The prove­nance of a car

New Zealand Classic Car - - LOCAL MARKET REPORT -

Is a car worth more sim­ply be­cause it’s been owned by some­one fa­mous or does it all de­pend on ex­actly who that fa­mous owner was, what they did with the car in ques­tion, and what it re­ally meant to them?

Tra­di­tion­ally, peo­ple look for orig­i­nal­ity, su­perb con­di­tion, match­ing num­bers, fault­less me­chan­i­cals, and per­fect run­ning or­der, but as the clas­sic car mar­ket in New Zealand be­comes more so­phis­ti­cated, peo­ple are also start­ing to be­come concerned with who has been in the driver’s seat.

By their very na­ture, clas­sic cars were owned by peo­ple of means. The prices that many clas­sic cars sold for new were the equiv­a­lent of a fine home. As a kid, I re­mem­ber that a Mercedes-benz was the price of one of the nicest houses in the city in which I lived. In some coun­tries in Europe, a Mercedes-benz could even be used as col­lat­eral.

His­tory

When these cars are dis­played today, it’s not unusual for an in­quir­ing spec­ta­tor to ask if the owner knows who might have pur­chased the car new. It’s also not unusual for the in­quir­ing in­di­vid­ual to ask if some­one fa­mous owned the car when it was new, as­sum­ing that a film or tele­vi­sion star or an equally well-known per­son must have once owned ev­ery clas­sic au­to­mo­bile.

The re­al­ity is, some­one im­por­tant prob­a­bly did own most of these clas­sic au­to­mo­biles when they were new; the prob­lem is, these in­di­vid­u­als may not nec­es­sar­ily be well known today, but usu­ally these cars were owned by the cap­tains of in­dus­try, by peo­ple who had some money to spend.

Un­for­tu­nately for those of us who con­sider our­selves car his­to­ri­ans more than col­lec­tors, it can be dif­fi­cult, and some­times im­pos­si­ble, to trace the his­tory of a clas­sic au­to­mo­bile — es­pe­cially with Pri­vacy Act laws now in force.

Fur­ther, the pa­per trail doesn’t al­ways ex­ist; NZTA records can be in­cor­rect when it comes to clas­sic and vin­tage au­to­mo­biles; and, in most cases, the fam­ily mem­bers of the orig­i­nal own­ers are no longer with us.

But it seems quite likely that the peo­ple who first bought these mar­vel­lous ma­chines were very ap­pre­cia­tive of what they were, and many of them may have kept these cars well for the rest of their lives.

We col­lec­tors are an eclec­tic lot. Col­lect­ing cars starts with an in­ter­est, turns into a pas­sion, then mi­grates to an ob­ses­sion, with col­lec­tors in New Zealand in­vest­ing and sup­port­ing the clas­sic car mar­ket.

One thing worth not­ing — in the past in New Zealand, buy­ers never both­ered much about a car’s prove­nance, or, at least, we Ki­wis were never too keen on pay­ing money for prove­nance. This, too, is chang­ing. It is en­cour­ag­ing to see col­lec­tors in New Zealand seek­ing and will­ing to pay for prove­nance on their cars.

In­vest­ment po­ten­tial

Today, with stock mar­kets in the dol­drums, more and more in­vestors are seek­ing hard as­sets. Thus, im­por­tant cars keep mak­ing the right money.

Baby boomers still have all the money to in­vest in the right cars, and that in­cludes on im­por­tant cars or cars that were once owned by im­por­tant own­ers — so prove­nance is now im­por­tant, and it’s good to see Ki­wis em­brac­ing that.

Col­lectible cars have out­per­formed stocks, at least in the past four years. We’re see­ing more and more peo­ple who are go­ing for the cars they dreamed of as kids. Now, be­cause their port­fo­lios af­ford it, they’re park­ing their money in some­thing that has value and that they can also touch. The chal­lenge for col­lec­tors is de­ter­min­ing the value of clas­sic cars in a mar­ket in which pric­ing is hard to find. One should also con­sider price swings when in­vest­ing in cars, but there re­mains a huge sat­is­fac­tion in col­lect­ing and own­ing clas­sic ve­hi­cles. nowa­days see peo­ple pay­ing good pre­mi­ums for these cars and for their prove­nance, but with higher prices comes the need for more aware­ness.

This is what we aim to cre­ate with these col­umns. We hope to sow the seed, while creat­ing some of the ini­tial in­fra­struc­ture for a more so­phis­ti­cated clas­sic and vin­tage car mar­ket in New Zealand — one that in­cludes and goes be­yond the per­sonal joy shared by the tra­di­tional club mem­bers and the bod­ies that rep­re­sent them.

For this to hap­pen, we need en­thu­si­asts, col­lec­tors, and in­vestors to think about clas­sic and vin­tage cars as they do about art, watches, whisky, and stamps — not just as cars. I am not sug­gest­ing that we should stop us­ing them; far from it — we should al­ways en­joy our in­vest­ments and have fun. That is what life is all about!

Safe driv­ing — un­til next month.

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