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The Right Moves

Whether Buying or Selling, Joe Bortz Can Help

Story Larry Jewett / Images courtesy of Joe Bortz - January 12, 2012 10:00 AM

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Taking the famous Buick Le Sabre out for a spin at the GM Tech Center.

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Joe Bortz is a lifelong car guy, shown here at age 16 in his father’s 1955 Corvette.

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Earl Hohlmayer, Henry Portz and Joe Bortz at the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum for Joe’s 1937 Cord in 2006. Earl and Henry were previous owners of the car.

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Joe Bortz in the passenger seat of his Buick Wildcat I concept car in 2008. Paul Peterlin is driving to bring Joe to accept the first “Visionary Award” ever given out by Pebble Beach.

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George Barris is riding along in the Bortz Auto Collection 1953 Pontiac Parisienne concept car at Amelia Island, circa 2006.

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Joe with his collection at the Museum of Science & Industry in 1997.

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In 1990, Bortz concept cars were on display at the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum. Joe received a commemorative poster.

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Each year, thousands of collector cars change hands. Whether they are purchased at live auctions or on the Internet or through magazine ads, there is a brisk marketplace for quality cars.

If you’re selling, somebody is buying, and if you have one you want to buy, it can likely be found.

To put it simply, Joe Bortz is a matchmaker. The man who has cast himself headlong into the car culture as a renowned collector has seen just about everything there is to see. He’s been doing the serious car collection thing for 50 years.

For most of those years, it was a hobby, but a hobby that he took quite seriously. His own personal collection backs that up better than any words could do. When he retired from his business ventures eight years ago, the hobby moved up in importance.

“When I retired, I looked forward to showing and restoring my concept cars and small collection of custom cars,” said Bortz. “I found out it’s not as exciting as I thought it might be. I began to help some friends who needed help selling their collector cars. I did this by doing some networking and helping them take their cars to live auctions. Pretty soon, these friends were telling their friends and the whole situation developed into a ‘hobby business’.”

“Take Your Car To Auction LLC” is the name of the business. It’s mostly about selling other people’s cars but also helping collectors find the cars of their dreams. Bortz can help those who are in the market with his wide-reaching connections of knowing important people in the hobby. That’s where the matchmaker part comes in. It gives him the unenviable task of trying to make everybody happy.

The car hobby is filled with people who have passion. That passion can sometimes lead to decisions based on emotion. “For the serious collectors out there, it’s easy to figure out what they want to collect,” Bortz said. “They know about getting, but they may not know much about selling when the time or circumstances come to that. I like to say there’s only one thing you’re left with when you sell a car that you love and that’s money. So if you make the decision that you have to part with a car, you might as well get everything you have coming to you.

“I help them sort out what the car is worth to them and how it relates to the market price,” Bortz added. “That’s where you need to use practical judgment. It’s their decision, but it is an evolutionary process to determine the value, based on a lot of factors that have to be considered. It’s something that has to be dealt with on an individual basis.”

The cases could range anywhere from a collector who only has a single car all the way up to dozens of cars in a collection. Bortz has to fine-tune his services to whatever is required in each circumstance. “Say a guy has 20 to 30 cars and he wants to thin the herd a bit,” Bortz offered.

“While you might think he would need just an auto broker, I also have to be an auto psychologist to help make sure that the final decisions will be happy ones. I try to help them determine what they want to achieve. Why do they want to sell a car? What do they want to have remaining when it is done? I try to help him sort through the collection to see where they’ll be happiest after the sale. To do that, you have to analyze the collector’s goal and help him achieve them.

“There are a lot of variables to be considered. The inexperienced can’t sort those out or may not know what’s important. There are considerations like the market in their area, the demand for the particular type of car in other markets. If you have something that would sell for $25,000 in California, is it worth it to send it 2,500 miles from Pennsylvania to a live auction and pay the shipping and other expenses? You have to do the analysis in real dollars.”

There are circumstances in the real world that wreak havoc on important car collections. Bortz has had to deal with cases where a family member got into legal trouble and part of a car collection had to be sold to pay legal bills. Another family found mounting medical bills take precedence over the continued ownership of a collection.

“The service is designed for people who are not knowledgeable to buy or who don’t want to be bothered with all that selling collector cars entails,” Bortz said. By providing this service, the owners are hopefully getting a fair shake for something that they may have undervalued due to their own inexperience.

“A common scenario is an estate situation where the family of a deceased car collector may not have the same passion and desire or may need to offset some expenses for the widow or medical care. You have situations in estates where the family members don’t communicate well with each other. Having a neutral party involved can settle the conflict and get the best results.” Estate attorneys can be in great need of this service.

“I had a case where I had a request from a car dealer, who ended up with a car collection. I thought, ‘He’s a car dealer, why doesn’t he sell the cars himself,’ but he realized that while he knew the new car market, he didn’t have the knowledge in the collector car market, so it’s not just people who are clueless about cars.”

Once the decision is made that a car is going to be sold, Bortz works with the seller on the best means to get a car sold. While the televised auction is indeed glamorous, it remains just an option and isn’t always the best choice.

“Some don’t want to do the public live auction, so we offer an eBay auction,” said Bortz. “Our eBay auction has a near 70 percent sales rate. If the seller wants to try a live auction, there are choices. RM is the biggest in gross sales and has facilities to get the sale done efficiently. I will work with any auction company. There are questions you need to ask a live auction and information you must give them to get the best results, and in that regard we add a very important element. I attend all of the major auctions and know who collects what and who is looking for certain cars. People don’t realize how many collectors out there have 100 or more cars and they keep adding to their collections. It’s not hard to find buyers for most quality cars.

“When I’m working for a seller, it’s a one-on-one hands-on endeavor. Of course, I always want to see the buyer gets what they deserve and what is expected. I tell the buyer it is not my car and I go on what the seller tells me and what I can ferret out.”

When it comes to working for the collector who wants to buy a certain car, Bortz can be found at the major auctions and in place where his experience tells him he might be successful in his search. A number of Europeans, as well as Australians and New Zealanders and even individuals from DuBai have utilized the service as bidding agent to add to their collections or museums. (Interesting in this regard, Bortz has helped design displays for his cars at museums such as the Petersen Museum, Museum of Science & Industry, Gilmore Museum, Cincinnati Aviation Museum, Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Museum and others.)

Bortz has no desire to add anything to his existing collection. “I don’t want any more cars,” he said. “It takes me out of the buying and selling. I’m not in this for the personal gain for my collections. I’m helping people find cars and find buyers. It’s a service that no one has really offered before. I’m filling a void here. I believe that I am using my extensive qualifications for the good of other collectors.”

In his dealings to date, Bortz has found about 75 percent of those interested in the service range from 60 to 90 years of age. “You meet wonderful people,” he said. “They’ve matured and know a little bit about life. They’re not looking for a fast deal. There is really only one reason to collect a car and that’s to make you happy. So it’s important you don’t get your expectations too high. They have to be realistic. If I sense the expectation is too high, I have to help them reevaluate the situation. Sometimes you need to guide them gently. People can be subject to passionate expectations that they may not be able to realize. You need to have someone who is knowledgeable about the transaction but disconnected to the emotion behind the actual car transaction itself to get the best results.”

One way to keep it real is by avoiding the over-hype. When evaluating, it is best to keep the score on the lower side. It’s much better to get a pleasant surprise with a higher end result than deal with the disappointment of lowered return due to unrealistic valuation. Most cars may not be perfect, but you have to accept the imperfections as they are. I often get asked if they should fix something before selling. Well, it depends on what they are trying to achieve. Sometimes, it’s not necessary; you need to know if it will affect the value and by how much.

“People need to have confidence in who they’re dealing with. This is personal to my business. We know that cars are supposed to make you happy,” Bortz added.

This service covers cars built before 1970, with some exceptions. For those who choose eBay sales, Bortz can put together a musical video for prospective buyers and write all copy. For those that chose the live auction route Bortz will do all the legwork.

Another service offered by Bortz where buyers can reap great benefits is in the area of shipping. With his experience, Bortz can recommend some of the best car carriers. “Also, people can make the mistake of not thinking to insure their car as soon as they pay for it. We try to remind them and can provide the names of insurance agencies that specialize in collector cars. We offer these ancillary services to make the complete experience positive,” Bortz said.

The amount of favorable comments on www.takeyourcartoauction.com are positive proof that these services are needed and desired. As the hobby continues to grow and strengthen, the intermediary services like Take Your Car to Auction becomes priceless in its value to buyers and sellers. Having the services of a hobbyist who has put 50 years of his life into it can be a great return for the personal experience. Joe keeps his phone lines [(847) 668-2004] open seven days a week from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. CST.

Joe’s collection can be viewed online atwww.BortzAutoCollection.com. His business site is www.TakeYourCartoAuction.com

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