Safe Queens

I’ve talked about this topic before, but I’m not sure I’ve ever told this story here.

Many years ago, a guy heard from a Reader of this website what a sucker I was for WWI- and WWII-era guns, and offered to sell me a brand-new, still-in-the-box, never-been-fired Colt Government 1911 from that time (with Colt certification).  As it happened, I was a little flush with cash right then, and after a little pondering (and deciding not to pay down the car debt), agreed to his price.  I went over to his house to complete the transaction, and checked it out.

(Not a pic of the actual gun.)

It was a beauty.  Needless to say, I was nuzzling it and whispering terms of endearment to it (as one would a new puppy), but I did let it slip that I couldn’t wait to take this beauteous thing from my grandfather’s era out to the range and see how it could shoot.

The seller looked aghast.  “You’re going to shoot  it?” he asked.
“Hell yes,” was my response.

Whereupon the guy immediately canceled the sale, clearly traumatized that someone was going to take his baby’s virginity.

I told you that tale as an intro to this foolishness:

If you had a supercar, you’d probably drive it, right? Not the three owners of this Ferrari 328 GTS over the last 30 years.
They’ve clocked up a combined- and frankly meagre – 283 miles in total, making this one of the best time-warp examples of an iconic ’80s supercar we’ve seen for some time.
And it could soon be yours, if you have pockets deep enough. That’s because it’s being sold at auction in the UK next month, and the expected purchase fee is set to hit £150,000.

And the accompanying pics (out of several):

Now I have to say that I’m casting lustful eyes upon this beauty, and if those bastards at PowerBall had fulfilled their side of the bargain over the weekend, I’d be winging my way over to Britishland as you read this, letter of credit from Gringotts Bank clutched in my sweaty little hand.

And let me tell you that once I’d got it back Over Here, and after having had it checked and serviced by Giovanni at Boardwalk Ferrari of Plano (yes of course  we have a Ferrari/Maserati dealership in Plano — do you even have to ask?), I would turn that 283 miles/30 years into 12,830 miles/30 years+1 month faster than you can say “Scuderia Maranello“.  I’m thinking of an epic road trip around the southern states, going from one Ferrari dealership to another (because Ferrari) before the weather turns chilly.

I’ve never understood the concept of “safe queens”, whose possession is so precious that usage is forbidden.  As Longtime Friend and Ex-Drummer Knob puts it so elegantly:

“Owning a beautiful car and never driving it in case you lower its value is like having a supermodel girlfriend and never fucking her, just to make her more attractive to her next boyfriend.”

In fact, now that I think of it, I’d not only drive this 328 GTS, I’d invite Knob over to drive it as well.  (What the hell, as bandmates, we once shared two girls — not simultaneously — because in those days we both liked the same kind of woman:  low moral standards, voluptuous figure and huge breasteses.)  I figure we’d each get as much fun out of the 328, so to speak, as we did from Penny and Big Jenny.

Anyway, to wrench this train of thought back from the branch line:  I have no time for people who treat machines and tools like investments, even though they can be regarded as such.  And as for the Ferrari’s owner/idiot:  if he’d plonked the original purchase price of the 328 into a stock index fund (to name but one  investment vehicle) thirty years ago, he’d have made far more money than he’s currently going to realize from its sale.  Some investment, smart guy.

And in the meantime, that gorgeous car has been wasting away like Rapunzel in the tower.



  1. Make that 1,283 miles and 30 years plus 3 days, unless you count the time it’s on the back of a flatbed heading for the Plano dealership. You know how Italians engineer.

  2. Hands down Drummer Knob had it correct. Routine servicing is a must do but more importantly, proper service includes getting oil up to the lifters.

  3. Never understood the safe/garage queen either. Of course you don’t ABUSE it (for instance you probably shouldn’t use the 1911 to shoot +P ammo that didn’t exist when it was made, without updating the springs and such anyway. Nor should use use the Ferrari to do donuts in a parking lot.

    As an aside:
    Mark’s theory on how different nationalities engineer cars:

    Suppose you have two parts that move against one another (I usually demonstrate by moving my left fist inside my cupped right hand.

    Americans: Make one part of very good steel, make the other out of cheaper steel but make it easy to replace. The good steel part will last forever, the cheap one will need to be replaced every 50,000 miles and cost $500.

    Japanese: Make both parts of good steel, they’ll last 125K miles but then you have a $4,000 repair.

    Germans: Do the same thing with 17 parts, none of which are available separately.

    Italians: Screw it, paint it red and put a beautiful woman in the passenger seat.

    British: Doesn’t matter, it’ll never wear out because the car won’t start when it’s raining, and it always rains.

  4. I feel the same way about folding knives. With only a couple exceptions that were purchased as gifts and awaiting distribution, I don’t own a single knife that hasn’t been sharpened and seen use. Knives, cars, guns, they’re all TOOLS and tools are meant to be used.

  5. There are those who do the same with whisk(e)y. I’d never heard of the term “Investment Grade Scotch” until a few years ago. I still have a couple of unopened bottles of premium hooch (30 YO Highland Park, a 23 YO Brora, plus a less-valuable but still highly-sought-after Ardbeg, Airigh nam Beist) that would fetch some very pretty pennies at auction. I still may auction off the Brora, but the other two I intend to enjoy while I’m still on the green side of the grass. As tools are made to be used, whisky is made to be savoured and enjoyed.

  6. How I learned about Lamborghini maintenance. In the late 1990’s my wife and I downsized into a nice two bedroom, two bath house on a big tree street not far from NW Highway and Midway Road in Dallas. During the next ten years our neighborhood transformed by tearing down the small houses and putting in 4K sq ft houses and that’s how I came to have a next door neighbor for five years who owned a Lamborghini, along with an AMG Mercedes and a tricked out Ford F-150 and several motorcycles which was a lot of nice stuff for a single guy in his 40’s.

    As time went by I noticed the Lamborghini stayed up in its nest, a lift in the garage that stored it covered above the Mercedes and I ask my neighbor why he was not using it as much as he used to. He laughed and told me that he was going to sell it within the next year, I don’t remember how many miles it had but neighbor told me that during the time he had owned it he had to replace the tires and the brakes which was a routine 20,000 mile task that cost about $20,000 and the resale on those things took the remaining miles into account on the tires and brakes, every thousand miles on the odometer took about a thousand dollars off the the resale. Not living in that kind of world and knowing my neighbor was a real decent guy I am assuming that’s the way things work with exotic high performance car values. I joked with him about not using his Lamborghini for a trip to Houston and back to Dallas and he said his Harley wold be more comfortable going that distance.

    I really liked those big new houses next to mine because six years ago when we decided to sell our house and move to the Texas Hill Country I sold my house for the dirt to a developer as a tear down for cash, no realtor commission or inspections and about $20K over the price suggested by a realtor friend as an asking price were we to use him to put it on the market, and that’s how I came to live next door to a Lamborghini which was not driven very much.

    If I won a lottery I would buy a little bit nicer pickup truck and spend some of the money on a few more guns that I probably don’t really need. My wife and I gave almost all of our stuff to our grown kids as we downsized and we really don’t need more stuff now.

    1. Yeah, when you get up there in age, once you’ve taken care of the kids / grandkids, there’s not a whole bunch more that you want / need. My only indulgence might be a Maserati Quattroporte GTS, and a couple-three guns from Collectors that I happen to know that the Son&Heir and Daughter want, which I’d be glad to pass on after having shot their barrels out first.
      Oh, and the Mazza would be handed over after some extremely hard use and as many miles as one could do in x years. Wouldn’t be worth diddly by the time I was done.

  7. These days you see lots of articles on “barn cars”. People bought desirable American muscle cars back in the 60s and early 70s and locked them up in a barn someplace in the middle of nowhere. The critters got to the cars and now they’re covered with chicken poop. The wiring and interiors were torn up by rats and all of the rubber parts are dry rotted.

    Grandpa who bought the car and locked it away has passed and now his heirs are trying to peddle the scrap iron to somebody who will spend ten times what the car is worth to restore it and then lock it up in another barn to deteriorate.

    When I see large collections of old cars just rotting away I’m convinced that somebody bought the car just to keep somebody else – who might drive and enjoy that car – from having it.

    I did a bit of car show security over the years and I remember a great conversation I had with the owner of a 427 Shelby Cobra. The car was the real deal – not one of the fiberglass kit cars. The Cobra’s owner and I talked about how crude the car was, even by the standards of 1967. It had flat aluminum panels in the trunk, pop rivets and plenty of hose clamps and the owner reminded me that the Cobra was a race car. It was made to go fast and anything else wasn’t necessary. The owner also said that every time he drove the car – about once a month – he lost money. He had plenty of money and could always make more. He couldn’t make another car like that. It was meant to be driven and enjoyed so why not?

  8. I don’t have any safe queens but I do have a rifle that would be a safe queen – if I kept it in the safe.

    It’s a nearly 200 year old Kentucky long rifle. It’s a flintlock that was never converted to cap-n-ball. And though it had been well used back in it’s time, it has not been fired in the 50+ years I have had it.

    It’s a family heirloom so it hangs proudly over my mantle.

    I can think of a couple of other examples. A very good friend of mine who retired from the Louisville PD 28 years ago, offered to sell me, for a very good price, a commemorative 38 special that he had. It is a very nice gun with the LPD logo and other commemorative engravings. It also came with a very nice walnut display case and had never been fired. I turned it down because it doesn’t have the sentimental value for me, and I knew that I would have to take it to the range at least once. I would probably have felt bad about it afterword.

    I was watching a special program the other day about the making of the miniseries “Band of Brothers”. In it, Maj. Richard Winters talked about the 9mm pistol the German officer surrendered to him at the end of the war. He noted that, at the time, the pistol was still new and had never been fired. Maj. Winters, at the time of the interview, still had the pistol and it’s original holster. He also noted that after all those years in his possession, it still had never been fired. That, my friend, is one rare example of an acceptable “safe queen”.

    1. I think there’s a big difference between “never shoot” and “never sell” guns. I’ve got a few that fall into the never sell category – my Garand, my 686 Smith that was my first duty pistol, dad’s old Mossberg .410 bolt action. The never sell guns are kept for sentimental or historical reasons. I don’t own anything that falls into the never shoot category – I guess that if I owned something that was extremely rare and/or extremely valuable or it had very important meaning to me like Dick Winter’s pistol I’d lock it up in the safe. Right now I have one rifle that I’ve never shot and that’s only because I haven’t gotten to the range lately.

  9. The new owner has 2 choices. He can drive it and enjoy it. Bringing it cars and coffee and FCA track days and tour events and enter a few Concorse events, but to do so, he going to need it fully serviced and 30 year old tires, belts and fluids replaced. then he’s going to need to undo all the damage that 30 years of sitting in garages created. Dry seals, old gas, no lubrication, hard rubber that is no longer flexable, dryed out wiring etc. rough estimate somewhere north of $100 K depending what they uncover. After all that his car will be worth maybe $ 200 K in 10 years

    His other choice – well he can throw the car cover back on and hope to find a greater fool in 5 to 10 years. But a 328 GTS is not a particularly rare or desirable Ferrari and the pool of potential Greater Fool Ferrari wantabe owners is rapidly ageing. in 10 years he might be able to unload it for $200K + but after buyers and seller Auction fees, service costs , etc. he is not like to come out on the plus end.

  10. Ah whatever floats your boat when it comes to what you do with what you buy. But I shoot and drive everything I have like it’s the last time I’ll enjoy it. And you know what? I’m happy with that.

Comments are closed.