CL A S S IC M A R K ETPL ACE W

New Zealand Classic Car - - INTERNATIONAL MARKET REPORT -

hat bet­ter way to start off a new monthly fea­ture about the in­ter­na­tional auc­tion scene than with a world record? At the be­gin­ning of the last quar­ter of 2015, there was a lit­tle bit of doom and gloom be­ing spread about the fu­ture of the clas­sic car mar­ket. The Keno Brothers big bo­nanza held in New York in Novem­ber was per­haps not the re­sound­ing suc­cess that many had an­tic­i­pated, de­spite the mar­vel­lous auc­tion­eer Si­mon Hope wield­ing the gavel. The first cou­ple of big auc­tions of the new year held in Scotts­dale, Ari­zona, did lit­tle to dis­pel the thought that there was a slow­down, ‘av­er­age’ cars were not go­ing to con­tinue to bring in crazy prices, and es­ti­mates were by and large too high, re­sult­ing in a lot of cars be­ing passed in.

Most ex­pen­sive

But, hang on a minute, hav­ing said that, RM Sotheby’s did fin­ish 2015 with the sale of that year’s most ex­pen­sive car and the third-most-ex­pen­sive car ever sold at auc­tion — the 1956 Fer­rari 290 MM with a Scagli­etti body, which went for US$28.05M in­clud­ing buyer’s pre­mium (IBP). At the same sale in New York on De­cem­ber 10, it also sold a 1962 As­ton Martin DB4 GT Za­gato for US$14.3M IBP. Ob­vi­ously, for the re­ally good stuff, the mar­ket is not that bad!

Paris in Fe­bru­ary this year firmly reestab­lished the premise that cars that ‘tick all the boxes’ will con­tinue to bring in the money. And, to bring in that money, those boxes (in no par­tic­u­lar or­der) are: orig­i­nal­ity, con­di­tion, rar­ity, prove­nance, and de­sir­abil­ity. So it was, then, that on Fe­bru­ary 5, Artcu­rial sold the mag­nif­i­cent 1957 Fer­rari 335 Sport Scagli­etti, chas­sis num­ber 0674, for a stag­ger­ing €32.1M IBP, the equiv­a­lent of US$35.7M. This was a world record for a car sold at auc­tion in euros and ster­ling and for a ve­hi­cle driven by such no­ta­bles as Peter Collins, Mau­rice Trintig­nant, Wolf­gang von Trips, Mike Hawthorn, Luigi Musso, Mas­ten Gre­gory, and Stir­ling Moss.

Artcu­rial has now had two in­cred­i­bly suc­cess­ful sales in Fe­bru­ary at Retro­mo­bile, fol­low­ing the 2015 sale of the amaz­ing time-warp Baillon col­lec­tion, and this year’s his­toric record­breaker. Bon­hams, too, went pretty well in Paris at the pres­ti­gious venue of the Grand Palais, while RM Sotheby’s — now 12 months into its part­ner­ship — con­tin­ues to go from strength to strength.

2016 of­fer­ings

So, what does the fu­ture hold for 2016 af­ter the ex­cite­ment of Paris? Com­ing up in March and April, we have im­por­tant sales tak­ing place in the US. At Amelia Is­land, on March 11, Good­ing and Com­pany will be of­fer­ing an in­ter­est­ing se­lec­tion of Porsches, in­clud­ing a 1955 550 Spy­der from the col­lec­tion of co­me­dian Jerry Se­in­feld, while, the day be­fore, Bon­hams will have a 1937 Bu­gatti 57SC Sports Tourer with one-off coach­work by Van­den Plas on the block with an es­ti­mate of US$11–13M. Closer to home, in Aus­tralia, Shan­non’s has its Syd­ney Au­tumn Clas­sic Auc­tion on March 14, and Theodore Bruce has some in­ter­est­ing Rolls-royces on of­fer from its Col­lec­tion of a Coun­try Gen­tle­man in Syd­ney on March 20.

All eyes will, how­ever, con­tinue to fo­cus on the Fer­raris — be­tween Septem­ber 1, 2014 and Au­gust 31, 2015, Fer­raris were re­spon­si­ble for 33.91 per cent of the to­tal turnover (US$1.229 bil­lion!) of all cars sold at auc­tion, ac­cord­ing to the fig­ures col­lated by the au­thors of the Clas­sic Car Auc­tion Year­book.

It could be the right time to pull yours out of the shed …

We are truly ex­pe­ri­enc­ing ex­cit­ing times and emerg­ing trends. With so much hap­pen­ing in the world of clas­sic cars, I thought hard about what to cover here, un­til I re­mem­bered that, for five mag­i­cal days each Fe­bru­ary, the city of Napier is trans­ported back to the era of the 1920s and ’30s by way of mu­sic, fash­ion, air­craft, trains, and charm, to cel­e­brate the re­gion’s stun­ning her­itage and the coura­geous re­birth of this beau­ti­ful city from the dev­as­tat­ing 1931 earth­quake. From the rub­ble, Napier cre­ated an amaz­ing city with a then-fash­ion­able art-deco flavour that has an ap­peal which con­tin­ues to travel across gen­er­a­tions.

But, what goes on at the Art Deco Fes­ti­val? What drives crowds from ev­ery cor­ner of New Zealand and over­seas to visit?

Be­ing a car man my­self, I could not help but ad­mire the prized clas­sic and vin­tage ve­hi­cles that made their way to this event. It dawned on me that the an­swer I sought was right in front of my eyes — Napier has cre­ated its own brand and, with this brand, es­tab­lished a trend for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

At the fes­ti­val, one could see peo­ple of all ages dressed up to ad­mire the sump­tu­ous and spot­less pre-war cars and one could clearly see a grow­ing num­ber of fu­ture art-deco afi­ciona­dos in the mak­ing — young hob­by­ists, in­clud­ing small chil­dren and boys and girls, ad­mir­ing and look­ing at ve­hi­cles that they would hope to own one day, so that they too may par­tic­i­pate in up­com­ing Art Deco Fes­ti­val events and en­joy a vin­tage or clas­sic ve­hi­cle with their friends and fam­i­lies. It was great to see such en­thu­si­asm and ad­mi­ra­tion shared by both young and old.

In­creas­ing val­ues

Vin­tage and clas­sic ve­hi­cles are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly im­por­tant and valu­able, and the in­dus­try must en­cour­age fu­ture gen­er­a­tions to con­tinue preserving what those be­fore them be­gan for them.

The event is clearly a sign that the New Zealand clas­sic and vin­tage car mar­ket is ma­tur­ing and yet re­mains young when com­pared with that of an­tique art, watches, or fur­ni­ture, as well as that clas­sic and vin­tage ve­hi­cles re­main a big part of our cul­ture.

It is ap­pro­pri­ate to sug­gest, then, that orig­i­nal and/or re­stored-to-orig­i­nal clas­sic and vin­tage ve­hi­cles (by this, I mean 30-plusyear-old ve­hi­cles, which are el­i­gi­ble for club mem­ber­ships) are both a doc­u­ment of his­tory and a rec­og­nized fu­ture in­vest­ment, and it is im­por­tant that up­com­ing gen­er­a­tions are in­tro­duced to the scene. Maybe not nec­es­sar­ily through a vin­tage ve­hi­cle — a 30-year-old orig­i­nal or re­stored-to-orig­i­nal Toy­ota Corolla can be con­sid­ered a fu­ture clas­sic as well.

Undy­ing pas­sion

It is true that the av­er­age age of club mem­bers can be 60-plus and true that they may be more in­clined to­wards vin­tage mo­tor­ing, but we must also re­mem­ber that th­ese were the cars of their gen­er­a­tion (in the same way that a Toy­ota Corolla at­tracts a younger fol­low­ing), but many ac­tive mem­bers within clubs are proac­tive and young at heart, as was ev­i­denced at the re­cent Art Deco Fes­ti­val and the Vero In­ter­na­tional Rally held in Dunedin. In ad­di­tion, the younger en­thu­si­asts that could join up are miss­ing out on tap­ping into the knowl­edge bank of the cur­rent mem­bers, who are more than will­ing to of­fer ad­vice and as­sis­tance to those with lim­ited me­chan­i­cal knowl­edge. It’s the undy­ing pas­sion for ve­hi­cles and the his­tor­i­cal aspects of mo­tor­ing that can nar­row the gen­er­a­tion gap in clubs.

Fur­ther, if we want to merge the gen­er­a­tions, pro­tect our her­itage, and see our in­vest­ments flour­ish, the fo­cus must re­main the ve­hi­cles them­selves, be­cause clas­sic and vin­tage ve­hi­cles should con­tinue be­ing looked at as part of New Zealand’s her­itage.

It is through events such as the Art Deco Fes­ti­val that we can in­tro­duce fu­ture trends to this in­dus­try and en­sure their se­cu­rity. It is through such events that clas­sic and vin­tage ve­hi­cles and up­com­ing clas­sics can be looked at and con­tinue to be looked at as al­ter­na­tive in­vest­ments to stocks and prop­erty — tan­gi­ble as­sets that we Ki­wis can con­trol, see, ad­mire, and en­joy.

Re­turns

Cur­rent trends show that baby boomers are tak­ing a more prac­ti­cal ap­proach by light­en­ing their loads sooner, be­cause their kids aren’t in­ter­ested and their own in­ter­est as they ap­proach their 80s is un­der­stand­ably start­ing to wane. We prob­a­bly won’t see a gen­er­a­tion of sim­i­lar size un­til the so-called mil­len­ni­als hit their peak earn­ing years in a few decades. How­ever, as things stand, it re­mains ques­tion­able whether they will care about the cars of their grand­par­ents and great­grand­par­ents — or any cars, for that mat­ter.

On the flip side, both clas­sic and vin­tage ve­hi­cles are gain­ing at­ten­tion nowa­days due to their near-500-per-cent re­turns over the past decade, out­pac­ing art and wine by more than 100 per cent. Ten years ago, in Europe and in the US, vin­tage and clas­sic ve­hi­cles were looked at as col­lectibles, so it’s pleas­ing to see that up­com­ing gen­er­a­tions in New Zealand are to­day rec­og­niz­ing this.

So, the trend I pro­mote here is an or­ga­nized form of pas­sion in­vest­ment; a trendy, fun in­vest­ment where one al­lo­cates wealth to­wards high-value col­lectibles, such as clas­sic and vin­tage ve­hi­cles.

I will share more thoughts on how to achieve this next month. In the mean­time, I shall con­tinue look­ing for good qual­ity, mint-to-concours clas­sic and vin­tage ve­hi­cles. This not only pre­serves our her­itage in our home­land but also sets a trend that will ap­peal to both ex­ist­ing and up­com­ing gen­er­a­tions.

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