In the 1950s, the Australian Broadcasting Commission introduced radio show “The Secret,” which featured two musical performances, one by an Australian artist and the other by a foreign one.
At the end of the show, the audience was invited to guess which of the performers was Australian. Many times his guess was wrong. The show inadvertently exposed a national inferiority complex that Melbourne author AA Phillips dubbed a “cultural crisis”.
It’s a situation American car collectors may be familiar with – they value stylish foreign-built classic cars significantly more than their domestic counterparts.
It is well documented that American car design, craftsmanship, and engineering declined after the 1960s, but many American cars prior to this were elegant and well-engineered, especially those of the pre-war era.
The American car maker Duesenberg pioneered the use of advances such as hydraulic brakes, and the bodywork of pre-war Duesenberg, Auburn, Cadillac, Packard and other cars was as elegant as anything in Europe.
In the mid-1930s, Duesenberg’s subsidiary, Cord, produced the revolutionary 812, which featured front-wheel drive, futuristic styling and an optional supercharger. However, it is rare for any of these cars to be sold in the United States or elsewhere compared to their European counterparts.
According to classic-car insurer and automotive entertainment brand Haggerty Top 30 Most Valuable Cars Only one car ever sold at auction, on the list, a 1935 Duesenberg SSJ, is american. It sold for $22 million in 2018.
This disparity is strange. Unlike Europeans, Americans often overlook the classics produced by generations of their grandparents and great-grandparents.
At an auction in Florida in March, a The 1931 Duesenberg sold for $4,295,000. Still, it was less than half the amount a collector paid for the 1 at a California auction.937 Mercedes-Benz in August 2022, Mark Hyman, a self-described “car nut” based near St. Louis, said both cars are extremely rare—numbering in the 400s of each—and when they were new they could legitimately be called among the best in the world. Could have done. Trading and collecting classic cars for over three decades.
He added, “Cars like the Duesenberg have a cult following among people who simply must have the best, but they are seen more as a museum piece than a driver’s car.”
“Vintage European cars offer a more refined driving experience and are therefore used more regularly by their owners,” said Mr Hyman, who also noted that organized drives for owners of 1930s Bentley and Alfa Romeo There were many opportunities to participate in tours and rallies. That pushes the cars pretty hard, but few such opportunities exist for high-end American classic cars.
“Usability is the driver of value, and older European cars tend to be more sporty, they handle and brake more like modern cars, and people will pay more because of that,” he said.
The one exception is the Cord 810/812.
“When they are sorted out properly, they are fast, and they handle very well, but the number of people who understand and support these cars is a fraction of what you see in the old Bentley world, and This in turn negatively impacts usability and value,” Mr. Hyman said.
While the 1937 Cord 812 looks more like a spaceship than a straight and traditional 1930 4 ½ liter Bentley, they actually make similar horsepower. RM Sotheby’s recently auctioned off each of these, and the results weren’t close – $698,000 For British-built Bentleys, Vs. $184,800 For Indiana-made cord.
The inferiority complex isn’t limited to the grand, pre-war classics. The second generation Corvette, with model years 1963–67, known by collectors as the C2, is often regarded as the high-water mark not only for the Corvette, but also for midcentury car design in general. Goes, said Mr. Hyman.
designer Peter Brock, Bill Mitchell and Larry Shinoda The beautiful shape and detailing of the car all had a hand. It was a contemporary and rival to the British-built Jaguar E-Type, which is of similar size, performance and overall good looks.
Mr. Hyman said, “The Jaguar is far more temperamental, over-engineered and has many pieces, many of which are fragile.” “But complexity can be attractive. It definitely offers a different feel, not unlike a complicated mechanical watch. A quartz watch may be more rugged and tell better time, but for those who combine complexity with beauty, this explains why Jaguars can often sell for twice as much as Corvettes.
For Ramsey Potts, vice president of sales for Broad Arrow Group, the difference in values between American collector cars and foreign cars comes down to motorsports.
“I grew up outside Pittsburgh with an uncle who owned Buick, Pontiac, AMC and Jeep dealerships, and while domestic cars filled our family’s garage, I was fascinated by sports cars and the glamor and sophistication of Formula 1 racing. Took it,” he said, “and I couldn’t find any of the home manufacturers on the back end of the racing results I was following. I think that’s the way it is for a lot of collectors, and it’s reflected in the relative values of these cars today.”
John Wiley, manager of valuation analytics at Haggerty, believes that inferiority complex goes back to the beginning of the auto industry around the turn of the 20th century, adding that it appears to have been started by Henry Ford’s obsession with making American cars transportation. has been defined since. All the while, the European car industry focused on meeting the needs of the wealthy in small volumes and over long periods of time. Mr Wiley said he believes it is natural that cars made for the wealthy are more sought after by collectors.
Bradley Brownell, Director of Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum In Cleveland, he said he believes the old classics’ collectibility is tarnished by the faded American cars built in the 1970s and 1980s for iconic brands like Cadillac and Lincoln.
While it may be true that Ford’s mass-production methods defined the American auto industry, Mr. Brownell also points out that there were few truly American classics built during that time—they were simply imbued with the notion that All American cars were mass produced.
“Before the Great Depression, arguably the world’s finest hand-crafted cars were made in America by Packard, Pierce-Arrow, and Peerless, but only two of those three companies survived the Depression, and the third, Packard, is nearly defunct. 70 years,” Mr. Brownell said. “Because of this, there is more of a name-recognition issue among American collector cars than Mercedes-Benz, Bentley and Alfa Romeo, all of which still exist.”