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TIME MACHINES: SPOTLIGHT ON COLLECTING

A Starter Kit for Car Collectors

August 27, 1998|JOHN O'DELL

Your common sense has collapsed, the Valium didn't kick in, and not even a week of emergency aversion therapy has killed the desire: You want to be a car collector.

But how to start?

If you've got a spare $500,000 or so, it's not that hard.

Just call one of the major auction houses. The folks there will be glad to get you all set up as a qualified bidder at one of the highbrow classic car auctions going on somewhere in the world almost every weekend.

(The next biggie on the West Coast is Christie's International Motor Cars no-reserve auction--"no reserve" means no minimum price set by the seller--Oct. 17 at Torrey Pines in San Diego County. Information: [310] 385-2699.)

There are other steps to follow, though, no matter your means, if you are a novice who, before buying, would like to polish your knowledge of the car or cars that ultimately will grace your garage.

While you may one day become a kingpin among collectors, with volumes of valuable vehicles from fabulous phaetons to radical racers, you undoubtedly will start with just one.

So figure out which one gets you in gear and then join a club of aficionados devoted to that make. And rest assured, if more than two of the cars were made, there is a club, somewhere, of people who love 'em.

In a car club you are likely to find all the nurturing, wisdom and accumulated experience you'll need to help ease you into the world of collecting. And fellow club members can provide some of the best leads when it comes time to find and buy that car you've been lusting after.

Many clubs are listed on the Internet--one good place to start is http://www.yahoo.com/Recreation/Automotive, which includes links to dozens of auto-related items, including a huge index of car clubs organized by make. And one of the most complete listings of Southern California car clubs can be found in the back pages of the monthly Miss Information's Automotive Calendar of Events, available at many automotive specialty shops or by calling the magazine at (562) 799-1155.

One final tool in your starter kit is a subscription to one or more of the collector-car magazines and journals that abound. Most collectors consider Hemmings Motor News, a thick monthly compendium of cars and parts for sale across the world, to be a must-read. The Vermont-based magazine can be reached at (802) 442-3101.

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