A wise man said to me this week: ‘You can buy condition, but you can’t always buy history.’ That wise man was Nicholas Mee, principal of the eponymous Aston Martin Heritage specialists while we discussed the prospects for the classic car market in 2015. Trying to find real patterns and trends in the market can be tough – condensing them into just a few words is even tougher, but in this case Mr Mee has done the job for me.
“The market has found its level in 2014 – call it a plateau if you will – where condition and history will exert a far stronger influence on the the price of collector cars in the coming year. It’s a good place to be”
Sales in the depths of winter can create perfect conditions for disciplined bidding, unlike the adrenalin (and champagne) fuelled excesses of the summer, and this gives us an idea of what to expect of the classic car market in 2015. Bonhams and Coys gave the the 2014 auction calendar its big send off this week. Offering lots estimated to be worth nearly £25 million in the space of two days. Bonhams do a great line in ‘small but perfectly formed sales’ and all the food groups were represented – eighties supercars, classic Ferrari, recreations, race cars and celebrity wheels. Coys presented a broader range of vehicles including many motorbikes.
Without going into fine detail on the outcomes of individual lots, condition and history were the defining factors in the results. I’m sure most of you will be thinking ‘isn’t it always?’ but, with elevated prices concentrating the minds of buyers, both have become critical. Two cars at the Bonham’s auction illustrated this perfectly. An Aston Martin DB4 Vantage to DB4 GT specification made a very strong £600,000-plus premium, its condition no doubt making up for a lack of originality – after all, where else could you buy a ready-to-use car like this?
A very original alloy bodied Ferrari 275 GTB ‘longnose’ with good provenance sold for a sensible £1.625 million plus premium – less than some other 275’s this year, but (and this is where condition plays its part) needing extensive mechanical work to get it back on the road after an extended period off it. Both Bonhams and Coys offered a Porsche 911 2.7 Carrera RS each with one remaining unsold and the other selling for £370,00 on the hammer – condition and history again proving decisive.
It’s also the time of year when racers get to the advanced stages of preparation for next season – our switchboard has lit up with race and rally car enquiries in December as it always does – and the auctions achieved some impressive results against estimates with the Porsche 908.02 ‘Flunder’ Langheck Sports Prototype finding over £2 million with premium.
The market has found its level in 2014 – call it a plateau if you will – where condition and history will exert a far stronger influence on the the price of collector cars in the coming year. It’s a good place to be.
Edward Legge is Director of Commercial Development at Classic and Sports Finance