Every market is based on supply and demand, and one of the key demands finds its roots at the very core of where the old car ‘business’ grew from, something that we all know – historic cars provide abundant pleasure!
The historic car community is conscious of the way the vintage and classic market has held up in the face of a troubled world economy. It has proved to be extraordinarily resilient, and this is despite being sometimes exposed to wild variations in currency exchange and the usual fears associated with turbulent markets.
In the past – and we all recall the cynical manipulators of the late 1980s, stashing away ‘investment’ cars in the pursuit of fast money – classic cars were swept up by the rollercoaster of speculation that always precedes a ‘crash’.
When the City swagger turned to a tail-between-the-legs retreat, many collectors were worried that they would once again feel the pain in their garages. This time, true connoisseur enthusiasts can be glad historic cars have remained outside the fray, proving that tangible assets, such as great cars, can out-manoeuvre the boom-and-bust cycle.
Unlike the late 1980s, most people understand that classic car ownership can’t just be treated as an entirely conventional investment, but one that must be indulged in first and foremost for the love of the car. When people ask us what return they will get from their investment, we always explain that the primary return should be pleasure. Secondly, you’ll get back most of your money when the time comes to sell, which is not bad when you compare them to ‘investments’ such as boats, planes and modern cars! Then thirdly, if you have bought the right car (through Fiskens, of course!), they have historically often yielded sound, and in some case significant, profits.
Every market is based on supply and demand, and one of the key demands finds its roots at the very core of where the old car ‘business’ grew from, something that we all know – historic cars provide abundant pleasure! Modern cars fail to deliver the advertised escapism in this world of speed restrictions and electronic gadgets that cosset and anaesthetise the person at the wheel. In a finely engineered old car, the most mundane of journeys can be an adventure, and responses are increasingly enjoyable the more developed your driving skill. A favourite road doesn’t need to be an autobahn and, with a certain amount of care, no value will be squandered in your four-wheeled investment for using it.
Happily, in the near two decades of Fiskens involvement in the historic car fraternity, the emphasis of ownership has shifted decisively from a ‘storage mentality‘ to a ‘usage mentality’. The trend today is for even the most famous collections in the world to make regular ‘working’ use of their cars. Indeed, regular exercise is essential to their all-round ‘health’, just as in a racehorse.
The opportunity to regularly use ones collection has been facilitated by the huge calendar of scintillating events that has developed, including glorious, unmissable fixtures like the Le Mans Classic, the Goodwood Revival or Monaco Historics. Meanwhile, road-based rallies pushing back the frontiers of vintage and classic car capability range from the Peking-Paris Marathon to the Tour Auto. Even 15 years ago, very few of these types of events were staged. Now one can be taking part in something all over the world almost every single weekend! Whilst the wonderful camaraderie and shared experiences might not seem to have a direct bearing on value, we believe they are definitely a significant force.
A good example of this is that we now regularly hear from buyers something along the lines of: “I’d love to compete in the Mille Miglia; help me find the right car”. The event organisers, all of whom we know, profile the cars for their events. We are increasingly required to help clients navigate through this profiling minefield, and this doesn’t just mean finding the right make and model, but finding the best car with the best possible history and pedigree.
So let’s go back to considering supply and demand, and consider that it’s not just usability and enjoyment that has defined this market. We have definitely noticed that the market has become more discerning, as it focuses on the naturally restricted pool of available cars. We find buyers today seek cars that are absolutely as original as possible. This has become ever more important.
We continually find that, for these most original cars, demand never dips, and values steadily increase. The best of this already elite group soar above the fluctuating values of mediocre examples… or cars whose stories are too fruity to be credible! For many years, good original bodied cars were pulled apart to create racy specials. There is now a great ground swell fighting this mentality with real value being put on original cars. There is now an emphasis on preservation and conservation, rather than replacement, and that is something to be encouraged – and cherished – without getting too precious about it.
As genuine enablers, we continue to consider the factors dictating the market, deciding how best to react. There are still opportunities to find cars that have been overlooked in the past and are now undervalued. We are increasingly approached by clients who may be a huge fan of post war sports racing cars but want us to share our vast experience of pre-war cars with them, guiding them towards the pick of the vintage Bentleys, the most exquisite supercharged Alfa Romeo 8Cs, and the most usable of Bugatti Grand Prix cars.
Nobody likes to overpay, but following the old mantra ‘you’ve got to be in it to win it!’ we often find we advise a buyer to pay tomorrow’s price for the finest car. As ever, every deal comes down to our ability to negotiate diplomatically between sellers and potential buyers, managing the expectations of the vendor whilst reassuring the buyer that a fair price has been established.
The market base is evolving year by year. We are at the axis of the generational change between enthusiasts, as the old guard mixes it with super-keen newcomers from emerging markets. The market is certainly never dull or stationary and there is always something going on. We know the market and this helps us shepherd the big deals to fruition. It’s an exciting place to be – long may it continue.