My Car Quest

April 13, 2024

How The Coronavirus Could Change The Collector Car World

The Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) is now a Pandemic

The Novel Coronavirus has created a dramatic shift in many of our lives in a very short time. In many ways we are on hold, waiting for this virus to go away. Italy, Spain and France have all but shut down for a few weeks. Other countries may join this list by the time you read this.

Here, where I live in Northern California, six counties with about 7 million people (San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Marin, Contra Costa and Alameda) have been put on the most restrictive public health footing anywhere in the US since the outbreak of the coronavirus. And a few minutes ago Santa Cruz county has joined in this group so seven counties in total.

These counties have been placed under a shelter-in-place directive by public health officials in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The details sound a lot like what is going on in Italy, Spain and France, that is – stay home for a few weeks. I live in Monterey County, which is not impacted by these new measures and has not reported a case of Covid-19 yet but I suspect it is only a matter of time. I just learned that Monterey county is considering the same shelter-in-place measures as the other counties. We will know in a day or so.

In the US we are being encouraged to create “social distance” meaning do not gather in crowds or even go to restaurants or bars and stay a few feet away from other people in public when we do go out.

There have been many travel restrictions implemented in the US for people coming in from certain countries.

No one knows how long this natural emergency created by Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) will last. It could be months threatening more lives, events and plans many of us have like trips, weddings, sporting events, car shows and just daily life like a dinner out.

Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) has also had a big impact on the global stock market and business, which may be effecting all of us in some way or another, including the collector car market.

Recently the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance was held with great success as usual. There have not been any reported problems from Covid-19 cases that I have heard of. I expect we will see some classic car events canceled or postponed in the next few weeks and months.

Eventually this will pass and life will go back to “normal”; some things will take a long time to return to “normal” and some things will be changed forever (The New Normal).

Plan for a longer time for the return to “normal” than you think – like the end of this year or beyond. Let’s be safe out there while still finding a way to live life and have fun – but most of all be safe.

Read below what Wallace Wyss thinks could change in the collector car world and let us know what you think in the Comments.

Mike Gulett, Publisher

by Wallace Wyss –

The collector car market got to be the way it was (before Novel Coronavirus, or Covid-19) incrementally, over decades. Thus, a Mercedes 300SL Gullwing went for, say, $3500 in ’62 to a million dollars today.

The market got so educated and discerning that, with genuine prewar classics, for instance, a lot of the cars that looked presentable had to be re-done in order not to get points off when being judged at the more strict concours, sometimes at great expense.

The top prize sometimes depended on a single point on correctness. The car would be dinged for example, if the wing nuts on the carburetor air filters weren’t factory. I predict, when Planet Earth emerges from the scourge of this virus, and we look around at who’s still standing, a lot of the old stickler-for-accuracy rules will go out the window.

Why? Because the virus is a stark reminder that life is short, too short to search for five years to get the same number 250GT engine your Ferrari was built with to replace the one you have now that is one or two SN off. So big concours will still be held but I predict the old criterion will be tossed out at least for the first two or three years because we as car enthusiasts are just glad to be surviving and enjoying cars again.


With Covid-19 being especially precarious for those over 50, and a good many car buffs being upwards in age, project cars will be re-assessed insofar as to whether the timeline that was originally planned (“I’ll have the engine rebuilt when I can find an OSCA guy,” etc.) jives with The New Normal.

I think of today’s situation as akin to a Bugatti owner in France in 1939. Sure it would be nice to get that ’20s Bugatti running but say the owner gets word that German troops have just crossed the border so it’s time to think of higher priorities. (I always picture King Zog of Albania fleeing with his family in a Bugatti Royale). There is bit of that crisis atmosphere not only in the collector car world, but the sports world, the restaurant and bar world and the film business. I haven’t checked the fine art market but I bet that’s taking a hit as well.

Instead project cars will be rolled out to auctions on trailers and sold with all the parts in a box behind it because owners over 50 realize the virus could come back, they may not be so lucky the next time. Might as well sell it, and buy something turn key ready. Leave the project to the youngsters.


Nobody for the next year may want to go to a crowded indoor auction venue. So the auctions will be online (RM has changed their March Palm Beach in-person auction to on-line only), with more of the higher value cars having a big screen behind it showing the car running and driving. The really big buyers may have cameras on them at home as they pipe up to bid on a car. Maybe some small time buyers will have cameras out in the cornfield putting in a bid to show they’re still in the game.

Values will be all over the place, not reflecting the steady gain we saw over decades in the pre-virus prices.


With electric cars having no emissions there will be shops that put classic car bodies on ready made electric car platforms so you enjoy the dream car you always wanted without the worry of maintaining or smog testing an old car whose parts may be hard to find. Engine sounds can be artificially matched by computer from recordings.


People will be afraid to be in museums so car museums will have outdoor events, parades of their cars (but still be able to write off the cost of the museum).


While there will still be plenty of pre-1939 cars in museums the new emphasis at concours and auctions will be ’50s, and ’60s cars, as there will be less people who want to see a Duesenberg or Cord. A “classic” will be a ’65 Ford Mustang or a Pontiac Trans-Am.


These are fun to go to. It’s a run-what-you-brung situation. There will have to be police to ticket those who do burnouts (which ended many a cars-‘n-coffee) but this might be the format for car shows now because nobody is going to plan a careful post-restoration appearance two years from now for their car when they don’t know if they will still be on Earth. Pandemics do sort of change your mindset.


Some car companies will bite the dust, because some had parts being made in China and can’t get them. Owners of these cars will have trouble getting parts. There are cars in the showroom now that will be orphaned a year from now. So if you like to have something unusual, get the car you want now because its maker might not survive the fallout from the plague. I’d drop off a copy of a cashier’s check for the car you want with your price and a date the check can no longer be redeemed. Take it or leave it, buddy.


Europeans will dump those vintage cars in order to be able to save their family businesses, some of which were 50% or more dependent on tourism. The family might want them to save the family business more than that old Ferrari they’ve been restoring for 30 years. Up ’til now the family tolerated it but now the car will have no “guaranteed value,” so it can no longer be able to tie up the family funds. Some European countries hit hard by the virus will be cleaned out of the premium models like Ferrari V12s, pre-1970 unless they are owned by well established families riding out the storm in their villa high above Lake Como.


Forget any rules about what was run in that car back when it was new. The organizers will be so glad to see they can fill a grid, that they will forget about any attempt at authenticity. You’ll also see replica Cobras running against real Cobras. Car shows will only be able to let so many people in, so say at the IN entrance there will be 200 people in line but none can enter until the counter at the EXIT records someone left.


As Bob Dylan sang” “Times they are a-changin”. The “New Normal” is that you can count on the fact that things are not going to be like they were, and even when the cure for the virus comes there will always be the nagging worry that another will come. Everybody is going to be thinking short term, a year or two ahead, that’s it. The new leitmotif will be “Have fun while you can” and forget about that long range project being part of your financial underpinnings because we can’t count on stability in the old car field.

That era is over…

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Learn more about the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19) at the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention-click here.

Wallace Wyss

THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss has written 18 car books. As a fine artist, he has 100 portraits of classics. For a list of prints available, drop a line to



How The Coronavirus Could Change The Collector Car World
Article Name
How The Coronavirus Could Change The Collector Car World
Collector car values will be all over the place, not reflecting the steady gain we saw over decades in the pre-Covid-19 prices.


  1. Well, that is a pretty grim view but one that now seems more plausible today than yesterday. As I sit at my desk in San Francisco pondering how I should continue with my construction business today and this week, I’m also wanting to be a part of this solution by staying indoors and avoiding contact with others. I’ll make some adjustments today and begin to hunker down.
    I feel for the many brick and mortar businesses that have been struggling in this Trump’s self proclaimed greatest economy will be given the final knockout punch, especially if this social distancing continues beyond the scheduled 3 weeks. If so, then the collector car market will take a hit. A global recession will probably ensue and the bottom of the car market may find some new lows. I am planning to bid online at the PB RM auction Friday and Saturday but now with a pessimistic outlook for future values.

  2. wallace wyss says

    Collector cars can’t be called investments anymore. That was a lie we told ourselves. They are reduced to the status of toys. If your net worth is sufficient to allow a toy or two that’s 1/100th of your net worth, go for it but otherwise you
    are gambling on a commodity that may have no value if the body count climbs.

    • I’ve never purchased a classic car for the sole purpose of investing. I love cars, and owning cars as a teenager and learning to work on them was so satisfying, and I own them to drive. I’d rather spend my money and time on cars than other forms of entertainment. An investment for me that is not driven by profit. No disappointments, no regrets.

  3. I should clarify that remark. “No disappointments, no regrets” refers only to the cars, not to the many shops and mechanics that I have dealt with.

  4. Two Coronavirus cases were reported in Monterey County, California today and Monterey County is now on shelter-in-place until April 8.

  5. SKIP HINOJOS says


  6. John Rice says

    I love the idea of our favorite cars being enjoyable enthusiast’s cars instead of investment collector objects. Let the market collapse begin! I don’t care if my present cars decline. This would potentially open up availing myself of some currently unaffordable motor cars.

    Second, if you are a driving enthusiast… look at how much more open our roadways are at this moment. Doesn’t the thought cross your mind about how it might be great fun to drive one of your entusiast cars instead of slogging along with the mindless bunch? I can’t remember the last time I went out simply to enjoy driving without dodging inept, careless drivers..

    BTW I’m plenty old enough to be in the prime risk group, but if we go out.. driving on fairly open roads we are only sufferening the usual risks associated with older vehicles. No need to get out unless we become overly enthusiastic and attract “that’ kind of attention.

  7. Jan Malmgren says

    I agree to fully with Wallace, the ” boomers” own lots of properties, Classic cars, boats, airplanes etc. And had the chance to buy the cars at resonable value. Very few boomers could afford to buy their own cars today. The basic cost for living with high rent, mobil phones, taxes computers and so on leave less money over for classic cars. Their Children are not raised up with understanding of car service, done by themselves, but driving in modern cars. So the high time of classics which was driven up by boomers will also fall with boomers to a level of value for normal people to accept, part from some very rare cars, still in the Investors garages.

  8. This is the result of American business’s empowering China by selling our companies and technology. The Chinese in turn used that same technology to weaponize this virus. We should have partnered with other less destructive countries like India , Vietnam or the Philippines. The old saying choose your friends carefully holds true now we pay the price. I hope those CEO’s that sold out think about the work they left for their families. Cars have little value over life.

  9. This will be a great time to buy a collector car.

    The inflated values from 5 or so years ago will evaporate.

  10. I feel bad for the car manufacturers and their employees.

    This is a bad virus.

    It will start a very bad recession and there will be more job losses and bankruptcies.

Speak Your Mind