QotW: Should being celebrity-adjacent add to a car’s value?

As you may have heard, an R34 Nissan Skyline GT-R that appeared in one of The Fast and the Furious movies has sold for $1,357,000. Specifically, Paul Walker drove it in the fourth installment of the series. With an East Bear body kit, 19-inch Volk RE30s, and a simple Bayside Blue paint job it’s definitely one of the cleaner cars to appear in the franchise. But the price of regular-spec R34 GT-Rs hover at about $250,000. Is this car really worth the premium? Similarly, the Supra from the original The Fast and the Furious sold for $550,000, about triple the top sale price of a regular A80 Supra Turbo.

Should being celebrity-adjacent add to a car’s value?

The most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “Who taught you about cars?“.

Life gives us many teachers. Sometimes, it’s yourself, as Joey Katigbak learned. Jonathan P. honed his skills working at a dealership, Taylor C. took in advice from friends and web forums, while j_c relied on the ubiquitous Haynes manual. Of course, dear old dad was a frequent answer, relayed by Fred Langille and streetspirit.

As a self-taught wrencher and the father of a young boy myself, this is particularly heartening to hear. However, as the winner this week tells us, my son may show no interest in cars as he gets older. This is Bill G.‘s story:

Back in the 60’s my dad’s love of cars and motorcycles both is what generated my interest in them at a very early age. He went on to teach me more about both in the 70’s as I grew up. (I myself am a fairly old man now.) In those days my dad hauled me and my younger brother to various racing events and even to movies related to cars and motorcycles. Perhaps a bit more unique in my dad’s case was the fact that he was a fan not only of American cars but also of Japanese cars and motorcycles, which wasn’t exactly common in the rural midwest where I grew up.

My dad’s interest in Japanese vehicles began with Honda motorcycles (he owned Dream series bikes in the 60’s followed by CB series bikes in the 70’s). On the four wheeled side of the coin his first Japanese vehicle was a ’72 Toyota Hilux pickup, which was later joined by a ’77 Toyota Celica GT coupe. Not surprisingly, I began my association with motorized vehicles aboard a 1969 Honda Z50 Mini Trail, followed by various other dirt bikes from Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha and Suzuki. Though I was building BMX bikes from the ground up on my own when I was a kid, when there was an engine involved as with the motorcycles, then so was my dad. In 1979 I bought my first car, a ’72 Triumph Spitfire (which sadly provided plenty of learning opportunities). However, this typically resulted in my dad taking over the work, showing me how to do everything in the process. While I did manage to soak up some of his wisdom, it wasn’t until I moved away from home and started working on my cars on my own that I really increased my knowledge of them. Yet I could still count on my dad for help over the phone when I needed it.

I likely would have learned even more earlier on in life had I been able to take some of the shop classes that many of my friends did at the time. But as there was only so much time in the day and the courses that I needed to get into college conflicted with such things. I did end up going to college and eventually graduated. While I was away at school my younger brother totaled my Spitfire and as a result my dad gave me the Celica GT which stayed with me for a few years. After college I managed to snag a good job. For the price that many of my friends spent on a single car, I wound up with two. I found a great deal on a 1967 Camaro convertible and then I traded the Celica in on one of the few new cars I would ever buy, a 1987 Honda CRX Si. The CRX with its slick 5-speed and great handling was so much more fun to drive than the Camaro with it’s Powerglide transmission. While the Camaro was more of a cruiser, it was special in its own way, especially with the top down. I left the Camaro with my parents for a while so that they too could enjoy it. It seemed like the least i could do after all that they had done for me early in life

Not long after that my dad passed away at just 52 years old. I still think about him often. I’m very grateful for all that I learned from him (and for all that he tried to teach me even if I wasn’t able to soak it all up). More than anything I’m grateful that he and I enjoyed a good relationship with one another while he was around. These days I have a 2001 Toyota Tundra and a couple of Honda’s — one motorcycle (a 2013 CB1100) and one car (a 2005 S2000). I wish that I could share these vehicles with my dad as I did with the cars of my youth. No doubt he would approve of them were he still around.

My son who is now a grown man himself, did not end up with my passion for cars and motorcycles. That’s fine by me — as long as he’s happy in life then I’m happy for him. Yet he did learn to drive stick and actually still prefers driving manuals over automatics to this day. While he did not gain my passion for cars, he did still want to learn some things about working on them. Ironically, while working on his car in the past I had pretty much taken over the wrenching. My son had to remind me that the best way for him to learn was by doing so himself in a hands-on manner. As I handed over the tools I acknowledged that he was right. All while laughing at myself on the inside, slightly embarrassed. Once again I thought of my dad.

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12 Responses to QotW: Should being celebrity-adjacent add to a car’s value?

  1. speedie says:

    It is a fact whether we think it should matter or not. People love the feeling of being associated with something that left an impression on them. Would I pay more for the actual 2000 GT from You Only Live Twice over a look alike copy? You bet I would.

    • Jim Klein says:

      How much more is the real question.

      • speedie says:

        I would base my decision on a multiple. If I was offered a copy at a market value of say $100K and I could also buy the real one at say $300K then that would be about the limit for me. But someone else might be willing to go to a multiple of 4. The price paid is a reflection of the cultural value. A Duesenberg owned by Cary Grant for example would be worth less today than it was just after his death as fewer people alive have a direct attachment to his legacy. The same will eventually happen to the any celebrity car as time passes on.

  2. r100guy says:

    Yes, whatever works. “George Washington Slept Here”

  3. r100guy says:

    The cars history including previous owners are extremely important to its value. The more interesting the better.

  4. Mark F Newton-John says:

    Should I pay more because someone’s famous ass sat in my car? Not me.

    • steve says:

      Love it. Answer to this question should be no. However, society is so effed up they value some famous ass over their future.

  5. Jim Klein says:

    In hindsight, Nissan clearly should have hired Paul Walker to drive Versas from the end of the assembly line to the parking lot.

  6. Jonathan P. says:

    It’s a yes and no answer. Do I think we should pay stupid prices across because a celebrity owns or owned one? No. However, the celebrity’s name does carry a certain amount of value to the people who hold it valuable. Those are the people who are going to spend the money for that memorabilia.

  7. Ginkei Garage, Inc. says:

    To be honest, I think it all comes down to what is automobile to you? Do you love cars for what they represents socially and what social status they give you or is it for what they fundamentally are, pieces of engineering and mechanical devices that allow you to move freely, with added emotions and sensations?

    I have the strong feeling that a large part of the internet era automobile culture fan belongs more in the 1st category. They love what social status cars give them. Symbol of wealth, taste, and a tentative way to differentiate themselves from the herd, would it be through overpriced hypercars, unobtanium made JDM “legends” or highly coveted 60’s-70’s childhood crushes. So, assuming the fact that those people are high and intoxicated on the hype and the internet spread distorted vision of automobile culture, they have a very biased approach on cars, filled with “legendary statuses” and other exaggerated beliefs like everything is awesome just because some very emotional content editor said so in a blog or YouTube. So yes, for those people it really matters if the car in question has some pedigree and some celebrity association because it adds to the myth around which their imaginary world revolves. Add to this the sub-category of that crowd, which are the “investors”, who make profit on the rest of the group beliefs.

    Then there are the others, who love cars for what they are, the sensation they bring and the human connections they allow us to build and the experience they allow us to live and share. Not by maintaining fantasies and storytelling, but simply by driving them, working on them, sometimes breaking them and then repairing them. For that category, who I think I’m part of, the relationship is with the car itself, not with the idea of it. We can love a car that’s not incensed by the hype because it’s awesome in real life, and not have any interest for another that’s considered a legend, because in real life conditions, it’s far from being anywhere near enjoyable. So, we could not care less about which celebrity once put their asses on the driver seat, nor in whose garage they were left unattended during 20 years. If it was only for me, the value of a car should be the reflection of its real qualities, what it essentially is. Anything else than that is just storytelling and marketing, and that’s a big part of the reason why the actual market is gone totally mad (increasing scarcity in older cars and the lack of new offers in some car categories doesn’t explain everything).

    The fact is, as humans we’ve always been attracted to storytelling (for good and bad outcomes), so this is not going to end anywhere soon. The mass will always think that some celebrity endorsement or previous ownership will bring more value. Sellers know that and they will always capitalize on that.

  8. j_c says:

    It matters to certain people. If it doesn’t sell then they haven’t found the right people or the name doesn’t have the recognition.

    People who ignore Japanese cars altogether would just call it an old Nissan and wonder why other people hold it in high regard.

    Nissan and Apple aficionados had an interesting crossover when Steve Wozniak auctioned his 350Z for charity a long time ago.

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