‘Have clas­sic cars turned out to be the best post-war in­vest­ment ever?’

A browse through his ar­chive of clas­sic car mag­a­zines leads Quentin to muse on just how prof­itable this game can be... when you get it right

Classic Cars (UK) - - Contents -

Even the most hope­less mo­tor­ing duf­fer knows that clas­sic cars rise in value. But I won­der if we all fully re­alise just by how much? You might be sur­prised. In De­cem­ber 1973 this mag­a­zine car­ried an ad for a ‘mint’ 1969 Fer­rari 365 GTC from Brian Clas­sic in Cheshire for £3250. Four decades later a stun­ning 365 GTC made £713,341 at auc­tion. That’s a blind­ing 21,949% in­crease or 549% a year. But if you think that’s im­pres­sive, wait, there’s more. The fol­low­ing month Brian was ad­ver­tis­ing a ‘ very low mileage’ 1971 Miura S for £4550. Fast-for­ward to 2015 and Me­cum Auc­tions sold a 1969 Miura S for £1,900,000. That’s an in­cred­i­ble 41,758% in­crease in 41 years, or around 1019% a year. Ahh, I hear you say, hand-built su­per­cars al­ways in­crease in value – they’re like rare an­tiques. But hold on, its not just ex­otics like Mi­uras and GTCS that have mush­roomed.

In the Feb 1974 edi­tion of Clas­sic Cars a pri­vate seller ad­ver­tised a ‘ low mileage, one owner’ 1971 Mini Cooper S for £745. To­day I’m look­ing at an ad for a fully re­stored 1970 ex­am­ple for £35k. That’s a 4667% in­crease in 43 years. And it’s from a Mini. Same page has a 16,000-mile 1970 Capri 3000E for £800. Nice Capri V6 Mkis won’t leave much change from £30k so that’s an in­crease on a mass-pro­duced Ford of 3750%. If, like me, you live with huge piles of old car mag­a­zines you can play this game end­lessly, ei­ther mak­ing your­self sui­ci­dal with the thought of all those missed op­por­tu­ni­ties or be­ing qui­etly slack-jawed that any 20th cen­tury ob­ject (let alone a car) could pos­si­bly ap­pre­ci­ate by 40,000%. And I know four grand was big money 40 years ago and the cash spent keep­ing those clas­sics fed and wa­tered would be hefty too. Make all the ad­just­ments you like but you still can’t es­cape the fact that some of our old crocks have made even more per­cent­age gains than bits of Kens­ing­ton.

Mind you, some haven’t. In 1973 a used low-mileage Wolse­ley 6 au­to­matic cost £1475. Fac­tor in ster­ling’s ap­pre­ci­a­tion plus the cost of stor­ing the thing over all those years and you’ll have lost a bun­dle. In 1974 buy­ing a new BMW 525i for £4099 or Lan­cia 2000 HF Coupe at £3449 would also prove to be fairly dis­as­trous in­vest­ments. The dull as dust­ing Wolse­ley you can un­der­stand, but shouldn’t the glam Lan­cia and BMW have ap­pre­ci­ated more? Well, that’s the trick. Trawl­ing through all those old col­umns of ads shows a pat­tern. It’s al­ways the re­ally off­beat stuff that in­ter­ests us. Hmm, let me see – a nearly new Wolse­ley 6 or an el­derly Maserati Mis­tral for the same money? Not a dif­fi­cult one, is it?

So when you’re try­ing to pre­dict the cars likely to hold their value, be will­ful and go with your in­stinct. The world likes wild and reck­less mo­tors and the cra­zier and more in­ap­pro­pri­ate the bet­ter. And just to give us a sense of rel­a­tiv­ity, UK eq­ui­ties have in­creased 2000% in 40 years and bricks and mor­tar 500%. Sur­prised? So was I. But fi­nally here’s one to make you re­ally start sob­bing. The May 1973 edi­tion of Mo­tor Sport mag­a­zine car­ried an ad­vert for a 1964 DB5 in ‘ex­cel­lent’ con­di­tion, ex­cept for a whin­ing gear­box, for £975. DB5S reg­u­larly make half a mil­lion now so that’s an in­crease of, are you sure you’re ready for this, 51,282%. I’m no ex­pert but could clas­sic cars ac­tu­ally have turned out to be the best post-war in­vest­ments ever? You tell me.

£3250 bought a Fer­rari 365 GTC in 1973; 41 years later one sold at auc­tion for a 21,949% pre­mium

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