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.