I read the other day that “classic car market experts” were predicting a collapse in prices of early E-Types. My first thought was that it was a pretty irresponsible (and incorrect) thing to write and secondly – who are the experts? When it comes to cars, just like football and politics, everyone is an expert. Despite a fair bit of experience, can I get my family to take a blind bit of notice of the advice they ask me for when buying or selling a car? You know what they say about opinions – everyone’s got one…
In the age of online forums and wikipedia, classic cars provide a rich environment for the armchair expert, and a lot of the things we hear and see – in the media and elsewhere – are factually incorrect. I was reminded of this recently when reading a description of a car which was up for sale. Described as in a special order colour and in “factory correct” specification (a ghastly phrase) I noticed that both were incorrect – the wheels were from a different model altogether and the colour was a standard factory option called something completely different. I knew this because I had ordered that very car myself as a demonstrator and anyway, there were no “special order” colours back then. Despite this, I was quickly told I was wrong and the pundit did so with such conviction that I began to question whether I was right – even though I had driven that very car for six months myself.
‘In the age of online forums and wikipedia, classic cars provide a rich environment for the armchair expert, and a lot of the things we hear and see – in the media and elsewhere – are factually incorrect.’
The internet is a great resource for classic car information, but it needs to be handled with care as does what we all read in print – just because it made it onto paper doesn’t mean it is correct. You could argue that there are very few people in the industry who are able to offer a genuinely neutral perspective when it comes to subjects like value – mainly because they are in the business of selling something. Passion and ownership just don’t cut it in most cases, nor do reading or writing articles, haunting auctions or trolling the forums.
So – how do you become an expert? I think there is one simple answer – you have to be immersed in the business of cars, day in day out, for years and this makes good car sales people well positioned to become the classic car experts of the future. To do their job well they need passion and to know their product inside out, they drive it every day and are exposed to all the problems – from minor irritations to recurring mechanical faults – that their customers suffer, because the first thing customers do is pick up the phone to them for help. Think about the difference that experiencing hundreds or even thousands of cars and deals makes when compared to a handful or a few dozen. Many of the well known classic market specialists we know today will have cut their teeth working for manufacturers and franchised dealers, and if they haven’t you’ve got to wonder where they got their knowledge from in the first place. It is their unique knowledge and experience that differentiates them from the owners, Wikipedia Warriors and the pundits – you’ve just remember to add a pinch of salt if you are in a showroom.