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.