Autosport Designs of Long Island, N.Y. has been specializing in classic car sales, repair, maintenance, restoration, custom rebuilds, & storage since 1989. NewYorKars went behind the scenes to learn more about the collector car business.
A Jaguar stalked a Thunderbird. A black on black Rambo Lambo loomed in the corner, dwarfing a pair of Porsches it watched over. Trickle charger cables snaked around every corner. Autosport Designs in Huntington Station, N.Y. is a menagerie of rare glass and steel and NewYorkars was given the opportunity to explore it firsthand.
We sat down with proprietor Tom Papadopoulos to learn what has changed in the business and what will always remain.
The lost art of the phone call
“Autosports Designs has been around since 1989,” Tom told NewYorKars. “We initially built the business on service and restoration. And then clients had me flying all over the world to check the car they were interested in. I go write a four-page list. And they finally say, ‘If I’m trusting you to look at the car and you’re writing this, why don’t you just find it and tack on a few bucks and make a savings account?’ And there were our sales.”
Autosport Designs purchases, consigns, sells, services, and maintains some of the most sought-after vehicles ever made. Though Tom keeps busy as the sole proprietor of the establishment, he is still a trusted resource for people looking to buy valuable cars all over the world.
“It’s guidance,” Tom continued. “I get 300 emails a day and I’d like to give everyone an answer, but I get questions like ‘What do you think of this car, what do you think of that car?’ It’s really tough. I have what I have in my garage for whatever reason I like. I’ve owned a lot of cars and I’ve been behind the seat of many others. But I can’t exactly portray it over the internet like the old days. Pick up the damn phone and let’s have a discussion.”
Show or go
There are collectors who drive their cars and there are collectors who display them like art or furniture and cherish every mile they don’t put on a car. Either way, let’s say you have a rare numbers-matching car throw a rod, taking with it a big chunk of value. What do you do?
“In the old days, guys would take that engine out and put it on a stand in their office and then put another one in and drive the shit out of it,” Tom said. Whereas, “In ten years of collecting odometer readings, how much are you going to have to put in the car if someone wants to use it? And how much does that eat of your investment potential? You have a Daytona that sits for 10 years on jack stands, it’ll probably cost you about $40,000 to get it running again.”
Whatever your driving preference, your car won’t atrophy if you store it correctly. Autosport Designs has ample storage space, which is useful for the harsh northeast winters. We saw all sorts of makes and models down there, and not all of them were rare exotics. The shop uses race fuel for storage, which doesn’t contain ethanol, a notorious devourer of rubber.
If the car was in good condition before it went into hibernation, it will be just the same six months later. The shop fires it up, does a routine inspection of fluids, hoses, etc., and the customer can drive off.
You can bring in any car in for service as well. We saw a fourth-gen Honda Accord sharing shop space with a Ferrari F40. The shop stands behind all its work, no matter what you drive.
Do your homework
Though we now have instant availability of information, automotive values still follow the market and due diligence is key.
“It’s the same as property,” Tom explained. “Two great pieces of property on the same block. Great area. One’s the money pit, one’s perfectly manicured. 500 grand difference — that’s the cost of restoration. If you can inspect and advise correctly, and the car is worth that much more, buying the best always saves you more.”
You might pay more up front but you will save on the back end because you won’t spend more money and time restoring it. Though the comparison can be made between cars and real estate, the former veer off when it comes to auctions. You can send inspectors and engineers over to the house before putting down any cash, but when a car takes center stage you usually don’t have much to go on.“You have a Daytona that sits for 10 years on jack stands, it’ll probably cost you about $40,000 to get it running again”
“In the car world when the market’s up and guys are flipping them and you’re listening and believing auction catalogs that could be written by guys who don’t know what they’re talking about, that doesn’t jive with me,” Tom said. “When the market’s up, it’s a stock flip.”
Keep an eye on the market, do your research, and don’t get dazzled by shiny paint and chrome. You’ll never know what gremlins lurk in a car’s works without popping the hood. Know what you’re getting into before anything else. But above all, enjoy your investment.
“There’s a lot of ins-and-outs to this business, and the passion, collection, enthusiasm,” Tom concluded. “There’s a lot of different facts to it. Investment isn’t always one them. You can get very lucky with the investment, but I think we’re at the end of a bubble where a lot of them went up exponentially.”
Pulling back the curtain
We want to thank Tom and sales manager Brandon Simon for opening the doors at Autosport Designs to NewYorKars. Perhaps the most lasting impression we have was our first one. When we walked into the showroom our eyes were pulled towards a Rosso Corsa 1985 Ferrari 288 GTO. Just 272 of these homologation specials were ever produced, and we got to study a supreme example up close. The car has since been sold, making us sad and not a little jealous.
The showroom display has changed since we visited and some cars have gone to new loving homes, but there’s much more to see. Our friend’s 1968 Chevrolet Camaro RS/SS restomod, for one, is among the distinguished company. Stop by Autosport Designs if you’re in the area or visit the online showroom for a rotating inventory of dream machines. Here are just a few highlights:
One of just 140 Aston Martin DB6 Volantes manufactured, this particular vehicle had a right-hand drive to left-hand drive conversion during restoration to as-new condition. Classic styling with a touch of modern features make it an ideal daily driver and tourer for this side of the pond.
This numbers-matching, factory-loaded Porsche 911 RS Touring comes with a Porsche Certificate of Authenticity confirming its originality. It made the trip from Germany to the U.S., where it passed through the experienced hands of noted Porsche collectors before making its way to Autosport Designs. It has been thoroughly maintained and underwent a rebuild in 2013 to make it concours and road-ready
The Lamborghini Countach is a head-turner in any spec, but this 5000 Quattrovalvole Downdraft variant is unique among the rest. Its Factory Lamborghini COA is documented by none other than former Lambo chief test driver Valentino Balboni. Of the 610 Countach 5000 Quattrovalvole models imported into the USA from 1985 to 1988, just 13 vehicles were fitted with downdraft carburetors at U.S. ports before the EPA and DOT banned Lamborghini from importing them. The rest came were equipped with Bosch Electronic fuel-injection systems, making this carbureted example a rare bull.
One of 277 production Jaguar XJ220 examples, this British bullet was the fastest car in the world when it debuted. The Jag topped anything from Lamborghini and Ferrari, and it took the introduction of the legendary McLaren F1 to force the XJ220 to concede the throne. The XJ220 currently residing at Autosport Designs was imported from Germany to the States in 2004, where it was meticulously maintained until it was shipped to Jaguar in Coventry in 2011 for factory service and an engine rebuild to European specs. With its Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust Certificate, this XJ220 is among the finest examples of its kind.
This Aston Martin Vanquish was converted to a 6-speed manual by Aston Martin Works Service in 2012, replacing the F1-style paddle shift transmission. These are the people who produced the factory Vanquish new at the Works in Newport Pagnell. This V-12 Vanquish has spent its life in California and Texas and is also loaded with factory performance and cosmetic options. Autosport Designs went through the car to make sure all systems are operating as they should. The entire front end of this Vanquish is wrapped in clear shield film for protection from road debris.