Jul 16 2011

Images from the Milhous Collection and Tips on Car Collecting

Last month, I had the opportunity to tour the spectacular Milhous Collection in Boca Raton, Florida and see their musical instrument and classic car collection that includes a 1913 Alco Touring Car. Below are images from the tour and an excellent article providing tips on car collecting published by the South Florida Business Journal in 2006:

Classic Car Crazy

These trick investments are more like labors of love

South Florida Business Journal - by Blair S. Walker Date: Monday, September 4, 2006, 12:00am EDT - Last Modified: Tuesday, August 29, 2006, 12:29pm EDT


1934 Packard Victoria Convertible

On display inside the Milhous Museum of Collectibles in Boca Raton sits an immaculate yellow, four-wheeled monument to the pain and suffering that car collecting can inflict on the unwary. Prior to its transformation into a glistening enchantress, the 1934 Packard in question was a rust bucket that Bob Milhous wished to restore. He hired two men to work on the Packard restoration full time and turned them loose. Seven years - and hundreds of thousands of dollars - later, the men hadn't finished the job."That's what can happen. It can draw out forever," warns Tom Lacey, facilities manager at the private Milhous Museum. "It can turn into a lifetime project for some people."


That's partly why Milhous, who now owns 32 other vehicles along with his brother, Paul, keeps the Packard in his collection. Worth $500,000 in its present exquisite state, the Depression Era convertible serves as a constant reminder that car collecting can be rife with pitfalls and rewards. The Packard restoration project crossed the finish line only after Milhous fired the two "experts" and entrusted the job to a knowledgeable friend. The flip side to the cautionary tale of the yellow Packard is an explosive upswing in muscle car prices during the last five years, with the exclamation point being $4.1million paid at auction for a 1971 Plymouth Barracuda.


1913 Alco Convertible Touring Car

With an eye toward aiding first-time car collectors, Lacey and other South Florida classic-car pros laid down a few helpful rules. Everyone agrees that the first edict is inviolate:

Never, ever, buy a collectible car to make money

"My very first words would be, pick a car that you like," says Jim Moore, a Boeing 767 captain for American Airlines who's currently restoring a 1955 Mercedes-Benz Mercedes-Benz Latest from The Business Journals Wealthy boost spending on luxury goodsRange Rover Sport puts performance spin on British off-road iconStrong June for Alabama Mercedes models Follow this company 300SL Gullwing Coupe. "Have somebody look at the car who is an expert. There are tons of experts out there who can tell you the thickness of a car's paint, whether its got 10 coats of paint or one coat of paint."Don't ever expect to make money," advises the Boca Raton resident, who purchased, refurbished and sold about 50 cars while in college. "If you do, great. If you don't, you've got a car you love and it's in great shape."

Following his own advice, Moore bought his Gullwing for $185,000 in 1999. "I was just going to drive it and sell it in a couple of years for what I paid for it," says Moore, who flew single-seat jets in the Navy. But following his Mercedes purchase, the events of 9/11 nearly brought the U.S. airline industry to its knees, causing Moore to take a $66,000 annual pay cut. "So my budget for fixing the car basically went to a negative number," Moore recalls. "I'm not a crazy guy. I don't spend more than I have." You needn't play any violins for him, though, because Moore was able to resume work on his Gullwing and hopes to sell it in a few months in the $550,000 to $650,000 range. In addition to Gullwings, Moore is fond of 1959 Cadillacs, so guess what his next restoration project will focus on?


1912 Olds Limited Touring

Dr. Edward Dauer, whose Dauer Museum of Classic Cars is in Sunrise, got his start with a classic Cadillac. Because "the 1941 Cadillac is a milestone car," not to make money. "If anyone tells you to buy because it's good investment, walk in the opposite direction and don't ever call them back," he says. That's certainly not to say it's impossible to make money on collectible cars, which Dauer has. "But you do it, not on purpose, but because it happens," he explains. "You don't buy a car to make money. The investment will take care of itself."


1930 Duesenberg Model J/208

Research your car, then research it some more

"There is so much on the Internet that you can find and research, the Milhous Museum's Lacey says. "Go to the auctions and go to the cars shows, if that's what your interest is. There's a show for just about any car you want, from the classic antiques, to hot rods and street rods. You go to some of these Web sites and they have a schedule of events all over the United States. "Buying into a collectible car without doing the homework is probably one of the biggest mistakes," says Lacey, who's currently restoring a nine-passenger, 1961 Chevrolet Nomad station wagon. "I've seen mistakes made. I've made 'em." The cardinal mistake that all car collectors wish to avoid is paying too much money for a car, Lacey laughs. "That can prove deadly. As my bosses say, you pay too much one time and the rest of that [overpriced] stuff is going to find you." Agreeing with the other experts interviewed for this story, Lacey calls Hemmings Motor News magazine an excellent source of information on collectible cars. Another frequently mentioned touchstone was Rob Myers Auctions.

"Hang with someone that really knows what they're doing, and is not trying to get into your pocket," suggests Miami-based classic car dealer Ted Vernon. The owner of Ted Vernon Specialty Automobiles Ted Vernon Specialty Automobiles Latest from The Business Journals Classic Car Crazy Follow this company , he recommends a how-to book written and published in Miami, "Collecting Cars for Fun and Profit," by Dick Tobin and Rick Tobin. Classic Car Club of America is also a good source of information, but be advised that its primary focus is on vehicles manufactured from 1925 through 1948.

Approach car auctions with extreme caution

"When you buy a car, especially at an auction, don't be stupid," Vernon cautions. "Don't let your ego override your brain when the price gets too steep."That can be hard to do, especially given that purchasing valuable cars is sometimes an ego-driven exercise to see who can collect the most desirable toys. Therefore, in Vernon's opinion, it's best to go to car auctions very early or very late. He says that during the early going, auctioneers are just starting to feel out the crowd and many potential bidders are reluctant to be the first ones on the dance floor. Conversely, during the waning stages of an auction, the crowd thins, taking the testosterone level down several notches. "You don't know who you're bidding against," Lacey observes. "You just gotta use your head and keep your cool. Patience is a big thing." Should your chariot to die for somehow elude your grasp, Lacey offers the following piece of advice: "There's always going to be another one." Let's just say that one-upmanship goads you into paying a premium price. While that's not good, Vernon says it's also not the end of the world. "In case you pay on the high side for your car, remember that cars are very forgiving," he says. "If you make a mistake and pay too much for a car, you'll still be OK if you're not in a hurry to sell it. Don't panic. "The car will increase in value up to and beyond your purchase price. That said, the most important thing you can remember is this: You make your money when you buy, not when you sell. Don't be stupid. It's like any other business."


1934 V-16 Cadillac Roadster by Fleetwood

Leave restoration to the pros (unless you're a master wrench)

"If you want a classic car restored, it costs upwards of $170,000," Dauer says. "Buy it from someone who's already restored it - unless you're very proficient mechanically." Vernon agrees. "Do you know how many people buy cars with the intention to restore them, and then leave them in a garage for 10 years?" he laughs. "They could have been enjoying a car for 10 years. "Good advice is: Don't buy a car that needs to be restored, unless you want to spend lots of time and money and waste your life. Buy a car that's ready, turn the key and go out and have fun." If you insist on tackling a restoration and wind up paying someone to do the dirty work, Lacey recommends patience and vigilance. "This isn't going to happen overnight, depending on the restoration you want to do," he says. "When you turn somebody loose on it, I'm not saying that they're all out to get you, but you have to be very careful. "For those who don't have time to personally ride herd over their automotive beautification project, Lacey suggests hiring a restoration superintendent. Once you start writing checks to have your car transformed, "you gotta at least know what a wrench looks like," Moore says. "Just for self-defense, if nothing else. You have to scare a mechanic into thinking you might know a little bit about what he does."

Moving to more general advice, it's desirable - but not critical - for classic cars to be kept in a climate-controlled environment that keeps humidity to a minimum. If that's not possible, keep your chariot in a garage that air flows through. If a car cover is the best you can manage, remove it periodically and polish your vehicle because wind movement will cause the cover to rub your car's paint job. It goes without saying that older cars need to be washed immediately after exposure to corrosive salt air.

If your car's engine won't be started for a year or two, it needs to be protected against internal rust and corrosion. That can be accomplished by dumping Marvel Mystery Oil into the gas tank and running the engine until heavy smoke billows from the exhaust. A company well versed with the unique insurance issues faced by the owners of collectible cars is Hagerty Insurance Agency.

Vernon has one final bit of advice for first-time car collectors."There are scam ads, guys selling cars that don't exist," he warns. "You really need to lay hands on the car - or send a paid appraiser."

Links to related posts on VanderbiltCupRaces.com:

In Search of Alcos: #4 1913 Alco Convertible Touring Car at the Milhous Museum

Archives: In Search of Alcos


Jul 17 2011 Walt Gosden 8:48 AM

There is a lot of sage advice in the article, particularly when it comes to how long it takes to restore a car and about “doing your homework/research”, being patient to buy a car and restore one, and not letting your ego over ride your brain. 
The value mentioned for the yellow 1934 Packard is more then optimistic to say the least, if anyone would pay that for it then there is a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell to them as well.

Oct 15 2011 kenneth 10:17 PM

is the classic car collection part of the merwin of boca raton collecion?

Oct 16 2011 Howard Kroplick 9:14 AM

Hi Kenneth:

They are two different collections.


Mar 06 2012 zachary tholke 7:43 PM

this is a amazing place i personally know them they are very nice the museum in person is much better in person.

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