All of a sudden, we find ourselves at the end of another year, toasting the past twelvemonth and looking forward to what’s to come. But before we shut the books on 2018, let’s take some time to look back on some of the stories that shaped the collector-car world, grabbed our attention, or otherwise seemed noteworthy to those of us here at Hemmings.
1. The minivan at the (National) Mall. The last year or so, we’ve been at a tipping point where the focus of the collector-car world is shifting from the cars admired by Boomers and on to the cars admired by their children. In an effort to capture that shift, the Historic Vehicle Association added one of the most significant vehicles of the 1980s — the very first Chrysler minivan — to the National Historic Vehicle Register alongside the 1985 Modena Design Spyder California that starred in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Which is not to say that the HVA ignored Boomers: It also added to the register perhaps the movie car of the Sixties, the 1968 Ford Mustang GT from Bullitt, which broke cover in January after decades out of the public spotlight and then in July charged up the hill at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
2. Ferrari GTOs sell for record amounts. After a year or two of relative calm on the “most expensive old car” front, the summer of 2018 saw two Ferrari 250 GTOs sell for record amounts. First, news broke in June that 4153GT sold for $70 million in a private sale in April to WeatherTech founder David MacNeil, setting an absolute world record. Then, at the RM Sotheby’s Monterey sale, 3413GT sold for $48.405 million, including premiums, setting a record for most expensive car to sell at auction.
3. Two of the most storied hot rods break cover after decades. Ask any hot-rod or custom enthusiast what the biggest news of 2018 was, and they’ll undoubtedly point to the sale of the Golden Sahara and the Kookie T, two famous cars from the Fifties that Jim Street kept under cover in Dayton since the Sixties. Rodding cognoscenti knew of the cars, but few had seen them in person until after Street’s death when both were sent to Mecum’s Indianapolis auction in May; the Kookie T ended up selling for $350,000, while the Golden Sahara sold for $440,000.
4. The ongoing Texas dune buggy saga. Toward the end of last year, it looked like the Texas DMV and dune buggy owners in the state were headed toward a resolution over Texas Administrative Rule 217.3, which effectively outlawed dune buggies and prompted the DMV to start revoking titles for the cars. This year, however, it appears those discussions went nowhere, and now the dune buggy enthusiasts are going to plead their case directly to the state’s legislature with the backing of the OG dune buggy enthusiast, Bruce Meyers himself.
5. The ongoing European motorsports saga. The much-discussed fallout from the Vnuk ruling hit home for European motorsports this year when the European Commission proposed a slate of reforms that would mandate insurance for both on- and off-road use of a motor vehicle and when European insurers confirmed that they wouldn’t touch motorsport activity with a 10-foot (10-meter?) pole. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, however, with the European Parliament for the first time proposing an exemption from insurance requirements for motorsports activity. Whether that passes remains to be seen.
6. Land-speed-record setbacks and successes. The horse race for the ultimate land-speed record took a few twists and turns this year, with the Bloodhound SSC project first running out of money in October, then apparently ending altogether, then getting rescued in quick succession. And with the death of Ed Shadle, the driving force of the North American Eagle team, it would seem there’s now one less competitor for the record. Meanwhile, Danny Thompson finally drove the Challenger 2 to a piston-powered record of 448.757 mph and Team Vesco came within a hair’s breadth of setting a 500-plus-mph wheel-driven record. As far as Bonneville — the site of the latter two successes — goes, competitors reported excellent salt this year, but the venue’s future remains in doubt, particularly in light of the decision to cancel this year’s Bonneville Shootout.
7. Route 66 resuscitation, continued. The push to secure permanent funding for Route 66 preservation efforts ramped up this year, with legislation now in the hands of the Senate and with the National Trust for Historic Preservation adding the Mother Road to its Most Endangered Historic Places list. Meanwhile, Tulsa appears to have secured status as the capital of Route 66, and a number of preservation efforts — such as the project documenting all the Green Book sites along Route 66 — continue.
8. Stalling on the replica car rule. By now, we should have seen at least a few companies offering turnkey replica cars under laws passed back in December 2015, but due to inaction from the NHTSA, implementation of those laws has stalled, as SEMA pointed out earlier this year when said that it intended to sue the NHTSA. That situation may or may not have contributed to the big brouhaha in the Checker world this year over Checker Motor Cars’ scrapping of as many as 40 cars in October.
9. But electric replicas suddenly became hot. Overseas, however, replica cars are taking off, though as full electrics rather than with the internal combustion engines that powered the originals. Jaguar is planning a run of brand-new electric E-types, Aston Martin has started to convert some of its heritage models to electric, and a British firm has planned all-new electric MGBs, Jaguar C-types, and Jaguar XKSSes. No doubt much of the interest in electric or electrified heritage models stems from that electric Jag used in the royal wedding.
10. Collections move, transform, close. Auto museums aren’t what they used to be, and this past year made that abundantly clear as some museums and collections implemented major changes (see the Academy of Art University’s transformation of its collection into the San Francisco Automobile Museum and FCA’s decision to relocate its historic vehicles into the former Viper assembly plant) while others (Den Hartogh, Hostetler, Dick’s Garage, Tupelo) simply closed and dispersed their collections.
11. This and that. Also worth mentioning: That time Volvo threw its weight around with the prancing moose guy, that time Detroit said it’d redevelop the former AMC headquarters, that time Australian car prices shot past $1 million (and then $2 million), that time the CCCA appointed a new president, that time the IMS Museum started the restoration of its Lotus 29, that time Craig Jackson bought the Lil’ Red prototype Shelby, and that time Click and Clack made it into the Automotive Hall of Fame.
As always, we’d like to hear from you. What was your favorite story from 2018? Did we miss any stories you thought were significant to the old-car world? What stories do you want to see the Hemmings Daily cover in the upcoming year?