Imagine an investment whose value has risen 30 percent during the past 10 years, is timeless, and more stable than virtually any other asset class. Add to that an asset that you can actually use and is more fun than just about anything you can legally do.
For many, though, collecting classic cars isn’t just about the money, according to Motorious, a site for collectors, restorers, industry experts and the all-around car-obsessed.
“Anyone who’s a gearhead and even a fair amount of people who aren’t understand that having some cool rides in your garage is more entertaining than stocking up on gold bullion or bottles of wine,” Motorious writes. “After all, you can take your investments out on a fun weekend cruise and participate in car shows, where you can meet like-minded people.”
Lawrence “Larry” Taylor, classic car collector and founder and chairman of the real estate investment firm Christina, can relate. He bought his first car in 1970 at age 16 and since has accumulated a collection of nearly 200 classic cars ranging from Lamborghinis and Cadillacs to Bentleys and Porsches, and he considers all of them passion plays rather than investments. Indeed, ask Taylor about the collection’s value and he says it is not about the dollar value, but rather the way the cars make you feel.
As a point of comparison, famed classic car collector and entertainer Jay Leno has 285 vehicles in his so-called Big Dog Garage. Taylor says he would own well over 300 if not for the astuteness and prudence of his wife, who advises him there is no need to have multiple copies of the same make and model.
During a podcast interview with Real Assets Adviser (see this article’s tagline for the URL) Taylor was seeking a 1957 Studebaker speedster, as well as a copy of the disastrously planned and designed Ford Edsel (taken off the production line in 1959), but an original is hard to find. Whether he scored on those fronts or not, he is currently in search of yet another classis. (More on that in the Q&A section.)
He has no interest in the Tesla, which many would argue is destined to become a classic.
“There’s just too many of them and they all look the same,” he says. “It feels like a car from the former Soviet Union.”
The favorite of Taylor’s collection? “It’s the car that I’m driving that particular day. Sometimes I’ll arrive at the office in one car and leave in a different.”
On the day I spoke with him, Taylor was driving a 2008 Bentley Azure convertible, built to his specifications with specialized leather interior and a turbocharged engine.
“It’s really interesting because, when you think about it, automobiles don’t produce income, which is very challenging for me as a real estate operator and sponsor.”
During early days of low technology, Taylor would comb Hemmings Motor News and the Los Angeles Times Sunday classifieds in search of prized autos. Over time, he got to know fellow car collectors who would share information and sell to one another. But then came the internet age.
“The most thrilling thing about technology was, if I was hunting for a 1972 Volvo 1800E, I might find it somewhere in Switzerland. I could converse with that person electronically and have it delivered. It’s just so broad in terms of various ways of locating cars. It’s a business. Sotheby’s and the other big auction companies are basically creating the market for all of these cars and giving people access to cars all over the world.”
What was the first of the now classic cars you acquired?
At the age of 16, I bought a 1970 Mercury Cougar XR7 convertible. This was the luxury version of the Ford Mustang and I wanted the best.
How many vehicles are in your collection today?
This is an ever-changing number. Suffice it to say, I drive a different car nearly every day.
What was the most recent purchase?
A 2009 Bentley Brooklands. This is a limited production model which complements my Bentley collection.
Characterize your collection in terms of makes and models and vintages.
Eclectic. I buy what I like and I drive them all.
If you were invited to dinner at the White House, in which vehicle would you arrive and why?
My 1976 Cadillac Eldorado Bicentennial convertible. This last American convertible was launched in recognition of the United States’ 200th year as a nation. Only 200 were produced. With a red dashboard, red carpeting, and an all white leather interior, it is a perfect car for arrival at a White House dinner as it’s a patriotic symbol of American automotive style and ingenuity.
What is the estimated value of your complete collection?
I never think about car value. It’s both a hobby and a passion. You can’t put a price tag on passion.
Talk about the care and maintenance of a classic car collection. What about storage? How often is each driven? How is all that managed?
Extensive care and maintenance is essential. I purchased and redeveloped a large facility to house my vehicles and I employ a team of professionals to maintain them in pristine and operating condition.
Which member of the car collection do you drive around Los Angeles on your daily commutes and appointments?
I don’t own a “daily driver.” Recently, I’ve been rotating between a 1969 Porsche 911 S, a 2006 Dodge Viper, and a 2008 Bentley Azure.
Where do you find the automobiles you acquire?
They actually find me. I have developed a wide group of fellow automobile enthusiasts throughout the world with whom I am in regular contact with. We have our “bucket lists” and contact each other when an excellent example becomes available for purchase.
What are you in search of currently?
I’m always looking. On my current bucket list is a Ferrari Barchetta and a Volvo 1800E. Recently, I’ve become interested in pre-war (World War II) cars. They represent the most interesting and beautiful cars ever created. I recently added a 1933 Brunn bodied Lincoln Continental to my collection, a beautiful example of what the industry created during the early years of the automobile.
Talk about your automobile acquisition philosophy.
I seek originality. Anyone with money can restore a car, but they are only original once. I typically pursue only the best original examples of any make or model with a fully documented ownership and maintenance history.
You’ve got a very successful real estate company, Christina, that is focused in the Westside region of Los Angeles. Is there anything about your real estate investment philosophy that coincides with your automobile acquisition strategy?
Yes, of course. It’s all about passion for acquiring the best in class. At Christina, our core investment strategy is driven by passion for the location and the opportunity. We buy great properties in, what we believe, is the best location in the United States, and always at the right price. How that relates to my cars is more roundabout since I don’t view vehicles as investments. My automobiles are an expression of passion which I’ve carried with me for 40-plus years since 1970 when I purchased my Cougar convertible, which I still own. I approach each opportunity, whether acquiring a property in Beverly Hills or purchasing a vintage Ferrari, with the same fervor.
You mentioned that you rarely sell your automobiles. Is your real estate investment philosophy the same?
We believe that great real estate should be purchased and never sold. Real estate purchased well, operated professionally, and located in prime areas is the gift that keeps on giving. Our programmatic private equity real estate companies (Christina Real Estate Investors) acquire prime investment grade properties in the best locations knowing that our continued high demand market and lack of supply has driven values higher consistently since 1945.
To hear more from Larry Taylor about classic car collecting — and real estate investing — listen to the Real Assets Adviser podcast done with him in July 2021. Go to this link: https://bit.ly/3iWeIr1