Contemporaneous Pricing

From Younger Reader Daniel D:

As I have watched your frequent auto posts I notice that higher end cars, Farraris and the like, from your youth appear frequently. Many seem in immaculate condition, as I suppose anything of that value is, but it seems the same tier of cars are fairly often seen for those who travel in those circles. These are not mass-market cars like the classic Mustangs of the same era, so their continued existence despite I assume the same level of gleeful driving seems somewhat remarkable. I wonder if you have any perspective on the price at these times as it relates to spending power, as I have not seen anything other than which reflects their value as collectibles. I wonder if this tier of automobile was slightly more accessible as a doctor’s life goal type purchase as opposed to buying a house’s worth that someone else could T-bone. Were higher tier cars at a more accessible price point in the past for the merely well-to-do as opposed to only being a plaything of the rich?

It’s a really good question, with a couple of answers necessary.

Firstly, the issue of price vs. wage level, at various points in history.  I often use the comparison of my own situation in the mid- to late 1970s as an example (using the SA Rand as equal to the US$ in terms of its local buying power, which it was for almost everything except gasoline/petrol).  So:

  • Salary at the Great Big Research Company:  $400 per month
  • Rent for my 1BR 1BA apartment in the heart of the city:  $90 per month
  • Price of a new VW Golf:  $1,200
  • Rickenbacker bass guitar:  $1,100.

Now, the approximate sticker costs during the same time period (and in today’s dollars):

  • Rolls Royce Phantom: $26,000 ($159,700)
  • Dino 246 GT:  $13,900 ($85,375)
  • Porsche 911 S:   $8,675 ($53,280)
  • E-type Jag:  $5,725 ($35,165)
  • Chev Corvette:  $5,192 ($31, 890).

I should point out that the official increase (or decrease, if you will) of the dollar’s value from say 1976 till today is about 5.21, but for automobiles, it’s about a 6.14 – 6.15 multiple.

In actual fact, given that today a Corvette actually costs about $65,000 (double the “official”) and any Ferrari or Rolls is north of a million shows you how unaffordable the upper-end cars have become.

(I remember talking to a doctor friend back in the day, and he commented that buying a Rolls in 1965 and keeping it for 20 years would actually have saved him money, compared with buying a new Merc every five years, even with the maintenance costs included.)

But let’s just stay in the 1970s for a moment, and consider my annual salary as a humble assistant statistician back then was $4,800.  (It was NOT a bad clerical salary at the time.)  If we take that Porsche 911 S as an example, it would have cost me about 1.8x my annual salary.

That same position’s salary in today’s dollars is probably $55,000 per annum, and a “base” 2022 Porsche 911 with only a few options will set you back about $115,000 — or about 2x the annual salary.  Not too far off.

However:  my rent back then constituted about 22% of my monthly salary, whereas rent for the same type of apartment today would account for almost 90% (or more, depending on the city) of my monthly salary — and assuming I moved out to the ‘burbs, it would still account for close to 50% of my nut.

So the takeaway from all this is that a “reasonable” sports car was more within the average Joe’s reach back in the 1970s, whereas those same cars are completely out of reach today.

And yes:  even back then, the truly high-end cars were pretty much accessible only to the very well-to-do, as they are today.  My father was an established civil engineer in the early 1970s, and the Dino would have represented 1.3x of his annual salary — and there was NO WAY he would have considered it.  He chose instead a Mercedes 350SL, at 0.6x, and who would blame him?

By the way, an immaculately-restored Dino 246 GT — Ferrari’s attempt at an “entry-level” car — will now cost you from $350,000 to $stupid.

Same Ol’, Same Ol’

I see that the Russians are reverting to type:

RUSSIAN soldiers are reportedly using rape as an “instrument of war” in Ukraine, a prosecutor has warned.

Putin’s savages are also believed to be executing civilians in cold blood amid the evil invasion which entered its 28th day today.

Shades of Berlin 1945, for us students of history.

In The Air Again

With only a few exceptions, anyone who knows anything about history and aviation has respect (at worst) and love for the extraordinary De Havilland Mosquito fighter-bomber-reconnaissance airplane.

As a number of my Readers fall into the history/aviation dork genus, here’s an hour or so of the restoration of a Mozzie.  I loved every minute of it.

Even better, in Canada (????).  Brilliant stuff.

Listening Time

I’m feeling a little under the weather — head cold, nothing to worry about — so please indulge me for a day or two if posting is a little light.

In the meantime, listen to the ever-knowledgeable Victor Davis Hanson talk about the war in Ukraine.  Well worth the time.

Good Old Days

Prompted by Insty’s invitation to his open thread:

…let’s take a wander down Memory Lane (right-click to embiggen):

Ah yes, the good old days, when California actually produced things, and made stuff.