Classic & Collectible Cars: Piece by Piece
There is a booming trade in classic car parts on sites like eBay and Hemmings, and it’s safe to say that they’re not all going to complete long-overdue car restorations.
Beautiful on their own, they include chrome hubcaps from mid-century classics that will conjure up the memories of the first car you ever owned (without having to maintain it) marled wood steering wheels that could function as sculpture and even an original Rolls Royce “Spirit of Ecstasy” flying lady mascot hood ornament. (One flying lady hood ornament was recently for sale on eBay for $1,295.)
These pieces are art in their own right, as are the automobile signs that hearken back to the classic age of advertising in the 1920s, when slogans like “Ford: The Universal Car,” beckoned a population hungry for wheels. According to Collectors Weekly, many of these early automobile signs were enameled or porcelain, in which layers of colored, powdered glass were fused onto an iron base. Many were lost when the war effort of World War II reclaimed the iron in the signs. After the war, porcelain sign production decreased markedly, so the originals can be worth a pretty penny today.
As in any collecting effort, the best approach is not to look at your purchase as an investment, but as a passion. After all, the flying lady will command only as much as the market will bear—and that is influenced by how many are on the market at any time. Automobile and collector experts recommend collecting what you love, and building a collection around a theme to raise the overall value and cohesiveness of the collection.
Good places to look for these pieces of automotive art include eBay’s classic motors section, the classic parts section of Hemmings, and the Classic Auto Parts site, which specializes in classic and obsolete parts. Collectors Weekly can help direct collectors to beautiful pieces sold on other sites (such as Hemmings and eBay), including recent finds, such as rare shift knobs, the so-called “suicide knobs” used in American hot rods of the 1950s, and enameled car badges (or radiator or grill badges) in mint condition, just waiting for the right collector.