Canepa’s penchant for perfection extends to the many race cars on the premises. Typically, these track workhorses famously were not — with the exception of their impeccable engines — models of craftsmanship due to the beatings inflicted by motor racing.
For example, the panel fits on these cars are notoriously bad, with the quick slam of a door often hacking off paint chips in the process. But if you buy a weekend warrior vintage-racing machine from this outfit, you’ll have a rolling museum piece, as typified by a 1980 Porsche 935 Interscope Racing Team machine.
A lot of these [new] cars are computers on wheels. The old stuff, it’s hand made in small quantities from metal and aluminum, and you feel all that when you’re driving them. - Bruce CanepaCanepa opens the passenger door, then slams it shut, revealing perfect panel gaps a new Porsche 997 would envy. “That right there is 500 man hours of labor,” he says.
Who would shell out for cars that clearly carry the loftiest of price tags? Anyone who can afford to, says Canepa. He’s never been busier; in fact, he’s trying to hire a few new technicians. Canepa attributes the uptick in part to the stock market’s recent woes.
“I’m selling more collectible cars than ever, partly because not many people are seeing their money increase tremendously in value in the stock market, but it will with the right car,” says Canepa, whose list of hot automotive stocks include “all vintage Ferraris, Mercedes 300 SL Gullwings and Roadsters, Shelby Cobras and the early GT350 Mustangs, early Jaguars and most any car with a racing history.”
By way of example, he cites the increased values of 289 Cobras (from $300,000 a few years back to $600,000-plus today) and Gullwings ($500,000 to $800,000). He says some car aficionados are starting to sour on some modern fare because they’re built in comparatively large numbers that instantly mean sharp depreciation after the initial sale.
“A lot of these cars are computers on wheels,” he says. “The old stuff, it’s hand made in small quantities from metal and aluminum, and you feel all that when you’re driving them.”
A case in point are two cars currently residing in his warehouse. One is a fully restored 1972 Ferrari 246 GTS Dino in Ferrari red over black and looking far nicer than it likely did the day it left Maranello. Across the room is a sinister looking — and nearly new — Mercedes McLaren SLR.
“The fellow who bought that red Ferrari traded in his new SLR for it,” says Canepa with a smile.
“The Dino is a classic that may go up in value. The SLR sold new for $450,000, and it now has 800 miles and we’re selling it for $250,000.”
Canepa clearly can talk cars for hours on end. But he’s got to excuse himself, as he’s heading off to a big race to meet up with old friends. He still races vintage machines far too fast, never having lost of the love of speed that he first developed in sprint cars and carried into his days as a driver of a devilishly swift Porsche 935.
Speaking of driving, what brings the biggest smile to his face is the fact that despite the Concours-level restorations of the cars he sells, most end up back on the road in no time flat.
“A decade ago, the cars I sold were usually hauled around the country in trailers, going from show to show,” he says. “They were purely investments. Today, though they’re still items whose values will likely increase, I’m seeing so many of the owners we deal with go out and drive the cars, either in vintage racing or just for fun. They see that patina has value. And that couldn’t make me happier.”
And after all, if anything should go wrong out on the byways of America, Canepa is happy to bring any car back to better-than-new, one repolished nut and re-wrapped wire at a time.