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Classic cars in top gear with passion investors

Passion investors ride a bumpy road in the classic car market, but with the highest standards of restoration, proof of origin and exclusivity, returns are there to be made, say market specialists.

Passion investors ride a bumpy road in the classic car market, but with the highest standards of restoration, proof of origin and exclusivity, returns are there to be made, say market specialists.

Almost 40,000 exhibitors, buyers, restorers and enthusiasts attended the London Classic Car Show, the capital’s premier classic car collection, at Excel London on 15-18 February. Some 700 of the world’s finest classic cars were on display, with a combined estimated value of more than £300 million ($419 million).

“Ferrari is the power brand for classic investment and my maxim is always, ‘If you can afford a Ferrari, always buy a Ferrari’,” David Hayhow, sales executive at Joe Macari of London said, when asked which marque is in demand among passion investors.

“Across the other marques, each tends to have at least one, sometimes two or three, classic road models that are ultra-rare and worthy of a blue chip collection, but the best and most valuable collections are always dominated by Ferraris.”

Classic cars with the most residual value in the market have as few owners as possible from new and come from low-production numbers, Gavin Thorn, restoration manager at Hilton & Moss, said. The most valuable cars had celebrity owners and have the provenance paperwork to prove the authenticity of the vehicle.

“There are cars out there where you can purchase the car, restore the car to the highest standard and still be into the car for far less than what its retail value would be, and those are the kinds of cars our clients are looking to find,” Thorn said.

It was hard to find classic cars in an unrestored state for restoration as demand to do just that increased among buyers. There is a broad spectrum of standards when it came to restoration and he recommended restoration by a marque specialist to ensure quality of work and provenance.

Thorn said investors were interested in acquiring classic Aston Martins, in particular the slightly undervalued DB6 model compared to the earlier DB5 and DB4. Mercedes Benz models from the 1950s were also in demand, he said.

“They are a little bit more exclusive, they were high-brow cars when they were first new and they’re still high-brow now.”

Asked for his advice for passion investors considering an investment in classic cars for the first time, Thorn said: “First off, make sure the car is what is proposes to be. A lot of them, where you’ve got a very rare model and there’s a sister model which is more commonly available but might have some of the features missing from the rarer model, people will try and make that cheaper car into the more expensive one visually, so be careful you don’t buy something that isn’t what it professes to be.

“Secondly, try and make sure as possible the car as had as little restoration work in its life. We’d much rather start with a barn find—a dusty, non-running rusty car—that has not had patches cut out and welded in and been played around with, because it’s a virgin canvas to start from. With that, you can guarantee the end result will be spectacular.”

Hayhow said many passion investors have done from “extremely well” from appreciating car values, and some not so well.

“It’s a treacherous market for the inexperienced buyer therefore it is imperative to use the knowledge and experience of specialists like myself and other colleagues in the industry when making such important choices.”

A variety of dream machines gleamed under the lights of the huge indoor Excel venue, from barn-finds and in-progress restorations, to unique concepts, Concours prize-getters and championship-winning race cars.

Marques represented at the show included AC, Alfa Romeo, Alvis, Aston Martin, Bentley, Bugatti, Corvette, Jaguar, Lotus, Mercedes, MG, Lamborghini Porsche, Rolls Royce and TVR. A McLaren P1 hypercar and the new 200+mph (322+kmh) Lister Storm, which had its global launch at the show, were among the drawcards.

Organisers said the dealers attending the show had confirmed “considerable interest” from buyers with many significant sales.

“Saturday’s busy Coys auction also witnessed notable lots coming under the hammer, topped by the sale of a 1984 Ferrari 512BB ‘Boxer’ for more than £260,000.”

Hayhow also had advice for those considering a passion investment in classic cars.

“Buy what makes you happy, and buy something you can see yourself using. We are only here once and cars, art, jewellery etc. should always primarily be bought because they put a smile on your face.”

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