Inside the Used-Car Showroom of Your Dreams

There are sellers of used and consigned cars. And then there’s Fantasy Junction. Although located in a slightly tough part of Emeryville, Calif. — you can’t miss the steel bars over the windows — the warehouse that Spencer Trenery calls his office is stuffed bumper to bumper with some of the most astounding vehicles in the country.

“It’s not a bad view, I’ll give you that,” says Trenery, patting his dog on the head as he gazes out past his office door to the fleet at his feet. “We have fun here.”

At the front of the pack among sixty-plus cars is a hulk of a vehicle that might as well be a working time machine to the 1930s.

Rakish in an Art Deco way, with its chrome brightwork contrasting with a jet black body, this 1938 Maybach SW38 Roadster by Spohn is a marvel. Only two are known to exist, with the other belonging to Mecum Auctions’ Dana Mecum, says Trenery. Fantasy Junction has the car on consignment for a New York state collector for $3.3 million.

“Maybachs were known as four door limousines of the highest order, both then and when they came back,” resurrected by Mercedes-Benz in the 2000s and shuttered a decade or so later after only 3,000 pricey sales, says Trenery. “The only way to get a two-door was to get a four-door rebodied.”

This particular machine was said to have been ordered as a four-door convertible by a German company director, who soon found his adored status symbol commandeered by the Nazi party. The Maybach survived World War II, and wound up — like many unique European machines from the era — on a boat heading to the U.S., where it spent time in a Southern California collection for many years before eventually being restored by Pebble Beach-winning Mike Fennel Restorations in the 1990s.

To walk around the car is to recall an era when such machines were land-bound equivalents of today’s mega-yachts, utterly dominating wide boulevards that were not yet packed with vehicles. Although this Maybach’s six-cylinder aircraft-grade engine was capable of then-blinding speeds of 100 mph, one cringes at the thought of navigating this beast along today’s crowded streets.

Trenery smiles when asked about the sort of interest he’s been getting in the car. Let’s say his phone hasn’t been ringing off the hook.

“You have to understand that there a very limited and diminishing number of people who can both afford this car and have a deep appreciation for its significance,” he says. “We’re slowly transitioning from a boomer-led classic car market to a Gen X crowd, who really appreciate the cars from the ‘70s and ‘80s.”

The other problem is that despite this Maybach’s rarity and beauty (it’s known as a “disappearing top” car because the ragtop vanishes into the rear deck), those older owners who do recognize its value also remember when such cars were far less expensive.

Trenery’s best guess is that a large automotive museum or a consortium of car-crazed investors might purchase the car, holding on to it for a few years and hoping for a larger return down the road. And then there’s Mecum, “who would be a logical buyer when you think about it,” he says. “There are only two, and he’d have both. You’d have control of the Maybach SW38 Roadster by Spohn market.”

Trenery taps his desktop computer. “There’s one other possibility today, thanks to the Internet,” he says. “I could get no calls on this car, then one day find an email from someone in Russia saying if you’ll take X then I’ll wire you the money, and the next day’s it gone. You never know I guess.”

So the Maybach might sit a while at Fantasy Junction. But at least it’s in good company. Nearby is a ravishing red 1959 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spyder, priced at an eye-watering $10.9 million. When the shop’s dog walks past that car, you’re tempted to grab his tail so it doesn’t even brush against that paint job.

Despite the crazy tag, Trenery is bullish on this vehicle finding a new home given the positively skyrocketing vintage Ferrari prices of late. “This car is at the epicenter of what so many people are looking for, which is a V-12 Ferrari with an open top that is totally relevant on the road today,” he says.

So far, Trenery — whose father Bruce translated a college-era passion for selling cars he fixed up into this 40-year-old institution just east of San Francisco — has shown me a few cars for which I couldn’t afford to buy a new windshield. But the good news is he prides himself “on having something for everyone.”

We walk down the narrow aisles formed by the endless rows of cars, rolling by a few lovely 1962 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spiders ($59,000 and $88,000), as well as similar vintage Austin Healey 3000 MkII and MkIII machines (for around $70,000). Seeing my slumped shoulders, he keeps walking until he stops in front of a late ‘50s Volvo PV544, priced at a comparatively bargain basement $18,000.

“This sort of car doesn’t help us makes ends meet, but we feel it’s important for everyone to feel like they can come in here and have access to something,” says Trenery.

Or you can just do as I did. Walk on in, and apologize in advance for drooling as you window shop for an hour. They guys here won’t mind. You’ll just have to promise to pet the dog.

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