PH Blog: boom and bust?

Last week's RM auction didn't make easy viewing for this ex-993 GT2 owner. A LHD car showing 16,000km sold for £324,800 including VAT and sales premiums. That's an awful lot of money for a posh Beetle. Half an hour earlier, a 2008, delivery miles Bugatti Veyron went for £579,600. That's an awful lot of depreciation for the poshest of Volkswagens.

Could limited edition 911s overtake Veyrons?
Could limited edition 911s overtake Veyrons?
As a snapshot of the way the market is currently heading, I actually find these two prices quite reassuring - even if the numbers involved are difficult to comprehend. Essentially, the Veyron is now viewed as being too complex and expensive to run. Even very wealthy individuals baulk at the servicing, tyre and wheel replacement costs - to the point that they are not seen as good investments.

Key word that last one - investment - what we're seeing here is cars being purchased purely for capital gain, or at the very least, capital stability. You can plonk a GT2 in your garage and it'll cost you, at most, £1,000 to keep it fresh and healthy. A static Veyron would swallow ten times that sum. This explains why the GT2 went for more than an as-new 959 - a car which is notoriously expensive to keep in running order.

DB6 values inflated by demand for 4s and 5s
DB6 values inflated by demand for 4s and 5s
Motor cars seen purely as an investment is a concept that worries me though. In fact it wipes out any positive feelings I have about a world in which a super-rare 911 looks like it might be worth more than a Veyron in a few years time.

When significant cars become four-wheeled investment, erm, vehicles, the normal rules of supply and demand are swamped and you have what henceforth should be called the DB6 factor. Why? Because at the same auction a DB6 sold for £151,200. Nice things, DB6s - but over a £150K for one? Not on your nelly.

We reach this point because the DB4s and DB5s, the Astons that everyone actually wants, have moved into a another price category and those people arriving at the game a little too late, or with shallower pockets, are being advised that the next big thing will be the DB6. This could be unsound advice.

Over £200K for a Dino is an eye opener
Over £200K for a Dino is an eye opener
And it's at this point that we all begin to be affected by the alpha males at the top of the tree. Suddenly those bargain Aston DBSes double in value and wily traders want to tell you that a 1974 2.7 911 is actually a 2.7 RS with different bumpers and therefore worth £100K.

This is the car equivalent of the Peter Principle - the notion that people within organisations are promoted to their level of incompetence, ie, the point at which they're punching above their weight.

Which begs the question: is a Ferrari Dino worth £224,000? According to the sales results, yes it is. But despite having flared arches and Campagnolo rims, it's a V6 Ferrari of which several thousand were produced. Four years ago these cars were barely £100K, now they're appreciating at a rate that has many people referring back to the late 80s, when Japan forced a wild increase in values, only to falter and lead an even faster decline.

And yet this 'Bond' style Esprit was a steal
And yet this 'Bond' style Esprit was a steal
Does history look like repeating itself?

Judging the facts as they are, not just yet. In a world of stock market instability, property price crashes and increasing taxation, the motor car is perhaps the perfect investment: liquid, transportable, perhaps even enjoyable. And our increasingly wealthy friends in India and China haven't started collecting on any great scale yet. When the first Chinese billionaire decides he wants an example of every lightweight Porsche, expect that 993 GT2 price to climb even further.

If the general market trend looks good, some of the anomalous sums paid for cars do worry me. The fifth E-Type ever built got nowhere near its £120K estimate, whereas minutes earlier someone had bid £42,000 for a foul Aston Virage Volante, the worst possible use of VW Scirocco rear lights imaginable. I know, I know. A car is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it, but there are signs that people are hoovering up the wrong cars for the wrong money.

Chris's taste in auction stars...
Chris's taste in auction stars...
But it wasn't the big metal that caught my eye as I watched the live feed on my lap top. The beautiful 1978 Esprit S1, in Bond white, made just £23,520. Compared to some of the over-priced tat on display (I give you the 2005 Excalibur), it was a shining beacon of common sense.

Other favourites? My soft-top Mercedes affliction was not helped by the RHD 280SE 3.5 cab, to my eyes worth every penny of the £134,400 it fetched. On the decapotable front, I'm a complete sucker for a roofless DS, so whereas every one of my car mates thinks I'm mad for saying it, if I had the bunce I'd own one for £126,000.

Is £397K cheap for a Miura? It's all monopoly money to me, but in a world that values a Dino at £224K, that looks like a steal. Daytonas are on the march too, one fetched £319,200, which is around three times what they were worth eight years ago.

...may come as something of a surprise!
...may come as something of a surprise!
But my personal favourite was the Bentley S1 Continental - an utterly glorious machine that would land my imaginary £532,000 without hesitation.


Full results list here.

Pictures: RM Auctions (Simon Clay/Tim Scott/Tom Wood)


Comments (183) Join the discussion on the forum

  • SmartVenom 07 Nov 2012

    Interesting article Chris, I think this whole thing has been brewing a while now. It's even caught the tax man's attention as they have been talking about chasing capital gains on cars. My problem with it is that all the "best" cars end up in the hands of investors who hold the cars merely as investments and genuine enthusiasts are priced out of the market. Not sure how you'd begin to tackle this though as I don't think any of us would want to pay any form of transaction tax but whilst they remain a tax free investment, investors will flock to them.

    With regards to the 246, that price is crazy, it wasn't that long ago that 246s were a £50K car, I thought they were pricey at £100K, but £200K is just crazy.

  • suffolk009 07 Nov 2012

    I'd love to see the prices come crashing down. All these lovely old cars getting snapped up because they're going up in value is just nuts.

    I remember talking to an old chap who collected Ferraris - about 20 years ago. He had some absolute beauties. I asked him if he'd ever thought of selling. "Oh, I get offers every month. Last one was for millions for that car." My God, are you going to sell. "No! What would I then have to drive around in."

    We need more people like that.

  • British Beef 07 Nov 2012

    Crazy prices for some of those cars, the old Ferrari's are making the hugely expensive new ones look like absolute bargains!

    I wonder how many of these cars will never actually be driven by their new owners, and are purely "investment vehicles"! Pretty sad I think.

  • chiefski26 07 Nov 2012

    Nice article - good luck to those who can afford to pay top £$ for these cars.

  • Stuart 07 Nov 2012

    The regs in the US are slightly different. Capital gains tax can be avoided if you roll the profit straight into something else, IIRC. That means that big car purchases in the classic market are often much like house transactions - no sale unless there's somewhere for the money to go immediately.

    Interesting article though. I was struck by the fact that a 993 GT2 is worth more than a 959, but the cost of maintenance makes perfect sense as an explanation.

View all comments in the forums Make a comment