MARKET WATCH, August 2017

JAGUAR E-TYPE 2+2S HOTTING UP

Demand for good Jaguar E-type 2+2s has pushed prices up 45% over the past two years, despite them being the least coveted variants. Until recently, high values and high-quality restorations have been largely reserved for the better-proportioned two-seater coupés and roadsters, but the child-friendly 2+2s are playing catchup.

Excellent examples of Series 1s are more than £37k and the very best can make £55k, though that's still a fraction of the professional rebuild cost. Series 3 V12s are a little cheaper at £33 and 50k respectively, while the Series 1.5 and Series 2s are £32-47k in equivalent condition.

Beware that these have been entry level E-types for so long that few have enjoyed comprehensive maintenance or restoration, so their recent jump in values is bound to attract superficial makeovers in pursuit of a quick profit.

ROVER P5B VALUES SURGE

With prices up by more than 30% this year, the Rover P5B Coupé has shrugged off its old 'poor man's Rolls-Royce' epithet – you can buy a Silver Shadow for less. Top condition examples can now make £20k or more, with usable examples starting around £9k.

Despite the thrust of that ex-Buick, all-aluminium V8, performance is ample rather than sporting, but these have always been cars in which to make dignified progress. If you want saloon racer heroics, the Jaguar Mk2 3.8 is the weapon of choice.

Of course, modern four door coupés are all the rage now, but anyone seeking the classic alternative has little choice. If you're not set on the rakish lower roofline of the coupé, the V8 saloon is much better value, with usable examples starting at around £5k, rising to £13k for the best. Because of the propensity of these cars to demand hideously expensive restoration costs, your money is much better spent up front on an excellent example

PRICE WINNERS AND LOSERS

The Honda S800 is one of ten models to have jumped in value by more than 30%, with convertibles up 37% and the coupés up 50%. For the 66 models highlighted for growth in the latest issue of Classic Cars magazine, figures ranged from 5% for the VW Beetle Cabriolet to a chart-topping 54% for the Pininfarina Spider, the model built by the coachbuilder after production of the 124 Spiders transferred from Fiat.

Fortunately for buyers, what goes up, occasionally comes down again. After a surge in prices, Mercedes 450 SEL 6.9s have slipped 7.5%, and models as diverse as the MGF, Porsche 911 Carrera RS (993 generation) and Ferrari 250 Tour de France have all dropped by more than 4%.

For a full list of this month's winners and losers, with price details, see the current issue of Classic Cars magazine.

BUY A FIAT 124 SPIDER

Values of the desirable slim-bumpered Fiat 124 Spiders, built from 1966-75, are up 45%, meaning the very best can command £24k, with excellent examples following up at £18k and usable cars at £10k. Even project cars are £3.5k. All of the publicity around the new Mazda MX-5-based Fiat 124 Spider seems to have created more demand for the classic original.

The impact bumper cars built from 1975 have seen slighter greater gains of 48%, but inevitable trail in absolute terms. Prices in equivalent condition range from £2.5-18.5k.

The price moves have encouraged a flow of imports, artfully smartened up to deceive the unwary buyer, especially those who assume that the Fiat badge guarantees cheap restoration costs. As the detailed buying guide reveals in the current issue of Classic Cars, you need to go in armed with essential knowledge of what the expensive problems are, and how to spot them. With that covered, these are rewarding cars to own and drive. See you on the road this summer!

WE WANT THIS

With their grunty four-cylinder engines and light weight, the sidescreen Triumph TRs are huge fun to drive. This TR3A has the optional 2138cc engine and can pull 100mph, but with those cut-down doors and the buzz of the exhaust, even 70mph feels like 100. This 1960 example, which we test in the current issue of Classic Cars, has been skillfully restored from a US import but retains the lefthand drive steering – handy if you fancy weekend jaunts or touring holidays in Europe, or if you ever wish to sell it there.

Despite the superb condition – it's little used since the restoration – this TR3A is priced keenly at £26k. It's one of four car for sale that we test in the current issue, including an Aston Martin DB7 Vantage Volante, Mini Cooper S and Triumph TR5. Tempting.

MARKET WATCH, July 2017

Early ’Healeys jump

The trend for buyers to prize the earliest and purest version of a model line has struck the Austin-Healey, with four-cylinder 100 models gaining four per cent to overtake all six-cylinder models for the first time.

Until now the 3000 MkIII has been most prized of the regular road cars, particularly for its more powerful engine and more luxurious trim, but buyers are increasingly happy to sacrifice ultimate spec and comfort for purer dynamics and aesthetics.

Entry level for rough, project cars has moved to £20k, with good cars at £32k, mint at £47.5k and concours examples up to £65k. Just as we’ve seen with other Fifties and Sixties cars, we expect the gap to widen as these cars are taken increasingly seriously by collectors.

Triumph saloons leap


Values of Triumph 2000 and 2500 saloons have jumped by 35-44 per cent, depending on model. For decades their advanced design and sharp Michelotti styling wasn’t enough to lift them out of the backwater occupied by so many family and executive saloons, which made them great value.

The good news for buyers is that they’re still good value, with £1000-1400 buying something rough and even the best topping out at £6.5-7.5k, depending on model. A combination of usability and scarcity of good survivors is driving the value growth.

For now the highest spec and latest versions (2.5PI, 2500TC and 2500S) are at the top of that scale, but the MkI models with the beak nose and futuristic dashboard have seen the most growth.

Top climbers and fallers

More than a fifth of the classic cars tracked by Classic Cars magazine’s Price Guide Quarterly have changed in value, and the majority of those have grown, despite anecdotal evidence of a cooling off of prices.

The top ten growers have increased by between 20 and 44 per cent, with Triumph 2000/2500 MkI/IIs outperforming Ferrari 250 GT Pininfarina Coupés at the top of the list, at least in percentage terms (up 44 vs 40 per cent). That top ten includes various Triumph 2000/2500 models, Porsche 944s, the Austin Mini Copper 1275S, Bugatti Type 57 Atalante and Humber Super Snipe S1-VA. It underlines the fact that growth isn’t always confined to the cars that are predicted to attract serious investors.

The list of cars showing a decline contains a few surprises, particularly Aston Martins – DB2 convertibles and DB MkIIIs are down, but the two-three per cent drop is unlikely to trouble recent buyers or anyone deep into an expensive restoration.

The price futurism

With project lefthand drive D Specials starting at £5k and the best DS23 EPI Pallas examples costing £25-40k, it’s more important than ever to know how to check out your dream Citroën ID or DS thoroughly before you commit with cash.

Bought well, and a good example of any of these beguiling machines can be rewarding to own, but cars that have suffered neglect or inexpert restoration and maintenance will lead you on a frustrating an expensive journey.

Good, usable IDs are more like £12k, rising, along with the clever oleopneumatic suspension, to £20k for something excellent. At this point you’re still £3k shy of a decent DS21 Pallas and £15k from the best.

The detailed buying guide in the current issue of Classic Cars magazine walks you through the key steps to finding the sort of structural and technical problems that will deflate your ID/DS experience, arming you with the expertise to find a satisfying example that will live up to the futuristic dream.

Countach drop

After a spectacular ramping up of values that has seen the Lamborghini Countach 25th Anniversary leap nearly four-fold since 2012, this most extrovert symbol of Eighties excess has taken a £100k dip since its 2014/15 peak.

That still means circa £350k, so it’s not as if the appetite for them has disappeared, but it does represent another investor favourite where some moderation has replaced reckless acquisition. It’s too early to tell whether the dip of recent years is part of a longer decline, or whether it signifies a brief market correction before these cars and their rivals return to growth.

We want this Trans-Am

I blame my Seventies childhood and the rash of American road movies that transfixed me as a car-crazy youngster, but the Pontiac Firebird Tans-Am had a hold on me because it was everything that our discreet British GT cars were not. Rumbling, big-capacity V8s, exaggerated, muscular proportions and lurid decor inside and out.

This 1979 example is one of four classic cars for sale that we test and evaluate in the latest issue of Classic Cars magazine, and although its 4.9-litre V8 can only muster 135bhp, this one, unusually, is connected to a manual gearbox. Our road tester was impressed by its condition, and felt that the power was sufficient for doing what the car is best at, rumbling along, grabbing attention wherever it goes. Tempting. I wonder how hard it would be to fit it with the optional 6.6-litre motor?

MARKET WATCH, June 2017

Lamborghini Miuras buck the market

While prices for period rival Ferraris such as the Daytona have fallen back from their market peak, the Miura continues to grow with the original P400 and its P400S successor up 13% and 11% respectively.

That means you’ll pay £460-850k for a P400, and £550-£1m for the P400S, depending on condition. It helps that only 765 of all three types of Miura were built – collectors prize scarcity – compared to a little over 1400 365 GTB/4 Daytonas, but it helps that the Miura was a real game changer, defining the basic layout of every supercar since. They also appeal to buyers who see the Daytona, or any Ferrari, as too obvious.

Lancia Beta tipped

We should celebrate the stigma of old reputations if they mean that the value of an appealing classic car remains suppressed. Take the Lancia Beta Coupé, a sharp-looking machine with fine handling and a choice of peppy twin-cam engines – yours for less than £5k.

Two-litre is the one to go for, but even the 1.3 can muster 82bhp. Supercharged Volumex is the ultimate. The only snag is finding one for sale, but it’s definitely worth the effort.

Price guide movers

Even in a market that’s cooled off since its heady peak we can still find cars that have jumped by up to 33%.

And the head of the league table in the latest issue of Classic Cars magazine? The Austin Mini Moke, which now commands between £4500 and £20,000 depending how rough or perfect it is. If there’s a pattern to the cars in the top ten, I can’t see it – Rover P3 up 32%, Ferrari 166 Inter, Jaguar E-type V12 Roadster and split-screen VW Beetle all up £25%. What’s clear is that there are still eager buyers out there for cars that seem to be good value compared to similar alternatives.

The rest of the 78 top market movers are revealed in the July issue of Classic Cars magazine, on sale now.

Buy an Aston V8 wisely

You can pay anywhere from £50k to £500k for an Aston Martin V8 now, so I can’t help but wish I’d taken out a meaty loan to buy the smart £40k V8 Vantage that I borrowed for the day a few years ago. Not because I have any interest in playing the classic car investment game, but because, as it turns out, that was my last chance to own one.

Then, as now, repair and restoration costs for these cars were very much in the league of those who can afford to buy a brand new Aston Martin, and that fearful knowledge kept me from making a begging phone call to my bank’s loan department. That £50k starting point only really buys a project car now, something that you could easily spend £100-200k on, while usable V8s start at more like £80k, with tidy Vantages at £150k.

So, as with so many cars, your money goes a lot further if you buy a decent example in the first place. The detailed buying guide in the latest issue of Classic Cars magazine takes you through six essential steps to avoid buying a bad one, and help you navigate the subtleties of the different variants on the market.

We want this

When the pictures of this 1963 Alfa Romeo 2600 Sprint came into the office I just had to have a second look, and a third… It’s in good, rather than pristine condition, but the black paintwork and appealingly worn deep red interior really suit the car. These big coupés don’t really fit with the compact and agile sporting image that we tend to hold for Alfas, but with its twin-cam, six cylinder engine and roomy interior it’s best considered as an affordable alternative to more exotic Sixties grand tourers. It’s one of four cars for sale that we road test in the July issue of Classic Cars, on sale now.

MARKET WATCH, May 2017

Volvo style premium

Prices for the Volvo P1800 coupé and the 1800ES estate have moved again, up 12 and 18% respectively on 2016 numbers. That means that project cars are now £4000 and the very best coupés command £28k, with the ES representing slightly better value at £24k.

Despite such rises we don’t think these handsome Swedes have hit their natural ceiling yet. They may not be exciting to drive like some of their price rivals, but not everyone wants to tear around like a frustrated touring car driver. There’s a lot to be said for cruising around, feeling good about the world.

Testarossas cool off

The plight of the Ferrari Testarossa illustrates a common market phenomenon. Unfashionable classic finds favour when the schoolboys who lusted after them grow up into a serious buying force, prices surge, long-term owners see an unexpected opportunity to cash in and suddenly there’s a flood of cars on the market. The result – a seller’s market becomes a buyer’s market with only the best cars making strong money, or selling at all. Cars with average mileage and condition, and patchy service history, fall back from the peak.

The Testarossa languished around £30k for years, a common price point for supercars in the hinterland between modern and widely-accepted classic status. The gold rush pushed them beyond £100k, and at Techno Classica Essen a couple of years ago every other dealer seemed to have one at €170k. Now they have to be placed with much less ambitious auction reserves if vendors want to avoid the cost and humiliation of having to trailer them back home afterwards.

Sometimes, in a rising market, you just have to accept the new price for your dream car and either dig deep or risk missing out on ever owning one. But you also need to be wary of transient microclimates that create flash floods. I’m sure Testarossas will rise again in the long term, but now’s not the time to pay whatever the vendor fancies asking for his newly ‘investment grade’ Ferrari.

Price guide movers

The latest round of price increases reminds us that the market isn’t just hungry for younger classics. The top ten climbers is headed by the Porsche 924 Turbo, up 88% to £2-15k, depending on condition, and also includes the Renault 17TS/Gordini, Volvo 262C coupé, Ford Escort MkII Ghia and Audi Quattro 20V ranging from 33-58% up.

But the headliners also include the Forties Jaguar 3.5-litre, Fifties Sunbeam Alpine and Fifties Daimler Century drophead, all up by more than 50%.

The latest round of fallers, however, is dominated by pre-Seventies cars, but even the biggest slide, for the Mercedes 500K Cabriolet, is only 12%.

The full table of the latest climbers and fallers is revealed in the June issue of Classic Cars magazine.

MX-5 comes of age

The Mazda MX-5 at the recent Classic Car Auctions sale had everything going for it – 1990-built 1.6i, 20k miles, low ownership and in original, unmodified condition – so it wasn’t a surprise to see it make £8.6k. That’s the way that the best, earliest examples have been going recently.

It doesn’t seem long since there were several MkIs in every office car park, and countless examples for sale for a few hundred, and maybe a couple of thousand pounds in smart condition. But like almost every popular sports car, they’ve been considered disposable fun, a transition car to a newer one or something more exotic, for attrition to take its toll. To the extent that the best, earliest survivors are scarcer and more precious.

As the buying guide in the latest issue of Classic Cars shows, you can still buy a tidy MkI for around £2k, but those increasingly coveted early models are making £5-7k, and the very low mileage cars double that. Our feature on how to find the best couldn’t be more timely.  

We want this Bristol 406

Bristol 2.jpg

As an alternative to the mainstream, it’s hard to beat a Bristol. This 406 is one of 174 built, the last model to use the exquisite overhead valve, hemi-head straight six before the switch to Chrysler V8 power. But there’s more to motoring life than maximum power and torque figures (yes, I did just say that), in this case the delights of a crisp, free-revving six-cylinder engine.

This one is in smart, cared-for condition rather than show perfection, a look that Bristols wear well, and it comes with lots of service and repair history to back it up. It’s one of four cars for sale that we test in the June issue.

MARKET WATCH, April 2017

Jaguar XK120 fortunes are changing

Buyers are increasingly favouring purity over practicality with Jaguar XKs. For a long time the greater legroom of the XK140 and the more cossetting roof arrangement of the drophead coupé have kept this model at the top of the XK value tree because buyers were seeking them out for usability, particularly with touring in mind.

But the old world order is changing, with the purer lines and more delicate detailing – particularly the slim quarter bumpers of the 120 compared to the Armco-like arrangement on the 140 – attracting a premium. XK120 roadsters now start at £52k for a decent example and you can pay £78-110k for the best. Drophead coupés are now £50, 75 and 105k in equivalent condition. That’s a jump of 10 and 11 per cent respectively, a sign that these models are enjoying a surge in collectability. Buy soon now if you’ve always fancied one.

New buyers for old Porsche 924s

Younger enthusiasts are recognizing the 924 for what it is, a fine-handling and easy-to-own slice of Seventies chic, waking up a long-dormant market for them. So far that’s had a greater impact on the number of cars finding buyers via the classifieds than it has on prices, so you can still find great examples for £2250-3000.

So if you thought that a 924 would always hang around at a low price, waiting for you to get around to buying one, you might want to make you move sooner rather than later.

Price guide winners and losers

The Price Guide Quarterly update in the latest issue of Classic Cars magazine reveals 254 movers. The top ten climbers, each having grown by more than 30%, range from the BMW 2002 Cabriolet up 33% to £15-20k in top condition, to the Maserati Khamsin, up 56% to £100-140k for the best.

The latest fallers look far less drastic, with the Ferrari 365 GTS/4 having dropped 6.7% to £1.85-2.1m, and Jaguar XK140 drophead coupé down 4.2% to £85-115k. So none of a losers are large enough to make recent buyers despondent, and neither do they throw up any significant bargains for buyers. What they reaffirm is that there is a gentle market correction applying to some makes and models, particularly those that have seen strong gains in recent years. All signs of a rational market then – far more healthy than boom and bust cycles.

Buy a Berkeley

With the fad for microcars driving up prices for most, the dashing range of sports cars offered by Berkeley look good value at the moment.

According to the detailed buying guide in the latest issue of Classic Cars magazine, you can find decent examples of the early SA322 model, propelled by a 15bhp Anzani twin-cylinder engine, for around £5k, with the best more like £8k. They’re fun to drive, but for real pace you might prefer the later B95 and 105 models, which packed 692cc Royal Enfield Super Meteor or Constellation engines with 40 or 50bhp. In a car weighing just 400kg! You get all of that extra go for £7.5k, rising to £12.5k for the sharpest examples.

Armed with our buying guide to help steer you round some of the tricky parts shortages and the more expensive problems, you can be sure that there’s a Berkeley guaranteed to put a smile on your face every time you pluck it from the garage.

We want this

With exceptional late air-cooled Porsche 911s making headline figures at auctions – by those I mean low-mileage, fully-historied examples of the most extreme performance models – the first water-cooled Turbos look good value.

The 2003 example that we test in the latest issue of Classic Cars is up for £60k, which is at the upper end of the price spectrum for these. But when you discover that it’s only done just over 28,000 miles from new and is fresh from restoration by Porsche Centre West London as part of the annual Porsche dealership restoration competition, it seems good value. Oh, and I didn’t mention that it gives you 400bhp to play with.

If you’re happy to buy one with 50-70k on the odometer, prices are more like £40-50k. That’s tremendous performance for the money, with the added reassurance that the Turbo used a variant of the tough Mezger-designed flat six, which is free from the notorious intermediate shaft bearing and cylinder wall failures that can afflict the mainstream watercooled flat sixes.

Market Watch, February 2017

MG Midget/Austin-Healey Sprite bargains

With the prices of top condition MG Midgets and equivalent Austin-Healey Sprites lagging behind the market, and particularly their old rival, the Triumph Spitfire, now looks like a good time to buy.

I’ve always found the Midget and Sprite more fun to drive, and also surprisingly accommodating for my 6ft 1in frame. Excellent examples can be bought from £6-7k with £11k buying the best. And after that initial investment your ownership costs will be tiny, leaving you with nothing more to worry about than which twiddly B-road you’re going to attack next.

Lotus Esprit Turbo on the move

After being left for dust in the price acceleration race by rival Ferraris and Porsches, the Lotus Esprit Turbo seems to be on the move, with top auction and dealer examples already tipping over the £20k mark.


That still doesn’t make the Esprit Turbo expensive for such a fast, sharp-handling and dramatic looking car, especially as privately-advertised examples can be found for 10% less. In the current market you can have a lot less fun for a lot more money.

Price guide climbers and fallers

The latest price winners and losers analysis in the new issue of Classic Cars magazine reveals the top 66 climbers and eight fallers.

Top gains go to the Alfa 75, which has jumped 43% to £7.5k for the very best and £5k for excellent examples. The top ten spans all eras, from 1918 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost to 1998 Ferrari 456 GT, and all price points, from £3.6k Wolseley 1500 to £590k Aston Martin DB6 Volante.

Heaviest fallers range from the Maserati Ghibli 4.7 down just 2.5% to £140k to Austin-Healey Sprite MkII-IV down 7.4% to £7k. In most cases it looks like previously over-inflated models suffering a reality check. Handy if the recent market heat had taken them out of your reach.

Ford Pilot buying

The Ford Pilot’s handsome and confident American styling and flathead V8 propulsion look extremely attractive at anything from the £6k entry price for something usable through to circa £20k for a faultless example.

But various design flaws and limited parts and specialist network can catch out the unwary. Fortunately, Classic Cars magazine has just produced an in-depth buying guide for the latest issue in order to guide you through the challenges and make buying and owning one as simple and pleasurable as possible.

Imagine the sense of occasion when showing up at anything from a favourite pub to a classic car event in something so distinctive.

 

We want this

This 1959 Alvis TD21 looks like a lot elegant and discreet motoring pleasure for its £27.5k asking price. Of course, a lot of cars can appear so when you find a few small pictures and a lot of glowing prose in the small ads, but when we went to look at this one it stood up to scrutiny with good cosmetics and driving demeanour to match. Add to that the novelty of it being bought new by a diamond dealer and subsequently owned by a hot air balloon pilot and you have something worth a more detailed look. You can read more of our observations in the Ads on Test story, one of four cars for sale that we evaluate in the latest issus of Classic Cars magazine.

MARKET WATCH, January 2017

Mondial renaissance

With Ferrari prices falling back after a period of over-inflation by ambitious vendors you might expect the Mondial to share the hangover. After all, it suffers from the curse of four seats that have always held back values – who chooses a Ferrari to be practical?

Well, quite a few smart buyers as it turns out and prices are up nearly 14% on last year. If you avoid comparison with the pretty 308 GTB and GTS, the Mondial is a good-looking car, it’s a buzz to drive and you can take the family out for a spin, at least while the kids are still young. Even with the recent growth, the Mondial still looks good value at £14k for a decent one, £23k for something really sharp, and running one shouldn’t lead to financial ruin if you start off with a properly looked after example. But we’ve seen recent examples of these cars selling for significantly more, so they may not remain such good value forever.

Cortina gold

We’re used to strong prices for Ford Cortinas MkI and MkII – all of that period motor sport heritage has a direct impact on Lotus and GT values, and a halo effect on the lesser models – but the MkIII with its transatlantic styling and suburban image has never been as covetable.

But newer generations of buyers aren’t under the spell of the Sixties – it’s just too far in the past now – and instead they’re drawn to flamboyant images of the Seventies, from Raleigh Choppers to Cortina MkIIIs. Which goes some way to explaining more than £13k paid recently for a low-mileage 1600 GT. That, and the scarcity of this two-door model. When was the last time you saw one?

Market winners and losers

Of the 289 movers in the latest update of the Classic Cars magazine Price Guide, just 32 are fallers. The rest are showing growth of anything up to 71%. That chart-topping figure is achieved by the Jaguar XJ12 Coupé, meaning that good examples now start at £9k and you can pay anywhere from £16-24k depending on how perfect the car is. The six-cylinder version isn’t far behind with figures around 20% behind the V12 model.

The top five slots are locked out by cars that hitherto had been keeping quiet – Lotus Esprit S2, Triumph Spitfire MkII and original Spitfire 4.

Fallers show no pattern of age or car type, with the Subaru Impreza Turbo and Austin Atlantic coupé topping the chart at -14% and -12% respectively. Now that pairing would make for a diverse two-car garage.

Lancia Flavia

With prices starting at £2k for a usable saloon or £4k for the equivalent coupé, the Lancia Flavia is looking very tempting right now.

These cars bristle with clever design including aluminium flat four engines, front wheel drive and disc brakes, and in coupé and cabriolet forms offer the sort of Pininfarina styling normally reserved for Ferraris.

The best saloons are £10-15k, coupés £25-35k and cabrios £30-40k, which still looks attractive when you consider the alternatives. As the buying guide in the latest issue of Classic Cars magazine reveals, repair costs aren’t disproportionate unless you pay too much for an example with too many faults. Our detailed advice should help you spot the trouble areas so that you can negotiate on the price, or vote with your feet.

We want this MG TA

The 1936 MG TA that we test in the latest issue of Classic Cars magazine demonstrates a well-judged blend of restoration and upgrades that make it one of the best that we’ve ever driven. Engine, gearbox, suspension and brakes have all been specified to make the car fun, predictable and dependable to drive, without compromising its period charm. The history file confirms two previous restorations and the period of 1983-2000 alone accounts for £63k of expenditure. The dealer is asking £28.5k. Want to know more? Check out the Ads on Test report in Classic Cars, February 2017.

 

Market Watch, December 2016

VW Karmann Ghia
While much of the Le Mans/Nürburgring/Brands Hatch-obsessed classic car market chases up values of hardcore performance models, cars like the VW Karmann Ghia look increasingly good value. Of course they’re not going to impress anyone with vivid acceleration, big horsepower boasts and heroic handling, but there really is more to classic motoring than driving a car like you stole it. This, coming from someone with a history of TVR and Porsche ownership.

What the Karmann Ghia does do very well is look pretty and cruise along with carefree ease. Lovely examples can be found for around £10k, which wouldn’t buy you much of a Triumph TR6 these days.

Peugeot 205 GTI
It doesn’t seem long ago that we were tipping these sharp-looking road terriers as undervalued smart buys. It couldn’t last long. First it was the perfect, ultra-low mileage examples that made the headlines – one sold recently for £30k – while inevitably cars with high mileage or needing work were left alone, but we’ve just seen a well-used 1.6 example make £2.4k.

So it seems the market is becoming hungry for them in any condition, in the way that sporting Ford Escort MkIs were chased upwards a decade ago. As history repeats itself, the generation that grew up aspiring to these, or owning them as disposable transport when they were secondhand bargains has the money to buy the best, or restore one to top condition. Faced with the realization that supplies of perfect, unmodified examples are scarce, they’re prepared to spend ever more on chasing the dream.

But aside from headline-grabbing auction examples, good cars with normal mileages can be bought for a third of the price of a Ford Escort Mexico. For now.

 

Price guide winners and losers
To illustrate how nuanced the classic car market is right now, the monthly roundup of the top 72 price guide winners and losers in Classic Cars magazine includes everything from the Blower Bentley to the BMW M535i, and late-model Porsches appear at the top of the charts of both winners and losers, depending on model.

Sharing the winner’s top slot are the Bentley Speed Six, Blower Bentley and BMW M535i (E12 generation) with a weighty 99% growth. They’re followed by Porsche 911 Carrera (964 generation) at 70% and its Turbo brother rounding out the top five at 50%.

The losers show much less spectacular figures with even the biggest only managing a 13% fall, meaning that you can now buy a mint Porsche Boxster 2.5 for just £5k. The newer and much more powerful 3.2S has dropped 10%, making mint examples a £9k bargain. If you’ve never tried one of these tactile and practical little gems, now’s the time. While their 911 big brother boasts all of the big numbers, the Boxster is much more fun at sane and legal speeds.

The Lamborghini 400GT, Porsche 911 Turbo 4 and Carrera (both 993 generation) wound out the top five fallers, losing 6.3, 6.0 and 5.3% respectively. Hardly drastic losses considering how 2016 buyers have shunned the meteoric rises in the classic Porsche market of previous years.

They may have a way to fall yet but long term, special examples of these later Porsches will surely return to growth as a younger generation of enthusiasts seeks excitement in post-chrome-era classics.

Honda CR-X
Honda’s sharp-looking and sharp-handling CR-X coupé is a reminder that there was more to fun Eighties motoring than the much-celebrated hot hatch. And with buyers clamouring for all of the predictable Peugeots, VWs, Renaults and Fords, the now scarce Honda makes a very appealing alternative, with good examples staring around £4k and the very best topping £12k.

Spec ranges from the early 60bhp, twin-carburettor-fed 1.5-litre model through to the sizzling 1.6i V-T (SiR in Japan) with its 150bhp VTEC (variable valve timing) engine, all driving the front wheels.

The challenge is finding the right car and keeping it in top condition thanks to scarcity of survivors and patchy parts supply, so the in-depth buying guide in the latest issue of Classic Cars magazine is a must-read for advice on where to source cars and how to check them for the sort of problems that might taint your ownership.

So a CR-X might not be as easy to own as a Ford or VW, but life would be dull without challenges, right?

Range Rovers rocket
You’d think my friend who sold his early Range Rover last year for a few hundred pounds would suffer a head-in-the-hands moment at the news that an early example has just sold for £93k. But the big number was for the first production car, built of course in 1970 and with an A-suffix to the chassis number. It was also restored to original condition.

My friend’s car was at the other end of the spectrum with a shortened chassis, hybrid Series 3/Defender bodywork and countless DIY shed-quality modifications that together transformed it into an off-road special. It was one of very many similar conversions that contributed to the rarity of the untouched originals that are so prized today. Without such attrition, I doubt that two door Range Rovers would be attracting anything like the attention and values that they are now.

It also underlines how, as a car matures from loved old classic to collectible piece of significant motoring history, buyers will put ever higher premiums on original specification, fittings and finishes. Conversely, the more that you personalise a car, the more you narrow its market until it only appeals to one person – you.

We want this
With just 23k miles on the odometer this 1979 Ferrari 308 GTS had to be worth a look, even though it’s lefthand drive. That’s the price you pay for a car that’s spent its life in California avoiding rain, salt and the everyday scrapes and dings that prompt a respray or three during a car’s life. So this one still wears its original paint, as evidenced by microcrazing caused by that relentless sunshine. It would be a crime to refinish it in the pursuit of perfection, as with the gently used red leather which sets off the silver body colour nicely.
Our love of time-worn patina doesn’t extend to driving around on the 23-year-old tyres however, which will no doubt be age-hardened and lethal in wet conditions.
The GTS is one of four cars for sale that we try out in the Ads on Test section of the latest issue of Classic Cars magazine.

 

Market watch August 2016

Jaguar E-types still hot

The latest sale by Silverstone Auctions at the Silverstone Classic weekend demonstrated that there’s a ready market for Jaguar E-types, regardless of condition and model. The caveat is that seller expectations need to be well matched to condition. So an excellent Series 2 fixedhead coupé (Jaguar speak for the two seater) made £118k with buyer’s premium, while another in driver condition sold for just £39k. In an educated market, buyers are well aware that restoring a condition 2 car is a more expensive route to perfection than buying the best car in the first place.

Prices ranged from £19k for a 1971 S3 2+2 coupé with poor bonnet fit, tired chrome and various paint defects, to £141k for a 1961 Series 1 roadster that really needed re-restoring to meet modern expectations of perfection. Chassis number 62 explained the price.

That all nine cars sold defied the usual principle that offering too much choice kills the sale of the lesser examples as buyers hold out for the best. A hungry market indeed.

Why buy the best?

With spiralling standards of perfection seen at everything from the local car shows to the top concours, it’s easy to be drawn in. But as one dealer said to me, it’s vital to be realistic about what you want the car for. If you want a better-than-new gem, so flawless that you’ll never want to drive it for fear of stone chips, rain drops or even some road grime, perfection is the only way to go. You’ll have something lovely to admire in your garage or maybe at a show.

If you want to use it for drives to favourite country pubs, continental holidays and on sunny Friday commutes to the office, that perfect classic could be more of a source of stress than pleasure. Top price Triumph Stags are now in the high teens, but we’ve seen decent examples for less than £10k and a 64,000-miler in original condition for £10.5k. For that you still get a car that drives well, draws admiring glances and is something to be proud of, once you’ve accepted its imperfections as patina. The trick is distinguishing those cars from urgent restoration projects, held together by the last respray and trip to the filler and underseal shop.

The alternative GT

If we all had £500k to spend on a Sixties GT, there’d be an Aston Martin DB5 on every street. I know they didn’t make that many, but stay with me. My point is that the classic world would be a bit boring if the most special cars stopped being special. A bit like affording to put Lagavulin on your morning cornflakes instead of milk.

Whether your budget is limited to £5k or £50k creates a fun challenge – how to find the most exciting car within your budget. For a £50k Sixties GT we’d choose a Jensen CV-8, which offers all of the refinement, performance and curvaceous panelwork of the Aston, but without the lottery price tag and ownership costs. Admittedly its styling has more singular appeal, as does the extreme peatiness of Lagavulin, as it happens. It would be a dull old world if we all liked and chose the same things.

Top 5 market climbers

The latest issue of Classic Cars magazine reveals the top climbers and fallers. Of the 62 models that have gone up in value in our latest price guide update, five have soared by 25% or more, from the Ford Escort RS Turbo at £10k to the Jensen FF, up 77% to £100k for the best.

Just ten models have shown a drop, led by the the Lotus Elan SE Turbo, falling 7.7% to £8k. Encouraging news for anyone who lusted after one when they were more expensive.

Anyone who tells you that classic cars are a one-way investment, or that they’re all too expensive for true enthusiasts hasn’t studied the real numbers.


Exotic spec, humble price

Crisp, Sixties Italian styling, sweet six cylinder engines, twin carburettors or fuel injection, all-independent suspension – sounds like a recipe for something exotic and expensive to own, doesn’t it. But the Triumph 2000/2500 offers all that in smart condition from just £3k.

As our in-depth buying guide in the latest issue explains, you can pay double that for a perfect example, the fuel-injected 2.5 PI MkI commands a 30 per cent premium and estate versions ad a 10 per cent premium. The guide also reveals how well supported these cars are through a small but helpful network of specialists and club enthusiasts dedicated to make ownership as easy as possible.

Buying advice and market analysis is part of 16 pages of buying information in every issue of Classic Cars magazine, including Quentin Willson’s Smart Buys, Russ Smith’s Market Watch, in-depth buying guides and Ads on Test.

We want this: Bentley S3 Continental

The ideal collection should include a car for every occasion, and when that occasion calls for swift, stylish travel with a bunch of friends or family, this Mulliner Park Ward-bodied Bentley Continental S3 would be perfect. Its controversial headlamp arrangement is more than compensated for by flowing, elegant lines that successfully disguise the volume of this heavyweight express. When we tested it for the October issue, we found that this 1963 example drives as well as it looks. Can anyone lend me £137k?

Date for your diary: Round Britain Coastal Run

The E-type Club kicks off its Round Britain Coastal Drive on September 12, returning on the 29th after a 3600-mile relay composed of 18 stages. The aim is to raise £50k for charity and well-known names have already signed up, including Ross Brawn, Martin Brundle, and, er, me. Whether you want to take part, spectate or donate, you’ll find all the details you need on e-typeclub.com