal. Because here comes a downer.

Our tale this time comes from a hotel clerk and recent immigrant from India named George Karikulathileliyas — henceforth known as Mr. K. The question below is based on his e-mail and several follow-up conversations with the Haggler.

Q. I bought a Nissan Murano from Star Nissan in Queens last year. I thought the price was $35,985, because that’s what it said on the sales agreement I signed that evening.

But when I received my financing document from Chase, the price was $39,754. The difference — nearly $4,000 — is a mystery that I have spent more than a year trying to solve.

I also purchased a $2,495 service contract, which the salesman at Star Nissan said I had to buy or else I couldn’t drive the car off the lot. I called Easy Care, the company in Atlanta that administered the contract, and canceled it almost immediately. A rep there said that, per the company’s protocol, it sent a refund check to Star Nissan.

But my monthly payment has never changed. Easy Care said it did not have the power to reduce the outstanding balance of my loan, and my lending bank, JPMorgan Chase, said the same. Only Star Nissan, both companies contend, can do that.

I have called Star Nissan at least 25 times to get some answers about what I believe is an overcharge of nearly $6,300. And I have visited on roughly 10 occasions. Every time I’m told the same story: Only the finance manager can amend my contract, and he isn’t in the building.

I brought a friend along for one visit and after several hours of waiting, my friend asked what seemed like a reasonable question: “If that finance manager resigned tomorrow, who would we speak to?” A Star Nissan employee grew so enraged that he told us that if we didn’t leave, he would beat us.

I have been in touch with the state attorney general’s office but it has not helped. Can you? George K.

New Hyde Park, N.Y.

A. A call to Star Nissan was returned by Gus Tsolkas, the company’s general manager. The Haggler will say this for Mr. Tsolkas: He was willing to talk. And talk. Very loudly.

What he was unwilling to do was yield an inch.

He stated that on the day that Mr. K picked up his car, he had agreed to a number of add-ons — a $25,000 “theft benefit,” a seven-year warranty, a five-year roadside assistance contract, a car alarm and a remote starter. Together, Mr. Tsolkas said, these explain the aforementioned $3,800 gap.

It was news to Mr. K. that he’d acquired any of these goodies and protections. But he readily acknowledges that he signed many documents the night he bought his car, in part because his children were nagging him to leave — never bring kids to a car-buying negotiation! — and in part because he felt pressured by the salesman.

Mr. Tsolkas produced two of the documents Mr. K signed at the dealership, the roadside assistance contract and the $25,000 “theft benefit.” What he didn’t do was produce any figures that detailed how much these and other add-ons actually cost. Nor did he share any documentation of the purchase of the car alarm or the remote starter — two items you’d think Mr. K. would know he owned.

Mr. Tsolkas was also unable to explain why the Easy Care refund was never credited to Mr. K. (Easy Care confirmed that Star Nissan cashed that check.) He said he’d look into that.

In the vain hope that at least some of this dispute stemmed from a failure of communication, the Haggler convened one of his patented Three-Way Conference Calls of Reconciliation, which brought together Mr. K. and Mr. Tsolkas for their first-ever conversation.

It didn’t go well. Mr. Tsolkas basically said he didn’t believe Mr. K.’s story. He said it was impossible to visit Star Nissan 10 times without meeting the finance manager. He also described as “ludicrous” the notion that one of his employees would threaten a customer.

At moments during this hourlong dialogue, contentiousness morphed into a place where low comedy meets sophistry. When the Haggler asked for written proof that Mr. K. had bought a remote starter, Mr. Tsolkas countered with this gem: “Why don’t you ask him to prove that he didn’t buy it?”

He also implied that Mr. K. was playing the guileless-immigrant card to win the sympathies of the Haggler.

The Haggler doubts it. And his doubts were deepened when he learned about a lawsuit filed against Star Nissan by Joseph Collins, who bought a $94,000 sports car and optional packages from the dealership in January 2009. Star Nissan later demanded another $10,000 for a maintenance package, which Mr. Collins contended a salesman told him was included in the original deal. A judge awarded him a full refund and Mr. Collins is now pushing for legal fees and punitive damages, claiming fraud.

As part of evidence collection for this lawsuit, Mr. Collins’s lawyer subpoenaed the more than 30 complaints against Star Nissan filed with the Better Business Bureau since April 2008 — a track record of contract disputes and refund issues that earned the company a B.B.B. grade of F. In a dozen instances, Star Nissan simply did not respond to the bureau, suggesting that it was not just Mr. K who had a hard time getting this company’s attention.

Will Star Nissan credit Mr. K. for that Easy Care contract? Will the dealership break out the costs of other the add-ons sold to him? Will Gus Tsolkas display even a millisecond of concern about the way Mr. K. was treated?

Most important, will the attorney general’s office — which is supposed to help people like Mr. K. — get involved?

This episode of the Haggler will be continued.

E-mail: Keep it brief and family-friendly, and go easy on the caps-lock key. Letters may be edited for clarity and length.

A version of this article appeared in print on December 26, 2010, on page BU5 of the New York edition.

Keeping it simple and real

December 3, 2010

“VIVIAN” Wins 1st Place

Vivian was invited to a charity Car Rally held at the Foster’s Freeze in Burbank on Sunday November 7, 2010. The 34 cars were in the competition for a “Peoples Choice” Award. When Cheryl and I got to the show, I was amazed at some of the modified cars in the competition. There was an El Camino that had an all chrome engine and (at least) a $25,000-paint job on it. That car was worth about $60,000 As well as a 1970 convertible 454 GTO worth over $125,000 and some other awesome cars.

I didn’t think Vivian had a chance to win the trophy. I thought that, most people would vote for the flashy cars. Cheryl reminded me that, “Vivian is in a class by herself.”

Cheryl was absolutely right! People loved her originality, simplicity and how great she looked at 42 years old. Vivian won by a landslide! 39 1st place votes. The closest to her had 12 votes. It showed me there is something to be said for keeping it real and original.