MAR 21st 2016

Mystery Monday: Harry Metcalfe – Is a limited production run enough to make a car collectable?

Mystery MondayHaving launched the enthusiast magazine, evo, in 1998, Harry Metcalfe became Evo’s Editorial Director for over fifteen years. Harry has driven almost every iconic car ever produced and has a large collection of rather special cars and bikes, including Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Porsche and Jaguar’s latest collector edition, the Project 7. Harry produces YouTube videos featuring his collection on his channel ‘Harry’s Garage’, which has generated nearly four million views and 82,000 subscribers.Harry Metcalfe on Twitter

 

Unless you’ve been living under a rock recently, you can’t help but notice there’s something big going on in what used to be the classic car market but is now more likely be termed the ‘collector car’ market, and which is starting to hit a real frenzy.

If you want an example of what’s happening, tap ‘Porsche 991 GT3 RS’ into PistonHeads classifieds where, the last time I looked, 19 pristine UK examples pop up as being available at prices around £100,000 more than list price, which is a considerable proportion of the highly limited number so far delivered to their lucky first owners. It’s a similar situation with the Cayman GT4, another car that’s met with rave press reviews, with 26 examples (around 20% of UK cars) for sale on PistonHeads at premiums over list of up to £40,000. But if these cars are as wonderful as all the road-tests would lead us to believe, why are so many up for sale, especially when most first owners haven’t covered enough miles in them to empty the first tank of fuel?

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You have to presume the main reason so many are available is profit. However much of an enthusiast you are, it’s hard to ignore the lure of a £100,000 tax-free profit on your newly acquired 991 GT3 RS; a huge gain for not a lot of effort on your part, apart from getting on the list in the first place. If you’re smart, your next action should be to put a letter of intent into your local Porsche dealer for the next-gen GT3 RS, but is this a healthy situation for the specialist car industry? I think not.

Highly desirable cars selling for a premium are nothing new, what’s changed recently is it’s almost a given that if you put your name down for a limited-run car, you’ll automatically make a profit by flipping it as soon as it arrives.

This, I feel, is a dangerous policy because car manufactures aren’t silly; if they see a particular  model fetching big premiums, there’s a strong temptation to produce a ‘Mk2 edition’ with upgrades, to keep punters excited and sending in more chunky holding deposits to their local dealer. Think back to when the Porsche GT3 RS 4.0 arrived in 2011, a wonderful machine that was predicted by many to be the last manual GT3 and also the most powerful GT3 ever produced, so an obvious legend in the making. Premiums went off the scale but have recently started to level off, or even retreat, after the latest new 911 wonder-car was announced, the 911 R, with near identical specification and carrying a price of £134,000 or half what a LHD GT3 RS 4.0 will cost you today. And there’s now news that the future GT3 could well be available with a manual gearbox again too, undermining the two areas which speculators (sorry, enthusiasts) thought made the 911 GT3 RS 4.0 unique.

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That’s the trouble with thinking any new limited-run car is “collectable” before it even arrives in a showroom: it takes time to really gauge if a car is going to become an icon of the future. Take the McLaren F1, which had everything going for it at launch but took at least a decade to gain iconic status. Same goes for cars like the Ferrari 288 GTO or Porsche 993 GT2, which seems bizarre given how deeply desirable these two supercars are today.

If you want to spot which modern cars might make iconic status in the future, then my tip is to look closer at what makes it special. Does it have unique bodywork, for example, how limited-production is it really, does it mark the end of a line in a critical area of engineering important to enthusiasts (normally aspirated engine, manual gearbox, no power steering, etc)? When all of these factors come together, then, just maybe, it will earn the right to be judged as a true collectable in the future but just being a limited-production-run model simply isn’t enough in my book. I’d suggest those people paying big premiums on new, so-called collector cars might do well to dwell on this before signing the big fat cheque currently being demanded by many specialist sellers today.

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