Classic Cars: Affordable Luxury Rides

Do you want to look “flush” when you drive out to the Hamptons? Have I got some cars for you, and for less than the cost of a new Honda Accord. The following are bargain basement ways to look like you belong. In any of the following vehicles, you can put a vintage fox “stole” on your head and everyone will mistake you for “the Donald.”

Used Rolls Royces and Bentleys are a little over my rock-bottom price range, but the absolute gold standard in automotive prestige. Both are bargains. Take for instance a stunning 1993 Bentley R Continental Coupe currently advertised in Hemmings. It is British racing green with tan leather with only 52,000 miles. The right color combination, the right everything. Asking price, $37,000. If you can put up with right-hand drive, you can easily find a 25-year old model of either car in England for $10,000 to $20,000. But for resale, I’d stick with an American left-hand-drive model.

As sports cars go, used Porsches have tremendous resale, except for one magnificent model, the 928. When all Porsches ever built originally carried small air-cooled engines in the rear, Porsche made the mistake of introducing a larger, heavier car with a commonplace big bore V-8 water-cooled engine in the front, the 928. It didn’t go over well at all with hardcore Porsche loyalists so, sadly, the 928 was a sales failure. To this day, it is frowned upon as a true Porsche by the right-wing Porsche owners club, and has an unusually low resale value. It is a genuine supercar, with looks to die for. Truth be told, it is more like a Mercedes sports car than a Porsche, but what’s wrong with that? I see them selling for between $10,000 and $25,000 for the late series, low-mileage models. Less than the price of any new Kia. [expand]

Speaking of Mercedes sports cars, they are, and always have been, great favorites of the rich and famous. Some are very good buys on the used car market. Personally, I would put my money on the early 280SL series for guaranteed long-term investment potential, but they have gotten pricey. The best bargain buys are the vast numer of 450 to 560 SLs on the market, convertibles all, many with hardtops. Not true sports cars like the fire-breathing Porsche 928, but beautifully built “personal” cars, in the same vein as the original ‘55 Ford Thunderbird. Prices range from $10,000 to $20,000 for the later series, more desirable 560 SLs. Put the top down, get a tan and look like you own a house on Dune Road all at the same time.

Now for something completely different. A long while back when our little village of Bridgehampton had a world-famous racetrack in its backyard, I went to do a story on a national motorcycle run-off series. When I arrived at the paddock area for contestants and press, I couldn’t help but notice a tent that stood head and shoulders above anything on the field. It was the BMW motorcycle racing team tent. Entering, I noticed everyone in there was blond and blue-eyed. Remember the children in the film The Village of the Dammed? All these guys looked like them all grown up. This group turned out to be seriously dedicated motorcycle racers on a very competitive team. However, during the interview, I asked them, “If money were no object, what motorcycle would you want?” They all answered in unison, “DUCATI.”

The Italian Ducati motorcycle has long been considered the Ferrari of motorcycles, and just for the record, some Ducatis are faster than any Ferrari. The rich know what to buy, and this is their favorite. If motorcycles are your thing, for slightly more than a Harley-Davidson, you can look like a “contender” on your European superbike. Just don’t wear black leather on a Ducati. Make it red leather or just a pair of Gucci loafers sans socks, jeans, and a sport shirt with a horse on it. Make sure your Rolex Submariner is on your wrist, and you’ve arrived. I just hope you’re good looking because you’ve got to take off that helmet at some point. A good used Ducati can be bought for around $10,000. If you really want to look like big bucks, buy a used helicopter.


Bob Gelber is an automotive journalist who has lived in the Hamptons for over 30 years. He can also be seen on television talking about his favorite subject, automobiles. He can be reached at [email protected]. [/expand]

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