‘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
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