What’s it worth?

Posted: March 21, 2010 in Hot Rod, Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

This past couple of weeks, I’ve been sort of “under the weather”, and haven’t worked on the truck, or any of the other projects I need to get finished.  It’s no fun to be ill, and I feel badly about not getting anything done (particularly about the “Millusion”, a totalled Mercury Milan I bought and fixed for a daily driver, as it’s insured, I’m making payments from my Hot Rod fund on, and not doing me any good), but I have had time to collect my thoughts a little, the weather’s getting better, and I’ll get more done when I feel better, so it’s all OK.

One thing I did do was find, on ebay, some absolutely beautiful stainless steel door garnish moldings, purchased as a “buy it now” from a guy in Oregon.  In the course of corresponding with him about the sale, he told me he had some other Diamond T pieces, including a pair of very rare stainless steel windshield frames.  Most of these trucks, and all of the post 1940’s had plain black rubber around the glass which served as the frame and seal for the crank out windshields.   He sold them to me, complete, for a very reasonable price, and I got them a couple of days ago.   As I understand, only the ’38 and ’39’s had these available, in the “Deluxe” trim, had these trim pieces, so they are very, very scarce.   These pieces, combined with the rather elegant stainless steel gauge panel I made,  effectively change the cab into a “Deluxe” version, which is what I want. Since it’s not a faithful “restoration”, it doesn’t matter, I want it pretty and to fit the image in my head of how it should look.

During the course of our exchange of emails about these pieces, the seller told me he’d just sold his ’38 Diamond T 201 pickup truck at the Barrett/Jackson auction out west.  I asked him if he minded telling me what he got for it.   He didn’t mind at all, and told me it sold for $95,000 plus a 10 percent buyers premium, a grand total of (gasp!) $105,000.  He followed that up with the statement, “I wouldn’t have paid that much for one.”, which sort of explains why to sell it, I guess. 

Excited, I told Kim about this, I suppose to not only justify or rationalize (to her and to me) spending what argueably could be money put towards my (rapidly approaching) old age, but excited that one of these old trucks could be worth that much money. 
“Wow,”, she said, “…maybe you should have left it stock.”

I hate to admit it, but that thought had occurred to me as well.  I’ve sold, cheaply, the (siezed) original engine and transmission to a guy in Missouri, and the axles, wheels and tires to a guy in California, who hasn’t come to get them yet.  So, the pieces needed to return the truck to it’s original mechanical condition are no longer here.

The plan from the outset was of course to build it as a trailer puller, something more suited to dragging the Spartan around than our old Pontiacs.  I knew these were pretty rare, and very unusual, but I had no idea that one could be worth that much, and honestly, the thought of it being worth as much as our house never entered into my mind.

I did, when I first got it here, think of leaving it mechanically stock, just get it running and putz around here with it as a sort of novelty.  It had a kind of attractive “patina”, and would have been an interesting, if impractical, conversation piece. When the engine turned out to be siezed into immobility, that thought evaporated, and the plan to build it as an original appearing, but modernized, truck to pull the trailer became the guide.  Besides, my “real” pickup, a 2000 Silverado, has over 120K miles on it, is getting rusty, and doesn’t look right ahead of the trailer, so I’d need a truck sooner or later anyway.  I thought that having this unusual truck to drive in the summer would make more sense than buying an new one, having it depreciate, be more fun, and would be worth more when we want to part with it, than a 10 year old “new” truck.

So, the question that’s been rattling around in my mind now is, does it make more sense to hot rod a vehicle that, restored,  might be worth as much as my house?  Is this project akin to hot rodding, say, a Duesenburg or a Cord?  I could have kept it “original”, sold it, bought something else, either another older truck to build, or even a new one, had money left over to invest for retirement or rainy day.  This of course is assuming that I’m capable of building a a car (or truck in this case) to that level, which I think I can do, and that the economy won’t deteriorate any further.  It’s a pretty tough market right now for collector cars, 100K for an old Diamond T pickup is serious money.

On the other hand, the value of this project, from the beginning, was to build something that fits our lifestyle, that we can use and enjoy.  I won’t have as much invested, by a long way, as if I’d gone out and purchased a new 1/2 ton pickup, and it’ll certainly be more fun to drive.  Part of me, the aging hippy part, says that if I persue a goal strictly for money or profit, that I’m “selling out”, or being greedy.  Bumping around in an underpowered, rough riding, hard steering, slow stopping old truck with no heater or airconditioning doesn’t sound like much fun, but I guess that getting 100K at the end of the ride might take some of the edge off the impracticality of it all.

Of course, it’s all a moot point now, since it’s firmly headed down the Street Rod path.  It’ll look, to a casual observer, like an original old truck.  The box is different than the original would have had, it’s got the wrong grill, windshield frames, and the drivetrain is modern, but it’s still going to have an antiquey look and feel.  It’ll look great towing the Spartan, it’ll be (reasonably) comfortable, and should ride and drive pretty much like a new truck.

 The value of something, I feel, comes from how much enjoyment we get from a thing, not how much it’s “worth”.   I’ve never bought a car as an investment, but more for what I could see in it as as a hot rod or custom.  I don’t know if I can honestly call them art, but the artistic and creative side of building one is the fun part for me.  I guess art is what I say it is, so maybe they ARE large, rolling sculptures, they certainly seem to the medium that has chosen me.   I know that individualizing a car limits its appeal as a commodity, but we’ve always been able to sell one when we are ready, so it hasn’t been an issue.

Also, one could argue that the truck is going to live another life, certainly better than slowly sinking into the Southern California desert soil like it’d been doing for the past 30 or 40 years before I got it.  Certainly saving it in any form gives it more value than rotting away to the point of no return, doesn’t it?  I think so.

So, another one bites the dust.   I read many years ago in an ad in “Cars and Parts” for some old Ford, “…saved from Hot Rod butchery.”  The seller obviously had a low opinion of Hot Rodders and the quality of workmanship of some does leave a lot to be desired, but I don’t think I’ve “butchered” a car beyond being saved.  If at some point in the future, I decide to cash this one in, I think it’ll still have wide appeal, if not as a dust catcher in a collectors warehouse, but as a reliable old friend, something you can put your dog in beside you,  maybe an old motorcycle in the back, an old trailer hooked up behind, and head out down a dusty road for a good time. 

That’s what we’re going to do with it, how much is that worth?

  1. Kirkus says:

    Well, they used to say anyone can restore a car that it takes a real man to cut one up. Scarce doesn’t always mean desireable. My wagon is RARE, i have had people tell me that ford never built it. But also its a ’58 and most people HATE ’58’s. I have had people actaully look it all over, tell me “nice job, too bad its not a ’57” and happily walk away. My take on this is that it is YOURS. You didnt buy it to make maximum profit from it, you bought it because you had a vision of what it could DO. So you are being true to yourself, to your vision, and i never think thats a bad thing. Woud you have nearly as much fun, dragging yourself out to the shop, day after day, to build it to factory specifications, for someone elses enjoyment. Not to mention that if you faithfully restore it to 100 point condition, it will be a much longer, much more expensive process.
    The guys at my Triumph dealer charge 95 bucks an hour. So use that as a base, then add up all your time, and use that rate, then add up every dime that you spend on it, then how much “profit” is really involved? Yes there will always be someone that doesnt like it. When people tell me that I usually shoot them a price, they can buy it from me and “fix it”. Brian, you do great work, you saved something from the crusher, and you are going to USE it, nothing wrong with that! OK, stepping off my bleedin’ soap box now…..

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